NAHUNTA: SAWMILL OR RAILROAD TOWN?
In the early-to-mid 1800s, the site of Nahunta, Georgia as we know it today, was known as Victoria Mill; its namesake was probably a sawmill. Possibly, "Victoria" might have been a favorite name of the sawmill owner; a wife, girl friend, or daughter. Queen Victoria of England reigned for 63 years from 1837 to 1901, and was one of the greatest rulers in English history. She was reigning at the time the name "Victoria" was in existence, but the question arises, "would the British Queen be held in esteem following the revolutionary war?
A neighboring community to Victoria Mill was "Old Nahunta" which was located one and one-half miles west of the current day north-south Jesup Short Line Railroad Tracks. There was no formal action to register the name of either site with the Georgia state government until 1925 when the township of Nahunta was chartered at it's present location...
Apparently the name of "Nahunta" came about from a natural evolution of harvesting of lumber, and sawmill activity, as did the culmination of "Victoria." It is believed that both names came into being during the middle to late 1800s when "timber was king" in the area now known as Brantley County.
"Old Nahunta" was located north of the present day nursing home and the "old E.L. Sears home place" (house later moved to Atkinson). In recent years the area has been commonly known as "Dudeville," in honor of it's present day property owner and native, Delma Franklin Herrin (Ex Clerk of the Superior Court, 1953-1972. Delma was the son of Joseph Franklin Herrin and Mary Laura Lewis. A big general mercantile store was near that location during the turn of the century and operated by Lawson (La-aws) Morgan. It has been said that Lawson also had a big mansion type home at this location around 1900.
In the mid-years of the nineteenth century when railroad became the most reliable method of transporting timber, naval stores, and merchandise, the Brunswick and Western Railroad was constructed through Brantley County (running westward from Brunswick to Waycross, initially in 1861). During the civil war, portions of this track was destroyed to prevent use by Federal forces and was not reconstructed until the 1870's. Side tracks were built to accommodate loading and unloading. At that time communities became known for their railroad connection, subsequently known "railroad towns."
Nahunta, at the cross roads of U.S. 82 and 301 as we know it today, did not come about until after the north-south, Jesup to Folkston Short Line was completed in 1902. Other than the Ole Victoria Mill (sawmill), there was no drawing power for a community at the present (Nahunta) location. It was a low swampy area. Sawmill and lumber activities were also located at 'Old Nahunta,' Lulaton, and other whistle stops along the Brunswick and Western Railroad. The new Jesup-Folkston Short Line brought a new dimension to the area, business, homes, and population.
HOW DID NAHUNTA GET IT'S NAME
There is more than one tale as to how Nahunta got its name: A.: One tale suggests that Nahunta got it's name from a "railroad side track (siding)"; identified as N.A. Hunter. There was so much freight consigned to N.A. Hunter, a timber operator, that its location became known to Railroad Men as the N.A. Hunter's railroad siding (side-track). Charlton/Wayne County Census records dating 1900 back to 1850 shows no evidence of an N.A. Hunter residing in those counties, which encompassed the area of Nahunta.
B. Another analogy is: Genealogy records show that a large number of the 'now Brantley County pioneers' migrated to Georgia from North Carolina. There is one belief that these early immigrants brought the name, "Nahunta" with them. In questioning the United States Board on Geographical Names, they referred us to "The North Carolina Gazette," published by The University of North Carolina Press at Chapel Hill. The Gazette gave the following definition of names in North Carolina:
- Nahunta Creek rises in Duplin County of North Carolina and flows into Goshen Swamp.
- Nahunta Swamp rises in Johnston County and flows across Wayne County (also in North Carolina) and flows into Contentnea Creek in Greene County. It is mentioned under various spelling as early as 1711-Norhanty, NornHunta, No Honey. It appears on the on Collet map, 1770, as Beaverdam Swamp in Wayne County. The name could be corrupted from Kahunshe Wakena, "Black Creek."
- In North Carolina, the Nahunta community in Wayne County is south of Nahunta Creek, from which it takes it's name. It was called Academy Cross Roads as recent as 1915. The Nahunta township was located in Wayne County, North Carolina.
NOTE: Most unusual is that Nahunta, North Carolina, was also located in a Wayne County, as was Nahunta, Georgia, prior to 1920.
IMPACT OF THE "SHORT LINE RAILROAD" IN NAHUNTA, GEORGIA
Reconstruction of the Brunswick and Western Railroad (running east and west) after the Civil War brought many economic advantages to the now Brantley County area. While the harvesting of timber provided jobs for many workers, it was not until the north-south track was installed in 1902 that prominent citizens began building homes and business buildings.
MOVEMENT OF OLE NAHUNTA TO IT'S PRESENT SITE
With the installation of the "Atlantic Coast Line Short Line from Jesup to Folkston" in 1902, a more attractive economical setting for a community was identified at the "now Nahunta" area. It provided the drawing power of a "railroad intersection running north-east-south-and west" which accommodated shipment of naval stores, timber, and agricultural products at a time when "Railroad was the Definition of Transportation". The transition to the "new Nahunta town-site" did not occur over-night. Its natural evolutionary event was motivated slowly by economics of the location.
This new economic factor was sufficient to influence relocation of such early pioneers as W. M. (Bill) Roberson, John W. Brooker, Fred O. Knox, S.B. Lary, and others to the "new Nahunta";. These men had gained prominence in timber business, and had become outstanding community leaders. They were first families to build expensive homes in Nahunta. The S.B. Lary home (more recently the Carl J. Broome home) was built in approximately 1903, the Knox and Roberson homes around 1912. We estimate that the old John W. Brooker home, currently owned by Reppard E. Johns, was also built during the early 1900s.
The geographical orientation of these early home depicts the influence of railroad activity. They were all built facing the railroad tracks; Lary, Brooker, and Knox homes. The association of railroad tracks with slums was not known at that time. The William (Bill) M. Roberson was built a hundred or so yards south of the B&W tracks, to the rear of the Fred O. Knox home, and faced west. Later the Brantley County court house was built across the road (now Cannon Street) from Uncle Bills home, an ideal home place for the countys first Ordinary.
The Jesup Short Line also had a tremendous impact on Hickox, influencing Peter S. Knox Sawmill and the Gautier Retort, and numerous home to be built there facing the railroad tracks in Hickox . If Nahunta was a railroad town, the same could be said of other major communities in Brantley County which had "railroad stops;" Atkinson, Hickox, Hoboken, Hortense, Lulaton, Raybon, Schlatterville, and Waynesville. In fact, the entire area now identified as Brantley County could be viewed as a "Railroad County" in the early days.