City of Alapaha

General Information

Alapaha and the Development

of the  "Wiregrass Country:"

Some Observations

When, in the late 1860's the Brunswick and Albany Railroad was being constructed across the heart of the Wiregrass region, few local inhabitants fully realized that this developmentwould bring radical changes in their way of life.  Nor did they imagine that the tiny "flag stops" on that railroad would become so vital in their agricultural pursuits.  To a widely scatteded populace which had long practived subsistence farming and stock-raising in the isolation of the "piney woods", the birth of"Alapaha Station, " did not seem significant.

Yet the rise of Alapaha and other market towns in this region heralded the beginning of the commercial exploitation of its natural resources and end of the isolation which had perpetuated the practices of frontier life.  Over the railroad line came lumbermen and naval stores crews to extract the wealth of the yellow forest. Around the make-shift "depot", stores, gins and small warehouses were established to trade in the agricultural products of the area.  Commercial fertilizers, improved farm implements and manufactured goods - luxuries once beyond the reach of the local farmer - were available only a few miles from his home.  At the "station", prices on the major markets, the latest news, and even personal correspondence could be obtained within minutes by telegraph.  Travel and shipping were now more a matter of expense than time and distance.  Each of these factors, in their various ways encouraged the farmer to clear his land, plant more "money crops"and to become more dependent on outside sources for his supplies and provisions.  In short, towns like Alapaha were the gateway by which Wiregrass farmers entered the economic life of the nation.

Alapaha was the hub of a changing agrarian society, but it was also uniquely a town,as the regions' hamlets and villages were not.  The businessmen, artisans, and professionals who settled here exerted every effort to increase the commerce and prestige of the town; civic organizations and citizens' groups sought to establish the best in schools, church buildings and other public facilities.  This civic spirit, a sense of urban identity, was a very new thing in the region, and it drew a subtle but sharp line between the interests of Alapaha and those of the rural settlements.  Consequently, the role of the town in the development of its county and region is only part of its history; another story lies in its development as a town.

Alapaha was chief among the market towns on the Brunswick and Albany line until about 1890. By that time, the economy of the Wiregrass region was fully integrated with that of the nation as a whole.  The local forest industries were shipping millions of board feet of lumber and cross ties, in addition to thousands of barrels of turpentine each year.  The farmers of the area were yearly producing more and more cotton and other commodities for outside markets. Although the development was hardly at an end, the citizens of "Alapaha Station" had seen the transformation of the region from a virtual wilderness to a booming agricultural section in less than twenty years.  They certainly took pride in the fact that they had played a small part in that change.

Dr. Jerry Devine, Wiregrass Rural History Project Georgia Agrirama