A Centennial History
A century ago today, Mullis, Georgia was officially put on the map. One of Laurens County's most obscure towns, Mullis enjoyed a brief, but successful, life before it was enveloped by her neighbor and chief rival, Cadwell.
The community of Mullis evolved around the lands of J.M. Mullis. Mullis was also the home of William Henry Mullis. Mullis, one the county's most prolific men, was the father of twenty-two children. Eighteen of his offspring lived until adulthood. His brother Eli was the father of twenty. Mullis, a leading citizen of the Reedy Springs Militia District, served a one of the county's commissioners of Roads and Revenue. He amassed a relatively large fortune of twenty thousand dollars, which obviously was diminished by the number of mouths he fed.
The community of Mullis was located at the northern end of a region virtually covered by virgin pine trees. The Williams Lumber Company built a tram road from Eastman through Mullis to Rentz where the mill of the Georgia Shingle Company was located. Local entrepreneurs sought to establish a permanent railroad from Dublin to Eastman.
Grading of the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad began on March 2, 1904 near the cotton mills in Dublin under the supervision of E.P. Rentz and superintendent, Frank S. Battle. Battle's crews began laying rails. Construction was delayed by legal actions by some Eastman citizens. Conductor B.W. Hightower guided the first freight train out of Eastman on May 5, 1905. Within in a week the first load of freight was received in Eastman. President E.P. Rentz arranged the inaugural passenger service to coincide with the May term of Dodge County Superior Court. A stop was established at Mullis where passengers could board the train for either of the terminal cities and beyond.
A post office at Mullis was established on June 17, 1905. Hiram Mullis, one of W.H. Mullis's nineteen-year-old twins, launched an all out effort to get a post office for the community and was named its first postmaster. He was succeeded by his cousin Arthur W. Mullis on July 14, 1908. The town began to grow rapidly. J.J. Mullis began erecting a handsome home and a commodious storehouse. J.M. Mullis erected a mercantile store. Henry Tate operated a third store, one which housed the town's barber shop. Any town needed a cotton gin to capitalize on the county's main cash crop. W.H. Mullis and his sons erected a sufficient gin in short order. A fourth store was operated by W.H. Mullis, first with D.E. Mullis, and then with his twin sons, Hiram and Homer under the banner of W.H. Mullis & Sons. Later Buchan & Smith and W.F. Jackson would go into the mercantile business in Mullis. The Bedingfield Mercantile Company was forced into bankruptcy after less than six months of business.
The town of Mullis was officially chartered as a town on August 1, 1906. The law provided that J.P. Barrs would be the first mayor. W.H. Tate, W.H. Mullis and D.E. Mullis were named the first councilmen to serve in office until a regular election could be held on the first Monday in January 1908. A.R. Barrs was named to the board in 1907. Hiram Mullis served as the city clerk and W.F. Jackson was the town's first policeman. Mullis was a very small town, encompassing 275 acres and extending six hundred and fifty yards in each direction from the town well.
The council were given the standard powers and duties which Georgia's laws provided. Liquor sales were banned. The mayor presided over the police court with the authority to try offenders for ordinance violations and levy fines of up to fifty dollars or thirty days in jail.
Among the early residents of Mullis were J.J. Mullis, D.E. Mullis, J.P. Barrs, A.R. Barrs, J.W. Bass, W.H. Mullis, W.H. Mullis,Jr., W.H. Tate, A.W. Smith and A. McCook. In 1907, the town boasted not one, but two, boarding houses for travelers. These homes away from home were operated by J.J. Mullis and J.W. Bass. While not tending to guests, Bass operated a barber shop. J.P. Barrs maintained the town's livery stable. Hutton and Barrs were the town blacksmiths. Doctor Buhan moved his practice from Eastman and established the first drug store.
There was a town, or more aptly a community, school in Mullis. The school, attended by more than 180 pupils, thrived under the direction of Principal J.B. McMahan, who was assisted by his wife and Professor Heard S. Lowery.
Just down the railroad, Rebecca Lowery Burch Cadwell was rapidly attempting to establish her own town of Cadwell, named after her second husband, the name of her first husband already being taken by another town in Georgia. For three years, the towns of Mullis and Cadwell competed with each other. The first salvo in the war came in the fall of 1906. Mrs. Burch sought and was granted an injunction against the mayor and council of Mullis. Mrs. Cadwell owned the land between the two towns and had no desire to allow Mullis to expand through her lands toward Cadwell.
A year after Mullis was created, the Georgia legislature amended its charter to allow the mayor and council the power of eminent domain to enlarge the boundaries of the town, but in no event could any lands lying in land lots 11 and 20 of the 17th Land District of Laurens County could be included, apparently a result of a prominent citizens desire to be excluded from the town. The new law appeared to be a compromise between the competing towns.
The great prize in the battle for supremacy in lower Laurens County was the establishment of a railroad depot. Each size promised railroad officials with incentives to locate in their towns. Mrs. Burch promised just a little more and Cadwell eventually won the battle. Mullis was eventually absorbed by the victorious Cadwell. Actually the battling did not end until a major skirmish occurred between the leaders of both towns engaged in a "shoot 'em up" street gunfight, an affray which resulted in the death of Mayor H.L. Jenkins of Cadwell in 1920.
If you want to visit the town of Mullis, travel on Georgia Highway 117 South toward Eastman. Just as you are about to enter Cadwell, Georgia Highway 338 will enter from the right. Then, you are in downtown Mullis.