THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS
August 21, 2007 marks the end of the first one hundred years of the town of Cadwell, Georgia. Tomorrow, a new century will begin on the anniversary of the incorporation of the town on August 22, 1907. Over the last century, Cadwell has risen from a tiny village to a bustling farm town and railroad depot, settling in as a quiet place to raise a family and spend the waning years of retirement.
The origin of Cadwell actually goes back more than a mere 100 years. The area was formerly known as Reedy Springs. The name comes from a nearby spring, which undoubtedly had a lot of reed plants around it. The Reedy Springs Militia District was created on October 5, 1883. After the Civil and Indian Wars, the necessity of each militia district was no longer necessary. The militia districts then began to function as voting districts and Justice of the Peace Court districts.
The Reedy Springs community was also known by the name of Bluewater. That name was derived from a nearby creek to the north and west. In 1883, the Reedy Springs District had four churches (all Baptist), a common school, a steam gin, a grist and saw mill. Farmers produced 800 bales of cotton, 800,000 board feet of lumber, and 8,000 pounds of wool. The farmers of the area, which extended down to the current day Cadwell area and over to Dexter were: E.F. Alligood, H. Alligood, I. Alligood, A.J. Barron, H.D. Barron, J.H. Barron, W. Barron, W.T. Barron, J.D. Bates, A. Bedingfield, J. Bedingfield, R.A. Bedingfield, W. Bedingfield, W.A. Bedingfield, G.W. Belcher, Eliza Clarke, H.C. Coleman, W. Coney, J.E. Crumpton,R.H. Crumpton, C.C. Gay, Hardy Gay, Mrs. M. Gay, Stephen Green, D.Y. Grinstead, E. Grinstead, P.E. Grinstead, Robert Grinstead, J. Hobbs, A.B. Holliday, W.F. Holliday, L.H. Hudson, S.B. Johnson, W.D. Joiner, A. Jones, W.J. Kinchen, W.F. Kinchen, G.B. Knight, J.T. Knight, R.G.B. Knight, B. Lewis, S. Lewis, T.J. Lewis, J.R. Locke, J. Lowery, W.A.N. Lowery, G.W. McDaniel, H.R. McDaniel, J.R. McDaniel, R.F. Mathis, C. Mullis, J. Mullis, W.H. Mullis, R.F. Register, and A. Rountree.
The local businessmen were A.J. Adams, machinist; H. Alligood, sawmiller; J.M. Bass, miller; W.B.F. Daniels, general store; J.T. Rogers, general store; R.L. Faircloth, machinist; James Lovett, wheelright; J.R. Sheperd, general store; and Wynn Brothers, general store. Local ministers in 1883 were N.F. Gay, D.E. Green, J.W. Green, T.J. Hobbs, J.T. Kinchen, J.T. Kinchen, Jr., J.I.D. Miller, J.T. Rogers, C.B. Smith, and C.R. Winham. L.A. Bracwewell was Justice of the Peace and A.B. Clark was the Notary Public and ex-officio Justice of the Peace.
Situated along the rail line of the Dublin & Southwestern Railroad was the defunct town of Mullis, or "Mullis Town." Mullis, which was incorporated as a town in 1906, was located just north of the northern city limits of Cadwell. An intense rivalry began between the citizens of Mullis and Rebecca Lowery Cadwell Burch, who had plans of her own to develop a town of her own. Shortly after Cadwell began to flourish, Mullis Town, at least in its official status, faded away.
Rebecca Burch had intended to name her new town "Burch" in memory of her late husband. Mrs. Burch knew that the town would have to have a post office, so after making an application for one, she discovered that the name of "Burch, Georgia" had already been taken. As an alternative choice, Cadwell's founding mother submitted the last name of her first husband, Matthew Cadwell. When Matthew Cadwell was buried in Lowery Cemetery, he was buried with his horse, the same horse that he was riding when he was struck by lightning.
The owner of a fine tract of land, Mrs. Burch hired Zollicoffer Whitehurst to survey and lay out a design for a new town to be named in honor of her late husband, Charlton O. Burch. Whitehurst's original design, completed in 1905 - two years before the incorporation of Cadwell, contained 52 commercial lots and four larger lots on the northeastern side of the just completed rail line. Initially, Whitehurst placed five streets in his design. Snow Hill, Burch and Coleman streets paralleled each other running in a northwest to southeast direction. Dexter (Georgia Highway 117) and Dublin (Railroad) streets intersected these streets at right angles.
The original limits of the town included all of Land Lots 11 and 20 of the 17th Land District of Laurens County and encompassed an area of 405 acres. Two years after Cadwell was incorporated, the town actually shrunk in size, down to 1000 square yards in a square shape centered around the intersection of Dexter and Burch streets. It would be another forty-six years before the the size of the town was doubled in 1955 to encompass 2000 square yards.
The town of Cadwell's first mayor was J.W. Warren. Warren was appointed to lead the first town government by the Georgia legislature with the wise counsel and guidance of the initial slate of councilmen, James Burch, Joe Ethridge, C.C. Cadwell and Ed Walden for a period of two years until a new election could be held.
According to the first census of Cadwell, one hundred and fifty four persons lived in Cadwell in 1910. Among the heads of families that year were: Uriah Woodard (telegraph operator,) Arthur Mullis (salesman,) Daniel Harrell (house carpenter,) John Weaver (barber,) William Mullis (farmer,) Hershall Jones, James Fason, Henry Smith, Willie Powell, Robert Pullen, Robert Pannell, William Curry, Leon Joiner (turpentine laborers,) Thomas Wood, Allan Carter, Thomas Bird, James Gallimore, Josiah Griffin (railroad laborers,) Murl Coleman, Isaac Coleman (telephone operators,) James Mullis (farmer,) Simeon Bland (physician,) Henry Bedingfield (farmer,) James Burch (bank cashier,) Robert Burch (drug salesman,) Henry Coleman (farmer,) H.C. Stonecypher (merchant,) Hiram Mullis (merchant,) Horace Mullis (telegraph operator,) Robert Ridley (hotel keeper,) John Ridley (laborer,) Bennett Bedingfield (farmer,) William Colter (salesman,) C.C. Cadwell, and Victoria Cadwell.
Cadwell's charter was repealed and a new one put in place on August 19, 1912. H.C. Burch was named Mayor by the new act. A.T. Coleman, A. McCook, H.R. Bedingfield and J.A. Burch were appointed councilmen. The new law gave the town government the right to establish it's own public school system, a novel power not given to other Laurens County towns. In 1925, the Cadwell Public School system was abolished and the town's school became part of the county public school system.
Yet another charter was issued in 1914. H.C. Burch remained in the position of mayor, but A.M. Johnson, L.T. Harrell, H.R. Bedingfield and E.E. Hicks were named as new members of the council.
The first post office in Cadwell was established on August 17, 1908 after being moved from Mullis. Arthur Mullis served until September 21, 1910, when Bennett J. Bedingfield assumed the duties as postmaster. Other Cadwell postmasters were Joseph A. Warren (1912-1914), Homer Mullis (1914-1918), Hiram Mullis (1918-1935), John B. Bedingfield (1935-1936), Belie B. Hicks (1936-1943), and Katherine F. Underwood (1943-).
Laurens County's third bank, the Cadwell Banking Company, was granted a charter on January 5, 1910 with an initial capital of $25,000.00. The original incorporators were L.B. Holt and G.C. Wood of Sandersville, H.C. Coleman, Jr., W.H. Mullis, Sr., J.A. Burch, H.C. Burch, H.R. Bedingfield, A. McCook, H.C. Stonecypher, and W.B. Coleman of Cadwell. A brick building was constructed on the southwest corner of Dexter and Burch Streets. L.B. Holt served as the first president. The bank acquired the assets of the Citizens Bank of Cadwell in 1916. The new board of directors chose H.R. Bedingfield as president, H.C. Burch as vice president, J.A. Burch as cashier, and H.H. Burch as assistant cashier. The bank failed to open on fall day in 1928 and Cadwell was without a bank.
C.R. Williams led a group of local citizens in forming the Citizens Bank of Cadwell which was granted a charter on November 5, 1913. Many of the incorporators were listed among the shareholders of the Cadwell Banking Company. They included A. McCook, Mrs. R.E. Burch, B.K. Smith, S.F. Scarborough, C.J. Barrs, L.P. Lavender, C.C. Cadwell, T.R. Taylor, Victoria Cadwell, J.M. Gay, J.B. Bedingfield, H.R. Bedingfield, J.L. Watson, D.W. Alligood, L.W. Lavender, O.S. Duggan, A.H. Duggan, A.J. McCook, W.W. Warren, B.J. Bedingfield, J.H. Barron, W.J. Mullis, J.F. Graham, A.F. McCook, J.A. Warren, H.B. Warnock, J.B. Colter, Mutual Telephone Exchange, H.C. Stonecypher, A.M. Johnson, J.W. Bass, Sr., J.W. Bass, J.E. Rogers, J.F. Etheridge, C.C. Hutto, and A.B. Daniel.
The citizens of Cadwell regathered and formed a new bank in the early months of 1929. The bank was a private bank owned by J.B. Bedingfield, J.F. Graham, W.D. Parkerson, and L.K. Smith, who served as cashier. The bank underwent a series of name changes from the Graham, Sikes, and Company Bank to the Graham, Smith, and Bedingfield Bank, and finally to the Farmers Clearing Bank. W.A. Bedingfield joined the firm after J.B. Bedingfield was elected Clerk of the Superior Court. W.D. Parkerson left the firm and the bank reorganized with L.K. Smith as president and W.A. Bedingfield as cashier.
In 1966 the directors received a state charter and became the Farmers State Bank. Early officers of the bank included L.K. Smith, W.A. Bedingfield, W.B. Coleman, and Kennon Smith. The bank moved to the former post office location on Burch Street, the site which it still occupies today. In 1980 the bank was purchased by Farmers Bancshares of Douglas. Edward E. Morris took over as president of the bank, a position which he still holds today. Dan Rowe was elected cashier. The bank opened its branch office in Dublin on Veterans Boulevard in October of 1984.
The single most important factor in the establishment and growth of Cadwell into an economic center of southwestern Laurens County was the establishment of the Dublin & Southwestern Railroad. E.P. Rentz, a Dublin banker, owned a saw mill in Rentz and took a keen interest in the project, becoming the main owner of the railroad.
Grading began on March 2, 1904 in western Dublin along Marion Street near the Dublin Cotton Mills in Dublin under the supervision of E.P. Rentz and superintendent, Frank S. Battle. The organizational meeting of the railroad was held in the Citizens Bank on April 6, 1904. E. P. Rentz was elected president. J.J. Simpson and W.D. Harper were elected as vice president and traffic manager/treasurer respectively. William Pritchett, J.M. Stubbs, and David S. Blackshear of Dublin were elected to the board of directors. The first spikes were driven and the workers raced to complete the road to Rentz by mid May.
From its intersection with the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad, the D & S RR ran southwesterly and crossed the present day Industrial Boulevard on the site of Flex Steel. The line ran in a southerly direction as straight as possible crossing Turkey Creek at Tingle, later known as Garretta. From that point the road turned in back to the southwest through a small station known as Mayberry (at the site of Southwest Laurens Elementary School) and thence to the lumber mill in Rentz. From that point on, the old tram road bed allowed the owners to cheaply, and fairly rapidly, complete the railroad into Eastman.
Engineer J.P. Pughesly immediately began laying out the road along the old tram road. Col. Stubbs traveled to Eastman on June 27th to solicit monetary and moral support from the businessmen and farmers of Eastman and Dodge County. In return for their subscription of shares for the twenty to twenty-five thousand dollar project, the investors would be given a share of the company. Eastman investors were reluctant to get involved. However, when the city of McRae invited the directors of the D&S RR to turn the course of the railroad in a southerly direction, the men of Dodge County put their names on the dotted lines. S. Herman, W.H. Cotter and W.H. Lee of Dodge County were added to the railroad's board of directors.
The first scheduled train from Rentz to Dublin ran on June 29, 1904 with two daily trips to follow in July. Battle's crews began laying rails in mid-August. The old tram road bed was in fairly decent shape, two years growth of weeds and saplings excepted. Next along the line was the town of Mullis.
From Cadwell, the railroad turned again toward Eastman, running first through the community of Plainfield. Construction was delayed by legal actions by some Eastman citizens along the route of the railroad and the City of Eastman as well. General Manager W.J. Kessler, a highly successful former manager of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, moved the headquarters of the railroad to Eastman in May of 1905, with the ultimate intention of extending the road on the Ocmulgee River.
Any town needs a church, or two or three churches. John Burch was the first to put that belief into motion. He organized a Sunday School for children in one of the Frierson Company houses. The adults became interested and Mrs. Rebecca Burch came through with an ideal spot on the corner of Snow Hill and Walnut streets. On September 10, 1909, the first organizational meeting was held and the Cadwell Baptist Church was born. John Burch and A. S. Jones were elected as deacons. Jim Burch took on the duties of church clerk. The founding members of the church included John Burch, H.C. Burch, J.A. burch, C.C. Hutto, A.B. Daniel, A.S. Jones, A.F. McDaniel, Mrs. M.A. Burch, Mrs. A.B. Daniel, Mrs. Leo Lewis, Mrs. Neily Cadwell, Miss Lola Burch, Miss Ellis Lewis, Mrs. Flora Graham and Mrs. J.F. Ridley. Those present at the initial organizational stages elected the Rev. E.W. Evans as the church's first pastor.
The original church, a fairly large wooden structure, was completed in 1910, though the building was not painted on the outside until 1913. In 1919, the members of the church finished their new and current building on the corner of Dexter and Snow Hill Streets. An annex building was erected in 1957.
Despite the large contingent of Baptists in Cadwell, there were a few of the Methodist persuasion. Again Rebecca Burch stepped up and deeded a tract on Walnut Street to J.E. Perry, Beulah Burch and Mack John as trustees of the of Methodist Church. The first pastor of the Methodist Church at Cadwell was the Rev. Silas Johnson, who in 1943 became the president of Wesleyan College in Macon. The church's first stewards were Mrs. R.E. Burch, Mack Johnson and W.J. Ballard. The Methodists built their first and current building, a modest wooden structure, in 1913 on a lot which adjoins the old Cadwell school site.
A second and more important essential element of a new town is the establishment of a school. In yet another public spirited donation from Rebecca Burch, H.C. Burch, B.J. Bedingfield, J.E. Faulk, A.W. Mullis and D.W. Alligood, appointed by the Laurens County school board, took title to a two-acre tract at the corner of Snow Hill and Dexter Streets in 1911. The first school was a large wooden building with a tall belfry on the southern end. It suffered the usual fate of all too many wooden buildings when the school burned in 1928.
Jim Smith was the community's first school teacher and principal. He was followed by Mr. Marsh and H.L. Lawson. An additional school was built in 1916 on the present school site. It was two-room brick building with an adjoining auditorium. After giving up it's charter as a separate system in 1925, a newly created school district was formed under the leadership of H.C Burch, J.B. Bedingfield, J.F. Rivers, J.T. Jones and D.W. Alligood. Cadwell students excelled in a wide variety of subjects, particularly in the fields of agriculture, home economics and as the Cadwell Bulldogs in the sport of basketball. Children attended school in Cadwell until the 1960s when the students were transferred to Laurens High, which later became a part of West Laurens High School.
The following is a tribute written to Cadwell, which at one time was being promoted as the county seat of Northern County, to be named in honor of Gov. William J. Northern (1893-1894.) The movement, like several others of its kind, to crop off an extremity of Laurens County never materialized.
A TRIBUTE TO CADWELL
Cadwell is a beautiful city,
Capital of Northen County,
Contains one thousand people,
and pretty girls in bounties.
When a good place to board is wanted,
Stop with Mrs. Ridley on the hill,
Three young ladies to entertain you,
You will never regret the bill.
Miss Fannie B. plays the piano,
Miss Della B is in love, I am aware.
Miss Arbelle is so good and quiet,
You would hardly know she's there.
But they are all fine, I tell you,
I love them all you bet.
But Buren and Swanson have got me beat,
To my sorrow and great regret.
But I must soon leave you all,
And bid you all good bye.
It make me feel so lonesome,
and I feel like I could cry.
I have enjoyed my stay immensely.
You have been so nice and kind.
I thank you all ever so much
and this is all my little rhyme.
For a more detailed history of Cadwell see 70 Years, A History of Cadwell, Georgia by Fannie Jo Bedingfield Holt. It is with great honor and respect I dedicate my capsuled history of Cadwell to Mrs. Holt and to all the fine people who have ever called Cadwell their home.