Timeline History

Timeline History Of Wadley, Georgia. This may not be in order.

Last Updated: 03-10-2010, 7:29 PM

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-Jefferson County was originally part of burke and warren counties. It was created in 1796, and named for Thomas Jefferson.

-Sarah A. Moye and her two sons, James and Benajah owned 1600 acres here in about 1850. This was bounded on the north by lands of Thomas Calhoun,east by boggy gut creek, S.G. Spivey on the west, and south by Williamson Swamp Creek.

-In 1851, Benajah built the lovely old Greek Revival house known as the Cheatham-Barnhardt House today.**

-Sarah Moye gave the land for the Methodist Church in Bethany, and was the first to be buried there.

-The school of Bethany did secondary workprior to 1865. This was a large two story square building that stood where the Johnson Mortuary is now located.

-Hines Steam Mill was located on the Bethany-Bartow Road.**

-The village had a post office located near the first site of the Baptist Church. It was established July 5 1866. The first Postmaster was James B Randall.

-Bethany Baptist Church was established in 1869 in Bethany.

-Wadley began to acquire an identity in 1871 when Judge Andrew E Tarver bought 700 Acres of land from Benajah Moye.

-Tarver was a big-hearted public spirited man and a leader in the community and tradition says that his house was once a stage-coach stop.Tarver sold land to Donovan and others here to settle a town.

-The most remarkable fact that comes to mind is that Waldey’s economy was based on the lumber industry in the beginning. That is why the railroad siding was built and the branch railroads were planned.

-A branch line of the Central of Georgia was completed in 1872. It runs from Louisville to Wadley. Today it is abandoned(?).

-In 1873, Mr. William Donovan operated a saw mill near the Central of Georgia, and put down a wood or tram road running from his mill to the point on the map known as “Shake Rag” then. Mr. Donovan was a good friend of Mr. William Wadley, president of the Central of Georgia Railway (1866-1882), therefore he gave it the name of Wadley.

-Mr. J.A. Spann built a home and a small store, and occupied them.

-In 1874, Murphy and Bedingfield built a store and did a general merchandise business for many years.

-Late 1800’s: Most Active Fraternal Organization was Intenational Order of Good Templars. Appears that their purpose was to discourage excessive use of alcohol and to make the public aware of it’s detrimental effects. IOGT was a social body as well. They gave such as oyster suppers and other entertainments.

-June 1874: IOGT was called “Russel Johnson” Chapter of the IOGT.

-February 21,1876: “Shake Rag” was renamed. William Donovan founded Wadley, named for William Morrill Wadley who was the president of the Central of Georgia Railway. Wadley was incorporated as a town by an act of the Georgia Legislature with William Donovan being elected as the first mayor.Dr Henry Laurens Battle represented this section of Jefferson county at the time and guided the legislature thru the house and senate. The center of town was the depot. The city limits ran 600 yards north, south and west, and 1350 yards east of the said depot.

-In 1876, Bethany Baptist Church was moved to Wadley.

-“Miss Sadie” Johnson established the  first library in Wadley. This was during the WPA Days when men were glad to get employment for fifty cents per day.

-Wadley’s first school to be mentioned in the newspapers of the day was called Donovan Academy. This school was established in  1878. It was located on the corner of Temperance Street and Moral Avenue. Mr. George Johnson was the first teacher. Mr. William Donovan gave lumber and a lot for this school.

-Mr. T.S. Calhoun gave a lot for the Methodist Church, and Donovan gave the lot on which the Baptist Church now stands.

-January 1878:The News and Farmer says “On April the first on the last year a mayor and five commisioners were elected. The number of internal improvements that have been made forces the conclusion that they are an efficient board. Avenues, Streets, and lanes have been laid out.”

-Wadley’s second mayor was John Ridgeway Murphy. He had a carriage shop on Donovan St. (Now it is known as Martin Luther King Blvd.)

-Wadley had the first artesian well to be drilled in Jefferson County. It was located between S.C. Evans Store and the passenger depot.

-George Harrell, an enterprizing lad from Louisville had a unique business. His father was one of the original directors of the Louisville and Wadley Railroad. George would ride on a pass. He would come every day to Wadley and fill up about 25 One-gallon jugs with fresh water from this well. he carried these back and sold them to his customers for a dollar a month.

-In the 1880’s Wadley was progressing. The branch railroad tolouisville was in operation. only a short time before it had required some three or four hours to ride a horse to louisville over a rough hilly road, an ugly river and wide swamps. The journey by train only took 30 minutes. Capital and enterprise were elements needed to build a town in those days. Skillful mechanics in the various arts and trades and industrious laborers were essential. Wadley lacked a great amount of capital at the time but it boasted some number one mechanics and was an industrious, moral, church-going community. Wadley had a fine school, two churches, a corn and wheat mill, two shingle mills, a post office with two mails daily, an express office, about a dozen guano dealers, and several live merchants. Among them were Toole and Lockhart, Lewis Cheatham & Company, and Sarswell & Company, the largest in town. Battle and Manson stocked enough medicine to kill half the people in town, and Toole and Lockhart had the coffins to bury them in.

-May 1883: The News and Farmer reported that the lumber men in the lower part of the country were doing a big business shipping lumber to savannah. The large sawmill south of here operated by Donovan and perkins was called Pinetucky and also Hodo. They built a narrow gauge tram road from wadley to the mill.

-July 23, 1885: IOGT changed their name to Hamilton Raiford Lodge

-The oldest minute book at city hall begins in 1898. At this time S.C. Evans, Sr was Mayor, succeeding L.A. Cheatham.**Between 1876 and 1898, when the oldest minutes began we are told that the people had a meeting at the school house, what we would call a mass meeting now, for the purpose of electing the city officals. Nominations were made from the floor, discussion ensued and the officers duly elected, then they would address their constituency. This was an all male gathering, since women were not allowed to vote for many years after this. Records of the proceedings of the city government prior to 1898 have been lost or destroyed and are not available.

-In 1898, the officials granted a franchise to the Southern Bell & Telegraph Company to erect and maintain a business in Wadley. The Bank of Wadley, then in its first building on Railroad Avenue leased them two upstairs rooms for the exchange. Wilbur Cloud helped with the installation, it was his first job.

-Smith Brothers Lumber Company bought extensive acreage in Bethany and ran a large saw and planning mill. This now belongs to Continental Can.**

-The Cooper Machine Works is prospering and growing on land to the left of Highway One.**

-At the turn of the century, city council passed a law that no more wooden structures were to be built here. The town had suffered so many loses by fire. A small block of stores owned by Noah Bedingfield and called “Noah’s Ark” had burned. The first brick store was erected by Bill Donovan and Charlie Bethea and sold general merchandise. R.G. Foster & CO occupied the second floor. This old landmark was rented by Mr Blocker at one time. Once a keg of gun powder exploded in the building and it cracked the walls badly, but the building has been used for many years.

-The building that occupied the Wadley Gin & Warehouse Company was the former station house for the Wadley & Mt Vernon Railroad, built by Bill Donovan.


-The drainage problem has been tackled and solved. Ditches had been dug wherever needed to drain the town. The big-ditch seemed to be the most important, this begins in the back of the Wayne Battle home. Years before, sewer pipe was installed in the residential section of between there and East Calhoun st and covered over. At this time, this ditch has been muchly engarged during the construction of the new city park. This is the area where Noah Bedingfield’s pond was located. This ditch crosses Butts Street and the railroad near the old standard oil place, runs besides Blocker’s Grocery Store on Main Street and on to the creek. Wadley had no city water or sewage disposal plant. People had installed out-houses in the big ditch. The city council was always concerned by the sanitary condition of the town, so in 1901 they ordered all out-houses removed from the ditch. The public toilet in back of calhoun’s store was declared a public nuisance and ordered closed. The pond behind Noah Bedingfield’s was to be cleaned up as well as the one located on the property of the perkins lumber company. This is near the site of Fulghams Enterprizes now.

-1898: L. A. Cheatham was retiring as mayor, and S. C. Evans was taking over. The city officals were called “Aldermen” and were J. A. Speir, C. E. Bethea, L. A. Cheatham, and G. W. Davis. The main business discussed was of re-surfacing Main Street with clay. It was voted to see J. C. Little, president of the Louisville & Wadley Railroad about buying the clay.

-Apr 1898: An important meeting was held. This had to do with building a new school. The committee appointed to investigate this was S. L. Patterson, G. D. Perdue, N. W. Bedingfield, G. W. Davis, C. E. Bethea, Dr. H. G. Battle And Mayor S. C. Evans. Wadley was now established and growing. It was not just a lumber center and rail terminal, but famous for a mule market. Council bought street lights and had them installed in the business district. These were gas lights that had to be lighted every night. A “lamp-lighter” was paid ten dollars per month for this duty. One councilman thought this was an excellent idea and thought this duty should be given to the night marshall and cut out the ten dollar man.

-1899: The city bought a fire truck equipped with a chemical tank. Evidently this became damaged in way and sprang a leak.

-April 1899: City council voted to buy a bell and to have the night marshall to ring it every hour on the hour. Councilman W. J. Bell was delegated to secure one. Two months later, he reported that he had borrowed a circular saw and had it mounted. This would serve the purpose and save the city the price of a bell. There is no way of knowing if the purpose of this arrangement was to see that the marshall did not take a very long nap during the night for the benefit of those citizens who did not have a clock.

-August 1899: The city council notified the Racine Fire Engine Company of Racine, Wi that the town would take legal steps to bring them to terms unless a man were sent to repair it within 10 days. After much bickering, many propositions, and putting notices in the newspapers, a law suit followed. The city was represented by J. E. Phillips of Louisville.

-1901: The city fathers had little use for peddlers and set the license fee at ten dollars per day to discourage them. The following list for special taxes for 1901 gives an idea of what mercantile establishments Wadley may have had at the time:

 General Store:  $10.00
Gents Furnishings and Goods:  $5.00 
Dry Goods and Millinery:  $8.00 
Hat Store Only:  $5.00 
Shoe Store:  $8.00 
Grocery and Confectionary:  $5.00 
Hardware Only:  $5.00 
Druggist and Druggist Sundries:  $7.50 or $10.00 With a Soda Fountain 
Market, Fresh Meat:  $5.00 
Barber Shop:  $2.50 
 Cleaning Clothing And Dye Shop: $2.50 
Boot, Shoe, and Harness Shop:  $2.00 
 Blacksmith & Wheelright: $3.50 
 Lemonade & Ice Cream Shop: $2.50 
 Tailor Shop: $5.00 
Restaurant:  $5.00 
Skating Rink:  $10.00 
 Dancing School: $10.00 
Livery & Feed Stables: $7.50 
Hotels:  $10.00 

Evidentaly they all belonged to the “IOGT”. The license to sell gin, wine, beer, and other alcoholic bev was $5,000/ year. There was also some discussion of taxing feather revovators, whatever they were.

-The building occupied by Junior Blocker’s Grocery as the original Bank of Wadley, chartered in 1902, this was the oldst bank in Jefferson County in continuous operation. The bank moved around on Main Street. The original builing was soldto a competitor, the Bank of Jefferson County. This business failed in 1921.

-May 1902: An ordinance was passed making it unlawful to ride a bicycle recklessly or one without a bell or gong and a light at night.

-The first City Hall in living memory, was a three story building wooden structure occupying the present city parking lot on the corner of Main and Butts Streets. In those days, the Mayor and Councilmen were selected for their business judgement and acumen and were always the most prominent men in town.The first floor was rented to a man of the Jewish faith for a mercantile establishment. M.G. Lee put up Wadley’s first movie palace, “Le Grande” on the second floor. This left the third floor for the city hall. Burned down in 1921.

-Many years later and after the advent of “Talking Movies”, the Pal Theatre chain had one in what is now the bank of Wadley building.**

-S.C. Evans, Sr. had a large two story general merchandise business in a wooden building on the south side of the railroad. This had been replaced by a block of brick stores that housed Bill’s Dollar Store, and Wadley Furniture and Upholstery.

-The first oil dealer here (except for Kerosene) was Mr. Amerson who delivered this commodity from a large tank mounted on the chassis of a wagon.The last one was the Standard Oil bulk plant on Butts Street.**

-In 1904, the City of Wadley granted a franchise to W.J. Daniel and B. Gamble to build and operate a “Electric Power & Ice Plant” to be exempt from city taxes for ten years. They also agreed to donate one and a half acres of land for such a plant provided it was put in operation within twelve months. No further mention is made of this, or why the plan failed. several others were presented and approved including the following: Charlie Bethea and Alva Cockrill in 1906; R. L. Perkins in 1908; J. O. (Bewan?) in 1913.

-March 1904, Mayor Cheatham and the councilmen (N. W. Bedingfield, J. W. Cato, R. B. Porter, C. W. Moxley) held a special meeting to “devise plans for repulsing the small-pox epidemic now raging in Wadley”. they planned to hire a physician to treat all cases, vaccinate all persons and to fumigate the houses were anyone lived that had suffered the disease. Doctors brown, holmes and (cahnce?) bid on the job. Dr. Brown was given the contract to give the vaccinations at seven and seven-eights cents per person and to fumigate the houses for $25.00. A “pest house” was set up in an isolated area away from the town for care of indigent people who had no one to nurse them. This house (As of 1970’s) was still standing on the road from Old Highway One to Jimmie Tarver’s old home on the Wadley – Bartow Road.

-1907: The state of Georgia passed it’s first law prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages. Near-beer saloons and locker clubs sprang up in great number. Under this law individuals were given the right to buy whiskies in wet states and have it shipped into dry territory. An oath was administered to the recipient that the whiskey was for their own use by the Express Agent in the town where the whisky was delivered. The company handling this in town was the Southern Express Company. The agent, up until his death in 1918 was Francis N. Davis. Of course this oath was evaded, non-drinking friends aided those who wanted more by ordering it in their name. It is said that the north bound train would carry several express cars loaded to the rafters every Saturday morning. Not all of this was consigned to Wadley, there was Bartow, Davisboro, Tennille, and other places to the north. The quaint little building housing the express office stood were the Parker Hardware (As of 1970’s) stands. When the decision was made to build the store, the Express Office was rolled to a location in back of it. Only recently it has been torn down.

-1912: A new and dreade disease appeared, Spinal Meningitis. The disease broke out in Burke County in December. The city fathers acted promptly in making plans to protect the people as best as they could. The Central was notified not to drop off passengers in Wadley that borded the train in burke County. Mayor Alva Cockrill placed a line of guards on the Ogeechee River bridge and the railroad trestle to prevent anyone crossing and comin into Wadley.



-In 1914 or 1915, the city fathers concluded that the “Electric Power & Ice Plant” would never be done privately and voted to build and maintain a plant to furnish electricity to the town. This had been housed in what is now the firehouse. It operated on batteries from 3PM to Midnight. Grover Taylor ran the light plant in bartow at one time. One night the lights stayed on long after the usual time. His wife was alarmed and just knew that someone had killed or maimed him down there all alone. She got Bill out of bed to go and see about his father. He found Grover fast asleep and the light plant happily running.

-1918: Theres many people who remember the 1918 epidemic of the Spanish Influenza, a deadly and highly contagious disease. It was thought that the germ was brought to this country by men retuning from WWI in Europe. The doctors had never seen anything like this, and didn’t know how to treat it. It spread rapidly; several members of a family frequently died, each too ill to help the others. At this time S. C. Evans was Mayor, so he and the city fathers took this action: schools were closed, all school and church gatherings discontinued, no drinks were to be served at soda fountains unless the glasses were sterilized, barbers were to discontinue the use of hot towels, and traffic congestion was not to be allowed.

-Wadley had another flu epidemic in February 1920.


-In 1920, Will and Spencer Overstreet established a small water system to serve the business districts, parts of main street, and nearby areas.This plant was located across the street from the old frieght depot. The place caught on fire one night and was destroyed.They created a building to manufacture soft drinks underneath the tower as well. Wadley must have the distinction of being the only town in Georgia to have it’s water system destroyed by fire.

-Overstreet Brothers had a large department store on the north corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue. This firm also sold coffins and made embalming services available here. Mr. Deal was the mortician employed for this.

-In June 1923, the citizens voted a bond issue of $25,000 for a power plant to be located at the Artesian Wells. Three years later this plant was sold to Georgia Power.**

-1924: An adequate artesian well was dug and a municipal water system was installed where the Overstreet Brothers had establish a small water system. There were few fire hydrants on main street and one or two elsewhere. Ernest N. Bedingfield was the first fire cheief.

-1926: A sewer system was laid to service Main Street.

-In 1944,the Volunteer Fire Department was organized, headed by Donovan Smith. Two years later a fire truck and hoses were purchased and a new well was put down to supply the water needed to keep pace with the growing town.

-In 1952 or 1953 M.W. Meadows and L.A. Brett bought the farm lands of the Luther G. Smith Estate on Highway One in Bethany. Many lots were sold for what later became both residential and business developement. Included in this area is the old and historical house on the left beyond the Louisville & Wadley Railroad tracks.

-Mr. Brett built a grocery store and gas station. Across from this is the maintenance shop of the R.G. Foster Construction Company.**

-Captain George Williams ran a livery and sales stable in what was occupied by Kitchen’s Red and White. He was famous for this sign (in letters about six feet tall) across the top of the building: “No trust, no hell, no bust”.**

-1970’s: Pure drinking water had been procured by digging artesian wells. Most families had one of these in their yard on South Main Street. Others used hand pumps if they lived too far uptown to get a “flow”.

-July 22, 1970: an F2 tornado (winds of 113-157 mph) 4.9 miles from the city center killed one person, injured one person, and caused between $5,000 and $50,000 in damages.

-January 13, 1972: an F3 tornado (winds of 158-206 mph) 1.4 miles from the city center injured 21 people and caused between $500,000 and $5,000,000 in damages.


**=Copied directly from the article, “Wadley/Bethany by Eunice S. Bryant”, which appeared in “The Courier Of Jefferson County” Vol. 1 No. 1, Thursday July 1, 1976 & Vol. 1 No. 2, Thursday August 5, 1976. From the Jefferson County Historical Society.


Georgia.gov, city-data.com, “Wadley/Bethany by Eunice S. Bryant”, which appeared in “The Courier Of Jefferson County” Vol. 1 no.1, Thursday July 1, 1976 & Vol. 1 no.2, Thursday August 5, 1976. From the Jefferson County Historical Society. Jefferson County Historical Society, Wadley City Hall, and local people, and small details from railga.com.Parts of this history comes from the book “Over The Ogeechee” by Eunice S. Bryant

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