‘Footsteps of Early Alapaha Settlers’ excavates South Georgia history
Becky Davis’s intense fascination for history was nourished by her mother Cozetta Harper and Alapaha Elementary fifth grade teacher Estella Brooks. In the early 2000s Becky contacted the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah’s Archives & Records Department seeking official records pertaining to Murray Church and St. Bridget, both forerunners of the present-day St. Ann.
Learning that precious little information was available, an Archives representative suggested that Becky document Alapaha’s Irish Catholic roots and how their faith helped establish the little town with a big heart. Serendipitously, Becky had questioned many parishioners, friends, family members, and clients over the years and kept meticulous notes of their precious, first-hand memories.
What originated as a chronicle strictly tracing the Catholic ancestry of James Murray and Jane McDonald flourished into a colossal manuscript consisting of innumerable interviews conducted with longtime Alapaha residents of all faiths and 80 vintage photos illustrating many previously unknown aspects of Alapaha’s colorful, often checkered history.
A bustling community at the dawn of the 20th century, Alapaha, Georgia, held claim to five reputable doctors and numerous dentists, lawyers, real estate agents, newspapers, and even a Ford dealership. Lucy Lake, a popular spot on the Alapaha River, had sulfur water thought to possess healing properties.
Five-year-old Edwin Gaskins initially refused to act in a school play because he would have had to bow to a girl. There would be no Jernigan’s Farm Supply if Lewis Jernigan hadn’t sold the family milk cow for five silver dollars. Arlie Alexander rowed a boat across Highway 82 during a period of heavy flooding in 1948. A 17th century ink well was discovered one day while a farmer was harrowing in the Alapaha-Puddleville area.
Bridget Moore relocated Greater Macedonia CME Church to original James Murray land near the Alapaha River, not knowing it was once named St. Bridget or that James was her great, great, great grandfather. John J. Paulk bragged that Carl Dixon would make a fine husband because he was so intelligent. Yet when the tireless young farmer started dating Mr. Paulk’s daughter, the Bank of Alapaha president never said another nice thing about Carl.
All these tantalizing, often heart-warming anecdotes and much more are contained within the pages of Footsteps of Early Alapaha Settlers, co-written with Jeremy Roberts. An updated second edition is on sale at Becky’s Beauty Salon (229-532–6191) or Bank of Alapaha (229-532–6115). Personally autographed copies are available upon request.
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