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Franklinville, Troupeville, the Court House Fire of 1858 and the loss of Lowndes County, Georgia records

The first county seat of Lowndes County, Georgia was established at a place called Franklinville east of what is now the town of Hahira and on the east bank of the Withlacoochee River. It was a rustic and remote site described on October 22, 1836 in the diary of Lieutenant Jacob Rhett Motte as follows.

“On the evening of the 22nd Oct I arrived at Franklinville, which is the only town in the whole of Lowndes county, and contains only three log houses; one of which is a court-house, and another the Post-office; the third a store. This great place is situated on the upper Withlacoochee and here I found troops encamped. They were preparing to move farther south, and nearer to Florida; and the day after I joined, the tents were struck, the Withlacoochee crossed, a new place of encampment was selected near the plantation of a Mr. Townsend.”

Although a considerable amount of official county activity took place at Franklinville between 1828 and 1835, the location did eventually lose favor with area citizens. As evidenced in the newspaper article below, town lots in what was to become the new county seat were being sold as early as December 1836.

The Southern Recorder (Milledgeville December 2, 1836 page 1)
Town Lots for Sale
A Second Sale of Lots in Troupville, Lowndes county will take place on the 25th of January next. We are much gratified to learn of the contemplated rail road from Brunswick to the Apalachicola River which will run through or within a very short distance of this place, which will render more valuable the remaining Lots to be sold. When we will be placed on the direct line from New York to New Orleans is heretofore unknown. The attention of merchants, mechanics and others is particularly invited. Terms six- and twelve-months credit. Samuel M. Clyatt, Jared Johnson, John Knight, Henry Strickland, Comrs. Nov 22

Troupeville was named in honor of one of Georgia’s most popular Governors, George W. Troup. It was located just north of the confluence of the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers, much nearer the stage line from Savannah into Florida and somewhat more convenient to the Gulf of Mexico ports of Newport and St. Marks. Early rumors regarding eventual rail service through Lowndes County may also have been a factor in favor of the new site. By 1845 the old county seat at Franklinville was being converted to public property and put up for sale.

The Albany Patriot December 10, 1845 Page 2
The Legislature
Bills Introduced-Mr. Jones: To authorize the Inferior Court of Lowndes County to sell or dispose of all land in and about Franklinville which belongs to said county.

The Albany Patriot September 16, 1846 page 4
NOTICE
On the first Tuesday in November next, will be sold before the Courthouse door, in Troupville, Lowndes county, all that part or parcel of land, containing 250 acres, more or less, being on the east side of Lot No. 50 11th Lowndes, including the general plan of the town of Franklinville, situated on said premises. Sold under the provision of an Act passed 27th December 1845, by an order of the Inferior Court of said county. Duncan Smith, Clerk L.C. September 9, 1846

The fire which took place at the Troupeville Court House on the morning of June 23, 1858 devastated the earliest real estate and judicial records of Lowndes County, Georgia. An article appearing in the July 1, 1858 edition of the Southern Banner described the incident as follows.

Georgia Items
Another Court House Burned

We received, says the Savannah Republican, of the 25th inst., the following letter last night, announcing the total destruction of the Court House of Lowndes county, by fire, on Wednesday morning last. A gentleman who was in Troupville at the time informs us that nearly all records of the county were destroyed and when the fire was first discovered the entire staircase was in flames, so it was impossible to reach the story where the records were stored.

Troupville July 23rd -Mr. Editor: The Court House in this place is a mass of smoking ruins. The fire was discovered about three o’clock in the morning. Court was in session so a large number of persons among whom I will mention the name of Capt. James Folsom, a member of the Bar from Magnolia. Folsom rendered assistance in saving a number of books. The fire is supposed to be the work of an incendiary. Yours &c, J.M.S.

All five original Deed Books of Lowndes County, Georgia, Books A through F, were totally destroyed in the fire. Each of those books is estimated to have contained 400 to 700 pages. Fortunately for genealogical and historical research, some land owners, those who had paid the Clerk of Court an additional fifty cents to one dollar to have copies made, brought in those personal records to have them again entered into public record. For example, current Lowndes County, Georgia Deed Book A begins in 1859. It does however contain copies of deeds dating back to 1825. The vast majority of deeds re-recorded in this manner are found in current Lowndes County, Georgia Deed Books A and B. Some are also found in Brooks County, Georgia Deed Book A. It is realistic to state that less than one fourth of the deeds destroyed at Troupeville in 1858 were ever re-recorded.

With only one small exception, the Minutes of the Lowndes County Superior Court, Inferior Court and Court of Ordinary prior to June 23, 1858 were totally destroyed in the fire of 1858. One piece of an original record, now popularly referred to as “The Surviving Docket,” did escape the fire. A work published in 1997 by Mr. Charles Corbett and edited by Dr. Joseph Knetch under the title Lowndes County Probate Records: recorded July Term 1847 to January Term 1852 is a transcription of the surviving part of that original record. Administrators and Executors of estates as well as Guardians were required by law to advertise certain aspects of their duties in public newspapers. For that reason, some evidence, or better said references to evidence, of Lowndes County, Georgia judicial records prior to June 23, 1858 can be found in certain historic Georgia newspapers.

Troupeville maintained its status as county seat of Lowndes County, Georgia until the promise of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad, also referred to in those days as The Main Trunk Line, became a reality.

The Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, Georgia December 14, 1859 page 1)
From the Milledgeville Recorder
Legislative Acts Signed by the Governor
“Valdosta”- This is the name by which the late Governor Troup called his residence and now has been adopted by the citizens of Lowndes county for their new county site, which has just been located on Lot 62 in the 11th immediately on the main trunk line. The Troupville Watchman says of the location: “Valdosta lies on both sides of the railroad, on the plain, sufficiently elevated on all sides and will be approachable from all directions at all seasons. The neighboring country is healthy and the water excellent. The new county site is 152 miles from Savannah by railroad and forty miles due east of Thomasville, three and one-half miles southeast of Troupville, twelve miles north from Ocean Pond and twenty-two miles from Madison C.H. Florida.”

Today little evidence is to be found of Franklinville or Troupeville. The dirt road running between Highway 41 and Val Del road, which leads to the original site of Franklinville, has been closed to traffic for years. There is supposedly a sign just off that road and near the river which “marks the spot”? There are only two remaining vestiges of Troupeville; a granite marker set so low and off Hwy 133 it will be noticed only by those specifically seeking it and the Troupeville cemetery, sitting within fenced and posted private property about fifty yards off Highway 133. As mentioned in a previous article, the current condition and lack of attention to the cemetery at old Troupeville reflects poorly on Lowndes County, Georgia.

Please note: These articles are based on research conducted by the writer/author utilizing a variety of reliable source material. Those wishing to learn more regarding source material utilized or those who may have any other questions, should contact the writer/author via South Georgia Today. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author.

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C.E Hightower, Jr.
Mr. Hightower’s family/ancestors purchased their first land in Lowndes County, Georgia in 1827. He grew up just outside Valdosta, attended Lowndes High School and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Valdosta State University. After leaving VSU he went to work for a European firm based out of Hamburg, Germany. He then traveled for 33 years, at times based inside and outside the United States, with a variety of International companies. Genealogy and history have always been two of his favorite areas of interest. Since retiring and moving back to Valdosta he has published one book pertaining to the historical records of Lowndes County, Georgia and currently has another on similar subject matter pending publication. He has formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Huxford Genealogical Society and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Lowndes County Historical Society.

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