The City of Vidalia is situated in the heart of what has, during the last few years, been called the famous wiregrass section of Georgia. It is 82 miles from Savannah, 97 miles from Macon, and is 300 feet above sea level; it is in a section completely surrounded by rivers – the Ohoopee on the North and East, the Altamaha on the South and the oconee on the West – in the center of the rich fertile river valley. It is the principal city of Toombs county, the first county in the value of its farm products per acre in the United States.
Vidalia as a town had its beginning when the S. A. & M. railroad opened up this section of wiregrass Georgia about 26 years ago, and for several years it was indeed but a town.
There have been various and sundry reasons for facts advanced as to how Vidalia got her name, but none so far have been correct. Vidalia was really named in honor of Miss Vidalia Hawkins, the daughter of Sam Hawkins, who was the president and principal owner of the Savannah, Americus and Montgomery Railroad.
Among the first settlers of Vidalia were Mr. W. T. Jenkins, President of the Citizens Bank of Vidalia, Geo. N. Mathews, President of the Bank of Vidalia, The Poes, Meadowses, and others, but long before there was a Vidalia the McIntyres and Thompsons lived here.
In the year 1800 one Malcolm McMillan came from North Carolina and pitched his camp where Vidalia now stands; while here one of his children died and was buried in what is now the old cemetery, where so many of the oldest settlers of this section are buried. He also built a Presbyterian church – which was the second meeting house built in Montgomery county, and the first pastor was Rev. Murphy McMillan. This marked the beginning of the Vidalia Presbyterian church.
For a number of years after the railroad was built the principal industries were the lumber and naval stores industries, and it was about this time that several other families moved here from North Georgia and the Carolinas – the Darbys, Schumperts, Blands and others who are still the citizens of Vidalia.
Vidalia began to grow when in 1902 the M. D. & S. Railroad was extended from Dublin forming a junction with the S. A. L. Railroad here. This was won after a hard fight upon the part of the citizens of Vidalia.
The Citizens Bank of Vidalia, with Mr. J. E. Schumpert as cashier and practically the same directors that it now has, was organized in the year 1901, the first bank chartered between Cordele and Savannah on the S. A. L. Railroad. In the year 1905 the voters of the city voted a local tax issue for school purposes and the Vidalia Collegiate Institute with Prof. E. L. Ray as the first Superintendent, then and now on of the best high schools in South Georgia. This was done by a bond issue by an overwhelming vote, showing the interest the citizens had in the education of their children. From the beginning it has been an accredited high school, the standing being maintained to this day, and now graduates of the Vidalia Collegiate Institute can enter the leading Colleges of Georgia without examination. The school is controlled by a Board of Education composed of twelve of out best citizens with Prof. C. A. Sydnor as Supt. Of the Public Schools. The term just closed has been one of the most successful in the history of the public system, and the next scholastic year will start in September under the same management.
Facts About Vidalia – Continued
In 1900 the official census gave Vidalia 500 population, and in 1910 it had reached 1800, the percentage of increase being the largest in the State. The population now is estimated at 3,500 and it is thought will reach the 5000 mark by the next census.
Vidalia has the best railroad facilities of any little city in Georgia; they radiate in six directions as shown by the railroad map below. There is a direct line to Savannah, Macon, Augusta and Florida cities and in the busy season of the year fully 500 cars of freight are handled daily by the railroads in Vidalia. Splendid clayed highways lead out in every direction from Vidalia making it easy and pleasant for automobile travel, and some of our manufacturing houses are using big heavy trucks with ease.
Among the manufacturing enterprises of Vidalia are: The Sea Island Cotton Gin Manufacturing Co., who manufacture the celebrated Foss Double-Roller Sea Island Cotton Gin, the best gin by far on the market today, a Cotton-Seed Oil Mill, Cotton Compress that presses thousands of bales of cotton during the season for this entire section of the country, a Cotton Warehouse, incorporated and bonded, Chero-Cola Bottling Plant, a Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, J. F. Darby Lumber Co., Jenkins Lumber Co., The McNatt Coffin & Casket Co., Vidalia Chemical Co., Altamaha Fertilizer Co., Vidalia Ice & Coal Co., Grist Mill, for grinding corn, wheat, velvet beans, etc., a thoroughly equipped sanitarium, The Vidalia Canning Co., with a capacity of 25,000 cans per day, Vidalia Buggy Co., manufacturers, The Enterprise Machine Co., Vidalia Monument Co., besides several smaller industries -- all giving employment to a great number of people.
Vidalia has three banks, all doing good business, the bank clearings in 1916 being $10,000,000. The banks are, The Citizens Bank of Vidalia, with a capital stock of $50,000, W. T. Jenkins, President: J. E. Schumpert, Vice-President and Cashier; V. B. Herring, Asst. Cashier; T. C. Smith, Bookkeeper.
The First National Bank of Vidalia, captial stock of $35,000, W. O. Donovan, President; J. B. Manry, Vice-President; Geo. S. Rountree, Cashier; T. W. Willets, Asst. Cashier.
The Bank of Vidalia, captial stock of $25,000, Geo. N. Mathews, President; L. B. Godbee, Vice-President and Cashier; A. L. Vann, Asst. Cashier.
The City of Vidalia has the reputation of being the biggest wire fence market in Georgia, and next to the largest mule market in the state, the National Stock Yards handling many thousand head of mules and horses annually, and has a fine market for cattle and hogs.
There are several wholesale companies located in Vidalia, all doing a large volume of business thruout this entire section, and quite a number of retail dry-goods and grocery stores, hay, grains, etc. The magnificent Department Store of Leader & Rosansky is one of the largest and best equipped in this section of the state.
The city owns its own Light and Water System, has a magnificent City Hall valued at about $20,000, where various conventions gather every year. The Local Board of Trade is composed of live, wide awake citizens, which adds materially to the growth and progress of the city, bringing various enterprises here every year, and is instrumental in securing so many conventions each year. The officers are: J. B. Manry, President; J. W. McWhorter, Vice-President; and W. A. Jones, Secretary and Treasurer.
The Vidalia Advance, the weekly paper, is one of the best and most thoroughly equipped printing plants in this section of the state; it is alive, wide awake paper, and the class of job printing turned out in its job department ranks with that of the city offices. Mr. J. W. McWhorter is the editor and publisher.
There are five white and three colored churches in Vidalia, the white churches being the Missionary Baptist, two Primitive Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian, all doing a good work in their churches and Sunday schools.
The professional men in the city of Vidalia rank among the highest in the professions in this section. There are six doctors, one veterinarian, two dentists, four drug stores, with competent licensed druggists in each, seven lawyers, and one colored doctor.
Vidalia has three first class Hotels; the New Vidalia, a handsome brick structure with all the modern conveniences, The Colonial and the Dixie; the reputation of these hotels is such that the traveling public come to Vidalia from near-by towns to spend nights and Sunday, and they claim the service and conveniences second to none in Georgia in a city the size of Vidalia.
The general health of Vidalia and surrounding country is excellent, despite the general belief of some sections that this is a typhoid and Malaria country there are but few cases a year; the morals of the people can compare with any section of Georgia, and the city especially is composed of peaceful, law abiding citizens, who uphold the enforcement of the law.
Vidalia is really a cosmopolitian city – none of the narrow caste distinction being evidenced that is so common to the old middle and north Georgia towns. The citizens have the most implicit confidence in the future of our city, and all work together to make it one of the leading cities of the wiregrass section of Georgia, which we all confidently expect it to be within the next decade.
Created: Dec 29, 2007
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