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Reviewing the history of Berryville

POSTED: November 8, 2017 9:46 a.m.
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Charles Nesbit “Charlie” and Stella A. (Dasher) Exley married in 1895. They were the parents of: Gertrude A. E. Seckinger, Ulva H. Exley, Lollie E. E. Rahn, Vernona Naomi E. Grovenstein, Blanche E. E. Waldhour, Lovick D. Exley, Erma E. E. Rahn, Ray N. Exley, Mellville M. “Mell” Exley, Mark A. Exley & Elbert S. Exley. They lost two children, Pearl Lorene and Vernie Albert Exley.

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According to Mr. Ernest W. Gnann’s history (he credited information from Mell Exley and Hubert Dasher), Berryville is located around the Seaboard Railway crossing on Berryville Road which connects Stillwell Clyo Road to Georgia Highway 119 North. Passing now it is hard to believe that about a century ago this was a thriving community with much activity centered around the railroad. The freight station in Berryville was discontinued around 1935.
Berryville was never a subdivided township like Clyo or Stillwell because this community sprang up with the coming of the railroad in the 1890s. There was once a post office operated in the mercantile establishment of Claudius Berry. He was a prominent citizen and later held public office in Springfield. This store was located on the east side of the railroad, just a short distance north of where the current highway crosses. Other prominent citizens were Richard Exley, Fred and Carrie Exley Helmly, Frank and Allie Berry. Their homes were scattered around the community.
Berryville was a very active center for all kinds of shipping. The Berryville Truckers Exchange was one of the first cooperative efforts of local farmers in the production of Irish potatoes. More potatoes were shipped from Berryville in the 1930s than any other place in Effingham County. As many as 60 freight car loads were shipped annually.
The first Farmers Union Cooperative Store was established and located on the land of Charlie Exley near his house (see accompanying photo). His family members tended to the duties of the store. This store was organized in 1910, but because of the location in the rather scattered community, the Union Store was relocated to Springfield in a brick building on Laurel Street with Elmon Bragg as manager. The Union Store business continued under the name of B & R and later B & B Grocery.
The Effingham Farmer’s Cooperative was the natural outgrowth of this original effort in Berrysville. Commonly called the COOP, the Berryville community was the cradle of the farmer’s cooperative movement in Effingham.
Berryville had a small sawmill which in 1910 was owned and operated by W. C. “Billy” Reiser. Some years later Bartow Reiser, the son of the original owner, and George Leroy “Roy” Rahn formed a partnership which consisted of the saw mill, potato packing plant and turpentine still. In the 1930s, Berry Rahn started hauling logs to the mill with a Ford Truck. Prior to this time all logging operations utilized timber carts pulled by a team of mules.
About 1925, a barrel stave mill enterprise out of Virginia operated nearby manufacturing plants at Seine’s Landing and Haddonville off the Old Augusta Road. Many barrel staves were shipped from Berrysville.
At one time there were 2 public schools there. The white school was of wooden construction with 2 rooms and a porch on the front. This operated for a number of years until it was consolidated with Springfield. The original structure was torn down and rebuilt nearby by Wyatt Goldwire as a residence for his family. For many years a black school operated there until it was consolidated with larger schools in the area.
The community that had grown up around the old freight station which was removed in the mid thirties still consists of scattered homes occupied by white and black citizens. The town once a thriving railroad center with shipping of farm produce, lumber and naval stores, now reflects nothing of its thriving past except two surviving churches, Berryville Baptist and Union Springs AME. In sharp contrast a modern fire station sits near the railroad. Although the green road markers bear the name of Berryville, few of those living in the many new residences scattered along the old roadway and newly constructed streets know of the history except those descended from the original black and white families of this community.
This was written by Susan Exley from Historic Effingham Society. Information came from the Bicentennial History of Effingham County, Ga. If you have photos or historical information to share contact her at 912-754-6681 or email hesheraldexley@aol.com

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