By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Recollections of the way Springfield appeared in the 1800s
Ech 7-19-07 Walter A
Walter Gnann - photo by Photo submitted

This is the second part of Walter Gnann’s recollections of the city of Springfield.

We learn from “Salzburger History” page 64 that Effingham County and Springfield at that time were known as St. Matthews Parish and subsequently enacted into a county which was called Effingham, after an English nobleman Lord Effingham, who had defended the British Parliament in the year 1775. A part of Effingham was added to Screven County.

Then we read on page 67 of “Salzburger History” – The site of the Salzburger town was about four miles below Springfield, the present seat of justice showing in these paragraphs it would seem that Springfield existed and was the seat of Justice before Effingham County was named. Traditional evidence before our memories.

Jones, page 41: Feb. 18, 1796, The Legislature of Georgia appointed commissioners for the town of Ebenezer or to survey all vacant lots. Visited in the state and sell and appropriate proceeds to the erection of a courthouse and jail. Any surplus to be applied to a public academy. (Ebenezer) For three years only remained the county seat. In 1799 the buildings were sold and the village of Springfield was designated by the legislature as the permanent seat for Effingham County.

On the 5th day of February in 1777 at Savannah, the Constitution adopted and consolidated a county called Effingham. The town was laid out in 1777. The act incorporating Springfield was recorded in the state archives in Atlanta in 1838 (Ga Law p. 129). It was re-incorporated in 1849-1850 (Ga Law p. 94) and again in 1865-66 (Ga Law p. 290). The charter of Springfield was amended in 1843 (Ga Law p. 82).

In 1875 my memory of Springfield (buildings) as of that date that were still standing were: The old courthouse and jail, the old Baptist church, the old Methodist church, the old Masonic lodge, the old camp ground tabernacle, Mrs. Morgan’s house, old Dr. William Wilson’s house, Mrs. Rahn’s house, Mr. Amos Rahn’s house and … of those, Dr. Howell Wilson’s house remains on original spot and still used as home of H. N. Ramsey. The old courthouse and the Baptist church moved to Laurel or Main Street and remodeled and used as residences. The Masonic Lodge moved and still used as a Lodge for the society. The old Methodist church burned and the Old Academy burned. The camp ground tabernacle was torn down. The S.S. Pitman house was torn down. The old hotel and Brad Jones home and store was relocated.

There was an Effingham Academy moved to Springfield in 1797 and commissioners appointed for same as early as 1821. This of course is prior to the incorporation of Springfield-commissioners appointed before incorporated.

I believe you will find more information about the academy school building and the amount of the grant in your local records in your Inferior Court minutes if they are available in the ordinary’s office (letter of Mrs. Bryan – director of Department Archives of History, No. 1516 Peachtree St., Atlanta)

What information I can get in reference to the need of a school was felt we do not know who was the promoter; but some one succeeded in getting a grant through the Legislature to give to Springfield or Effingham County a fund sufficient to build a nice school building and yet have a neat little fund to help support the school. It was given to Effingham County and gave the management to (a board) trustees to be selected by appointment of each Grand Jury rotating each year.

The building was completed about 1792 and a very able teacher by the name of Hawley who it seems was one of the ablest teachers known both in discipline and practical teaching.

(On the back of an envelope in the notes, the following was found:) Springfield teachers: Hawley, Pitman, Boozer, Walsh, Hazelhurst, Ozie Mingledorff, O. B. Shearouse-1888, J. B. Battle, D. M. Varn, Coon, Futch (spelling?), Monts, John B. Durant, John Derrick, Parker, Edwards, Charles Usher and A. O. Gnann.

Feb. 26, 1784 Courthouse Act Jones History, Feb. 26, 1781 – Jail, 1796 – County Seat Tuckaseeking three years, Moved 1796 to Ebenezer, 1776 Legislature Appointed John G. Neidlinger, Jonathan Rahn, Elias Hodges, John Martin Dasher for Committee to survey and sell and appropriate funds for courthouse and jail and to build Academy.

Some students of school listed in notes: Cal Lester, Richard Clark Jurist, Ozzie Clark, Dr. William Wilson and B. M. Zettler. Trustees at Effingham Academy when O. B. Shearouse taught: Col Bird, A. J. Shearouse, J. J. Hinely, H. A. Wallace and Jas Bird.

Two of the nice buildings in the McAllister lots in central Springfield were thought to be burned in the Civil War but the remnants of these chimneys remained. These folks never returned; their whereabouts is unknown.

No account seems to have been left of the organizing of Superior Court. In neither history do I find at what time the courthouse was built or ever had held court.

I do know and remember that my father showed me the first jail ever used in Effingham County made of pine poles or small round logs and matched up and fitted at each corner just as all pole houses were made.

I remember seeing it well. It was about 12 or 14 feet wide and 25 feet long with a separate room at each end and a long wide open hall between the rooms.

This jail harbored few criminals of that day — J.P. warrant cases. The escape of prisoners was rare if ever. This first jail was only a few years ago torn away (1950s).

Also no account of the first post office was found or who was the first postmaster appointed. An application as early as Oct. 12, 1732 (Salzburger P. 45) cited. (?)

The first information was as follows. There was no direct delivery of mail to Springfield.

The mail came up to Guyton and Mr. Thomas Seckinger was employed to carry it over to Springfield once a week on Fridays and deliver it to Mr. Amos Rahn who was acting postmaster and keeping a small store. He would distribute the mail to individuals, or to Clubs, of out of town residents. The Clubs were made up of six or eight residents who would take turns to go, as stated above every Friday and deliver the neighborhood mail to one member’s home and the people would get their mail by this method. Club members would get their mail — if any —from that family.

After the Civil War the old soldiers organized and had regular drill days and each 4th of July they would have a practice a what (was called charging at head and ring) and other activities.

Brad Jones and mother and sister Mrs. Glynnis Law ran the first store and lived in a moderate home but after a time built what was thought to be the first right nice two-story eating house or hotel.

Some years after Brad Jones’ death, Mr. Amos Rahn acquired the Jones property and moved the store building to corner of what is now the Clyo Road and lived in the hotel building and store and was the first acting postmaster.

There was also old Dr. William Wilson and (his) wife living in Springfield and were the parents of Dr. Howell Wilson who succeeded his father and served for years after his father retired.

Dr. William lived where the convict camp is now located. Dr. Howell lived in the east side about the center of Springfield just north of the academy. He served the greater part of Effingham County as physician. Using his conveyance, a horse and homemade two wheeled sulkey; a square box fastened to the shafts and axles with cushion seat on which to ride and an opening in the box to carry his medicine and kit.

He and his family lived in one of the best homes in Springfield, the home now known as the H.N. Ramsey house, which has been remodeled and improved.

The Biddenback family: Joe, Danny and Ben. Joe’s (Joshua Biddenback’s daughter Amelia married Amos Rahn, according to “Georgia Salzburger and Allied Families”) daughter, Amelia, was wife of Amos Rahn. Joe Biddenback’s daughter to whom one daughter Eliza was born, married Gazzie Berry. The old Sam Biddenback residence was torn down.

This is a remarkable account of history. I hope that I was able to read and interpret the handwriting accurately. A copy of these documents is available in Effingham Museum. It is of special note that this gentleman and his wife reared six children and all were graduates of Newberry College in South Carolina.

This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have comments, photos or topics to share for this column please email or call her at 754-6681.