According to information from an article about Stillwell written by Ethel and Ernest Gnann, the record of a real estate transaction and map of the subdivision of Stillwell shows that the original owner of the property was Mrs. Almeda Arden.
She sold this property to a real estate corporation known as the South Bound Investment Company in 1890, who acquired the right of way for the railroad and built the town. A lawyer by the name of Stillwell handled the legal matters and gave the town his name.
The present Seaboard Coastline Railroad divided the town. The west side of the railroad was subdivided into 90 lots of 100 feet frontage and 110 foot depth.
There were four avenues: Arden, Bird, Gnann and Railroad. The three streets were: First, Second and Third. On the east side of the railroad there were only four lots of about an acre each labeled: A, B, C and D, due to the triangular nature of the property. The town planners had grand ideas hoping to build a metropolis that never really came to be.
Willie Green built the second house on lot 27. Dan Simmons built the third house. He was crippled with arthritis and shuffled when he walked. He had a contract with the railroad and put out lighted kerosene lamps each evening on the railroad siding. He picked them up, refueled them and cleaned the glass chimneys each morning.
Alvin and Lena Exley Gnann built the fourth house moving in during May 1898 and reared seven children. He was a schoolteacher, farmer and recorded some of the town’s history. She lived to be 94, and he died at 106.
The post office was opened in 1892 with Cletus B. Gnann as postmaster and he served for 47 years. Several served, including Ethel Gnann, and the last postmistress was Mrs. Frankie Gnann, who retired in 1961 when the post office was closed. The old post office is still there beside the railroad. It is a two-story wood frame, well-constructed building built by the Tebeau brothers of Springfield.
Some businesses in the town over the years were: Dan Simmons’ Store, Rob Mallory’s turpentine still and commissary, Harry Lancaster’s grocery store, the Gnann-DeLoach Commissary, the Willie Rahn store, The Berry Thomas Sawmill, Savannah Planing Mill, Charlie Shearouse and Sons sawmill at Spring Branch and the Daniels Sawmill. The last active business operated in Stillwell was in the 1930s; Paul Wilson had a blacksmith shop and gristmill. He was a jack of all trades: shod horses, repaired wagons, built trailers and operated the mill.
The Lutheran Church completed in 1922 in Stillwell was named Grace and operated until 1964 when the few remaining members closed the doors and merged with Holy Trinity in Springfield.
One of the more important things was the Stillwell School for white children built on Arden Avenue after the Civil War with more than one classroom. The paved road now passes right over this spot and this replaced an old one-room school that had been used prior to that time.
The school was built in the shape of an L and had two classrooms with the main one having a stage. This school consolidated with Springfield in 1930. A black Methodist church sat near the school site.
A black school sat near the church, on the north side of the village. It started as a one-room school and was later expanded to an L-shaped, two-room building. It fell into disuse as the town diminished and was relocated and became a residence for a family.
Residents, farms and timber land still are evident in the area but no sign of the churches, schools, turpentine stills, sawmills, planing mills or stores are visible. A few homes and the abandoned post office and two cemeteries are all that is still visible in this grandly planned town that had high hopes back in 1890.
Some information came from “River to River” by Betty Renfro. This article was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have questions, comments or photos to share, please call her at 912-754-6681 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org