Many people today wonder about the original use of the mound of dirt that is located across the road from the American Legion Hall and Gnann’s Fix It Shop in Springfield on the old section of Highway 21 (now known as Laurel Street south). This earthen mound is the only remains of the original sawmill dam used by the Springfield Manufacturing Company. It was constructed in 1907 by Mr. George Brinson, builder of the Brinson Railroad from Savannah to Springfield.
On Feb. 21, 1906, Mr. George Matthew Brinson and nine other people applied for a charter for a railroad to be named the “Brinson Railway.” This railroad line was to be a single track, standard gauge railroad, to run from Savannah to Athens. On May 16, 1906, his railroad charter was approved. Mr. Brinson joined with a New York investment banking firm, William Morris Imbrie and Company, to finance the project.
Mr. Brinson built the railroad reaching Springfield in 1907. From Savannah to Springfield, he built 24 miles of tracks. His first passenger train reached Springfield on May 27, 1907.
In 1907, Mr. Brinson set up a lumber mill called the “Springfield Manufacturing Company” south of town. On Aug. 17, 1907, he purchased sawmill machinery and steam engines from the Georgia Ironworks for $8,421. In September 1907, he purchased a complete creosoting plant from the Hoffman-Ahlers Company for $25,000. This creosoting plant was set up at his sawmill on the south end of town. The creosoting plant allowed him to saw lumber at the mill and be able to treat the lumber to make railroad cross ties, bridge timbers and lumber for his depots, water tanks and railroad buildings.
He located the headquarters of Brinson Railway in Springfield in 1907. Mr. Brinson built a building called “Brinson Store” on Laurel Street in Springfield (this store today is Springfield City Hall). A railroad repair shop was built at the site where he had the steam powered sawmill.
During the next five years he expanded his railroad until he had built 143 miles of track, from Savannah to Camak, just north of Augusta.
By 1914, Mr. Brinson had borrowed so much money that “Brinson Railway” was almost bankrupt. On March 25, 1914, the railroad was taken over by Mr. James Imbrie, a New York banker, and it became known as the “Savannah and Northwest Railway.”
In 1916, the railroad shop in Springfield was moved to Savannah.
On July 16, 1917, the railroad was renamed the “Savannah and Atlanta Railway” (often called the S&A).
Newspaper accounts record that “the area had run out of trees” so his sawmill soon closed down.
Today a part of the old earthen dam from a pond Brinson used at his sawmill and a small portion of the foundation for the mill (as shown in the accompanying photographs) are all that exist of this once quite prosperous industrial area of Springfield.
Many who have driven by this site for an entire lifetime have not known until today the significance of this earthen mound. Historic Effingham thanks Norman Turner for providing the information for this article and we challenge the Mayor and City Council of Springfield to place some type of sign or marker on top of the mound to preserve the historical significance of this site and prevent its removal in generations to come.
This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org