Civilian or military, many local residents love Fort Stewart. Most seem to cherish the installment in one way or another. But before the United States government established the post generations ago, the land was loved for reasons other than the existence of a military installation. The area that now belongs to Fort Stewart was once open for anyone to live on. Before Fort Stewart, 60 communities were scattered across that land. Tye Tye Crossing, Ellabell and Willie were just a few of the small towns located in the region. The communities established had post offices, courthouses, and schools. One of the most prominent communities was Taylors Creek.
When the name Taylors Creek comes to mind most people think of the elementary school or a river of the same name. But for others it reminds them of a village where everybody was kinfolk. In 1760, the Taylors brothers (hence where Taylors Creek got its name) were granted land at the junction between Taylors Creek and Canoochee Creek. Overtime others began to move out to the community. The main industries were farming and turpentine. Turpentine was a process in which an individual would cut into a pine tree. Then, that person would scrape the front of the tree and the pinesap and gum would go into collection cups. Using those cups people could boil the sap down into a giant still and they would distill turpentine from that. Another industry they had was gristmills that were used to grind local grains.
Although Taylors Creek was bought out in 1941, there are still some older residents who remember the community fondly. Wyman May and Rev. Henry Frasier were both born and raised in the community. May was about 12 years old when it was time to move; Frasier was 9. When talking to the both of them the love that the residents had for their community was apparent through their stories.
When asked to describe what Taylors Creek was like May couldn’t help but share his birth story. “At Taylors Creek village we were surrounded on one side by the Taylors Creek and the other the Canoochee Creek. When it came time for me to be born in September my mother was at home. It rained a lot and flooded out the roads. The closest doctor, Dr. Hack, was in Hinesville, which was six miles away. He got word of it and he came out to the creek but he couldn’t get across. Some men from the village, probably four or five, met him there and took him across the creek in a boat and carried him to my mother’s house. He delivered me and he came back to the creek and they carried him back across so he could get back to Hinesville.” May’s story revealed the character of Taylors Creek. It was the place where everyone pitched in when someone needed help. May said his favorite memories revolved around the warmhearted character of the community. “It was about 300 people; everybody knew everybody. A lot of them were relatives. We called everybody cousin back then. We were a close knit group; even the white and the blacks were close knit. The blacks loved the whites and the blacks loved the whites.”
African American children were sent to Cross Bay School like Frasier. “It was about 25-30 of us. It was a one room school. Upper school was out of the question. Our school would go up to the seventh grade and then you would have to go up to Dorchester. All of the children from Collins, Reidsville, Glennville, Claxton, and Liberty County would be transported to Dorchester. The students would stay there during the week and then come back home on the weekend.” School was simple. They were taught basic subjects – math, reading, composition – and then would break for lunch and recess. “The government was nice to us. They would give us apples, oranges, raisins, and milk. We would sit down and eat, then get up and play for about 25-30 minutes. For recess we ran, played hopscotch and jumped rope. Summer break was in May or the first week of June and we would come back in the second week of September.”
While Frasier went to Cross Bay, May attended Taylors Creek Elementary and Junior High which went up to the ninth grade. If students wanted to receive a high school education they attended Bradwell Institute in Hinesville.
The village (some call it “the plantation”) was recorded to have 84 structures in town. The post office was in the center of the community. In front sat a bench where inhabitants mingled and watched players at an adjacent croquet court. There was a central park and a one room courthouse where elections were held. Additionally, Taylors Creek had three country stores plus a “rolling store.” The rolling store was a store owner from Glennville who sold products from his truck from time to time.
North of Taylors Creek there were two small African American communities named Martin Town and Greasy Town. Greasy Town was a community that was created in the 1930s. It was an area where turpentine and lumber employees lived and who also owned or rented small farms. The name came from the greasy fat that came from hog slaughtering. Greasy Town had a “juke joint” that served as the community social center.
Martin Town was named after several residents’ surnames. The residents were mostly farmers and farm laborers. The town has been known to have 10 buildings. Aside from farming, African Americans were known to make products like brooms, tubs, furniture, and quilts instead of buying them from the market.
Religion played a very important role in town. The community had two churches named Taylors Creek Methodist Church and Pleasant Grove A.M.E. Both churches were well known for their spirited camp meetings. Taylors Creek was actually a key player in spreading Methodism in Southeast Georgia. In the early nineteenth century Methodism was only in its early stages in the United States. Rev. Angus McDonald, a traveling Methodist circuit rider, came through Taylors Creek and organized a Methodist assembly. The Taylors Creek Methodist Church started their camp meetings in 1812. “People would move to the campground in little wooden buildings and they stayed to the next Wednesday after the third Sunday in October every year. The tabernacles were called tents. It started the Friday before the third Sunday of October. People came from all over. You didn’t see people until the next camp meeting. They had an early morning service and 11 a.m. service, the middle afternoon, and at night,” May said.
Pleasant Grove also had its own camp meeting. Family members who lived far away reunited during this time. Men and women dressed up in their finest clothes and usually met their future spouses during the meeting. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Frasier. “It was a big thing, people came from all over. We didn’t have a piano so we had to sing a cappella. We would have three services. Different family members would come with booths of different food and sell it. People came from Savannah, Pembroke, Claxton, and Collins, Georgia. If we weren’t eating then we were inside praying or singing. We had three services. It would start at 8:30-9 a.m. in the morning and in the evening we would go home about 8:00 that night. Some would camp out. We (the children) would have a lot of fun. The moon shined on our way back home. We ran and jumped and left the old folks behind.” Taylors Creek may have been small but it was seen as a religious center.
It’s time to go
In 1940 Congress bought 5,000 acres of land north of Hinesville. It was chosen to be an artillery and basic training post. The new training post would include Taylors Creek and its neighboring communities. When asked how Frasier felt at the time he remarked, “Bad, disgusted, sad, all of those adjectives!” The news hit especially hard for the elders in town like his grandmother. “My grandmother insisted that she wasn’t going to move. I was nine years old and I saw my grandmother do one thing that I never saw her do before – cry! She was always strong and outspoken. One day, some other cousins of mine and I were at her house. Someone who worked for the government pulled up to her house in a truck. The man got out of his truck and told my grandmother that she only had two weeks to move from her home or else the government would have to move her out by force. After he left my grandmother broke down and cried. My cousins and I asked “What’s wrong grandma? What’s wrong? We never saw her like that.”
Despite the roots that Frasier’s family put down for generations his family left Taylors Creek and moved to Ludowici. “We found a place in Ludowici; it was small. My dad found a house on Live Oak Road that we lived for about a year and then we moved into Hinesville. The first year I couldn’t go to school.” Frasier missed the familiarity of his hometown. “That was all that I knew. We had our swimming pool right by our grandmother’s house, we had our own hogs and cows. You missed the land that you grew up at; it was all that you knew.”
Residents moved to Allenhurst, Hinesville, Walthourville and even further away. May’s family moved to Hinesville and what he missed the most was his friends. “Some of my friends moved to Hinesville and they were scattered all over. Some of them I didn’t get to see anymore.” According to May about 2,000 people from all of the communities had to move. Residents who were still living in the area were placed in temporary houses in Hazlehurst, Ga. They built so many houses they called it “Little Hinesville.”
If one thing stayed the same it was Pleasant Grove. Church trustees bought land on the south end of highway 84 in Hinesville. The motto is “a tie that binds” because the church connects the separated congregants who moved to different areas of the county. Today many descendent of Taylors Creek still attend the church; some call it their “family church.” Pleasant Grove still holds its annual camp meeting, drawing people in from all over. Also, Fort Stewart offers cemetery tours for both churches.
Having a new base in town had its advantages. Camp Stewart helped Hinesville economically with many people coming to town to either help build the base or set up businesses to take advantage of the soldiers’ income. Some natives of Taylors Creek assumed that once the war (WWII) ended residents would be allowed to come back to their homeland; however, after six long years of war the base still remained. The elders, like Frasier’s grandmother, never finished their golden years on their land like they planned. The young children that moved away, similar to May and Frasier, may have found the transition difficult but they went on to build their own homes and families and still made an impact on their communities. The number of former residents are dwindling but at least their stories help younger generations learn about local history. Taylors Creek may be gone for good, but as long as the residents’ stories are told it will never be forgotten.
More information and stories about Taylors Creek is available in the genealogy section of Live Oak Public Library.