The Cairo Messenger, May 20, 1998 - Page 8-A.
PRELIMINARY WORK COMPLETED ON MARKING THE HAWTHORN TRAIL
State Senator Harold Ragan reported, last week, that steps are being taken to follow up on earlier discussion about developing appropriate recognition for the historical importance of the Hawthorn Trail in Grady and Mitchell Counties. (Note: Manuscripts in the Georgia Archives add a final "e" to the name, however William Hawthorn's own signature and official state documents do not have a final "e".
Ragan explained that, to get the ball rolling, he asked that Dr. Wayne R. Faircloth, a Grady County native, retired Valdosta State University professor, and history buff, represent Grady County, and that G. R. Mitchell of Camilla, DeSoto Trail Library Coordinator, represent Mitchell County in collaborating on establishing the exact route of the famous trail through the two counties.
"That task has been completed and I have given a copy of Faircloth's and Mitchell's work to Rep. Richard Royal of Camilla so we can work together on this project and keep each other informed on developments," Sen. Ragan said.
Ragan intends to report to the Grady County Commission, bring it up-to-date on developments so far, and seek the commission's endorsement of the concept being proposed.
He also reported that this district's representative on the State Department of Transportation's Board, Billy Langdale of Valdosta, has already made the board aware of the project and has indicated he is ready to take action to elevate it to DOT level for identification.
"Both the General Assembly and the DOT have authority to name roads and apply official designations," Ragan explained, then added, "there still may be some differences on how this project should be developed."
Information delivered to Sen. Ragan by Faircloth and Mitchell notes that the road bearing the name "Hawthorn Trail" dates back to 1822-1823 when State Senator William Hawthorn resigned his elected and appointed positions as a resident of Pulaski County, Ga., (Hawkinsville) to relocate his family in the eastern part of Early County, the western-most of three counties created from the lands Georgia had obtained from the Creek Indians by the Treaty of Fort Jackson signed in 1814.
The road he opened provided a more direct connection from the Federal Trail (which ran from middle Georgia to forts on the Flint and Apalachicola Rivers) to the Miccosukee Trails in Florida. "Furthermore, its opening (by Hawthorn) accommodated the movement of whole families by wagons and carts, which existing Indian paths would not permit, thereby providing access to an unsettled portion of southwest Georgia," Faircloth and Mitchell explained.
Hawthorn's trail branched off southward from the Federal Trail at about the present location of Baconton in north Mitchell County. Its southern terminus is identified as being in Gadsden County, Florida, in the vicinity of present day Concord.
According to a 1968 narrative prepared by Marion R. Hemperly about the location of the "Hawthorn Trail," from Baconton "it ran close to present day highway US-19 (Ga.-3) all the way to Camilla. From Camilla it ran almost exactly on highway Ga. 112 until it reached a fork at Tired Creek Methodist Church just north of Cairo.
From this point the trail followed the right hand fork (now county road Upper Hawthorne Trail); skirted the present western city limits of Cairo ; and followed exactly what is now Ga.-111 from just south of Cairo for approximately five miles, crossing Tired, Turkey and Sofkee Creeks.
Just beyond Sofkee Creek, the trail followed the left fork (now county road, Lower Hawthorne Trail) to the present day Pine Hill community where it took a due west direction for approximately four miles before making a left turn toward Florida on what is now identified as Concord Rd.
Faircloth and Mitchell have recommended to the Georgia Department of Transportation that:
(1) The contribution of the pioneer statesman and religious leader, Elder William Hawthorn, particularly his role in opening southwest Georgia for settlement in the early 1800s, be honored by naming the route he opened THE HAWTHORN TRAIL;
(2) The entire 55.4 miles length of the trail from Baconton to the Florida state line, as delineated on maps presented, be officially named THE HAWTHORN TRAIL;
(3) This historic Trail be marked with appropriate signage, erected at appropriate intervals, for its entire length, so that travelers, both north and south, will be fully aware of its location.;
(4) Provision be made for the perpetual maintenance of all signage that may be erected.
Elder William Hawthorn was born in North Carolina in 1762; ordained a Baptist minister in 1798; and moved to Hartford, Ga. (Across the Ocmulgee River from present day Hawkinsville, Ga.) in 1806.
He served as justice of the peace, state senator and state representative, from counties in the Hartford area as well as commissioner of Pulaski County Academy until 1823, when he moved to a site in what was then Early County about five miles southwest of what is now Cairo and settled on the south side of Tired Creek.
In 1823 he was appointed as a commissioner to help to select a county seat site (Bainbridge) for the new county of Decatur (formed out of Early) and, "as soon as convenient, contract for and have erected a courthouse and jail for said county."
He later served two terms as State Senator for Decatur County.
In 1826 he organized the constitution of Tired Creek Baptist Church; was called to be its first pastor; and served continuously until 1838.
Elder Hawthorn died in 1846 and is buried in the cemetery at Tired Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Grady County.
There is an amusing reference to Elder Hawthorn being mildly disciplined by the congregation for a bout with alcohol in 1828, in _Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South_ by John G. Crowley, page 48.
My great great grandfather Jonas B. Davis, and I suppose his father, Joseph Davis, were members of Tired Creek Primitive Baptist Church and many members of my family including Davis, Shirey and Rehberg are buried there.
Elder Hawthorn's photograph was published in the _Messenger_, I believe in conjunction with this article, so it should not take too much effort to come up with a copy of it.