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Georgia Natural Wonder #238 - Burks Mountain - Columbia County (Part 3).
Georgia Natural Wonder #238 - Burks Mountain - Columbia County (Part 3)

OK, in my cyber explorations of Georgia and Columbia County, I found mention of a geological formation other than Heggies Rock, which we covered in (GNW #52). We thought there was only one more worthy Columbia County Wonder with Mistletoe State Park, our last post (GNW # 237). But we needed a third shot at a Columbia County Tangent, to squeeze in our detailed description of the Communities and the Notable People of Columbia County. Among the notable people are both Georgia's signers of the Constitution and one of the three signers of the Declaration of Independence. Of course Oliver Hardy gets all the historical glory today. That leads us to today's Georgia Natural Wonder, Burks Mountain.

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A. Philip Juras: In this portrait, the first rays of the sun are striking the high point of Burks Mountain. All of the elements appear as I found them that summer morning, with a few exceptions: I have eliminated some planted loblolly pines and rearranged and aged the longleaf and short-leaf pines that populate the slopes.

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Burks Mountain, glade 1, Columbia County, Georgia

[Georgia Before People] posted this about today's Georgia Natural Wonder.

I almost visited Burks Mountain not long ago but the road leading to it looked like a long gravel driveway and in fact a sign even said, “Private Driveway,” so I didn’t want to trespass and instead turned around and went home.  

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Burks Mountain Road.

Reed Noss, author of the below referenced book, and A. Philip Juras, a gifted landscape painter, have had the opportunity to see the site first hand, and it’s from their writing and art, respectively, that I get most of the information for this blog entry.

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Burks Mountain, glade 2, Columbia County, Georgia

Burks Mountain is located in northeast Columbia County, Georgia near the Lincoln County line.  It is the highest elevation in Columbia County at 455 feet which makes it more of a really big hill when compared to the real mountains farther north. Serpentinite rock outcroppings cover this mountain.  Rainwater dissolves minerals from serpentinite rock, creating ultramafic soils, and this feature is what makes this site unique.  Ultramafic soils are characterized by low calcium to magnesium ratios, low fertility, and high concentrations of iron, nickel, and chromium.  This soil chemistry is toxic to many trees, and grassland thrives here as a result.  Open savannah conditions prevail without the aid of fire as the following photos and paintings portray.

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A. Philip Juras: portrait of part of Burks Mountain. It is a serpentine barren. Elk and bison probably grazed here as recently as the 18th century.

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Alan Cressler took half a dozen photos of Burks Mountain on Flickr. Glade 3.

William Bartram passed by Burks Mountain circa 1776 but didn’t specifically describe the site, but in the following passage he probably generically described it along with similar dry ridges located in present day Lincoln County.

“This day’s progress was agreeably entertaining, from the novelty and variety of objects and views; the wild country now almost depopulated, vast forests, expansive plains, and detached groves; then chains of hills whose gravelly dry barren summits present detached piles of rocks, which delude and flatter the hopes and expectations of the solitary traveller, full sure of hospitable habitation; heaps of white, gnawed bones of ancient buffaloe, elk and deer, indeterminably mixed with those of men, half-grown over with moss, altogether, exhibit scenes of uncultured nature, on reflection, perhaps, rather disagreeable to a mind of delicate feelings and sensibility, since some of these objects recognize past transations and events, perhaps, not altogether reconcilable with justice and humanity.”

This is an excerpt from Philip’s essay appearing in: Philip Juras: The Southern Frontier, Landscapes Inspired by Bartram’s Travels

On lands adjacent to the Savannah River above Augusta, Georgia, is an extremely rare example of a Piedmont grassland. Privately owned Burks Mountain is the southernmost rock outcrop of serpentine in the eastern United States. Serpentine is metamorphosed rock from the earth’s mantle. It is high in magnesium, nickel, and chromium and can create a toxic environment for plants. 

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On the dry slopes of Burks Mountain and neighboring Dixie Mountain, it inhibits tree growth, thereby creating a refuge for some very rare and endangered sun-loving species. One of them, Georgia Plume, is the “beautiful evergreen” first described by Bartram not five miles from this location on the banks of the Little River. An even rarer plant, Dixie Mountain Breadroot, is known to exist only at this site and two others in South Carolina.

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Burks Mountain, glade 3, Columbia County, Georgia.

It’s a wonder to me that Bartram doesn’t mention these small mountains in the Travels. Not only do they rise sharply above the surrounding Piedmont topography, but they are also situated right along the Upper Cherokee Path. 

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This was the path that Bartram almost certainly traveled on his way to the Cherokee lands from Augusta, passing the foot of Dixie Mountain and stopping for the night in nearby Petersburg on the Little River (now under Clarks Hill reservoir). Had he chosen to investigate these hills, he would certainly have been impressed by the distant views, the open, grassy slopes, and the unusual assortment of rocks and plants that appear. 

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I can only wonder if, when Bartram refers to the “chains of hills” with “gravelly, dry, barren summits” a day’s journey north of this location, he isn’t also referring to Burks and Dixie mountains.

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A. Philip Juras: painting of Burks Mountain. Note the rocky outcroppings. Erosion of minerals from the rock create a soil chemistry that is more favorable to grass than trees.

National Geologic Map Database

Burks Mountain complex is a narrow band of elongate pods of mafic and ultramafic rocks extending over a strike-length of 20 miles from Richmond Co. and Columbia Co., GA, into SC. Unit is located within upper amphibolite grade migmatitic metamorphic rocks of the Kiokee belt in the southeastern part of the Piedmont province. Includes sepentinite, metagabbro, talc and several types of amphibolite. Complex may be a slice of the Iapetus ocean crust or possibly a layered ultramafic/mafic plutonic complex.

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Marshallia ramosa.

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Pediomelum piedmontanum.

All this part of Columbia County is rocky with all the creeks running into the Savannah River.

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Stevens Creek.

But Burks Mountain qualifies this far down the list as a Georgia Natural Wonder and I get to post my last Tangent on Columbia County.

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Private property it seems. Only images I can find on the Internet are these few and the Portraits. So, I move on to my last Tangent on Columbia County.

Columbia County Part 3

We've covered the History and the Historical Listings and Markers. We move now to the Communities and Notable people to finish this County.


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Use to be just Appling.



Grovetown is a city in Columbia County, Georgia, United States. It is part of the Augusta metropolitan area and the Central Savannah River Area. The 2019 population estimate was 15,152.


From the building of the Georgia Railroad, which travels through the city until at least the 1860s, the community was known as "Belair". The city was chartered by the Georgia Legislature and officially incorporated on January 1, 1881. The name of the small village purportedly came from the old Grove Baptist Church that was founded in 1808. A poet famous in the post-Civil War era, Paul Hamilton Hayne, moved to Copse Hill in the Parham Road area in the 1860s. 

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Marker is in Grovetown, Georgia, in Columbia County. Marker is at the intersection of West Robinson Avenue (Georgia Route 223) and Newnantown Road, on the right when traveling west on West Robinson Avenue. The marker stands in front of the Grovetown Museum, fashioned after Copse Hill.

He solicited the United States Postal Service to establish the Grovetown post office.

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The first U.S. mail service was inaugurated on September 28, 1877, with Charles Clifford as postmaster. Mr. Clifford was also the train depot agent and the owner of the corner store.

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Post office then and now.

The first railroad depot was a small structure built in 1878–79. The last depot was an ornate structure built in 1891 at a cost of $5,041.74. 

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It served the citizens of Grovetown until 1970, when passenger trains no longer traveled on the Augusta–Atlanta line. It was demolished in 1973.

Many wealthy and influential Augusta residents had summer homes in Grovetown, escaping the heat and disease of the city. They commuted on the old "Picayune" train, relying on its frequent service. The Rosland Hotel, later known as the "Eagle", was built in the 1880s. 

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Its huge rotunda was frequently used for church gatherings, suppers, parties, and dances. It later became a boarding house and burned in the 1970s. The Church of Christ is now located on the site.

Several country stores were established on Old Wrightsboro Road near the railroad crossing. One was S. F. Poole's store, where the gazebo now stands at the corner with Robinson Avenue, with a "philosophers' bench" by the door. 

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During the early days, many famous residents lived in the Grovetown area: Hayne, the literary figure; Stewart Phinizy and James Tobin, cotton brokers; Charles Phinizy, banker and railroad president; Dr. H. H. Steiner, physician; and John Dodge, pharmacist and harness racing enthusiast. Dodge brought his stable from Ohio and built a large home and racetrack.

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With the construction of Camp Gordon in 1942, Grovetown experienced rapid growth; it was no longer a small agricultural town. Due to its close proximity to Fort Gordon (now Fort Eisenhower), Many military families looked to Grovetown for housing. Gradually, more and more retired military saw the benefits of living in the small town and population began to grow and stabilize.

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Fort Gordon now called Fort Eisenhower. Well he did have a famous house here.

Annexation and multi-housing construction has increased the population of the formerly quiet town. Currently, Grovetown has a population of approximately 15,000, up from the 1990 census figure of 3,596. A variety of stores, dining establishments, schools, and churches add to the town's culture. Services include recreational facilities, a public safety department, two fire stations, water and sewer services, a senior center, and museum.

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Harlem is a city in Columbia County, Georgia, United States. It is part of the Augusta metropolitan area. 

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The population was 2,666 at the 2010 census, up from 1,814 in 2000. This city was named after the neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan. 

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Harlem is the birthplace of comedian Oliver Hardy; the annual Harlem Oliver Hardy Festival is held on the first Saturday each October on Main Street in his honor.

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From the building of the Georgia Railroad which passes through town until at least the 1860s, Harlem was known as Saw Dust.

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The town is twinned with Ulverston in England, the birthplace of Stan Laurel, comedy partner of Oliver Hardy.

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Harlem Mural Tribute to Stan and Oliver.

Vanishing Georgia Harlem

Vanishing Georgia had these wonderful images of Harlem homes.

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Red Oak Bed & Breakfast. Gable Front House. Eclectic Victorian.

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Described as Eclectic Victorian. Eclectic. Eclectic farmhouse just South of Harlem.

Census-designated places

Appling is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in and the county seat of Columbia County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2020 census, its population is 658. It is part of the Augusta metropolitan area.

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Appling was formerly a city but, with the 1993 passage of legislation requiring cities to provide at least three municipal services, Appling was not able to remain incorporated. It was one of 187 inactive cities in Georgia that lost its charter on 1 June 1995. There was question as to whether it had ever been incorporated at all since it had no functioning corporate authorities.

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Old Courthouse and Jail, Appling Georgia.

Columbia County government and judicial offices are in Evans with the Columbia County Government Center, the Government Complex Addition, and the Columbia County Courthouse Annex all located there. Appling retains its status as county seat but all governmental functions are carried out in Evans.


Appling was known as Columbia Courthouse when it received its original town charter in 1816. The town was renamed for local resident Colonel Daniel Appling, a decorated soldier in the War of 1812, after he died in 1817. Around 1799, a citizen named William Appling deeded to the county a tract of land for the purpose of building a Courthouse, since apparently the structure in Cobbham had either fallen into disrepair or burned. The tract of land was near Kiokee Creek and the Baptist Church that Daniel Marshall founded. During the Colonial era, the Church of England was the established church in the State, and it was against the law for anyone to preach contrary to the doctrines of the Church of England. Nonetheless, Daniel Marshall established the first Baptist Church in Georgia in the year 1772 -- Kiokee Baptist Church. This church was located below Brownsboro along the Kiokee Creek in present-day Appling .

Tangent Daniel Marshall

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Monument to Marshall downtown Appling.

Marshall was born in Connecticut and raised as a Presbyterian; he had become a Baptist and preached in the Carolinas before coming to Georgia. He was arrested thereafter. He would later serve in the militia during the war for independence.

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The congregation assembled in six different buildings over the course of its history. From 1772 to 1792 the church met in the log cabin constructed by Daniel Marshall. This small building was similar to Quaker-style constructions of that era, probably twenty feet wide and twenty-four feet long. In 1792 a second building was constructed on the site, or near the site, of the original house of worship at Kiokee Creek. A more commodious brick building became the third church building at the same site in 1808, and it still stands to this day.

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Twenty years later a chapel was built in the new town of Appling, in Columbia County. For many years the congregation met at both this and the Kiokee sanctuary.

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About 1875 a tornado demolished the Appling chapel, forcing the members to meet in various buildings in town, including the courthouse. A new building, the congregation's fifth, was constructed in Appling in 1907. Finally, thirty years later, a new brick building in town became the sixth house of worship for the Kiokee Church.

History Appling Continued

A courthouse was constructed, and served the county until around 1808. The small town that existed around the Church and Courthouse came to be known as "Columbia Courthouse." In 1809, the Baptist congregation left the town and constructed a new meeting house several miles away (the building which is still standing) near the junction of Kiokee and Greenbrier Creeks. That same year, construction began on a new courthouse, which was completed in 1812. In 1816, Columbia Courthouse was charted as the Town of Appling, named for the Appling family that had donated the land to the county and for Col. John Appling, a local resident that had died in a campaign against the Seminoles.

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Addendum , John's son, Daniel Appling had a distinguished military career. Daniel Appling is known as Georgia's most prominent soldier in the War of 1812. His reputation stemmed from an action at the Battle of Sandy Creek on Lake Ontario in upstate New York in 1814.

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There, Appling's command of around 130 riflemen and a similar number of Oneida Indians effectively ambushed and prevented a force of approximately 200 British marines from seizing naval stores and guns that the American navy was moving by boat to the Sackets Harbor shipyard. The clash lasted approximately ten minutes. Ultimately, Appling is said to have killed 14 sailors and marines, wounded 30, and taken 143 prisoners. One American was killed. The naval guns and stores reached Sackets Harbor without further incident, and the British blockade was withdrawn.

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In September, Appling and 110 riflemen, along with the New York cavalry, successfully fought delaying actions against a British force of more than 8,000 men advancing toward Plattsburgh. Appling County (Baxley) is also named after him.

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Oh man I was bummed they lost the Appling Sword the State of Georgia awarded to him, but they found it. OK, He is the one the city is named after.

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Appling was the political, educational, social, and religious center of the County. Near Appling were located Mt. Carmel Academy and Columbia Institute. Mt. Carmel Academy was run by the famous Southern educator, Moses Waddel; it was here that John C. Calhoun and William H. Crawford were educated. Columbia Institute was started by a certain gentleman pretending his last name was Bush; he was none other than the David Bushnell of revolutionary war submariner fame. Additionally, during the Georgia Gold Rush of the 1820s, some successful prospecting and mining occurred in Columbia County.

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David Bushnell, the father of American Submarine warfare. Surviving paperwork showed he designed a submarine and a torpedo.

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In the 1830s, when the Georgia Railroad was established, it was decided that having a train pass through Appling would disturb the proceedings of the court, so the railway from Atlanta to Augusta was built to the south of Appling. In 1855, the courthouse in Appling received a major overhaul, and after the remodeling was complete in 1856, the building was in more or less its present form, a vernacular structure with Greek Revival and Italianate influences. Despite the extensive project, the shell of the 1809-1812 building was retained and the structure has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.

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Appling was nearly destroyed by a tornado in the 1870s, and it never regained the prestige it had prior to the tornado and the Civil War. Although there was an effort to organize the municipality in the early 20th century, the corporation remained inactive. 

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Appling lost its charter in 1995.

Evans is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Columbia County, Georgia, United States. It is a suburb of Augusta and is part of the Augusta metropolitan area. The population was 29,011 at the 2010 census, up from 17,727 at the 2000 census.

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Evans County is named after General Clement A. Evans, however according to an interview with his son, Lawton B. Evans, in the Augusta Chronicle, the town of Evans was not named after his father, but rather after an unrelated family by the same last name. Evans is the de facto county seat of Columbia County, although Appling still holds the de jure designation. 

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Clement and Courthouse Annex.

The Columbia County Government Center, the Government Complex Addition, and the Columbia County Courthouse Annex are all located in Evans.

Parks and recreation

Columbia County Parks, Recreation & Events operates a number of parks and trails including the Evans Towne Center Park located in the heart of Evans adjacent to The Plaza development project 

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and including the Lady Antebellum Pavilion.

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The Euchee Creek Greenway is a developing bike and pedestrian project. As of 2023, the trail is open in two sections, with the southern segment consisting of an approximately two-mile section in Grovetown. 

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A separate section is complete to the north, stretching over five miles from the Canterbury Farms subdivision north to Patriots Park. Future plans call for extending the trail further north and east to provide an off-road connection all the way to Savannah Rapids Park, via the existing Evans to Locks Multi-Use Trail.

Martinez is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Columbia County, Georgia, United States. It is a northwestern suburb of Augusta and is part of the Augusta, Georgia metropolitan area. The population was 34,535 at the 2020 census.

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Martinez is home to the start of the Augusta Canal. Built in 1845, the headgates harnessed the power of the Savannah River, providing water and transportation to the city. 

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The dam also powered many factories that sprung up along the canal, propelling Augusta to a city of recognition in the South. (GNW #57)

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Today, you can find the history of the canal as well as other artifacts in the Columbia County Visitor's Center, located in the renovated Lockkeeper's Cottage.

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Step out from the cottage to find the original renovated Dance Pavilion circa 1880, the Dining Shed circa 1935, the BBQ pit circa 1880, and the Savannah Rapids Pavilion, perfect for parties and conferences. 

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Dance Pavilion, Dining Shed, and the Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

If you are seeking a more active experience, jog the canal trail into downtown Augusta, rent a canoe, or jump aboard the canal boat tour! Only a few short miles away from the headgates, you will find Reed Creek Wetlands and Interpretative Center. 

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Reed Creek Falls, Frogs, Foliage.

Bring your family to one of Reed Creek's public programs, such as the Wilderness Survival Class, the Frog Call Survey, and the Nurturing Nature Walk!

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Martinez Post Office.


The founder was José Martínez y Saldivar, a wealthy man from Cuba. He bought a plantation in Columbia County in 1869 and named it El Cordero Rancho ("The Lamb Ranch"). 

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He wanted to be an American soldier. He ended up having four daughters who married very wealthy men, one being a Dr. Perrin who died around 1940. El Cordero Ranch is now only 20 acres in size. His old home and several buildings, barns and a water tower original to the property still stand at 3654 Old Ferry Road.

Unincorporated communities

Berzelia is an unincorporated community in Columbia County in the U.S. state of Georgia. It is located on U.S. Route 78, 18 miles west-southwest of Downtown Augusta and 3.8 miles east of Harlem.


A post office called Berzelia was established in 1835 and remained in operation until 1933. In 1900, the community had 84 inhabitants.

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Berzelia is an evergreen shrub from South Africa.

Cobbham is an unincorporated community along the McDuffie County, and Columbia County line in the U.S. state of Georgia.


The community was named after local landholder and Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Cobb.

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Cobbham School House as per Georgia Archives.

Sawdust is a neighborhood (formerly a separate unincorporated community) in the city of Harlem, Columbia County, Georgia, United States. The community is on U.S. Route 78, 1 mile west of the center of Harlem and 3 miles east of Dearing.


Sawdust was so named on account of there being several sawmills near the original town site. The name sometimes is spelled out as "Saw Dust". A post office called Saw Dust was established in 1852, and remained in operation until 1895.

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Post Office Sawdust, vintage image Harlem shortly after name change.

The town had a raucous reputation for its numerous bars and saloons and this prompted a name change from community leaders.

Winfield is an unincorporated community in Columbia County, in the U.S. state of Georgia.


A post office called Winfield was established in 1851, and remained in operation until 1918. It is unclear why the name "Winfield" was applied to this community. A variant name is "Sharon Church".

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Winfield School and Church as per Georgia Archives.

Near Winfield stands Woodville, an antebellum plantation mansion which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

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(GNW #237)

Notable people

Nathan Crawford Barnett, Member of the Georgia House of Representatives and Georgia Secretary of State for over 30 years. It is said that Barnett twice saved the Great Seal of the State of Georgia.

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Oliver Hardy, World famous comedian, born in Harlem.

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Paul Hamilton Hayne, Poet and author.

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Henry Louis Benning, Confederate general for whom Fort Benning was named. It was renamed Fort Moore in May 2023.

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William Few, Signed Constitution.

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Abraham Baldwin, Signed Constitution, Founded University of Georgia.

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George Walton, Signed Declaration of Independence.

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George W. Crawford, State Attorney General, U.S. Congressman, Governor Georgia, Secretary of War Zachary Taylor.

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William H. Crawford, President pro tempore of the United States Senate (presidential candidate in 1824).

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Thomas Watson, Populist leader and Georgia senator born in Thomson when it was still in Columbia County.

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George McDuffie, South Carolina governor and senator in the early 19th century.

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Jesse Mercer, A long-time preacher in the county for whom Mercer University is named.

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Ben Hayslip, Grammy Nominated country music songwriter.

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Dave Haywood, American country musician and songwriter, Lady A.

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Charles Kelley, Member of Lady-A.

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Alright, that wraps up all the significant Wonders of Columbia County, and finishes my Tangents on the County. Hell I have featured 7 Georgia Natural Wonders (8 Post) in the Augusta area.

Heggies Rock (GNW #52)

Augusta Canal (GNW #57)

Savannah River Rapids - Augusta (Part 1) (GNW #58)

Augusta (Part 2) (GNW #58 - Part 2)

Phinzy Swamp (GNW #102)

Elijah Clark State Park (GNW #219)

Mistletoe State Park (GNW #237)

Burks Mountain (This Post)

Back by popular demand for today's GNW Gals, we travel back the the Country of Columbia for our Columbia County Georgia Natural Wonder Gals again. There are pages to choose from.

[Image: yKlu9My.jpeg] Again I say Woof!
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