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Georgia Natural Wonder #239 - Seminole State Park - Seminole County.
Georgia Natural Wonder #239 - Seminole State Park - Seminole County ***

We move from one edge of the state (Augusta) down to the other corner (Donalsonville) with today's Natural Wonder of Georgia. Chasing the State Parks has led us to Seminole State Park on Lake Seminole down in Seminole County Georgia.

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Now we came to Decatur County with our Georgia Natural Wonder #152 on Climax Caverns. We did a second post on Decatur County (GNW #152 - Part 2) and part of that post touched on Lake Seminole. Seminole County was annexed from Decatur County, so a lot of that early Indian and Settler history is covered in that post and we move West to the new County and State Park.

Seminole State Park

From the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites and the Department of Natural Resources ...

On the sometimes-forgotten fringes of historic Southwest Georgia, the banks of the flooded Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers border the last remnants of a primitive longleaf wiregrass ecology at Seminole State Park where one hears nature’s beckoning call to wanderers to wet a hook, walk a trail, enjoy a boat ride, and watch a sunset.

This southwest Georgia park is on beautiful Lake Seminole, a 37,500 acre reservoir with excellent boating, fishing and birding. Cottages, many campsites and even picnic shelters sit near the water’s edge, offering excellent views and quick access to the lake. Because the park surrounds a small cove, visitors usually enjoy smooth water for skiing and tubing. A sand swimming beach is also provided for lake lovers.

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Wildlife is abundant throughout Seminole, and a nature trail leads past gopher tortoise burrows and one of the largest longleaf pine forests in a Georgia state park. Observant visitors may also see alligators, osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife. Nearby wildlife management areas provide great duck and deer hunting.

Reservations, Accommodations & Facilities
  • 1,478 Acres

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  • 37,500-acre Lake Seminole

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There is also Treehouse camping.

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Less night time snakes, dry, screened in.
  • 4 Picnic Shelters (Before making reservations, call park for capacity limits.) See Below.
  • 1 Group Shelter (seats 200. Before making reservations, call park for capacity limits.)

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  • Sand Beach
  • 3 Boat Ramps

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  • 1 Fishing Dock

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  • Playground

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Can see Picnic Shelter and Playground.
  • Gift Shop

Things To Do & See

Easily, one can say the most exciting thing to do at Seminole State Park is to simply observe nature around you. In addition, Georgia’s location along migratory routes ensures seasonal wildlife that never fails to fascinate and entertain. This is most evident when it comes to the number of different birds you may spot in Seminole. There are over 300 species, including colorful examples such as painted buntings, ruby throated hummingbirds, bald eagles, wood storks and great egrets.

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From river otter to raccoon, bullfrog to salamander, gopher tortoise to white tail deer, the variety of wildlife makes even the shortest trail seem endless with possibilities. And that’s not counting the alligators: prehistoric looking creatures that patrol the swampy regions—while amazing wide-eyed guests—in the southern most parts of the state. The Rangers offer a poisonous snake hike March 26.

Boat lovers can think of Georgia State Parks as their vacation home. We offer boat ramps, docks, rentals and marinas. A few campgrounds and cabins even have adjacent docks like Seminole. Water skiing, sailing and personal watercraft are permitted on large lakes. 

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Seminole offers jon boat, kayak, stand-up paddleboard and/or aquacycle rentals. Call the park for the types of boats available and pricing. The cove of water, located within the park, gives access to the larger waters of Lake Seminole.

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From the park's shoreline, boaters are also only minutes away from the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. Jim Woodruff Dam is also only a short boat ride away.

OK, Lake Seminole is all about fishing. I guess you can water-ski and swim at the beach but damn, there are Alligators this far south, best to just stay in the boat and fish in my mind. 

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Most Sites say the lake is best for Largemouth bass, redear sunfish, black crappie & channel catfish.

Lake Seminole - Largemouth Bass

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Prospect: Expect average catches to weigh around 2 pounds with good numbers of 5-6 pounders available. Lake Seminole has improved over the last 10 years in its largemouth fishery, with both more and larger fish weighed in during its many tournaments. Five fish limits of 30 pounds or more are quite possible. Visit the lake January through May for the best largemouth fishing.

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Technique: Throw a lipless crankbait, plastic worm, frog, spinnerbait or top water lure in and along the edges of Seminole's abundant aquatic plants.

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Target: Fish for bass in the late winter and early spring in the numerous backwater areas, especially in the Spring Creek and Flint River arms. Bedding fish can be found in pockets in coves and sandy flats primarily during March and April. Grass lines will be productive throughout the warmer months (May-September), and ledges and main lake points adjacent to river channels are productive during cooler months (December-January).

Lake Seminole - Hybrid and Striped Bass

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Prospect: A small number of hybrid striped bass are again being stocked annually into Lake Seminole. Additionally, some fish escape every year from Walter F. George and Blackshear and find their way downstream to the reservoir. Striper abundance is fairly low, but there are some large fish available. Dedicated anglers should expect the average fish to range between 2 and 4 pounds, with the occasional hybrid reaching 5-plus pounds and the occasional striped bass reaching 10-20 pounds.

[Image: ryDNjOa.jpeg] Lures, Lures, Lures.

Technique: Best bets are to find schooling fish during warmer months in deeper water and use jigging spoons or live shad. During cooler months when water temperature is below 70 degrees (F), fish can be caught drifting or slow-trolling live shad or trolling jigs. Night fishing can be productive during the summer, but anglers should be careful of numerous standing trees and stumps left in Seminole.

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Target: In the lower area of the lake (between Faceville Landing on the Flint River arm and Desser Landing on the Chattahoochee arm) target the main lake areas. From March through May, many hybrids will run up the river and can be targeted below Albany, Andrews and Walter F. George dams. Hybrids are attracted to cool water during the warmer summer months. However due to ongoing efforts to rebuild striped bass populations, fishing is closed in five springs located in Lake Seminole from May through October. For more information on these restrictions, please see the current Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

Lake Seminole - Catfish

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Prospect: Channel catfishing is good on Lake Seminole, with average cats weighing 2-3 pounds, but be sure to hold out for the occasional 10-pounder or greater. There are a good and expanding number of blue catfish throughout the reservoir. Both blues and flathead present opportunities for larger (10-20 pound) fish.

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Technique: Local anglers prefer prepared blood and cheese baits fished on small artificial worms. Cut shad or bream work best for larger blue catfish.

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Target: Channel catfish can be found throughout the reservoir, but often are found on shallow flats adjacent to river and creek channels and off ledges adjacent to channels. Blue and flathead catfish can be found in both the Chattahoochee arm of Lake Seminole up to Columbia dam and the Flint arm up to the Albany Power Dam.

Lake Seminole - Bream

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Prospect: Lake Seminole is known for, at times, spectacular redear sunfish fishing. The average redear sunfish is less than 8 inches, but fish greater than 1 pound are not uncommon. Fishing for bedding fish will produce average fish of about 1/2 pound. Bluegill fishing also can be excellent, although fish over 8 inches are rare.

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Technique: Red wigglers usually work best for redear sunfish and crickets generally for bluegill, although both baits can catch either fish.

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Target: Locate shallow water spawning beds during spring and early summer. Numerous backwater areas off the Chattahoochee River arm provide good catches. Spawning beds often are located on main lake shallow flats in 1 to 4 feet of water. Fish can be caught throughout the reservoir during summer months, with many anglers targeting weedline edges, weed pockets and sandy flats.

Lake Seminole - Crappie
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Prospect: Though not generally recognized for its crappie fishing, Seminole has in recent year produced good catches, especially for larger-size crappie in the spring and fall.

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Technique: While fish are spawning in February and March, concentrate on shallow backwater areas using minnows and jigs. During warmer months, use minnows along grass lines and areas with some sort of cover adjacent to river channels 8-20 feet deep.

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Target: Target the old Flint and Chattahoochee river channels during summer, fall, and winter. During spring, fish are found throughout shallow, warmer coves and wind-protected areas as they spawn.

Additional Information

Recent chemical treatments by the US Army Corps of Engineers to the Spring Creek arm of Lake Seminole have reduced hydrilla coverage. However, drought and low-flow conditions have allowed larger than normal stands of hydrilla throughout the reservoir. 

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Grass carp are currently being used to help control hydrilla in designated areas behind electric fish barriers. Use caution when navigating boats through these areas and report any damage to the Corps of Engineers at 229-662-2001. 

I've never really got involved doing this, but if you to do, go to link above.

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Gopher Tortoise Nature Trail

Explore this 1.9-mile loop trail near Paradise Acres, Georgia. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 35 min to complete. 

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This is a popular trail for fishing, hiking, and walking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day.

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One of the largest longleaf pine forests in a Georgia state park

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The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

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Boardwalk over a wetland area was the highlight.

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Neat way to see 2 eco sysytems on one hike. Start in woodlands and go though wetlands at the turn.

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The ranger warned us of snakes, but thankfully we didn't see any. We did see lots of birds, especially at the boardwalk at the lake. 

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Very beautiful!.

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Good rule on where to swim, stay away from Lilly Pads.

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Seminole State Park's terrain is relatively flat. The park's forest, maintained through the practice of prescribed burns, keeps the undergrowth to a minimum. 

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The longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem is home to gopher tortoises and an abundance of other wildlife.

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Miniature Golf (fee)

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Under repair.

You can canoe, kayak, and paddle bike. Explore the shoreline and watching lake life happen at a slower pace. Hands and feet inside the boat please.

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From Trip Advisor , when asked Can you swim? Almost everybody says no, Gators in lake. I did find these few ...

Ok, yes there are alligators, but there are several places were they have a designated swimming place at all the state parks. With that being said, gators will not bother you unless it is during the mating season between late August and early September, at this time they are also extremely territorial. I have lived on this lake for 23 years.

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I grew up on this lake and swam/skied/tubed it all my life. Try and Google the last alligator incident in this lake.

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Absolutely you can. Knowing there are gators and swimming at your own risk adds a little excitement.

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Thumbs up!

Not only does Lake Seminole have gators, but the two smaller ponds within the park have some pretty big ones too.

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Gators from Lake Seminole.

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Just know that Gators are sneaky, have little bitty legs. and WOULD like to bite your ass. Gator POV.

Water Skiing

You can however, ski or boat on the lake. When you get out further as in skiing, the water is not so bad. So when you wipe out, do not be afraid of swimming until your boat can turn around and start you on your way again. You normally will have some surface scum on the bottom of your boat though depending on how the algae is blooming, (usually in the summer).

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Enjoy wakeboarding, water skiing, kneeboarding, tubing, wake surfing, air chair, wake skating.

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A regular Cocktail Cove on Facebook.

Have fun renting jet skis that can be enjoyed by any age as a passenger or operator.  Most jet ski rentals can pull most water toys depending on the jet ski model.
Kayak & Canoe Rental

Lake Seminole Boat Rentals is offering boat, kayak and pontoon boat rentals in Lake Seminole, GA at a very affordable rates.

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Lake Seminole

Lake Seminole divides its 37,500 watery acres between Georgia and Florida. The lake is conveniently located about 40 miles northwest of Tallahassee, Florida and 20 miles from Bainbridge, Georgia. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the reservoir between 1947 and 1957 by damming the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. Water from the lake’s Jim Woodruff Dam flows into Florida via the Apalachicola River. Though originally built for navigation and hydroelectric power, Lake Seminole is also a premier vacation destination in northern Florida and southern Georgia and Alabama.

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The Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam was the first of three locks and dams constructed by the Corps to provide a waterway from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Florida to Columbus, Georgia via the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers, and to Bainbridge, Georgia via the Flint River. 

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The Corps operates Lake Seminole at a relatively constant level of 77.5 feet above sea level for navigation, hydropower production, and recreation. The lake does not provide storage for flood control. About 60 percent of the 376 shoreline miles are designated protected shoreline, about 19 percent for public recreation, and about 20 percent for limited development, including residential.

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Lake Seminole is a haven for wildlife, providing a friendly environment all year. Lake Seminole Park, located in Seminole, Florida, is a 250-acre sanctuary for the local fauna. Lazy alligators sun themselves along the lake’s shores, a lone open eye following any movement. Hawks call to each other in the sky, an unforgettable sound to all of its prey. Wintering birds and waterfowl decorate the sky and lake surface. And the shy and environmentally-threatened gopher tortoise, Georgia’s state reptile, also makes its home at the lake, finding some much-needed safety.

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Glassy lake and reflection of clouds in day.

Nature hikers and photographers love Lake Seminole Park’s walking trails, as they afford a unique look at flora and fauna you might otherwise not see. Share the 2-mile multi-use trail with bikers, joggers, and rollerbladers as you weave your way through pine flatwoods and identify colorful blossoms and elusive animals. Traverse a one-mile trail, less vigorous than the 2-mile, but no less diverse in its natural offering. Be sure to take your camera on this outing, however, as you are sure to see some truly unique trees, plants, and Florida fauna. The park also provides a boat ramp, grills and picnic tables, playground, and restrooms.

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Beautiful Clouds at sunset Lake Seminole.

604-acre Seminole State Park in Donalsonville, Georgia provides convenient access to Lake Seminole with 5 boat ramps. Park facilities include a swimming beach, three fishing docks, a 2.2 mile Gopher Tortoise Nature Trail, canoe rentals, picnic shelters, and geocaching opportunities. Choose from a variety of overnight accommodations, including cottages, tent, trailer and RV campsites, and primitive treehouse camping.

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RV Spot on shore and Pavilion Church at Seminole State Park.

Although Lake Seminole covers 37,500 surface acres, it averages only 10 feet in depth. These unique conditions have created an aquatic habitat conducive to lake life. 

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Lake Seminole holds the enviable title of the fifth best bass fishing lake in the country, a fact which attracts thousands of anglers to its shores. Tree stumps, grass beds, and marshy areas dot the lake’s bottom, creating natural homes for the lake’s generous year-round population of hybrid bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, and white bass. Lake Seminole is also known for excellent catfish, crappie, and bluegill. In total, anglers have reeled in over 79 different species of fish from beneath the lake’s surface.

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Though the lake is shallow, it is still a watery playground for children and adults alike. Boating is a favorite activity and waterskiers love to jump the wake of their patron powerboats. Jet skiers zip around the lake, at a distinct exploration advantage, their quick speed allowing them to discover many of the lake’s secret coves and hidden treasures. Canoeists and kayakers enjoy a slower pace, investigating the shoreline and watching lake life happen at its own pace.

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Tales about the day's Gator sighting at the camp fire that night.

Lake Seminole is large and beautiful, giving you and your family the opportunity to see and do almost anything your heart desires. So pack your bags, prepare for some fun, and head on down to Lake Seminole for your next family vacation.

Seminole County

So that covers the Natural Wonder for this post, let's do a Tangent on the County. Seminole County is a county located in the southwestern corner of U.S. state of Georgia. 

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As of the 2020 census, the population was 9,147. The county seat is Donalsonville.


The state constitutional amendment to create the county was proposed July 8, 1920, and ratified November 2, 1920. The area for the new county was taken from land which was originally part of Decatur and Early counties. It is named for the Seminole tribe of Native Americans, who once lived in the Chattahoochee River basin within the county from at least the thirteenth century, before European increasing encroachment of European populations forced their move to the Florida Everglades.The Seminole Indians apparently made their last stand in what now is Seminole County. According to legend, the celebrated Seminole chief Osceola was born in what is today Seminole County.

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Forcing the Mikasuki south to Florida.

We did a large tangent (GNW #152 - Part 2) on the Battle of 1702, the Creek and Seminole Wars Era, Fort Scott, Scott Massacre, Fort Hughes. Seminole County was cut from Decatur County, so a lot of that early history was actually in present day Seminole County.

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On the Decatur County shore of Lake Seminole, you will find a bluff park with signs all about the history, now underwater.

Seminole is the 156th Georgia county. It began functioning January 1, 1921. The first industries were turpentine, timber, and farming. The southern portion of the county was submerged in 1957 with the completion of the Jim Woodruff Dam, which created Lake Seminole out of the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers.

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Building the Dam, making the Lake.

The county is run by a board of five commissioners assisted by a county administrator, who also serves as the administrator for the city of Donalsonville, the county seat. There is an accredited hospital and an airport with a lighted 5,186-foot runway in the county.

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Historic sites in Seminole County are the renovated Olive Theater,

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a mural depicting farming history on the wall of a local business,

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and the Two Palm Courthouse.

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In addition to recreational fishing in Lake Seminole and golfing at the country club and at courses in surrounding counties, Seminole hosts an annual harvest festival in October, the Shellcracker Fishing Tournament in April, and a rodeo. Lake Seminole has frequently been the site of a bass tournament and is ranked the fifth best bass-fishing lake in the United States.

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Harvest Festival.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Seminole County, Georgia

Donalsonville Historic District

The Donalsonville Historic District in Donalsonville, Georgia is a 55-acre historic district that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

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It includes 48 contributing buildings and seven other contributing structures.

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The district is significant in the area of architecture for its excellent collection of late 19th- to mid-20th century commercial, industrial, and community landmark buildings. The stores are excellent examples of freestanding and attached brick one- and two-story buildings. 

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The character-defining features include large display windows with transoms, parapet roofs, recessed main entrances, and second-story double-hung windows. The stores fronting West Second Street are excellent representative examples of the Folk Victorian style with their masonry construction, decorative corbeling along the cornices, and decorative arches over the second-story windows.

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Donalsonville had its beginnings as the site of a turpentine still belonging to Jonathan Earnest Donalson, for whom the town is named. From this still, a lumber business developed, bringing with it the commerce and workers necessary to operate and support it.

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It includes the Seminole County Courthouse, which is separately listed on the National Register.

Seminole County Courthouse (Georgia)

The Seminole County Courthouse in Donalsonville, Georgia is a two-story Beaux Arts-style courthouse that was built in 1922. It was renovated in 1977–78. It has an Ionic tetrastyle projecting entrance with two-story columns. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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It was designed by architect William J.J. Chase. A 1980 architectural survey form about the courthouse asserted that it "is the most outstanding building in Donalsonville, a town of 3,500 people. Architecturally it is one of the more outstanding 1920s courthouse structures in the state, because of the plan and the interior and exterior detailing."

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This is a two story rectangular building with a central core flanked by wings. On the rear, there is an addition. The projecting entrance is Ionic tetrastyle with columns rising two full stories. They are capped by an entablature which has the words, "Seminole County Courthouse", and a balustrade with a clock centered over the main entrance. On each side of the clock is a lengthy Latin inscription. The front entrance has a round arched doorway. The double windows on each side of it are also round arched. In the arches are decorative foliate designs. Above each arch are pairs of garlands swagged in the Roman manner. Other windows have flat arches with the keystones and end voussoirs emphasized. On each side of the columns on the second story are circular tablets that contain sculptured Indian heads.

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There has been some alteration on the interior. The vaul'ts have been enlarged and doors have been installed in each end of the hallways for fire safety. The interior of the courtroom is not altered. Behind the judge's bench is a small pediment with coupled columns on each side. Circular medalions containing Roman numerals I - X, symbolizing the Ten Commandments are in the four corners of the courtroom. One is over an exit used by jurors as they leave the courtroom to deliberate. Walls and ceilings are of plaster; the old ceiling fans remain. Wooden spectator benches were refinished during the 1978-79 renovation.

Southeastern Holiness Institute

The Southeastern Holiness Institute, also known as Chason's Hospital and as Donalsonville Hospital, was built in 1914. It was built as a religious educational institution, but was converted in 1918 to a private hospital. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

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The building was designed by architect Peter E. Dennis in provincial Georgian Revival style.

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The Southeastern Holiness Institute/Chason's Hospital, built in 1914, is a long, narrow, three-story brick building with a hip roof. It was designed in the Georgian Revival style, Each facade is symmetrically arranged and incorporates period details. The ground floor, for example, features a central front doorway in a Palladian motif and round-arched windows with contrasting keystones; the second floor features flat-arched windows with contrasting stuccoed trim; and the third floor features window lintels integral with the wide modillioned cornice. The corners of the building are treated with brick quoins, and a brick beltcourse runs between the second and third floors. The most prominent period feature is the two-story front portico with its four monumental Ionic columns. A single chimney is incorporated into the exterior wall at each end of the building. Metal fire escapes have been attached to each end of the building, and a small concrete-block storage shed has been added to the west end of the building. A few window openings have been infilled with brick.

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The interior of the building originally consisted of a central lobby and stairway, longitudinal corridors with small rooms on either side, and small lobbies at the ends of the corridors at each floor level. The ground floor has been extensively remodeled and modernized; the upper floors remain relatively intact. Interior finishes are simple: wood floors and plastered walls and ceilings. The building is constructed of thick load-bearing brickmasonry walls and an interior timber framework of heavy posts and beams. Exterior brick walls are veneered with a hard-finish brick laid in stretcher bond. Interior walls are plastered. The roof is covered with standing-seam sheet metal.

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Historical Markers and War Memorials in Seminole County, Georgia

City of Donalsonville

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The marker stands in a city park.Marker is on S. Wiley Street, 0 miles south of 1st Street, on the right when traveling south.

Korean Conflict "The Forgotten War"
June 25, 1950  July 27, 1953

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An eternal testament etched in stone to those who served from Seminole County. These brave men made the supreme sacrifice with valor and devotion.

Sgt. Bennie F. Childree Age 19 08/27/1951
Cpl. Kenneth G. Fields Age 19 07/08/1950
P.F.C. John S. Jeffcoat Age 18 09/19/1951
Pvt. Green Rabon, Jr. Age 18 09/03/1950
P.F.C. Fred Edward Scott Age 26 07/18/1953
Pvt. Herbert W. Chandler Age 21 10/07/1952
[i]Dedicated 10/14/89[/i]

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Korean Conflict "The Forgotten War" memorial at Seminole County Courthouse.

Sabacola El Menor

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Marker is on State Park Drive, 0.1 miles south of Georgia Route 253, on the right when traveling east.

Seminole County

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The marker stands in front of the Seminole County Courthouse.

Seminole County Vietnam War Memorial
1959  ~  1975

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These fallen soldiers made the supreme sacrifice with valor and devotion.

Rufus Ray Crooms
Harvey Eugene Wynn
Terry Douglas Williams
Roland Michael Bowen
Larry Reese Faircloth
Paul Raymond Evans
Issac Harris
Milton Jerry Worrell
Arthur Craig Faircloth
+Herbert Charles Crosby

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Located at the Seminole County Courthouse.

Seminole County World War II Memorial
1941  1945

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This memorial erected in honor of the citizens of Seminole County who served in World War II and these who paid the supreme sacrifice

Rufus Baxter
Jesse R. Chambers
Roy J. Condrey
Wallace Dawson
Henry R. Gause
Dock B. Grant
Edd F. Horne
Stonewall Jackson Raley
James Reynolds
McCalvin Robinson, Jr.
Harold Rogers
Rufus Woodham

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Located at the Seminole County Courthouse.

Site of U.S. Post Office Reynoldsville, Georgia / Reuben Arthur Reynolds

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Marker is near Iron City, Georgia, in Seminole County. Marker is at the intersection of Braswell Godby Road (County Route 12) and Church Street, on the right when traveling north on Braswell Godby Road.



Donalsonville (county seat)

Donalsonville is a city in and the county seat of Seminole County, Georgia, United States. 

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The population was 2,833 in 2020.


Donalsonville was originally part of Decatur County. It is named after John Ernest Donalson (1846–1920), also known as Jonathan or John E. Donalson, a prominent businessman of the area.
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Donalson built the first lumber mill in Donalsonville, Donalson Lumber Company. He also built homes and a commissary for the workers of the mill. The lumber company paved the way for the town's growth.

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Vintage images Donalsonville. 1920 Festival.

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"John E. Donalson, for whom Donalsonville, Georgia is named, built this house. It is the first home in Bainbridge known to have "wire screens." The original carriage house is behind the main house."

Donalsonville was first chartered as a town in Georgia on December 8, 1897. 

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Vintage images Donalsonville High School and Osceola Hotel. Long gone both.

When Seminole County was formed in January 1920, Donalsonville was named as its county seat. By August 1922, the Town of Donalsonville became known as the City of Donalsonville, with the charter passing on August 19, 1922.

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Homes Church Donalsonville.

The Seminole County Courthouse was erected in 1922 and is still standing today. 

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Vintage Courthouse Present City Hall.

The Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (See above in Post)


Iron City

Iron City is a town in Seminole County, Georgia, United States. The population was 312 in 2020.

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Looking down Dunham Street, it’s obvious that Iron City was once much busier. But the people of this little town have kept a lot of the old signs on their businesses and landmarks.

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Vanishing Georgia does a good job capturing Iron City.

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Bar B Que and Shotgun Shacks, how much more South Georgia can you get?

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Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot, Iron City Iron City’s old ACL Depot was moved to its present location on US Highway 84 at least forty years ago by John Emory Trawick; it has served as a feed warehouse

Allday Murders

Pop use to come to Lake Seminole several times a year to Quail hunt and Bass fish. This is one story he talked about for all my life. From the Early County Times ....

About 12 miles south of Blakely toward Cedar Springs is Spooner Quarter Road. Turn there and it is a straight shot to the site of the event that marked the darkest day in the history of the tri-state area.

Before May 14, 1973, almost no one around had locks on their doors and those who did never used them. Fifty years ago this week that changed for good when Jerry Alday, 34, Ned Alday, 62, Jimmy Alday, 24, Chester “Shuggie” Alday, 30, Aubrey Alday, 58, and Mary Alday, 25, were murdered by escaped prisoners from Maryland.

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With the senseless killing of six members of one family, this mass murder is second in Georgia history only to the August 6, 1887, Woolfolk murders near Macon (nine were killed that night). But for those old enough to remember, it was a more tragic day than they could ever have imagined. Rural Seminole County, the city of Donalsonville and Southwest Georgia became ground zero to a national news story, a man hunt and unimaginable fear, grief, and public outrage that would last for decades.

The Aldays were, and remain, a large, well-known family in Seminole County. Their roots in Southwest Georgia go back several generations. Joe L. and Gertrude Alday had nine children (including Ned and Aubrey). Most of them settled and raised their families in the area. They were and continue to be active in local churches and businesses. Several had careers at the paper mill in Early County.

[Image: 573JGym.jpg] Vintage image of Allday ancestors.

For Jerry Alday, his father Ned, Uncle Aubrey, and brothers Jimmy and Chester, that beautiful day in May started out like every other day on the farm. Jerry’s wife Mary went to work in Donalsonville and his mother Ernestine started preparing dinner (lunch to the city folks) in the Alday home on the farm. At noon the men ate what she cooked, as they did every day, and headed back to the fields. No one could have imagined what was in store.

The escape

Carl Isaacs, 19 at the time, had been in and out of foster care and in and out of trouble. In March of 1973, he was arrested for stealing and sent to the Maryland State Penitentiary. Within days, a riot broke out and he was sexually assaulted for eight hours by inmates. Because of this, he was moved to Maryland’s Poplar Hill Correctional Institute.

His half-brother, 26-yearold Wayne Coleman, was already imprisoned at the facility. Carl found Wayne and told him he had a plan to escape. He was willing, but only if he could bring George Dungee, 36, a man in jail for failure to pay child support. Coleman and Dungee were said to have developed a “romantic relationship” behind bars.

On May 5, around 3:00 a.m., the trio escaped through a bathroom window, hid in the woods, and then stole a car. Because the men were not considered dangerous, the authorities at the prison did not alert local officials of their escape.

After spending two days in the Baltimore area, Carl Isaacs decided to pick up his brother, Billy Isaacs, 15, before traveling too far away. Billy was thrilled to go with his older brother. The quartet headed south hoping to live out their days as free men in Florida or Mexico.

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In need of money, food, gas and a different automobile, the group ended up in McConnellsburg, Penn. While stealing a car from a random home, a neighbor, 19-year-old Richard Wayne Miller, attempted to intervene. He was kidnapped, taken to a wooded area and murdered. They left him on a trash pile deep in the woods and continued the trip south.

Nine days after their escape they passed through Southwest Georgia and crossed into Florida. Looking for a place to lay low, they recalled passing through the remote town of Donalsonville and turned around.

The murders

Around 4:00 p.m. on May 14, they found themselves driving around Seminole County, again looking for gas and places to rob. They spotted a gas tank and the secluded mobile home owned by Jerry and Mary Alday on River Road.

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Carl and Wayne broke into the trailer as Billy and George stood watch outside. Soon, Ned Alday and his son Jerry pulled up. They were forced inside at gunpoint and robbed. Then they were taken to bedrooms on opposite ends of the mobile home. Carl Isaacs shot Jerry Alday in the head four times. Jerry’s father Ned was shot once in the head by Wayne Coleman, but the shot was not fatal. Ned managed to stand and fight Coleman until Carl Isaacs came in and shot him five more times.

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Within moments, Jerry’s brother Jimmy arrived at the trailer on a tractor. He headed toward the door to prepare for the next day with his father and brother as they always did. Jimmy was led inside, forced on a couch and shot by Carl Isaacs twice in the back of the head.

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Ready to leave, Carl went out to move the tractor. Before he could, Jerry’s wife Mary arrived. After work she had gone to the grocery store. As she got the groceries from the trunk, Carl sneaked up behind her and forced her inside the mobile home at gun point.

As she sat at the kitchen table, Jerry’s brother Chester and Uncle Aubrey pulled up in a pickup truck. Carl went outside and brought them inside. Chester was taken into the room where Ned’s body lay. He was shot by Wayne Coleman.

Carl Isaacs took Aubrey into the room with his nephew Jerry and killed him. When they were found, Aubrey’s hand was laying over Jerry’s.

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The only member of the family not immediately executed was Mary Alday. After two of the men sexually assaulting her in her home, they stole her car and took her about six miles north to a secluded area. There, she was assaulted again by three of the four men.

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Before she was murdered by George Dungee, pictures were taken of her with her stolen camera. The photos were later found and used as evidence. Driving her stolen car, they traveled north on River Road into Early County as they headed away from the crime scenes. 

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The body of Mary Alday was found two days later.

The aftermath

The massacre of so many members of this family stunned the community. The loss was immense. The Aldays were active members of Spring Creek Baptist, a church Ned Alday helped build near the entrance to Lake Seminole State Park. Their congregation experienced particularly devastating losses as the killers took their chairman of the board of deacons, Sunday school superintendent, song leader, training union director, church clerk and treasurer. In addition, three of the five murdered Alday men were the three deacons in the church… the only three.

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Ernestine Alday, who lost her husband, three sons, a daughter-in-law and a brother-in-law did not live out her days in opulence. Although family and friends made sure she had what she needed, she had no choice but to sell the farm equipment. No one was left alive to use it. Then, in a bizarre turn of events, she lost most all of the farm.

It turned out that Ernestine’s husband Ned had deeded almost all the farmland to their son Jerry. Since Jerry’s wife Mary was known to have outlived him, she inherited it. At her death, hours later, her surviving immediate family was her parents, the Campbells in Miller County. Therefore, they inherited almost the entire Ned Alday farm. A small piece had been deeded to Chester, which became the property of his wife Barbara. Another small piece of land was sold off and given to Ernestine Alday for her home.

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“Miss Ernestine,” the widow of Ned Alday and mother of Jerry, Jimmy and Chester, died October 24, 1998. Aubrey Alday’s widow, Inez Runnels Alday, died on May 9, 2008. They were both laid to rest beside their husbands in the Alday family plot at Spring Creek Baptist. Barbara Alday, Chester’s widow, remarried and lives in the area.

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The arrests

The four men were caught four days after the murders in West Virginia. They were flown to Atlanta the next morning and held in separate jails until the following Monday when they were flown to Donalsonville to be arraigned. They were led into the Seminole County Courthouse separately. Six counts of murder were read to each by District Attorney Ralph Foster. Wayne Coleman snickered as the murder charges were read.

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Coleman admitted to shooting 19-year-old Miller in Pennsylvania and volunteered to go back there to locate his body. He was sent back to Georgia, however, when it became clear he did not know where Miller was. The other three were held in Cuthbert at the Randolph County jail until they were returned to Seminole County to hear the evidence against them.

The trials

All four men were tried by jury in Donalsonville. Because Billy Isaacs cooperated with prosecutors, he received a 20-year sentence for armed robbery.

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Carl Isaacs, Wayne Coleman, and George Dungee were convicted of murder and sentenced to death as Georgia’s death penalty statute had been put in place just nine months earlier. All three of these convictions and sentences were overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1985, on the grounds that the pool of Seminole County jurors had been tainted by excessive pretrial publicity. This decision would lead to decades of frustration with the lack of justice by the ‘justice system.’

Their fate

All were re-tried 15 years later in 1988 and convicted again. George Dungee’s second trial took place in Columbus where he was sentenced to life in prison. The conviction of Carl Isaacs came from a jury in Perry, Ga. For the second time, he was sentenced to die. Wayne Coleman received a life sentence in DeKalb County Superior Court.

Billy Isaacs was released from prison in 1993. He died in the Florida panhandle on May 4, 2009. He was 51 years old.

George Dungee died of a heart attack on April 4, 2006, in prison in Reidsville at the age of 68.

Carl Isaacs was executed by lethal injection on May 6, 2003, at the state prison in Jackson, Ga. At the time of his execution at age 49, he was the longest-serving death row inmate anywhere in the U.S. having spent 30 years on death row. His death also marked the first time in Georgia history that victimized family members were allowed to witness a death sentence being carried out.

A half century later, Wayne Coleman is still living at the expense of Georgia taxpayers at the Wilcox State Prison. He continues to be eligible for parole, but it continues to be denied.

The seventh death

While six were murdered that day, the actions of those evil men led to the death of another. Great effort was made to keep Mary Alday’s mother, Alberta Lane Campbell of Miller County, from learning the terrible details of how her child was killed. But on May 18, 1973, the day after the funerals, she learned the truth. It proved to be too much for her and she died just five days after her daughter. She is buried in the city cemetery in Colquitt.

In addition, the Alday’s dog, Tug, was a casualty. After the murders, he roamed around looking for the men on the farm. He died a few weeks later having grieved himself to death.

The books and movie

The books Dead Man Coming by Charles Postell, Blood Echo by Thomas H. Cook and Brothers in Blood by Clark Howard chronicle this heinous story. The 1988 film, Murder One, about the events of May 14, 1973, was widely released across North America. But it was never shown on any screens anywhere near southwest Georgia. Although the Alday family strongly objected to the books and the making of the movie, it turned out to help the legal case.

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While making the documentary that eventually led to the film, Carl Isaacs was interviewed by the filmmaker. On the video, he made several statements that spoke to his character, implying he would have killed them again. He made this callous comment. “The only thing the Aldays ever did that stood out was getting killed by me.” He also admitted to shooting Jerry, Ned and Aubrey Alday, and to sexually assaulting Mary Alday.

For decades, the Alday family struggled to stay updated on the seemingly never-ending quest for justice. In 2003, Paige Barber, a granddaughter of Ned and Ernestine Alday, successfully lobbied the Georgia General Assembly to pass the “Alday family bill.” This law requires the state to update families of victims in death penalty cases twice a year.

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Some time later, it was revealed that two people saw Coleman, Dungee and Isaacs immediately after they escaped from Poplar Hill. One man, Norman Strait, saw the trio loading various things into a stolen Thunderbird. To get a better view, he looked through the scope of his rifle.

Thinking back, Strait said, “I guess I should have shot that son-of-a-bitch right there. It would have saved a lot of lives.”

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Memorial at site of trailer.

May we never forget Seminole County’s tragic loss of the Alday family, the reality of evil and the promise from Almighty God that He will exact vengeance.

Notable people

John and Clarence Anglin - brothers who, along with Frank Morris, escaped from Alcatraz prison in 1962.

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John and Clarence.

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Widened vent opening beneath the sink. Dummy head found in Morris' cell.

Alfred Corn - poet and essayist, born Bainbridge and lived in Donalsonville and Valdosta.

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Bacarri Rambo - Former Georgia Bulldog and Miami Dolphins safety.

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Phillip Daniels - Former Georgia Bulldog and defensive end for the Chicago Bears, current Assistant Defensive Line Coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Julian Webb - who served on the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

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Dang, that post took a dark turn there at the end. Stay safe swimming (Gators) and hiking (Snakes) at today's Georgia Natural Wonder. Now I wrestled with the theme for today's Georgia Natural Wonder Girls. I could have gone with the Donalsonville Harvest Festival Queens. The safe and suitable for your preacher choice ....

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But the more I wrestled, it became clear the only choice for today is Gals that rassle Alligators.

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