Evans County, in southeast Georgia, is the state’s 152nd county. Almost entirely a product of the railroad age, the 185-square-mile county was formed from sections of Bulloch and Tattnall counties in 1914 and named for Clement Evans, a Confederate general.

Claxton, the county seat, was founded when the 400-mile Savannah and Western Railroad came through the area in the 1890s. Store owner Remer Hendricks and his parents, Glenn and Nancy Hendricks, granted the railroad right-of-way across a large tract of their land and induced the company to establish a station there by promising to provide a free well for trains stopping on their property for water. Nancy Hendricks gave free lots to the first several citizens who promised to build on them, and a new town was born. Nicknamed “the Fruitcake Capital of the World” for its Christmas cake production, Claxton was incorporated in 1911. The original courthouse, built in 1923, still stands.

Seaboard Air Line Railway
Seaboard Air Line Railway

Courtesy of Georgia Archives.

The other incorporated towns in the county are Bellville, Daisy, and Hagan. Agriculture, the naval stores industry, and timber harvesting drove the economic development of Bellville when the railroad was built in 1890. The town’s business district was almost completely destroyed in a 1901 fire. Bellville was not incorporated as a town until 1959, making it one of Georgia’s most recently chartered communities. The town restored its old railroad depot and holds annual Railroad Days celebrations there. Townspeople remark that folksinger Tom T. Hall wrote his song “God Came through Bellville, Georgia” while standing on the steps of the depot.

Daisy also benefited from the arrival of the railroad. The town’s economic mainstays, cotton ginning and turpentine production, got a major boost from the availability of rail transportation for the finished  products. Recently a good deal of attention has been given to restoring some of the attractive original buildings in the town.

Evans County Courthouse
Evans County Courthouse

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Hagan, another railroad town, was centered around a sawmill established by the Perkins family in the 1890s. An early twentieth-century depression resulted in the closing of the mill in 1910, leading to the departure of many employees from the town. Hagan and Claxton have expanded to the point that they adjoin each other, and Hagan, situated along a newly widened stretch of U.S. Highway 280 and on the Claxton–Evans County Industrial Park, finds itself poised for a major transformation. It has built two civic parks, the Bradley Memorial  Park and the Maggie Lee Lewis children’s park, and has restored the nineteenth-century home of Hagan pioneer G. Wesley DeLoach to use for community and civic functions.

Claxton Fruit Cake
Claxton Fruit Cake

Courtesy of Georgia Archives.

Curtis Gordon Hames, an internationally recognized cardiologist who published one of the first studies on the protective value of HDL cholesterol, was born and practiced medicine in Claxton. Another notable Claxton resident was Albert Parker, a civic leader and philanthropist and the first mass marketer of the Claxton Fruit Cake.

According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Evans County is 11,000, an increase from the 2000 population of 10,495.

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Seaboard Air Line Railway

Seaboard Air Line Railway

A Seaboard Air Line Railway train pulls into the depot at Claxton, circa 1915. Claxton, the seat of Evans County, was founded when the first railroad came through the area in the 1890s.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
eva010.

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Evans County Courthouse

Evans County Courthouse

The courthouse in Evans County, designed in the neoclassical revival style, was built in Claxton in 1923. Substantial renovations were completed in 1980.

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Claxton Fruit Cake

Claxton Fruit Cake

Members of the Civitan Club in Newnan conduct a Claxton Fruit Cake sale, circa 1961. The Claxton Bakery, which produces the fruit cakes, was founded in Claxton, the seat of Evans County, in 1910 and continues operation today.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, # cow053.

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