Archive for the ‘Boll Weevil’ Tag

Vidette, Georgia   1 comment

Above:  Burke County, Georgia, U.S.A., 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

“37” indicates the Georgia and Florida Railway, which ran between Madison, Florida, and Greenwood, South Carolina.

“24” indicates the Central of Georgia Railway, now Railroad.

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My father was a minister in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church from 1980 until 2014, when he died.  He served–and we lived–mostly in rural places, plentiful in southern Georgia.  The first of those, from June 1980 to June 1982, when I was 7-9 years old, in the Second and Third Grades, was Vidette, in Burke County.  The charge had three congregations:  Vidette, Greens Cut, and Friendship.  The parsonage, a run-down old house probably about the age of the town, was next to the Vidette Church.

Vidette was one of the small towns that developed at crossroads in western Burke County in the first decade of the twentieth century.  When the old Georgia and Florida Railway (built mostly from 1906 to 1911) built lines in that part of the county, new towns came into being.  The town existed by 1909, when a wedding, a record of which I found via Google, occurred there.  Vidette reached its peak population of about 600 in the 1920s.  Various factors led to the decline of population in that part of rural Burke County.  Many African Americans left the Jim Crow South as part of the Great Migration, starting in 1915.  In the South, where cotton was king, the boll weevil, an insect introduced into Georgia in 1915, devastated the cotton crop, reducing yields by half by 1923.  The decline in the population in many rural counties in Georgia was evident in the comparison of the results of the federal censuses of 1920 and 1930.

When my family and I lived in Vidette the population was close to 100.  Our mailing address contained the words “Louisville, Georgia.”  (Now the mailing addresses for residents of Vidette contain “Midville, Georgia.”)  The worship space of the Vidette United Methodist Church obviously dated to a time when the population was closer to 600.  The other congregation in town of which I have retained memories was the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which dissolved in 2015.  Its property has transferred to the new Bethel Mennonite Church.  Most Presbyterians in Vidette have been worshiping in either Louisville or Waynesboro, I suppose.

Above:  A Map of the Georgia and Florida Railway, 1918

Image Source = http://phumyvungtaurental.com/map-of-georgia-and-florida/georgia-florida-railway-1918-system-map-map-of-georgia-and-florida-908-x-713-pixels/

By law images produced in the United States of America prior to 1923 are in the public domain.

By 1980 the railroad no longer came to Vidette.  One source I consulted indicated that the Hepzibah-Midville line of the Georgia and Florida Railroad closed in 1966.  Yet the Rand McNally World Atlas (1968) still showed the Georgia and Florida Railroad passing through western Burke County.  Perhaps someone forgot or neglected to update a map.  In 1980-1982 evidence of the railroad was visible on the eastern edge of town, near and parallel to Railroad Avenue and across from only store in town as well as the abandoned storefronts.  Two of the abandoned storefronts have survived; there used to be five of them.  By 1980 Vidette High School, on North College Avenue, next to Rose Dhu Cemetery, had closed.  Only the gymnasium has survived.

Above:  Vidette, Georgia, October 2016

From Google Earth

Last year the population of Vidette was 109.  A few moments ago, when last I checked the listing for Vidette United Methodist Church at the Find-a-Church feature of the denominational website, I read “Congregation:  12.”  Whether that was a reference to total membership, active membership, or average Sunday attendance, the implication for the continued existence of the congregation has not changed from destined to close sooner rather than later.

As of August 17, 2018, Vidette United Methodist Church, once a station church served by a retired minister, is half of a charge with Mount Moriah United Methodist Church, north of Matthews, in neighboring Jefferson County.  There is almost nothing left of Matthews either.  The minister lives in the Mount Moriah parsonage.  Friendship United Methodist Church, once on a charge with First United Methodist Church, Waynesboro, is on a charge with Greens Cut United Methodist Church, formerly a station church.  The current Friendship-Greens Cut arrangement makes much sense.

These rural areas are depopulating for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that most of those young people who can get away from them do.  Economic disadvantages of rural areas compound each other, so these vast territories spiral downward into deeper structural poverty.  Improvement is difficult, not impossible.  However, it will require a long time, for the entrenched problems are long-standing.

In the meantime, why would a young person with an education and professional prospects choose to live in Vidette?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

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