History of Thomas County
Fertile land, gentle rolling hills, abundant wildlife, pleasant climate…attributes enjoyed today, attracted settlers to this area in the 1820s. As “fortunate drawers” in Georgia’s land lottery of 1820, they were awarded lands which had once been favorite hunting sites for Lower Creek and Apalachee Native Americans. The adventurous pioneers began a tradition of meeting common challenges with uncommon vision and determination.
They soon developed a thriving agricultural economy, based primarily on cotton. By 1825, Thomas County had been established and in 1831 the county seat of Thomasville was incorporated. Wealthy planters built fine homes on large plantations, which were worked by slaves, while many self-sufficient yeomen worked their own smaller farms.
Immigrants from other southern states, New England and Scotland came seeking new opportunities and helped create a flourishing community. In 1860 Thomasville boasted churches, schools, stores, hotels and the services of doctors, dentists and lawyers. A year later the citizens of Thomas County celebrated the long-sought arrival of the first train linking the area to the port of Savannah.
Growth and prosperity were interrupted, however, when Georgia joined other Southern states in seceding from the United States of America. Fifteen-hundred Thomas County soldiers fought in the ensuing war between the North and South, which continued for four long years. Although Thomas County was spared the destruction inflicted on other parts of Georgia, 500 local soldiers died from battlefield wounds or illness.
As returning veterans struggled to rebuild a devastated economy, community leaders insisted on the importance of railroad connections to the North and Midwest. The railroad line to Savannah, which had been sabotaged during the War, reopened in 1866. In 1869, completion of the railroad to Albany connected Thomasville to major population centers in the Midwest.
Wealthy Northerners and Midwesterners, enjoying the opportunities afforded by rail travel, began to seek winter retreats. Thomasville’s “dry and resinous atmosphere,” produced by its elevation and thousands of acres of surrounding pines, was promoted for its health benefits. Recognizing the need for accommodations, which would attract affluent visitors, Thomas C. Mitchell, one of Thomasville’s wealthiest men, began construction in 1874 on a luxury hotel at the corner of Broad and Jackson Streets. Mitchell House was completed in 1875 at a cost exceeding $100,000—with a 10-year tax exemption.
Within 10 years, another major hotel, the Piney Woods, along with many smaller hotels and boarding houses, accommodated the winter visitors. Full- and part-time residents shared a love for the area’s natural beauty and outdoor sports. Winter residents came to appreciate southern hospitality and many in the local community enjoyed socializing with the urbane visitors. During the height of this Great Resort Era—the 1880s and 1890s—Thomasville hosted approximately 15,000 seasonal residents and tourists each year.
Visitors were lavishly entertained with fine dining, balls, carriage drives, golf, horseracing, the new sport of bicycling, and quail hunting. Many of those who returned every year built elaborate “winter cottages” in town or purchased working plantations and converted them into grand shooting plantations. Thomasville remained a premier resort until the early 1900s when new railroads and hotels lured many of the visitors to Florida. Though the golden era of tourism rapidly declined, approximately 70 plantations remained, providing jobs, conservation of thousands of acres and generous support for community improvements.
Thomas County’s 20th-century leaders welcomed innovations like the automobile and successfully campaigned to bring the Dixie Highway through town. Enterprising businessmen utilized the pine forests to make Thomas County a center for the turpentine and lumber industries while others founded businesses, which they nurtured into Fortune 500 companies. The indomitable spirit of the community prevailed through World War II as city and county officials persuaded the Army to build an air base and Finney General Hospital in Thomas County. This progressive legacy continues to inspire the leaders of the 21st century. And the natural beauty and excellent wildlife habitat continue to attract renowned guests to private plantations and discriminating visitors to plantations open for tours or hunting.
BUSINESSES MAKING HISTORY
CALDWELL & LANGFORD AGENCY
The Caldwell & Langford Agency wrote its first insurance policy in May 1871. Initially known as Hansell & Hansell, the agency rose from the wreckage of the Civil War. Now, more than 140 years later, Caldwell & Langford is a powerhouse in Georgia’s insurance industry. Whether you need fire, casualty, marine, surety, accident, health or life insurance, the experienced agents of Caldwell & Langford are ready to tailor policies that will meet each stage of your life. The agency’s objective is to serve you. We do business as independent agents who directly represent approximately 30 companies and brokers with combined facilities on an indirect basis for more than 100 companies. This gives us flexibility to create affordable policies that will suit your circumstances. We’ve been operating continuously since 1871 and are ready to serve the people of Thomasville into the 21st Century and beyond!
CULPEPPER CONSTRUCTION COMPANY OF GEORGIA
Culpepper Construction Company of Georgia provides general contracting, construction management and design/build services for our clients. Throughout its 80-year history, this award-winning company has earned a reputation for producing high-quality work that stands the test of time. We remain an industry leader for construction of healthcare and higher education facilities, public schools, and corporate, government, and multi-family projects.
Culpepper was originally established in 1932 in southeast Georgia. In the early years, Mr. Culpepper worked primarily in Georgia building K-12 schools, banks and public housing projects. He relocated the business to Tallahassee in 1935 and established relationships with Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. However, he always kept his Georgia connections. He continued building for Archbold Memorial Hospital and handled many other private and public projects. Today, the firm has two offices in Georgia. The Thomasville office serves South Georgia, and Carrollton office serves North Georgia.
The company employs 12 project managers, 19 superintendents, more than 100 field employees and additional administrative support. High quality performance by our staff is synonymous with the consistent level of integrity we have been able to provide with every job. The current management team has more than 30 years’ experience and our goal is to establish long lasting relationships with clients/owners who demand quality and cost effective constructions.
GEORGIA-FLORIDA BURGLAR ALARM COMPANY
Georgia-Florida Burglar Alarm Company was founded in 1953 by Thomas J. Mims in Thomasville. From its humble beginnings with he and his wife, Estelle, as the only employees, the company has grown to over fifty employees with offices in Thomasville and Tallahassee and a 24-hour Central Monitoring Station. In 60 years, the company now has over 6,000 accounts and services and maintains more than 10,000, providing security, fire alarms and camera systems for residential, commercial, government and industrial buildings in the South Georgia and Northwest Florida areas.
“That is not a lot of accounts when compared to larger, national companies, but it is large enough to allow us to provide quality service and installations, while small enough to provide the personal service our customers have come to expect. It is vital that our customers feel they are receiving a personal level of attention and service,” says Mims.
The company remains a local, family-owned and operated business with all four of the Mims’ children holding important roles. David Mims (President) and Mike Mims (Vice-President) are in the Tallahassee office. Sandra Brookerd (Executive Vice-President) and Jeff Mims (Vice-President) manage the Thomasville office. Sandra’s husband, Reese, is also with the company. Mr. and Mrs. Mims retired in 2011 but remain involved.
HORNE CANDY AND PAPER COMPANY
Horne Candy and Paper Company was first established in 1948 on Wright Street by Bennett and Millie Horne. Mr. Horne had little more than a small truck for delivering candy, stationery and other items to mom-and-pop stores and other retailers in the Thomasville area. The small business grew and was able to move to a larger facility on Clay Street and then, in the early 1950s, settling at its current location on West Monroe Street. Sixty-five years after its founding, the business is still going strong!
For 50 years, the Hornes poured their lives into building the business. When Mr. Horne passed away, their daughter, Ellen, and her husband, Richard Hunsucker, then moved from Atlanta to continue the business. The Hunsuckers took the company into a new era, introducing sales to the general public. Though the Hunsuckers eventually sold the business to a non-family member, the Horne tradition continues. Candy of all kinds, including a line of the vintage confections, is just one reason that people from miles around visit the store, looking for favorites like Mary Janes, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Coconut Long Boys.
If the candy is not in stock, they will even research to see if they can find it for you. The current owner has now increased the non-edible products to include restaurant supplies, concession items and party products. Paper, plastic and Bambu products are available in a wide range of colors.
For the Horne’s team, service is still one of the most important aspects of the business. They are conveniently located in Thomasville, provide service with a smile, and deliver to schools, businesses and churches in the surrounding communities.
SIMMONS, MILLS & SIMMONS
P.C. Certified Public Accountants
Our firm was established over 60 years ago to provide quality tax, accounting, auditing and business consulting services and solutions to individuals and businesses in the Thomasville area. In 1948 the firm was formed by Charles R. Simmons, Jr. and Pete McCollum. Pete McCollum retired in 1977 and Edwin Simmons joined his father in continuing the firm’s growth. In 1986 Charles Simmons died and Darrell Mills became a partner. In 1995 Edwin’s son, Michael Simmons joined the firm as the third generation.
We pride ourselves in delivering affordable services in a timely manner while providing close personal attention to each client. That is why most of our new clients are referred by existing ones.
Today’s tax laws are so complicated that unless your financial affairs are extremely simple, chances are you will benefit from at least occasional help from a tax professional. It is too easy to overlook deductions and credits to which you are entitled if you prepare only one return a year. Even the use of computer software is no substitute for the assistance of a seasoned tax preparer.
We monitor the changes in the tax law that could affect you and recommend tax saving strategies. We will prepare all your tax returns and serve as your advocate in all tax matters.
We prepare hundreds of tax returns every year. We know what to look for when your return is prepared. More importantly, you will have someone to answer your questions during the rest of the year.
If you are contacted by any government agency concerning your tax matters, your first call should be to us. We will take care of it so that you can get on with your business.
American Hearing Aid Center