Downtown Ochlocknee, 1919
Ochlocknee, a small agricultural community located in the northwest quadrant of Thomas County, is believed to have been settled as early as 1830, although 1860 is the widely accepted year of founding. The name is derivative of the river that flows through it, the Ochlocknee River, which is thought to be a Native American term meaning “crooked waters.” The first post office was built in 1868, and the community received a governing charter from Georgia in 1877.
While there may have been farmers in the Ochlocknee region as far back as 1790, the 1830 census of Thomas County is the first to show names of known Ochlocknee families. The 1850 census lists many more names of the known pioneer families of Ochlocknee, including the Chastain, Singletary, Stanaland, Hendry, Griffin, Carter, Hurst, Stevens, Ward, Groover, Bulloch, and Braswell clans.
The spelling and pronunciation of Ochlocknee has been a persistent challenge to newcomers, cartographers, census and postal workers, or anyone else who may need to spell the town’s name. Popular alternative spellings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries include Ochlockney, Ocklocknee, Ocklockonee, Ocholochonee, and Ochrelochnee. The variations of pronunciation match the variety of spellings. It appears the current spelling and pronunciation has been settled since c.1920.
Agriculture is the primary economic engine of Ochlocknee, where an extraordinary variety of crops has been grown. While the Ochlocknee River is usually too narrow and shallow for the movement of mass commodities, the construction of the railroad that connected Thomasville to Albany via Ochlocknee in 1869 provided the farmers with a great way to get their goods to markets. A road that pre-dates Ochlocknee, known by several names but primarily “Old Stage Road,” also provided a means for farmers to get their products to markets and as a means for travelers to easily access the country town.
By 1915, a group called the Ochlocknee Boosters successfully lobbied to have a portion of the unwieldy Dixie Highway built through their section. Construction took four years, and included a new large bridge over the Ochlocknee River. The $56,000 expense of the bridge was split between “the government” and “the county.” While it is not made clear, “the government” is most likely a reference to the federal government.
Through the twentieth century, Ochlocknee developed all the private, civic, and municipal organizations one might expect a chartered town to: schools, churches, businesses and clubs all came, and in some cases left Ochlocknee during this period. Baptist churches built near the river were popular, and funding of the segregated schools was generous up through the era of county consolidation in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Never having grown too small to lose its charter or too large to lose its character, Ochlocknee remains a traditional agricultural community in both practice and spirit.