Ocmulgee River & Normandale Railroad

Exporting Georgia lumber

Owned by the Normandale Lumber Company, the OR&N was a standard gauge logging railroad with a 30-mile main line and 6 miles of branches. According to Poors Directory of Railway Officials, it was constructed at a cost of $5,000 per mile using steel rails. It had 42 cars pulled by 55 horses; no locomotives were mentioned. (Locomotives could have been owned by another company).

The main line, built in the mid-1880s, ran from Wilcox Lake on the Ocmulgee to Normandale, a town about a mile east of Chauncey on the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia (Southern Railway after 1894). A planned community, Normandale featured " a large sawmill, a turpentine still, machine shops, a commissary, a depot, about one hundred look-alike houses for workers, and more substantial homes for managers. At its height during the late 1880s, the company's timber colony controlled almost 345,000 acres of land, maintained over 50 miles of railroads of various gauges, employed 700 hands at mill sites worth $350,000, and paid out from $8,000 to $10,000 per month in wages." *

According to a state historical marker, Normandale was "named for Norman W. Dodge, one of seven sons of William E. Dodge, for whom Dodge County was named in 1870. The home of over 500 people, Normandale was headquarters of the Dodge Land & Lumber Company which was established after the Civil War using questionable deeds. The company claimed over 300 square miles of the finest longleaf yellow pine in the world. The area included the counties of Telfair, Dodge, Laurens, Montgomery, and Pulaski. Settlers had earlier claimed most of the property. After years of controversy, the Dodge Company appealed to the federal court and was awarded lands it had seized after the Civil War. As the Dodge Company evicted settlers, a bitter land war ensued. The Dodge superintendent John C. Forsyth, was shot and killed on October 7, 1890. The murder occurred either in the executive house, now restored, or in a nearby twin structure which burned. Mr. Forsyth and his daughter, Nellie, are buried in the front yard of Christ Church on St. Simons Island. On September 9, 1892, the big mill and dry house of the lumber company burned to the ground. Having depleted the region´s forests, the company did not rebuild what was one of the largest sawmills in the south." (Georgia Historical Marker 045-3).

Maps:

1895 map (110K)

1898 map (31K)

* Mark V. Wetherington, The New South Comes to Wiregrass Georgia 1860-1910. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994, p. 125.


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