City & County History
The history of Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis is one of extremes, of successes and defeats, of wealth and poverty, of life and death, of bitterly cold winters and fricassee-hot summers. To read its old newspapers—the Hazlehurst News, the Georgia Cracker, and now the Jeff Davis Ledger—opens the door to a fascinating journey into the past.
Hazlehurst is the county seat of Jeff Davis County. The county, the state’s 142nd and created in 1905 from parts of Appling and Coffee Counties, is named after Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The town is located along the high ridges and valleys about eight miles west of the intersection where the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers converge to form the Altamaha. The entire area is known as the Three Rivers region of southeast Georgia.
The small town of Hazlehurst, once thousands of acres of great pine forests that were the happy hunting grounds of the Creek and Cherokee, was established in 1870 as a rail town. Under the direction of Colonel George Hall Hazlehurst, the men of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad—it was also called the Central of Georgia Railroad—began chiseling the rail line southward from Macon, while at the same time workers from Brunswick carved the line northward. At the point where the two lines met, almost exactly halfway between the two cities, a depot sprang up and was first christened Mile Post 8—some called it Mile Post 8-1/2—but would soon be named after Colonel Hazlehurst.
Hazlehurst’s sister city is Hazlehurst, Mississippi, also named after Colonel Hazlehurst.
In its earliest days, the city and county’s economy centered around agriculture, with peanuts, cotton, and tobacco the primary crops. Historically our tobacco market—the heartbeat of the golden leaf industry—was once one of Georgia’s strongest. Over time, the tobacco industry waned as timber, with our thousands of acres of venerable pine forests, became a way of life and today continues to be one of our most powerful industries.
After World War II, the community, in a local campaign under the direction of Claude Parker Cook, an energetic and forward-thinking local businessman who was the nexus of bringing industry to Hazlehurst, formed the forerunner of the chamber of commerce and called it Balance Agriculture with Industry (BAWI). Its purpose, much like today’s chambers and industrial development authorities, was to bring manufacturing and jobs into Hazlehurst. Companies including Cook and Company, Emerson Electric’s Alco Controls, Hazlehurst Mills, ERO Industries, and Otis Elevator soon sprang up and provided more jobs to complement the agrarian lifestyle that was most prevalent in the county. The community effort was so successful that Hazlehurst was designated as “The Industrial City” of Georgia. Georgia Power’s Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Power Plant on the banks of the Altamaha followed in the 1960s, a move that greatly increased the labor market. BAWI eventually evolved in the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Chamber of Commerce.
Now fully enveloped in the 21st century, Hazlehurst has since 1870 metamorphosed from a sleepy farming and rail town to a powerhouse for timber, trucking, and manufacturing with customers reaching here at home and overseas. Among our largest employers are Beasley Forest Products, McPherson Manufacturing, Williams Brothers Trucking, Propex, and EP American Footwear.
Dr. John Hall and his wife, Alice (both on the left), and an unidentified couple relax by what is thought to be the waterfalls of nearby Broxton Rocks. The Halls moved in 1897 to Hazlehurst, where he practiced medicine as a simple country doctor and was mayor three times. Their life is described in the book "Gone With the Ebbing Tide" by Alice Hall. Photo courtesy of Pat Chapman.
City of Hazlehurst
86 S. Cromartie Street
P.O. Box 519
Hazlehurst, Georgia 31539
Telephone (912) 375-6680
Fax (912) 375-6690
U.S. Census Population (2020 official): 4,088
Regional Commission: Heart of Georgia Altamaha
County: Jeff Davis
Congressional District: 8
State Senate District: 19
State Legislature Districts: 157