Colonel George Hall Hazlehurst
Hazlehurst is named for Colonel George Hall Hazlehurst, who was born in 1824 in Glynn County, Georgia, to Robert Hazlehurst Jr. and Elizabeth Hall Hazlehurst. Among his family members were six brothers and sisters as well as six half-brothers and half-sisters.
Colonel’s Hazlehurst’s first marriage was in 1858 to Irene Nesbit of Macon. After her death in 1873, he then married Josie Wingfield. From his two marriages, he produced five children whose names are James Nesbit, Frances Wingfield, Leighton, Louisa Wingfield, and Sara Havens.
Active during the Civil War, Colonel Hazlehurst helped plan the defenses of Vicksburg. By all accounts, he was a civil engineer, having furthered his education in Pennsylvania. After he returned to Georgia after the war, his first engineering job was as a surveyor and rodman in the still primitive wilds of Florida before railroads opened it up for tourism. He found he enjoyed and was good at the railroad business, so after he left Florida he joined in surveying the Macon and Western Railroad before moving on to Tennessee to work with the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.
Photo finishing by Martin Corbitt
of Corbitt Photography.
One of Colonel Hazlehurst’s most important works was locating and building the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad in Mississippi. With support from both Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, he was commissioned by the State of Illinois in 1851 to begin work to connect Chicago and New Orleans. Just before he was appointed to the job, he learned his predecessor on that same project had died of yellow fever. Despite the knowledge that the mission could be dangerous, even life-threatening with disease such as yellow fever, he completed the assignment just prior to the Civil War. The railroad then, only by circumstance of war became vital to the Confederacy, who used it to transport troops and supplies. Riding on the rails of that victory, Colonel Hazlehurst was named president of the Macon and Augusta Railroad, and then president and chief engineer of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad.
The building of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad lay the framework for the City of Hazlehurst. Under Colonel Hazlehurst’s direction, the men of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad—it connected to 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 lose that moniker when it was named after Colonel Hazlehurst. The year was 1870, and the history of Hazlehurst began, its connections to the outside world secured by rail lines that crisscrossed the South.
Eventually the Macon and Brunswick Railroad passed into the hands of the State of Georgia, and Colonel Hazlehurst went on to be a part of the Montgomery and Eufaula Railroad; the North and South Railroad; the New Orleans, Shreveport and Alexandria Railroad; the Mississippi Valley Railroad; and the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad.
Ironically enough Colonel Hazlehurst’s life’s work would also contribute to his demise. While he was building the Mississippi Valley Railroad, he was stricken with malaria, a common malady of the time. And that, combined with his chronic indigestion issues, resulted in his death at Chattanooga in 1883. Following a funeral attended by dignitaries from across the South, Colonel Hazlehurst was laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon.
The rail line that Colonel Hazlehurst built through our small town is still active with trains passing through town daily, serving as a tribute to the gentleman whose work extends through more than a half-century.
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