BELLVILLE: A BEAUTIFUL SPOT IN EVANS COUNTY
Like many small communities that once flourished as major business centers, Bellville may have lost its retail dominance of the early 1900s but it has retained and expanded its visual appeal as a residential community.
Situated next to Hwy. 169 and the Collins Highway, a short distance from U.S. Hwy. 280 West, the town’s many historic and new homes are immaculately maintained along shaded drives and beautiful landscaping.
Bellville is one of the few towns in Georgia that can proudly boast of no city property taxes. Through sound management by the town’s mayor and council, and with an abundance of community spirit among its citizens, Bellville is a great place to live and raise a family.
Pinewood Christian Academy, one of the state’s leading private schools, is located in the community and adds educational opportunities for students from Evans and surrounding counties.
BELLVILLE PRESERVES HISTORIC DEPOT, CELEBRATES ‘RAILROAD DAYS’
The old depot that served travelers and commerce along the railroad through the town in the late 1890s (shown above) has undergone a facelift through the efforts of city officials and local residents. Bellville celebrated Railroad Days in September 2000 to mark the opening of the newly restored train depot. The Georgia Historical Society honored the town with a historical marker for the depot.
Buddy Sullivan of the Georgia Historical Society said the depot had declined to a terrible condition before the people of Bellville worked together to rebuild it.
“Bellville is the little town that could,” Sullivan said. Local politicians attended the event to give speeches about fond memories they have of Bellville, and to praise the town for its historic preservation efforts.
Probate Judge Darin McCoy, a lifelong resident of Bellville, said the reason Bellville had been so prosperous was because of conservative leadership such as Bellville’s first two mayors, the late Hines Daniel and the late Jerry Coleman. McCoy recalled that Bellville has been visited by Dolly Parton, Jerry Clower and Jerry Lee Lewis. He also recalls that Tom T. Hall wrote his song “God came through Bellville, Georgia” on the steps of the train depot.
Colonel (Ret.) Pharris Johnson coordinated the first Railroad Days celebration and is the author of the book “History of Bellville, the First 100 Years.” Officials dedicated the train depot to former mayors Hines Daniel and Jerry Coleman. Coleman was the first to promote rebuilding the depot.
It will now serve as a small museum and will be available for use as a community center.
BELLVILLE WAS ONCE A MAJOR BUSINESS CENTER FOR LUMBER AND AGRICULTURE
Timber, naval stores and agriculture were the main economic factors that led to the town’s development in 1890. As with other communities in what is Evans County, the expansion of the railroad into the area presented opportunities for commercial and retail growth. Most knowledgeable historians agree that the town was named for Fannie Bell, the mother of James Bell Smith – one of the town’s early settlers.
Miss Fannie married James Smith, Esq. and they constructed a home which still stands next to Hwy. 169 just southwest of the Smith Cemetery. The town began to develop in the early months of 1890 as Benjamin B. Brewton, P.S. Smith, J.M. Wood, and D. J. Brewton began surveying lots to sell to prospective newcomers. Lots were also surveyed out for the construction of a cotton gin, turpentine stills and saw mills for producing lumber from the pine-rich forests.
The first school in Bellville was built in 1890 by Simon Hearn and Wiley Rowe. At one time the school boasted 200 students, including several that boarded there. The building was torn down and repolaced with a wooden single-story structure and later replaced with a brick building. Many years after the school was abandoned due to consolidation, the brick structure was torn down the bricks were used in the construction of a local family’s home.
On the west side of Bellville’s Main Street, P.S. Smith kept a lot on which he built the first post office and served as the town’s first postmaster. He held the position until his death in June 1894.
On the night of May 6, 1901, almost every store in town as well as the turpentine still burned, leaving Bellville almost without a place of business. Several merchants and property owners rebuilt after the fire of 1901, but some moved on to restart in other towns and states.
Bellville was not incorporated as a town with a city government until March 1959. In addition to its attractive homes and well-kept lawns and streets, the town currently has a general store at the intersection of Highways 169 and 292. The rustic store offers groceries, dry goods and a number of collectibles. A popular restaurant is also located at the intersection of U.S. 280 and Hwy. 169, and is popular destination for locals and visitors.
City of Bellville
• Pharris Johnson Mayor 912-739-1310
• Derwood Tootle
• Jody McCoy, Mayor Pro Tempore Phone: 912-739-2194
• Nancy Williamson
• Evans County Sheriff’s Dept.
• Claxton Volunteer Dept.
• Emergency Medical Service