Winterville: History of a Railroad Town

For many years, I’ve lived in the small town of Winterville, Georgia, about six miles from Athens and the University of Georgia and about 70 miles from Atlanta.

I’m currently at work on a book about Winterville history, along with
Mary Quinn and Emma Foley. Be sure to check back every now and then for
more information about our upcoming local history book. We’re featuring
the people and places that have shaped Winterville into the special
small town it is today.

Here is some information from the history section of the Winterville website. I put this together back when I was a Winterville councilmember in the 1990s and was in charge of the first city website. This information is from various sources including some of the first Winterville Marigold Festival program booklets and other information written to promote the festival and the city.

Winterville, a town of about 1,100 residents, has a long and interesting history. Land grants in the late 1700s brought settlers to what is now the
Winterville area. With the building of Georgia’s first railroad, housing
began to cluster around Six-Mile-Station, a wood-and-water stop six
miles east of Athens, on the Oglethorpe-Clarke
County line in the 1840s. The railroad attracted three men (sometimes referred to as brothers, but most likely two brothers and a cousin),
surnamed Winter, from  Germany. Soon after, the rail stop became
known as Winter’s Station, and in 1866, the Oglethorpe Post Office was
designated as Winterville.

In 1904, the city of Winterville was
incorporated, and in 1906, the Oglethorpe County portion of the town was
transferred to Clarke County. Today, Winterville
retains its charter and is still a municipality, the only one entirely
located within the city/county of the unified
Athens-Clarke County. (Bogart is partially within the Athens-Clarke County borders.)

of Winterville’s Victorian homes were built in the 1870s and 1880s, some by a noted builder in the area, Hal. O. Johnson. (You’ll learn more about Hal O. Johnson in our book.) The
1920s was another peak time of economic activity in Winterville.
Newspaper accounts at that time list five general stores, a
drug store, a bank, two garages, two cotton gins, two grist mills, and
510 residents.

In the past, Winterville was home to some of the best schools in the area. A championship basketball team at the high school and many other
school activities served as a focal point and a boost for community
spirit. However, in 1956, after the high school was
consolidated with the City of Athens school system, community spirit
plummeted. Today, several buildings from the old campus are
still standing, including the auditorium. Our old high school building is currently being renovated to serve as a senior center operated by the Athens Council on Aging.

In 1970, the idea of an annual festival in Winterville
was conceived by citizens, including Wesley Whitehead, Joan Biles, and
Sybil Deacon, as a means of revitalizing community
spirit and reversing the decay prevalent in the city buildings such as
the historic train depot. The marigold was adopted as
the town’s official symbol in 1971. It was chosen because of its hardiness, versatility and vigor, and because it is a symbol of friendship all over the world.

In our new book, Winterville: History of a Railroad Town, Mary, Emma and I will present a more detailed history and many great historic photos. If you’d like to know when our book is released or to learn more information, send me an email and I’ll add you to our email list.

Below is a YouTube video of the Winterville History program that Donny Seagraves and Mary Quinn presented at the Winterville Train Depot last year. This program was sponsored by the Boomers In Athens group.

Promotional Video for Winterville: History of a Railroad Town, featuring Donny Seagraves, Mary Quinn and Emily Eisenman


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