Waycross was incorporated as the county seat of Ware County on March 3rd, 1874.
Waycross, originally known as Tebeauville, gets its name from the city’s location at key railroad junctions. Lines from six directions meet at the city. Its name signifies its strategic position where “Ways Cross”. In colonial days, it was the hub of stagecoach roads and pioneer trails. Later the old Plant System and the Brunswick and Western Railroad lines crossed here, giving birth to a modern railroad network.
Waycross marks the beginning of the Okefenokee Swamp and offers many chances to experience the swamp. The Okefenokee has a wildlife refuge in Waycross for people to enjoy the swamp. The city also offers tours of the famous swamp for tourists.
During the 1950s the city had a tourist gimmick. The local police would stop motorists with out-of-state license plates and escort them to downtown Waycross. There they would be met by the Welcome World Committee and given overnight lodging, dinner and a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. The tradition faded away after the interstates opened through Georgia.
The City of Waycross was incorporated in 1874. Earlier maps dated in 1860 show a town at the current location of Waycross called Tebeauville. What happened to this community and where is it now?
In 1857, Philip Coleman Pendleton moved his family to what would become the ninth station on the Savannah to Thomasville railroad that was under construction. The station was to be named Pendleton but Mr. Pendleton requested the station be named Tebeauville after his father-in-law, Frederic Edmund Tebeau of Savannah. Tebeauville became home to the Pendleton and Remshart families. Now you know how those streets in downtown Waycross got their name. To this day many old timers refer to the section of town where Tebeauville was located as “Old Nine”.
Now to the Remsharts… as told by Mrs. Henry B. Bell in the April 22, 1974 Waycross Journal Herald, “family history said that Mr. Haines, the then superintendent of the railroad, invited Miss Isabella Remshart and Mrs. Wm. Foster Parker, her sister, to ride with him on his car out a little way towards Brunswick where he was to review some work being done by a crew. Arriving at the destination Mr. Haines remarked, “I don’t see the gang,” to which Mrs. Parker responded, “I think I see them ‘way across’ there.” Mr. Haines remarked that would make a good name for our then coming into being town.” There are other versions to the naming of Waycross but Alice, Mary, Isabella, Jane, Margaret, Ann, Elizabeth, Parker, Remshart, and Jenkins Streets in downtown Waycross were named in honor of members of the Remshart family.
Tebeauville did not cease to exist but dissolved into Waycross when it was created.
In 1917 the Lyman Hall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution decided to erect a monument to Tebeauville. On May 11, 1917, a large crowd gathered to witness the unveiling of the Teabeauville Tablet which read “On this site stood the old town of Tebeauville, erected 1917, by the Lyman Hall chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Waycross, Georgia.” The unveiling featured group singing and speeches and included the reading of “Love Feast in Waycross”. For you children of the 60’s this was not a fore runner to our time but verse describing how the happiest times occur in Waycross when everyone is in church.
Time passes on and the little park in Old Nine faded from memory. Fifty one years later, the Waycross Junior Women’s Club took interest in the park. Money was raised and improvements were made to the neglected and forgotten park. On February 16, 1968, the park was rededicated.
Time and now express highways (Since we are into street names – Corridor Z or the South Georgia Parkway) once again removed Tebeauville from memory. But the Tebeauville Tablet still stands although its condition is a little worse for wear. Long ago the top portion of the monument with the inscription was destroyed. The inscription was duplicated by a brass plaque but that was stolen. The plaque has since been replaced. The Tablet is in a small City park between Bertha Street and Johanna Streets, parallel to Glenmore Ave (Remember we used to call it the Valdosta Highway.)
On Saturday, October 25, 2008, the Leadership Waycross Alumni Class added a little dignity to the Tebeauville Tablet by landscaping the area around the monument. Among those participating were Robin Blackard, Pam Taylor, Regina Morgan and Larry Gattis. Assisting the alumni were Tyler Paul, Paige Taylor and Millie Morgan. Another alumni member, Elaine Howe of the Class of 2007, is a descendant of Frederic Edmund Tebeau. It may take us a while but Elaine has corrected our pronunciation of “Tea bo” to “ta Bo”. Leadership Waycross Alumni would like to thank Mark Deal of Okefenokee Technical College and Barry Wright of Wright’s Landscaping for their assistance in this project.
In 2009, Leadership Waycross Alumni petitioned the City Commission to change the legal name of Bertha Street Park to Tebeauville Park in recognition of the historic significance of Tebeauville. This was done after obtaining the approval of all the property owners that adjoin the park. On May 19, 2009, the City Commission of Waycross approved the change.
On June 17, 2009, a dedication ceremony was held. Among those in attendance were Mrs. Elaine Howe, a direct descendant of the Tebeaus; Mrs. S William Clark and Mrs. Marjorie Blythe-Poland representing the Lyman Hall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; Mrs. Ann Childers, a member of the Junior Women’s Club when the park was redone in 1968 and Robin Blackard, Pam Taylor, Regina Morgan of Leadership Waycross Alumni.
Thomas Larry Gattis
(This article includes information taken from By The Way…It Happened in Waycross by Larry Purdom with Joe Ballentine; This Magic Wilderness by Robert Latimer Hurst and History of Ware County Georgia by Laura Singleton Walker.)