Alapaha, Georgia

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Alapaha is a town in Berrien County, Georgia, along the Alapaha River. The population was 682 at the 2000 census.



Alapaha is located at 31°22′56″N 83°13′26″W / 31.38222°N 83.22389°W / 31.38222; -83.22389 (31.382148, -83.223952).[3]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.0 square miles (2.6 km²), all of it land.


As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 682 people, 270 households, and 194 families residing in the town. The population density was 684.5 people per square mile (263.3/km²). There were 318 housing units at an average density of 319.2/sq mi (122.8/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 62.76% African American, 36.36% White, 0.15% Native American, and 0.73% from two or more races.

There were 270 households out of which 34.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 24.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.1% were non-families. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the town the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 23.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $22,422, and the median income for a family was $27,679. Males had a median income of $26,250 versus $18,800 for females. The per capita income for the town was $11,925. About 21.5% of families and 21.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.6% of those under age 18 and 33.3% of those age 65 or over.

Historical Notes

Indian Presence and Early Settlement

  • The Hernando de Soto expedition narrative records mention a "Yupaha" village they encountered after they left Apalachee, "the sound of which is suggestive of the Alapaha, a tributary of the Suwanee,"[4] Another reference to a village of "Atapaha" "so closely resembles Alapaha that it is reasonable to suppose they are the same, and that the town was on the river of that name."[5] John Reed Swanton's landmark Indian Tribes of North America places the Indian village of Alapaha near where the Alapaha River met the Suwanee, and also noted that an Indian village of "Arapaja" was 70 leagues from St. Augustine, Florida, probably on the Alapaha River.[6]
  • The name "Alapaha," was included, along with hundreds of Native American words, in mid-19th-century pronunciation guides as both a river and a "village." Even then, opinions differed as to the proper pronunciation of the word, whether it was "A-LAP-Uh-ha," or "A-LAP-uh-haw."[7] These guides offer no speculation as to the word's meaning. There were many variant names, pronunciations, and spellings of the Alapaha River operant in the late 19th century. Some ethnologists believe that "Alapaha" was the Creek word for "other side"; others believe it was the word Timucuan Indians used for "bear." [8] At least one ethnolinguist believed that "Alapaha" is a Creek "adaptation" of the Timucuan word "Arapaha" which meant "bear lodge."[9] Yet another theory posits that it was the Seminoles who changed the pronunciation from Timucuan to "Alapaha," since their alphabet did not contain an "r" sound.[10]
  • Alapaha developed from a trade settlement on the site of a Seminole village with the same name. The current town of Lakeland, Georgia, was originally named "Alapaha" and existed before the town that now bears the name.[11]
  • In the 1840s a German travel writer, Friedrich Gerstäcker wrote a dime novel called Alapaha, or the Renegades of the Border, giving the name to a noble Cherokee "squaw." A translation of this novel was published in the 1870s as #67 in a series of American narratives published by Beadle.[12]
  • Movement of migratory Indians is believed to have ended with the U.S. cessions of 1819-20.[13] However, an 1836 account in the Hartford, Connecticut Courant describes "gangs" of 50 or more Indians roaming as close as Tallahassee, "west of the Alapaha," looting the houses of settlers, asserting that "all the country South is in possession of the Indians."[14]
  • The Smithsonian Institution documented the presence of an Indian mound at Alapaha in 1886:"The Alapaha mound is situated 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of the town of Alapaha, on Alapaha River, on lot of land No. 328, fifth district of Berrien County, Georgia. It is 38 feet (12 m) across, 6 feet (1.8 m) above the level, and somewhat oval in shape. In the center of the mound was a burial vault 6 feet (1.8 m) deep, 3 feet (0.91 m) wide, and 6 feet (1.8 m) long, north and south. Two bodies were deposited in this vault with the heads pointing south." It is possible that these remains became part of the Smithsonian collection, as was typical of its archaeological expeditions at the time.[15] This source also gives the location and contents of two other Berrien County mounds south of Nashville, the Withlacoochee mound, and the French Ferry mound. The information was supplied by "William J. Taylor, of Alapaha."
  • Early settlers were primarily Highland Scots Methodist or Primitive Baptist, representing two socio-economic classes, "Jeffersonian yeomen" and a "squirearchy," two distinct divisions of landed farmers created by the Georgia Land Lottery of 1820. Between 1820 and 1840, agriculture was principally herding (sheep and cattle).[16] With the advent of railroad expansion in the 1830s a sizeable population of Irish Catholic laborers settled in and around the lower Alapaha River, eventually leading to the establishment of St. Anne's Catholic church there.[17] Brushy Creek Primitive Baptist Church, originally in Irwin County, figured prominently in local affairs up to and after the Civil War. The Primitive Baptists often opposed the Methodist programme of "benevolence" toward less fortunate citizens.[18]
  • In 1854, Alapaha was listed as the terminus of a "post road" that extended "from Alapaha, by Driver's Hill, and Troublesome, to Jasper, Florida."[19] By 1855 it was listed as a post office in the Harper's Statistical Gazetteer of the World. Early railroad maps refer to it as "Alapaha Station."

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