The AJC Reporter
by Janice Daugharty
Copyright 2010 Janice Daugharty
I was raised in the little South Georgia town of Statenville, named after my family. Statenville is the county seat of Echols, smack-dab on the Georgia/Florida line. We bear the distinction of being number 159 on car tags, symbol of the smallest county in Georgia, population-wise. We are known too for our vast pine forests, almost 300, 000 acres in Echols alone. Which is probably how we came to be a last resort for incorrigible petty criminals in the Atlanta area—all these woods, who’s gonna notice another drifter or two? Almost a half-century ago, some frustrated judges in Atlanta came up with the notion to send their bad-check writers and trouble makers to us, being as it is unconstitutional to bar misfits from the State. There was no point in sending them back to prison where they would just get out again and practice the new tricks they’d learned inside on city people weakened by political correctness.
At first, I doubted that a single one of these exiles would have come to Echols County: we wouldn’t sell them any land, for one thing, so they wouldn’t have anywhere to live; there are no motels or campgrounds, and few houses for rent. This is land that nobody but us wanted many moons ago—too much woods to be cleared; too much swamp to swallow you up, and if the heat didn’t get you, the mosquitoes would. Another reason these nuisance criminals from Atlanta wouldn’t come to this out-of-the-way place is some of the locals here are so rough themselves that they would scare them across the state line. Few people here have money, and those with land can vouch that it is often more drain then gain, taxes being what they are and timber prices down to nothing.