Wilcox County Georgia
County administrative offices are located at 103 North Broad Street, Abbeville, GA 31001; phone: 229-467-2737.
Wilcox County is a relatively young county (124th created), having been created by the State Legislature in 1857 from Dooly, Irwin, and Pulaski counties. Its fields and forests were the backbone of its economy then, and, to a large extent, remain so today. The Ocmulgee River and the railroad were the early stimuli for commerce and development. The county exhibited rapid population growth from about 1880, just before the railroads' establishment in the late 1880s, until 1920, growing about 500 percent. After the railroads' heyday, the County steadily declined in population until 1970 and then was relatively stable until the recent location of the Wilcox State Prison in the 1990s. The modernization of agriculture, the development of modern paved highways, and the emergence of the importance of the automobile has worked to confirm and sustain the county's decline, much as it has done to other small towns losing to surrounding larger regional trade centers. By the same token, U.S. Highway 280 is important to future growth. Highways will facilitate bedroom community growth as the abundant natural resources and quality of life attracts new residents, often working in surrounding trade centers, but choosing to reside in Wilcox County. The abundant natural and cultural resources, the Ocmulgee River, the slower-paced quality of life of the county, and improving community facilities offer other future opportunities for growth and economic development. The most recent important development has been the location of Wilcox State Prison in the mid 1990s in Abbeville. The prison currently houses about 1,300 inmates and employs about 310 persons.
Rochelle was founded in 1888 with the establishment of the Savannah-Americus-Montgomery (SAM) Railroad. Pitts was founded in the late 1880s and Pineview in 1902 (incorporation) along the Hawkinsville and Florida Southern Railroad. The heyday of Wilcox County dates within the 30 year period after the railroad development until 1920 when its population was estimated to be 15,511. With the decline of the railroad and the emergence of highways, Wilcox County was set upon a course of long, slow decline until only recently. The 1930 county population was 13,439, and the 1950 figure was 10,167. The advent of highways meant a loss of business by the county to the nearby larger regional towns of Cordele, Eastman, and Fitzgerald. The county never was a large industrial center, having principally only agriculture-related enterprises and apparel manufacturing. By 2000, only six (6) manufacturing concerns remained in the county, mostly related to agribusiness and principally located in Rochelle. The period of decline was reversed only in the mid 1990s by the location and construction of the Wilcox State Prison by the Georgia Department of Corrections. The location of a poultry processing plant in nearby Hawkinsville in recent years has also provided stability and growth to county agriculture to some degree.