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Lanier County, Georgia
This important wetland complex was threatened with drainage, sale of timber and "lightered" stumpage, and possible development as a residential area in the early 80's before it was purchased by the Nature Conservancy and later sold to the United States Fish and Wildlife Services in '85. Here is our towns namesake's story.....
The original owner of Banks Lake, Joshua Lee, built a low level dam on the creek running through his property to form what is known today as Banks Lake. Built between 1827 and 1835, the lake was originally intended to serve as a mill pond. The Mill, erected at the dam and powered by the flowing water, was a three story building housing a grits mill, cotton gin and wheat and rice threshing and grinding equipment. This made Lee's home and plantation a gathering place for settlers to have their corn ground and cotton ginned. Soon a small village called Alapaha developed around the lake. This settlement became part of a main stagecoach route from Savannah to Waycross to Thomasville, Ga.
In 1848, Mr. Lee traded his Banks Lake property to Mr. William Lastinger. Mr. Lastinger then constructed two other mill ponds known today as Sawmill Pond (behind Lakeland's Louis Smith Hospital) and Lake Irma and used the runoff water from Banks Lake three times within a one mile stretch to power these additional mills. Shortly after these developments in the 1850's, the name of the village was changed to Milltown.
In 1861, Mr. Lastinger sold the property to Henry Banks from Atlanta. The pond remained in the Bank's Lake estate until approximately 1925, when it was sold to E.D.Rivers, who formed the Tobacco Belt and Trust Company. Two subsidiary corporations of the company, Banks Lake Power Corporation and Banks Lake Recreation and Development Corporation, attempted to develop the area around the lake through the 1920's. In conjunction with this attempted development, the elevation of the dam was raised bringing the water level to its level mean or average we have today. In the 1970's, the administrators of the E.D.Rivers estate threatened to drain the lake to harvest the wealth of "lightered" stumps and cypress trees from the lake bed.
The Nature Conservancy purchased the land from the Rivers estate on
March 14, 1980 for what has been estimated at $ 40,000 in Federal tax
relief. The Lanier County Commissioners were not interested in the lake
as a county owned property, at that time. In April 1980, the United
States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) entered into a lease
agreement with the Nature Conservancy for the management and operation of Banks
Lake. On February 22, 1985, all but 109 acres of the land was purchased
by the USFWS from the Nature Conservancy and designated as a national
refuge managed by Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The Nature
Conservancy still owns 109 acres know as Mill Town Bay located in front
of the Lanier County Board of Education office, just off Georgia's Hwy.
history submitted by the Friends of Banks Lake
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The Flatlanders Fall Frolic
held every Labor Day Weekend in Lakeland, Georgia
Sponsored by the Lanier County Lions Club and Local citizens
The Flatlanders Fall Frolic is a local festival held in Lakeland annually on Labor Day weekend. The festival includes a gospel sing, arts & crafts show, country music show and other community events all designed for family entertainment.
Information about Lakeland, Georgia
Banks Lake is located in Lakeland
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