Lanier County’s History

About Lakeland
Lakeland, the seat of Lanier County, incorporated on August 11, 1925. Lakeland is the county's only incorporated municipality.
Throughout Lakeland's brief history, its names have related to the geographic area surrounding the city. Its original name, Alapaha Station, recognized the nearby Alapaha River. Then, in 1832, as mills moved into the area, the city's name changed to Mill Town. Finally, residents chose the current name as a nod to the city's proximity to Banks Lake.
Lanier County is part of the Valdosta, Georgia Metropolitan Statistical Area.
For many years, Lakeland owned and operated its own railroad.

Historical sites in Lanier County

Union Primitive Baptist Church (Burnt Church)
As the lands opened up after the Indian treaties families moved to, what was then know as the Tallokas District of South Georgia. The area had few residents other than the native Indians, gophers and rattlesnakes. Tallokas was an Indian name for tall oaks. One of the first churches constituted in the area was Union Baptist Church. It was formed on October 21, 1825 on the banks of the Alapaha River near the present town of Lakeland, Georgia. Some of the very same members of Union were instrumental in the formation a year later of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church. Of note about the Union Church, it sat on an old Indian trail that went from the Chattahoochee to the Okefenokee. In 1836 as a band of Creek Indians passed on their way to join the Seminoles at Noochee, near present day Fargo, they set fire to the Union Church. The fire did not totally destroy the church and in rebuilding, members used some of the charred beams. Thereafter, Union Primitive Baptist Church was know as the “Burnt” Church. (From the Yatesville History by Ray Davidson)

Home of Governor E. D. Rivers
Governor Eurith Dickinson Rivers was elected governor of Georgia in 1936. His home is located on US 122 east of Banks Lake just inside the city limits. The home is not open to the public.


1819 – First settlers (James and Elizabeth Patten) arrived

1825 – Union Baptist Church organized

1830 – Joshua Lee dammed a creek to form Lee’s Mill Pond and established a cotton gin and gristmill

1838 – Benjamin Sirmans became Alapaha’s (now Lakeland) first postmaster

1848 – William Lastinger bought Lee’s land and mill property

1854 – Union Church burned

1854 – Empire Church organized

1856 – Methodist Church organized

1857 – Missionary Baptist Church organized

1857 – Alapaha’s name changed to Milltown

1857 – Masonic Hall/Milltown School built

1862 – Henry Banks bought Lastinger Mills property

1884 – A tornado destroyed the Methodist Church, new church built

1886 – Tom Church built a hotel on Main Street

1902 – George Gress established a large sawmill in Milltown and built a railroad from Milltown to Naylor

1904 – Morgan Gress (George’s son) built the “Log Cabin” for his private residence

1905 – W. M. Pafford built the Lee-Banks Hotel on Main Street.

1905 – Mercer Baptist Association built Oaklawn Academy as a college

1905 – Barney & Smith Car Company bought the Gress properties

1905 – The Milltown News became the town’s first newspaper

1905 – Bank of Milltown was chartered

1907 – Farmers & Merchants Bank was chartered

1913 – The Milltown Advocate became the town’s newspaper after the Milltown News building was destroyed by fire

1914 – The Waycross & Western Railroad was completed, running from Waycross, through Cogdell and Sirmans, to Milltown

1918 – Milltown’s huge lumbermill burned

1920 – Lanier County was created. The Milltown Advocate became The Lanier County News

1920 – E. D. Rivers moved his family from Cairo to Milltown

1923 – Lanier County schools were consolidated

1925 – Milltown’s name was changed to Lakeland