Updated: Nov 6, 2021
The City of Twin City is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with an event planned for every month, and the centennial programming recently reached its halfway mark with the groundbreaking held for Centennial Park & Trail on Friday, June 18. The Chronicle sat down with Twin City Mayor Matt Donaldson to recap where the programming is today and what’s coming down the pipe as the last half of 2021 commences.
A history of Twin City
As a recap, Twin City began as two towns that merged into one back in 1921.
The small town of Summit began around 1889 with the charter and then construction of the Rogers & Summit Railroad, later the Millen & Southern Railway.
The town was chartered in 1898. The town of Graymont, established in 1896 and chartered in 1900, was located one mile away from Summit and had its own depot and post office. Even after their incorporation into one town, the two maintained separate post offices until 1952. Until 2014 and the formation of the City of McRae-Helena, Twin City was unique in Georgia as the only town to have been formed by the merger of two existing cities. Still, Twin City is “the little city with a big history.”
Today, Twin City’s Historic District has several areas of significance: architecture, for its excellent example of historic residential, commercial, and community landmark buildings representing the common architectural types and styles found throughout Georgia in the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries; commerce, as the two historic central business districts, represent the typical stores and businesses found in small rural communities in Georgia; and community planning and development, as the original plans for both Summit and Graymont are excellent examples of a railroad strip-type town in Georgia with the main street running parallel to the railroad through the center of town.
Celebrating that history
In an effort to fully appreciate Twin City’s unique history and the monumental occasion that is existing for 100 years, Mayor Donaldson, city clerk Genia Ducker, Main Street Manager Huddie Culbreth, citizen Donna Scott, citizen Joann Bell, and Twin City Police Chief Hank Whiters formed a committee to organize all the centennial events. The group began meeting and planning as early as September 2020.
The first event took place in January as new signage was unveiled at all city entrances.
In February, the city hosted a centennial celebration that brought former mayors and their families back under one roof. Approximately 70 individuals, including eight former mayors and their families from as far as Asheville, North Carolina showed up for the occasion. Senator Max Burns made the drive from Atlanta and left a proclamation, Senate Resolution 66, to officially recognize Twin City’s centennial anniversary. Lew’s BBQ provided refreshments for the reception.
In March, the city re-dedicated historic Pop Boogie Brinson Park. (The field has a history and ties to the Negro Baseball League of the 1960s. The Twin City Team was known as the best in the Central Savannah River Area and even had a player recruited by the Atlanta Braves.) The rededication of the park celebrated its renovations, which included new bathrooms, new concessions, new fencing, and other improved amenities. Several former players, including Pop Boogie descendant Bennie Brinson, attended, as did Billy Carmichael, a member of the Carmichael Family that dedicated the land for Pop Boogie Park. Donaldson stated in an interview Monday that he expects the area to undergo yet another improvement sometime in the future by way of a new pavilion.
In April, the city rebranded its annual Citywide Clean-up to officially be a part of the centennial festivities. Trash cans were provided for city residents, and Public Works worked diligently throughout the day collecting various household trash to bring the collaborative effort to beautify the city full-circle.
In May, the city held its yearly Memorial Day event. Again rebranded to fit the bill of the centennial celebration, Donaldson said the occasion was a solemn one in keeping with the heart of Memorial Day to honor fallen soldiers. The local American Legion and VFW posts participated in conjunction with the City of Twin City. Scotty Nasworthy played “Taps,” Donaldson delivered remarks, the crowd paid tribute to fallen Twin Citians at the memorial downtown, and refreshments were served at the Charlie Oglesby Memorial Welcome Center.
In June, the centennial programming kicked it up a notch with the groundbreaking of Twin City Centennial Park & Trail.
Several years ago, Twin City participated in the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Product Development (TPD) Team. The city split the housing for the visitors with the chamber, and representatives from TPD visited Twin City one day, then spent the remaining day and a half in other parts of Emanuel. While here, those representatives made suggestions based on what Twin City has to offer. Simultaneously, the city was able to put in suggestions of its own. While Twin City focused on George L. Smith State Park, another area city representatives wanted to hone in on was the local railroad bed. The TPD team put that suggestion in Twin City’s plan, which became beneficial after the fact due to grants becoming available once the visit was complete.
As a result, Twin City will now have a new city park in the near future. Centennial committee members, city officials, and citizens gathered two weeks ago on the Summit end of town to witness the groundbreaking.
Once completed, Centennial Park & Trail will be exactly what the name implies: a park and walking trail that will run the length of the railroad bed from the corner of 1st and North Railroad avenues with a proposed 42-space gravel parking lot across from Lew’s. The trail will end in close proximity to the car wash. Additionally, benches, lighting, and trash cans will be installed along the trail’s route.
To date, Donaldson says the celebration has been a remarkable one.
“I think the citizens of Twin City have well-received the programming, which is much to the credit of the centennial committee,” he said. “It has bolstered a lot of community pride, spurred an interest in why we are Twin City. I think it’s important to keep our history alive because it’s really… I love Twin City; I’ve been here my whole life. My family has been here for five generations. But more than that, our history is what we have that’s unique to us. There’s not another town like us besides McRae-Helena. It’s why we’re unique. I want to be sure we keep why we’re unique alive. We have to keep teaching the history to keep Twin City alive, amongst other things like development and infrastructure. And 100 years is something to be proud of! Especially when you think about the rocky start Twin City had.”
Still to come
If you haven’t made it to a centennial event, don’t worry—there’s still plenty of programming left!
For starters, a group of community-minded individuals, not the committee, have planned an Independence Day celebration on July 4. From noon to 6 p.m. at Pop Boogie Field, there will be free food, drinks, and snacks as well as entertainment like waterslides, tug-o-war, a sack race, water kickball, a cake walk, and more.
In August, the city will celebrate the coming of a centennial mural. Professional muralist John Christian will be on hand for about two weeks, adding to his Georgia Mural Trail with a masterpiece on the side of the old city hall and jail. The project is being funded 100 percent by a combination of a Go Georgia Arts Grant as well as private donations from Durden Banking Company, Georgia Power, and citizen Lynda Cowart Talmadge. (Look for more details about this particular event closer to the month of August.)
September’s plans have yet to be entirely finalized due to federal funding tied up with the Carilee Coleman Park and John Rountree Cabin. Early centennial programming had penciled in the rededication of the park to take place in September, but committee members are waiting to see how the project’s progress shakes out between now and then. Nonetheless, there will be something related to Carilee Coleman Park and John Rountree Cabin in a few months. Again, look for those details as time draws nearer.
In October, the committee hopes to see a great turnout to the city’s third yearly Halloween in the Haunted Jail. Dates and times will be released later this fall.
Another event the community can expect to be announced, builded upon, and held this year is the creation of a city festival. In the coming weeks, the city will put out an official call for submissions to name the city festival with a substantial financial prize up for grabs. For now, Donaldson says the committee has worked out that the festival will take place on the railroad bed with other staging spread out throughout downtown.
In December, the 100th anniversary celebration will hopefully bring together the community for a grand lighting of the city’s newly dubbed Christmas tree near Centennial Park & Trail. Just in time for Christmas, the Mayor’s Toy Giveaway will take place around the holidays as well. Specific to centennial programming, a time capsule will be buried at the new park during this particular event, although specifics about contents and the opening of the capsule have yet to be decided as of late.
As always, you can expect The Chronicle to provide updates about all of these events and more as they become available. In the meantime, Donaldson, on behalf of the centennial committee, has a special message for the Twin City community and beyond:
“First and foremost, we’d like to thank everyone who has come out so far. In addition, we hope that all the people of Twin City and Emanuel County will visit one, if not all, our centennial programming. I think we can all be proud of Emanuel County and be proud of our roots.”