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The Georgia legislature in 1889 authorized Governor John B. The Suwanee Canal Company purchased the property on January 1, 1891.
The company attempted to drain the swamp from 1891 until 1893.
At least two Timucuan villages and Spanish missions were located in or near the swamp between 16.
William Bartram's Creek legend, which tells the story of princesses of the sun on an island in the center of the swamp, is probably rooted in stories of the Timucuan settlements.
Learning from the mistakes of the Suwanee Canal Company, the Hebard Lumber Company carefully studied the timber of the swamp and decided to employ railroads to harvest cypress.
They leased the property to the Hebard Cypress Company, which built a large sawmill near Waycross and constructed a railroad to the northwestern rim of the swamp in 1909-10.
A railroad from Valdosta to Jacksonville was completed in 1898, closing the ring of railroad tracks around the swamp.
Sailing vessels visited Traders Hill, fewer than ten miles outside the Okefenokee, by the first decade of the nineteenth century, and steamboats regularly traveled the St. Outside of these developments, there was little change in the Okefenokee landscape or livelihood until the railroads reached the rim of the great swamp in the 1860s.
With the railroads came sawmills and turpentine stills, store-bought goods, circuses, and new people.
A line connected Waycross and Jacksonville, Florida, in 1881, passing within less than a mile of the eastern edge of the swamp.
Many articles extolling the wonders of the Okefenokee wilderness were published in newspapers, magazines, and books.
A number of writers urged that the swamp be purchased as a refuge.