May 13, 2004
Cordele -- When Cordele was founded in 1888, it was in Dooly County. It grew so rapidly that Crisp County was formed around it in 1905. Railroads spurred the growth. In fact the city is named after Cordelia Hawkins, the daughter of a railroad president.
During the last days of the Civil War, Cordele was Georgia's official capital for a few days. Now, it's the top per capita spending city in the state, attracting shoppers from surrounding counties and travelers driving down Interstate 75.
And there's evidence Cordele was the site of the first Christian religious service in the Southeast. In 1540, explorer Hernando De Soto came upon a peaceful Indian tribe here. He let his troops rest and celebrate mass.
When you think of Cordele, you probably think of watermelons. The city is known as the Watermelon Capital of the World. Watermelon harvests date back 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. The fruit spread to China, Europe, and America with the first settlers here. Georgia is always among the top five watermelon producing states. More than 200-million pounds of watermelons are sold each year at the Cordele Farmer's market. That market is open year round selling all kinds of fresh produce.
If you're driving on Interstate 75, you know you've reached Cordele when you seen an unusual roadside landmark. It's a real 98-foot tall Titan-I missile. Members of the local Rotary Club wanted something unique to encourage travelers to stop here. They convinced the federal government to donate the missile. It was dismantled in California and flown to Robins Air Force Base and has stood in this location since July 1969.
Another Crisp County landmark is one of South Georgia's most popular recreation spots. The eastern shore of Lake Blackshear runs the entire length of Crisp County. The 8,700-acre lake is 20 miles long. It offers great fishing and plenty of room for water skiing and pleasure cruising. You may even see an alligator.
The lake was created when a hydroelectric dam opened on the Flint River in 1930. In fact, the Crisp County Hydroelectric System was the first county-owned electric system in the nation.
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