Although the Fortsonia name is based on the Fortson family, most likely due to the Elberton & Eastern Railroad coming through, Fortsonia is a community that was formed by many families, including the Allgood, Bell, Caldwell, Chastain, Dye, Hudson, Jones, Kelly, Mercer, Peppers, Rayle, Slay, Smith, Snellings, Tate, and Yeargin families, as well as others. These names were taken from J. W. Baker’s 1905 Map of Elbert County.
The larger area in southern Elbert County, Georgia, was, and still is, known as Flatwoods. Only when the railroad was built, and a railroad depot needed to be named for the adjacent community, was that community named Fortsonia.
The information I have is from multiple, and conflicting, sources, but it seems the railroad built a depot on land in front of what is now Nancy Hart Nursing Center. The land was provided by George T. Fortson. George’s cousin, Frank B. Fortson, Sr., owned the property directly across Dr. George Ward Road from the depot. Frank provided the railroad a right of way through his property to the depot. Frank’s brother, George Haley Fortson, City Attorney for Seattle, WA, volunteered for the Spanish-American War in the Philippine Islands. Captain Fortson was mortally wounded there.
Various family and non-family sources attribute the naming of Fortsonia to each of the three men. The depot and community may well have been named for them all.
The depot, and therefore the community, was first named Fortson, Georgia, by the railroad, most likely in 1912. Once they discovered there was already a Fortson, Georgia, NNE of Columbus, Georgia, the community was re-named Fortsonia, Georgia.
Over time, I’ll add more detailed information about the downtown Fortsonia area and, time permitting, the larger area.
Keith Jones, award-winning author and grand nephew of Fortsonia hardware store’s Guy Bell, wrote a very nice article about “growing up” in the Fortsonia area. His article was published in the November 2012 Georgia Magazine. Read it here: Elbert County’s country stores.
The painting on this site of Fortsonia stores “in the day” was made by Anne Lyle Jenson, a Fortsonia resident. Anne has painted many other views of Fortsonia.
Brian Brown, author, lecturer, poet, and photographer has done a terrific job of documenting Georgia communities, including Fortsonia. Brian has a Facebook page for North Georgia communities, Vanishing North Georgia, as well as a website, Vanishing North Georgia.
Brian included photos and information about Fortsonia here: Fortsonia, Georgia