Bone Pond is a place known to many of South Georgia residents, well those over the age of 20 that is. Crystal Lake as it is known by the majority of those who remember it was an oasis in Irwin County Georgia. This natural beauty operated for nearly 70 years before it was closed to the public in the summer of 1998. There’s tons of lore surrounding this place; let’s see what we can find.
Crystal Lake begins it’s infamous tale with a gentleman named William (Willis) Jackson Bone. Willis Bone was born in Taylor County, Georgia. While living in Albany in 1858, the tensions what would lead to the Civil War began to escalate. Realizing he happened to be of proper age to be drafted, Bone bought a steam engine and equipment to build a grist mill and set out to become a miller. At this time in history, all millers were exempt from going to war. He hauled his equipment by ox from Albany to Irwinville and built a steam corn mill on the bank of what would be known as Bone Pond.(1) When Bone first arrived at the lake it was as beautiful as it ever was though much smaller than in it was in it’s hay-day as a summer getaway. The pond was hundreds of feet across and fed by a “bottomless” spring. What better place to start a new life? Being an “outsider” and abolitionist however, Bone did not have a very good reputation in the area. He was accused of cutting the dams of competing mills and abusing the local elders, but it wasn’t until a failed recovery of a runaway slave that Bone’s fate truely caught up with him. Some report this incident began while one of Bone’s neighbors, Justice of the Peace Jack Walker, was rounding up his hogs and stumbled across a runaway slave (Tony) Bone was harbouring.(1) Some report that Walker came looking for Tony after he noticed footprints with a missing toe(2). Either way, Walker, while detaining the salve on the ground, was shot from behind by Bone who found the men tussling. Bone pleaded not guilty to the charges but his fate was sealed by the testimony of his son Zachary.(1) In 1865, Bone was hung on the same banks he built his mill on and his family was forced from the area back to Taylor County.(1) Bone’s mill house remained on the banks of Bone Pond until 1910 when it’s waters rose enough to lift it off of it’s foundation. The property was soon bought by Dr. D.L. Story of Ashburn. Not much is known about the property during this time as the only written information from the 30’s seem to focus on the Bone’s tragedy. It is written that in the late 1920’s, two men by the names of D.H. Davis and Will Thomas threw over 300 feet of line into the “hole” at the bottom of Crystal Lake without ever hitting the bottom. In the 1940’s the property was purchased by a Mr. Leon Lewis and Jehu Fletcher. These two gentlemen began developing the area into a getaway to share with others. They began building pavilions with concessions. The first pavilion unfortunately burned down in the late 1940’s but was rebuilt bigger and better. In 1953 Leon Lewis passed away and his family bought out Jehu Fletcher’s half and sold the property. I am unsure if Robert Adcock of the Adcock Pecans in Tifton purchased the lake at this point in time or if there was someone in between, but in the 60’s Adcock continued Lewis and Fletcher’s efforts in developing Crystal Lake. Adcock began bringing in Palm Trees from Florida but his efforts were fruitless and to add insult to injury the spring that fed the lake quit flowing. Some speculate that it caved in while others claim the sand they brought in to form the beach was the culpritt. Either way, Crystal Lake now required another source of water so they began pumping from wells.
1. History of Irwin County – Chapter 7 – 1932 :: The Bone Pond or Crystal Lake :: [link]
2. History of Turner County – Chapter 8 – 1933 :: Beautiful Crystal Lake Has Tragic History :: [link]
3. Ancestry.com – Crystal Lake/Crystal Beach Waterpark :: [link]
4. OclillaChamber.net – Jefferson’s Gold :: [link]
5. SouthGeorgiaGenealogy.com – The Walker’s :: [link]
6. Plain Folk’s Fight: The Civil War and reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia :: [link]