58 S G M A G A Z I N E | FA L L 2 0 1 8 In the small town of Lakeland, where a traffic light doesn’t even exist, an entrepreneurial spirit has been the community’s driving force for more than a century. Located in Lanier County, approximately 18 miles east of Valdosta, Lakeland originated around a grist mill that operated on what is now Banks Lake. In 1830 Joshua Lee, an original settler in the area, opened the mill to help farmers from having to go too far to grind grain and gin cotton. When the mill opened settlers from South Carolina, Florida, and other parts of Georgia began arriving to establish farms and businesses. The town’s post office opened in 1838, and the new trade center was called Alapaha. The name was changed in 1857 to Milltown and, eventually, to Lakeland in 1925. For many years, farmers brought their families to town on Saturday in buggies and wagons to stock up on supplies and visit with family and friends. “A department store, drug store, several grocery stores, a piece-goods store, a barber shop, and a hardware store were some of the first businesses located in the downtown area,” said Nell Patten Rocquemore, the unofficial hostess of Lakeland and author of several books on Lanier County. Family owned businesses are a deep part of Lakeland’s history and future. In many small communities, where young people are anxious to move to the big city to pursue their careers, Lakeland has managed to retain some of their “home Lakeland’s Tranquil Setting Provides the Backdrop for Entrepreneurial Success DESTINATION DOWNTOWN Lakeland was named Georgia’s Historical Mural City in 2006. Through- out the downtown area murals provide a glimpse into the history of the community that was once known as Milltown. By Sally Kurrie