The Whigham Community Club was organized in 1947 by men who were products of the Great Depression and War. The first meetings were held on 179N at an old canning plant and later meetings at the Whigham School gym. Most of our nation and small towns especially at this time were paralyzed by the war and devastating economy of the ’30s. However, Whigham was fortunate to be in a farming section where enough food for families could be raised. The Federal Government created agencies of WPA, CCC, & NRA and it was this money that extended the paving of Highway 84. The group of hardworking men saw a need to organize and fellowship. The organized club offered an opportunity to do this and to support their community through the creation of jobs and economic growth.
The founding members of the Whigham Community Club brought spirit and motivation into the small town. Club member Clarence Mobley suggested the idea of a rattlesnake roundup. Luther Harden, Julius Newberry, Herman Taylor, and Julian Maxwell were among the great minds to brainstorm the idea of catching rattlesnakes due to the number of workers in the field and forest, and hunting dogs and hunters bitten by the serpents. The first original roundup occurred on the west end of town at Luther Harden’s gas station in January 1960. The excitement and success of capturing 140 snakes brought visitors from nearby to witness the unusual event. The roundup moved to the corner lot of the post office for a year or two. Within a few years, the interest among hunter and the community grew. Those attending were quite frankly amazed and mesmerized by the wonder of being so close to the venomous creatures. The small beginnings grew in visitors and the Rattlesnake Roundup was moved to the Whigham High School grounds in 1965. By 1967 surrounding counties and states were interested in hunting, catching and bringing in snakes for the roundup. J. G. Laing won first prize in 1967 with 122 snakes caught out of the 415 grand totals. The snakes were bought by the Whigham Community Club and displayed in wire pens on the Whigham School Baseball field. The 57 club members in 1970 became part of the backbone of a loyal dedicated community for their schools, businesses, churches and slower paced family life. The crowds grew as did the need for food and other entertainment. The Whigham School held beauty pageants and the queens presided at the festival. A Rattlesnake Roundup parade was organized with bands, floats, and prizes given for the most creative. The festival grew to include local music and talent groups and state beauty, queens. A favorite mullet plate was available for purchase and usually sold out by 1:00 p.m. The plates were cooked to perfection by club members. Ross Allen purchased the rattlesnakes for Silver Springs where the venom was extracted and the snakes were kept alive. Silver Springs gave visitors an opportunity to understand the habits and habitats of reptiles and their place in nature. Thousands visited Florida’s Silver Springs Reptile Institute yearly. The last year for holding the roundup at the Whigham School was 1997. A record number of visitors in 1997 convinced the members that they had outgrown the location.
The Whigham Community Club purchased the Nazarene church in the city of Whigham, to use as a community clubhouse in 1960. The purchase of 38.05 acres in September 1996 gave the club the opportunity to expand the Rattlesnake Roundup festivities. In 2017 the club membership voted to build a new clubhouse on the grounds after selling the present clubhouse in May 2016, to the owner of Auntie Ann’s daycare. Another example of how the club wishes to support families and children in the community.
The industrious club membership found ways to improve their community and reach out to others in need. Older members remember when tickets were sold to raffle off a new car. There was much excitement and anticipation as Mrs. Willie Crew won the drawing. The proceeds from the raffle were used to purchase the health clinic for Whigham and surrounding community health needs. Dr. Ferrence was the only doctor in town! Before culinary arts and BBQ cook-offs were popular, the Whigham Community Club sponsored supper plates to help raise money for their causes. The Whigham Community Club has been responsible for much of the new growth in the town by seeking to bring in new business. April of 1974, Moreland Enterprises, a clothing factory with 52 employees opened with community support. They were instrumental in helping acquire the Pineland Nursing Facility that was completed in 1970.
For over fifty years the club continues to support the community and surrounding areas through their generosity. The Whigham Community Club donated the land for Whigham Boy Scout Troop, Venture Crew and Cub Scout Pack 383 to build a new Scout House. The dedication for this building was held July 24, 2009. The Scout program has been very successful in reaching the youth of the county. As of this year, 2018, the Whigham Boy Scout Troop 383 has had 38 scouts obtain the honorable distinction of Eagle Scout. The club gives a scholarship to scouts graduating and going on to further their education after high school. Continuing their love of community the Whigham Community Club donates to and/or supports the following: Whigham Volunteer Fire Department, City of Whigham, Grady County schools, Grady County Scouting program, and those facing hardship due to burnouts and natural disasters, etc.
The Whigham Community Club has promoted changes through the years to sustain their efforts to financially focus on the community and schools needs. The club focus is on the awareness and protection of our South Georgia environment and all snakes in the region. Educational Reptile Shows are held throughout the day of the festival. The Yarbrough Reptile Show visits several Grady County schools before the last Saturday in January teaching students about reptiles and their habitats.
The Rattlesnake Roundup has evolved into a yearly educational festival for the Whigham Community Club and the event provides the majority of the funds needed to maintain involvement, support, and promotion of the small town of Whigham and Grady County. After 72 years of commitment and fellowship in the small town of Whigham, the Whigham Community Club remains a rock for the community.