The State of Georgia has a rich history. Several aspects of Georgia's past are highlighted and explored on this page.
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Georgia Signers of the Declaration of Independence
George Walton 1749/50-1804
GEORGE WALTON was born in Virginia in late 1749 or early 1750. Within a year his father died, and when his mother died several years later, young George joined the family of his uncle and aunt. At fifteen he apprenticed himself to a builder, but was released early from his indentured service. In 1769, at nineteen, he moved to Savannah to study law with Henry Young. Three years later Walton was admitted before the general court of the province, beginning a very prosperous law practice.
At only twenty-four, Walton emerged as a leader among the Liberty Boys in Georgia, serving on the first committees that opposed British rule in the summer of 1774. His name appears beneath a call for a meeting at Tondee's Tavern, the first gathering of Georgians who supported American rights. He was elected secretary of the Provincial Congress which convened at Tondee's Long Room on July 4, 1775. By the end of that year he had been elected president of the Council of Safety, which ran the affairs of the young state of Georgia, and in January of 1776 the provincial assembly chose him as one of Georgia's delegates to the Continental Congress. Walton County is named for him.
Dr. Lyman Hall 1724-1790
LYMAN HALL was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, on April 12, 1724. He came from old Puritan stock that had lived there for several generations. He first studied theology at Yale and served briefly as pastor of a Congregational church. His main interest turned to medicine, however, which he actively practiced by the time he moved to South Carolina in 1756 or 1757. In 1760 he was granted land in Georgia in St. John's Parish, near Midway, where he established a rice plantation, Hall's Knoll, and built a home in the adjacent port of Sunbury. Two years later he returned to South Carolina and practiced medicine in Pon Pon, but had returned to Georgia by 1774, actively promoting American independence.
Following the British evacuation of Georgia in the summer of 1782, he returned to St. John's Parish--renamed Liberty County for its early role in gaining independence--and resumed practicing medicine. In January of 1783, he represented his county in the Georgia Assembly. He was elected governor by this assembly, and in that office he worked diligently for Georgia's growth and welfare. The establishment of "seminaries of learning" became his primary goal, and his emphasis on mental and spiritual education laid the basis for chartering the University of Georgia in 1785. Hall County is named for him.
Button Gwinnett 1735-1777
BUTTON GWINNETT was born at Down Hatherly, Gloucestershire, England in 1735, the son of a Welsh clergyman and an English mother. His parents were respectable and gave their son as good an education as their moderate circumstances would allow. On coming of age, Gwinnett became a merchant in the city of Bristol. He married when he was twenty-two and emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina in the early 1760s. He stayed there for about two years, and then moved to Georgia where in 1765 he established himself as a general trader. In 1770, after selling all his merchandise, he purchased a large tract of land on St. Catherine's Island, Georgia, where he devoted himself extensively to the agricultural pursuits of his plantation. Gwinnett County is named for him.
The Georgia Room
The Georgia Room, a "Period Room" of the NSDAR Musuem in Washington, D.C., is modeled after the "Long Room" of Peter Tondee's tavern in Savannah, Georgia. The furnishing plan is based on Tondee's estate, and objects for the room were carefully chosen to fulfill that plan.
Tondee's Tavern was the preferred meeting place of the "Liberty Boys," a group holding up the common cause of freedom in Georgia. Much to the indignant outrage of Royal Governor Wright, a liberty pole was erected in front of the tavern in 1775. In 1776 those at the tavern celebrated with numerous readings of the new Declaration of Independence, signed by three men from Georgia: Lyman Hall, George Walton, and Button Gwinnett.
Peter Tondee (1723 - 1775)
Tondee came to Savannah in the first year of the founding of the Georgia Colony, 1733. He co-founded the Union Society and, as proprietor of Tondee's Tavern in Savannah, was a member of the Liberty Boys and a delegate to the Georgia Provincial Congress of 1775. He died in October 1775.
The late Mrs. Hugh Peterson, 1991 State Chairman, Georgia Room, acquired this beautiful painted beaufet. A beaufet was named in the Tondee's estate inventory, and it is thought to be the one from Tondee's Tavern. Mrs. Peterson located this beautiful piece in Savannah, Georgia, and donated it to The Georgia Room.
A Brief History of Early Georgia
From blue mountains, to rolling hills and lakes, to great cities, to the golden coast, Georgia is a place of great diversity and rich history.
The first people to live in what is now Georgia were prehistoric Indians called Mound Builders. Before white men came to the region, the Creek Indians had settled in the south and the Cherokee in the north.
Hernando de Soto of Spain was probably the first white man to visit the Georgia region. He crossed the area in 1540, on his way from Florida to the Mississippi River. In 1564, French settlers established a colony in Florida. This action angered King Philip II of Spain, who claimed all of what is now the southeastern United States. In 1565, he sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles to drive out the French. Menendez defeated them, and then built forts along the Atlantic coast. In 1566, Menendez built a fort on St. Catherines Island in present-day Georgia.
England also claimed the Georgia region. In 1629, the region became part of a colonial land grant made by King Charles I. The English built a fort on the Altamaha River in 1721. They abandoned the fort in 1727 because of its expense.
The Colonial Period
In 1730, a few Englishmen made plans to establish a separate colony in the region, which was to be named Georgia for King George II. The group included James Oglethorpe, who planned to send imprisoned or released debtors to the colony. But this plan was abandoned, and few debtors went to Georgia.
In 1732, King George granted a 21-year charter for the new colony to a corporation called Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America. Spain, which had claimed the area, protested to England. Nevertheless, Oglethorpe and the first band of about 120 colonists sailed from England on November 17, 1732. They arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, the site of present-day Savannah, on February 12, 1733. Tomochichi, a Creek chief whose tribe lived nearby, aided the colonists. He helped persuade other Creek tribes to allow the colonists to settle in the area. In the 21 years that the trustees controlled Georgia, more than 4,000 settlers arrived. About half came at the trustees' expense.
During this period, many English ships smuggled merchandise to Spanish colonies in the West Indies. The illegal trading, plus disagreement over the Georgia-Florida boundary, led to war between England and Spain in 1739. Oglethorpe tried to capture Florida, but failed. In 1742, his troops crushed a Spanish landing in the Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island. This victory ended the war in America, but it continued in Europe without settling the original disputes.
The Revolutionary War
The Georgia trustees gave up their 21-year charter in 1752, and King George reorganized the colony as a royal province in 1754. Georgia's farmers prospered, and the colony might have continued quietly under this rule if left to itself. But a desire for independence that was growing in the other Atlantic colonies spread to Georgia. Many of the colonists wanted to be free of British rule. After the Revolutionary War began in Massachusetts in 1775, many Georgians who had been neutral joined the movement for freedom. The patriots seized power, and James Wright, the royal governor, fled to a British warship off the Georgia coast.
The first fighting between Georgians and the British occurred in March 1776. A British warship tried to seize 11 rice boats in the harbor of Savannah, but captured only two of them. On July 24, 1778, Georgia ratified the Articles of Confederation, which was the forerunner of the United States Constitution.
Georgia did not become a major battleground until December 1778, when British troops captured Savannah. An American army supported by a French naval force laid siege to the city in September 1779. After three weeks, the Americans and their allies attacked the city. They were driven back with a loss of more than a thousand lives. By the end of 1779, British troops had seized all Georgia except Wilkes County. They were driven out of Savannah and the rest of Georgia in 1782.
The Revolutionary War ended in 1783. On January 2, 1788, Georgia became the fourth state in the Union to ratify the United States Constitution. Georgia's delegates to the Consitutional Convention were Abraham Baldwin, William Few, William Houstoun, and William Leigh Pierce.
Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin near Savannah in 1793. This machine, which separated the seed from the fiber, saved much work and led to a great expansion in cotton farming.
Settlers and land companies began developing Georgia rapidly during the 1790s. In 1795, land companies bribed state legislators to sell them Georgia land for about a cent and a half per acre (four cents per hectare). The companies planned to sell the land, which covered much of present-day Alabama and Mississippi, at great profit. This scheme came to be known as the Yazoo Fraud, because the Yazoo River flowed through part of the land. Later in 1795, angry Georgians elected a new legislature that repealed the sale the next year. But many buyers refused to give up their purchases.
In 1802 Georgia sold its lands west of the Chattachoochee River to the federal government. The United States promised to settle the land claims of the Yazoo companies. In 1810 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the sales were legal. Congress voted in 1814 to pay more than $4,200,000 to settle the Yazoo claims.
The federal government also promised to remove the Indians from Georgia. By 1827, the Creek Indians had sold all their land in Georgia to the United States and moved to the Arkansas Territory. In 1838, federal troops rounded up the last of the Cherokee Indians in Georgia and forced them to walk the infamous "Trail of Tears" to the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. As the Indians left, settlers quickly cleared the former Indian land and planted cotton. By 1840 Georgia had begun developing an extensive railway system.
History of the NSDAR
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded on October 11, 1890, during a time that was marked by a revival in patriotism and intense interest in the beginnings of the United States of America. Women felt the desire to express their patriotic feelings and were frustrated by their exclusion from men's organizations formed to perpetuate the memory of ancestors who fought to make this country free and independent. As a result, a group of pioneering women in the nation's capital formed their own organization and the Daughters of the American Revolution has carried the torch of patriotism ever since.
The objectives laid forth in the first meeting of the DAR have remained the same in over 100 years of active service to the nation. Those objectives are: Historical - to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence; Educational - to carry out the injunction of Washington in his farewell address to the American people, "to promote, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion..."; and Patriotic - to cherish, maintain, and extend the institutions of American freedom, to foster true patriotism and love of country, and to aid in securing for mankind all the blessings of liberty.
Since its founding in 1890, DAR has admitted more than 800,000 members.
“Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Beside, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of Nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.”
“All men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
“These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
Thomas Paine, The Crisis
“I regret that I have but one my life to give to my country.”
“I have not yet begun to fight!”
“You men are all marksmen, now don't fire until you can see the whites of their eyes.”
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
Georgia History Links
The State of Georgia has many historical landmarks and beautiful sites to explore. The links below are just a few of the numerous resources available online.
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