Our Georgia History
 

Colonial Georgia

Georgia History 101

by Col. Samuel Taylor U.S.M.C. (Ret.)
exclusively for Our Georgia History

The colony of Georgia was truly the vision of James Edward Oglethorpe. His plan to use the new colony as a haven for people in debtors prison grew out of his committee work while a member of Parliament. Although Oglethorpe did not conceive the idea, he did seize it and attempted to act upon it. However, by the time he received the charter for Georgia (June 9, 1732) Oglethorpe had dropped his plan to use debtors and hand-selected the 116 men and women who would travel to South Carolina on The Ann.

On February 12, 1733 (February 1, old style) a group of six small ships landed at Yamacraw Bluffs and set up on a site Oglethorpe had chosen earlier. It would become Savannah. Defense was an early concern of the new colony. Oglethorpe established a perimeter around the colony including Fort Augusta, Fort Fredrica and Fort St. Simon (List of Georgia forts) and had slavery and liquor banned from the colony.

Over the first six years the struggles of the new colony came from inside. Many did not like the lack of land ownership; others were angry over the lack of slaves; some just wanted rum and beer. Slavery was an extremely divisive issue, with the people of Savannah wanting Negroes while the Highlanders along the coast and the Saltzburgers at Ebenezer wanting to be slave-free.

Georgia had always been a "melting pot," welcoming the persecuted and prosecuted of Europe including large groups of Puritans, Lutherans, and Quakers (Wrightsboro). The only group not welcome in Georgia were Catholics, which is not surprising considering the religious wars that were fought a century earlier in England. The diversity of religion brought Georgia an unexpected strength - an willingness to accept others regardless of religion.

The first test of the new colony came in 1739 during the War of Jenkins Ear. Southern Georgia and Florida were battlegrounds over the next four years, most notably the siege of St. Augustine (1740) and the Battle of Bloody Marsh (1742). When peace finally settled on the colony Oglethorpe was gone, never to return, and William Stevens was president.
This 1745 map of Georgia shows the state extending west to the Mississippi. Only a strip of land from Savannah to Augusta about 20 miles wide, along with some small coastal communities had been settled by Europeans.

The War of Jenkins Ear was a minor war that fueled a much larger conflict known as the War of Austrian Succession (1742-1748). Because of the cost involved in fighting the war the English Parliament had little money to support the colonies it helped fund over the past 80 years. Georgia came under increasing pressure in the late 1740's to become self-sufficient.

Georgia was not prosperous under the trustee system. In 1749, 16 years into the trustee system, the colony exported goods for the first time. James Habersham petitioned for slavery to be allowed and the request was granted the following year.

In 1752 the trustees returned the colony to the king, unwilling to continue for the entire 21 years stated in the charter. In 1754 John Reynolds arrives as first "royal governor," appointed by King George II and in charge of the colony whose major products are naval stores, indigo and lumber. Rice was a popular crop along coast; further inland they grew wheat and other products whose hulls needed to be "cracked" before use, hence "Cracker," a derogatory name for poor upcountry farmers.

Reynolds did not like Savannah and tried to move the capitol south to Hardwicke, near Genesis Point on the Ogeechee River. This was one of many unpopular moves that led to his ouster at the request of the colonists. He was followed by Lieutenant Governor Henry Ellis, who disdained the state because of its heat. Although the state was spared major battles during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) it did reap a major benefit from the conflict: its borders increased dramatically.

It was during the war that James Wright (Ellis' Lieutenant Governor ) became Georgia's third and most well-liked of its royal governors. Appointed by King George III, Wright proves to be capable as governor of Georgia. He expanded the state's economy during his term and kept the Radicals at bay well into the 1770's.

The American Revolution in Georgia


Our Georgia History: History 101 index

Georgia's Indian Heritage
The Age of Exploration in Georgia
Colonial Georgia
The America Revolution in Georgia
Constitutional Georgia
Antebellum Georgia
Georgia and the Civil War
Reconstrution Georgia
Georgia's Gilded Age
A State Divided
Depression and War Return to Index


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Return to Index


FrontHistory 101Early GeorgiaAmerican IndiansSearch
WarsPeopleTimelineListsPlacesPoetry




Golden Ink
Georgia's innovative design group


Legal Notice
Privacy Policy
Copyright