|With pardonable pride, we present this volume or some of
the most important and far-reaching records of our native
state, believing it will contribute to the pleasure and
profit of countless descendants of the pioneers of Wilkes
county, who have migrated to the four corners of the earth.
As Robert Burns expressed a desire to sing a song or write a
book for dear old Scotland, so we have compiled this volume
of precious records of dear old Georgia as our contribution
to her undying and glorious history.
Wilkes county was named for John Wilkes, a member of
Parliament who opposed the policy of Great Britain towards
the American Colonies which brought about the Revolutionary
War. It was created 1777 from the northern part of Saint
Paul's Parish, and lands acquired by the Royal Governor, Sir
James Wright, from the Creek and Cherokee Indians in payment
of their debts to the Indian traders, and called the "Geded
Lands." The treaty was signed at Augusta, June 1, 1773, by
Governor Wright and John Stewart, His Majesty's sole agent
for Indian affairs in the Southern District of America. The
first Land Court for granting the "Ceded Lands" was held at
Augusta Sept. 27, 1773. Other Courts were held at Dartmouth,
Wrightsborough, Broad River and Augusta until June 1775.
Originally Wilkes embraced all of Elbert county, cut off
1790, all of Oglethorpe, cut off 1793, part of Warren, 1793,
all of Lincoln, 1796, part of Greene 1802, part of
Talliaferro 1825 and 1828.
The first authentic settlement of what was included in
Wilkes county originally, later in Elbert, was Dartmouth,
known to have been in existence as early as 1773. From
available historic sources, it appears to have been a
trading post, protected by Fort James, the town and river
Dart named for the Earl of Dart who procured from the King
special privileges for the "Indian Trading Company of
Georgia." The name of the river was changed to Broad prior
to Nov. 1773, and still bears that name.
In 1786 Dionysius Oliver was authorized by the
Legislature to erect a tobacco warehouse on his land in the
forks of the Broad and Savannah rivers, said to have been on
the site of Dartmouth. Around this warehouse before 1790,
developed the town of Petersburgh, next in importance to
Augusta, and a thriving tobacco market. When Eli Whitney
perfected the cotton gin, tobacco culture declined and
Petersburgh became one of the dead towns of Georgia.
Georgetown, another tobacco market was in existence as early
as 1792. It was cut off with Warren county and became
another dead town.
Attracted by the granting of unoccupied lands to
prospective citizens on headrights, and as bounty to
Revolutionary soldiers, in accordance with an Act of the
Legislature 1783, bands of settlers, principally from
Virginia and North Carolina, followed the southward trails,
and in 1790 the census showed more than one-third of the
State's population in Wilkes county. George Matthews,
afterwards Governor, brought from Virginia a colony of his
old comrades in arms, and settled the Goose Pond tract,
later in Oglethorpe county.
In 1780 Commissioners were appointed to set aside 100
acres for the county site to be called Washington, the first
town in America to be named for the Father of His Country.
On account of hostilities it was not actually laid out until
1783. It is said to have been built on the site of Heard's
Fort, which Stephen Heard, an early settler from Virginia
had erected for protection from the Indians, and where he,
as Governor in the spring of 1780, carried on the affairs of
The first Methodist church in Georgia was built in Wilkes
county by Daniel Grant, and was called Grant's Meeting
House. Land for the second Methodist church was given by
Thomas Carter, cut off into Elbert county later. The first
Catholic church in the state was founded by a colony of that
faith who came from Maryland, and called Locust Grove, now
Sharon, in Talliaferro county.
Mrs. Sarah Hillhouse, widow of David, was the first woman
editor in the state. In her shop were printed the "Early
Laws of Georgia." The military leaders of the county are too
numerous to mention. Gen. Elijah Clarke, an unlettered
frontiersman, one of the heroes of the Battle of Kettle
Creek, is probably the most picturesque. Practically every
male inhabitant of Wilkes county during the Revolution was a
soldier. It was appropriately called by the Tories, the
"Hornet's Nest." Statesmen, Governors, soldiers, bishops,
men distinguished in every walk of life were natives or
residents of Wilkes county from its foundation.
This book gives authentic details of their everyday
lives, and we trust meets with the approval of historians
If an appreciative public makes it possible, other
volumes will follow.
To Judge Richard O. Barksdale, Judge of Court of
Ordinary. and to Hon. Frank E. Callaway, Clerk of Superior
Court for their co-operation in my efforts to secure perfect
abstracts; to my friends Mrs. Mary Sims Pharr Callaway, and
Mrs. Sarah Quinn Smith for their substantial help and
encouragement; to Mr. James A. Leconte for the use of his
manuscript of the Ceded Lands; and to my friend and husband
John Lee Davidson for his untiring efforts in helping to
compile this volume, I am deeply grateful.
Quitman, Ga., February 1st, 1932.