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Early Records of Georgia

Volume 1, Wilkes County

abstracted and compiled by Grace Gillam Davidson,

published in 1933 at Macon, GA

   Submitted by Christina Palmer

Thank you to Donna & CJ Crawford & Jennifer Reddish for your transcription assistance.



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 State.

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 and genealogists.

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.



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