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The Southern States of America
The History of Georgia - Chapter I - The Colony of Georgia, 1732 - 1776

Georgia a Part of Carolina.

THE land which, in 1732, was granted to the "Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia in America" was originally granted to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina; but as no act of settlement beyond the right shore of the Savannah River was exercised by the proprietors, Sir Robert Montgomery obtained from them, in 1717, the right to the use of the territory between the Savannah and the Altamaha rivers for a settlement to be called the Margravate of Azilia. It was expected that the Montgomery colony would at once take steps to improve the land so secured, and that the prosperity of the new undertaking would be assured. Such was the prediction of those who were directly interested in the project, but their efforts were not properly guided, and it remained for a man of greater ability and of more decided energy to carry to a successful issue the scheme proposed by Sir Robert Montgomery. James Oglethorpe was the man who was to be the leader in this great work, and the circumstances which led to his taking charge of it may be said to be providential.

Georgia a Distinct Proprietary-Oglethorpe's Settlement.

The story of the investigation by a committee of Parliament, headed by General Oglethorpe, of the methods pursued in the matter of the imprisonment of unfortunate Englishmen, has been so often told that it need not be here fully rehearsed. The result of the investigation brought about the needed reform in the prison system, but the most far-reaching and fruitful result was the founding of the Colony of Georgia. Oglethorpe, who had been the chief instrument in bringing about the great change, was chosen as the leader of the band to prepare the way for departure to the new country which they were to develop and change into a great state among a sisterhood of states forming the grand Union which is one of the world's powers. For an accurate and true account of the reasons for establishing the colony, succinctly stated, no better can be found than that given by Gov. Robert Johnson, of South Carolina, in the preamble to a proclamation issued by him Jan. 13, 1733, calling on his people to assist their new neighbors in Georgia. In it occurs this statement : "I have lately received a power from the Trustees for establishing a colony in that part of Carolina between the rivers Altamaha and Savannah, now granted by his Majesty's charter to the said Trustees, by the name of the Province of Georgia, authorizing me to take and receive all such voluntary contributions as any of his Majesty's good subjects of this province shall voluntarily contribute towards so good and charitable a work as the relieving of poor and insolvent debtors, and settIing, establishing and assisting poor Protestants of what nation so ever as shall be willing to settle in the said Colony." It maybe well for our readers to have before them also the words of the charter granted by George IL, giving the reasons as follows: "Many of our poor subjects are, through misfortune and want of employment, reduced to great necessity, insomuch as by their labor they are not able to provide a maintenance for themselves and their families; and, if they had means to defray their charges of passage and the expenses incident to new settlements, they would be glad to settle in any of our provinces in America, where, by cultivating the lands at present waste and desolate, they might not only gain a comfortable subsistence for themselves and families, but also strengthen our colonies and increase trade, navigation and wealth of these, our realms."

James Oglethorpe, the philanthropist and Christian gentleman, was also by choice a soldier, leaving college to take up arms in defense of a cause which he considered right. His character was right in every respect, and in undertaking the establishment of a colony under such circumstances he was literally carrying out the noble sentiment expressed in the motto adopted for the seal of the Province: Non sibi, sed alliis. Whether he foresaw the success of his scheme, or not, cannot be determined, but certainly true was the statement made by a newspaper not long before his death: "General Oglethorpe can say more than can be said by the subject of any prince in Europe, or perhaps that ever reigned; he founded the Province of Georgia in America, he has lived to see it flourish and become of consequence to the commerce of Great Britain ; he has seen it in a state of rebellion, and he now beholds it independent of the mother country, and of great political importance in one quarter of the globe."

The first company of the colonists, comprising 130 individuals, or thirty-five families, came over in the latter part of the year 1732, in the ship Anne, which set sail on November 17. Oglethorpe was one of the party. They reached Charleston, S. C., Jan. 13, 1733, and were there cordially welcomed by Governor Johnson, who assisted them in getting to the place where the first settlement was to be made - Savannah. Leaving the others at Beaufort, on the way, the General, guided by some of his Carolina friends, proceeded on his way in order to select a spot for the permanent location of his followers. He found what he sought, and a better selection than the site of the present prosperous and flourishing city of Savannah could not have been made. Indeed, no one would now wish for a change. On the spot he found a village inhabited by Indians, of whom Tomochichi was the chief, and who soon discerned the true character of Oglethorpe. The two men at once became friends and the Indians and Englishmen remained friendly as long as the General lived in Georgia. A treaty was afterwards made which was strictly observed, and the Colony of Georgia had scarcely any troubles with the aborigines. The plan of the city of Savannah has been greatly admired, and it would seem that it had been carefully prepared before the colonists ever set foot upon the soil. Oglethorpe, having chosen the spot, went back for his followers, reaching Yamacraw Bluff Feb. 1 (old style), 1733 (Feb. 12, new style), and, after landing, they united in a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God, lodging that night in tents. The work of building houses for the people began the next day, and the settlement was called Savannah. In the work of making homes for themselves the colonists were greatly assisted by their neighbors of Carolina, who even then exhibited that social spirit for which they have ever since been noted.

Other Settlements.

Before the end of the first year of the colony's history the population was increased by the arrival of a vessel with forty Israelites who, while not under the care of the Trustees or coming with their consent, proved to be thrifty and industrious people and were allowed to remain. Following these came a band of religious exiles, called Salzburgers, who were warmly welcomed and who made their settlement at a place they named Ebenezer, up the Savannah River, about twenty-five miles from Oglethorpe's town.

In a little more than a year the following places, in addition to Savannah, were settled: Highgate, Hampstead, Abercorn and Fort Argyle. In the meantime other ships, with emigrants, arrived at Savannah, one of them, commanded by Captain Yoakley, bringing supplies of tools, clothing and provisions, winning the prize of a gold cup offered by the Trustees to the first vessel to enter the river and unload a cargo at the public dock. She was followed by one bringing the large addition of 150 souls to the population of the colony.

At the time the charter was obtained it was thought that the production of silk would be the chief industry of the people, and it was stipulated that each settler should plant a certain number of mulberry trees. Indeed, so important was this matter considered that the seal of the colony was of a design planned in conformity with that purpose. It represented on one side a group of silk-worms at work surrounded by the motto Non sibi, sed alliis. This industry, however, was not a success, and the principal exports were skins, rice, tar and pitch.

Having led the colonists to their new home, set them to work and put them in the way of supporting themselves, Oglethorpe, after spending fifteen months with them, returned to England, taking with him that faithful friend Tomochichi, his wife and his nephew and a number of chiefs, who were presented to the King and were pleasantly entertained by those who appreciated their kindness to the colonists. These Indians remained in England four months, but Oglethorpe did not return to Georgia until 1735. A colony of Swiss and Moravian emigrants, sent out by him in January, 1735, settled near Fort Argyle, and a party of Scotch Highlanders who desired to come over left their native land in January, 1736, and founded the town of New Inverness on the Altamaha River.

When Oglethorpe made his second visit to Georgia, in 1736, lie brought two ships loaded with supplies needed by the people, and he was accompanied by 225 emigrants who formed an important addition to the population. Among them were 125 Germans and twenty-five Moravians. The latter joined the settlement on the Ogeechee River called Fort Argyle. He also brought with him the noted brothers John and Charles Wesley, who did not remain a great while in this country, but their experiences while here were both interesting and exciting.

In February, 1736, a settlement was made near the mouth of the Altamaha River, on the island called St. Simon's, and the name Frederica was given to it. This place was really the home of Oglethorpe from that time until his final return to England. Before this, in 1735, in accordance with his directions, a military post was fixed at a point high up on the Savannah River and called Augusta. This was the starting-point of the prosperous city of Augusta.

Trouble with Spaniards.

During all this time the Spaniards, who claimed the land granted by Parliament to the Trustees of Georgia, were apparently inactive and seemed to be satisfied with the condition of affairs, but with the growth of the colony they became troublesome and seemed determined to put a stop to her progress. The Spanish government warned England that the building of fortifications and the quartering of troops in Georgia would not be submitted to by them. When the message was received the Duke of Argyle, a member of the King's Council, asserted: "This should be answered, but not in the usual way; the reply should be a fleet of battleships on the coast of Spain." So much trouble was stirred up by the Spaniards that war was declared by England in October, 1739.

At all times Oglethorpe kept in mind the importance of securing and retaining the goodwill and friendship of the Indians. The wisdom of this policy was manifested in the long period of hostility between the colonists and the Spaniards in Florida. With this purpose in view, the General decided to attend an impressive and large gathering of warriors at Coweta Town, leaving Savannah in July, 1739, and traveling 300 miles. At that meeting the Indians became firmly convinced of his sincerity, and learned to appreciate his friendly intentions, and willingly entered into treaties of peace and goodwill with him.

Hostilities between the Georgians and Spaniards began with the landing of a party of the latter on Amelia Island on Georgia soil and the killing of two unarmed men. With a considerable force Oglethorpe pursued the enemy until they sought refuge in the city of St. Augustine. He then collected a force of friendly Indians to co-operate with his troops, and captured two forts on the St. John's River, cutting off the Spaniards from their Indian allies. He then planned an attack on St. Augustine, and, with that end in view, left Frederica in May, 1740, with a force of 900 of his own men and 1,100 Indians. His first capture was Fort St. Diego, nine miles from the point of siege, and next he caused the Spaniards to abandon Fort Moosa, only two miles from St. Augustine. The attac to assist the land forces. The siege lasted until July, and several incidents of a disadvantageous character occurred, and the disappointed Oglethorpe abandoned the attack and returned to Frederica. His loss was only fifty men, while that of the enemy was 450, besides four forts.

The next move in the war was made by the Spaniards, who were slow to act. They collected at St. Augustine a fleet of fifty-six vessels with 7,000 troops from Havana, and when Oglethorpe received information of their preparation to attack him he gathered together all his available force, with all the arms and ammunition in the province, and called to his aid his regiment of Highlanders and his Indian allies. During the month of June two minor attacks by the Spaniards on Amelia Island were repulsed. On the 28th thirty-six of their ships, with troops numbering 5,000, approached St. Simon's Island, but made no offensive demonstration until the 5th of the next month, when they raised the red flag and landed their forces on the south end, where they stationed a battery of eighteen guns. Oglethorpe evacuated Fort St. Simon, spiked the guns, destroyed the powder and retired to Frederica, where he strengthened his position for the coming attack, his little band amounting to no more than 650 men. Learning from a scout on the 7th that a division of the Spanish invaders was only two miles from Frederica, Oglethorpe surprised them in the thick woods and killed and captured nearly all of them. He went forward a few miles, and in ambush awaited the approach of the main body of the enemy,

whose coming was not long delayed. Not suspecting danger, the Spaniards halted near the ambush, stacked their arms and failed to set a proper watch. The first intimation of danger was given by a horse which became frightened at the sight of a soldier in the bushes. The command to attack was given by Oglethorpe, and the enemy, taken by surprise, was completely routed with the loss of 259 men. The site of this encounter received the name of Bloody Marsh, the name it still bears. Oglethorpe next planned a night attack upon the Spaniards, thinking to surprise them, but a Frenchman who, unknown to the General, had joined himself to the volunteers, fired his gun and rushed into the enemy's camp. He was pursued by the Indians, who could not overtake him. This caused Oglethorpe to retreat. Knowing that the deserter would divulge the weakness of his force, he conceived a plan to bring his treason to naught. This is his account of the affair:

"The next day I prevailed with a prisoner and gave him a sum of money to carry a letter privately and deliver it to that Frenchman who had deserted. This letter was written in French as if from a friend of his, telling him he had received the money that he should strive to make the Spaniards believe the English were weak. That he should undertake to pilot up their boats and galleys and then bring them under the woods where he knew the hidden batteries were, that if he could bring that about he should have double the reward he had already received. That the French deserters should have all that had been promised to them. The Spanish prisoner got into their camp and was immediately carried before their General, Don Manuel de Montiano. He was asked how he escaped and whether he had any letters, but denying his having any was strictly searched and the letter found; and he, upon being pardoned, confessed that he had received money to deliver it to the Frenchman, for the letter was not directed. The Frenchman denied his knowing anything of the contents of the letter or having received any money or correspondence with me, notwithstanding which a Council of War was held and they deemed the Frenchman to be a double spy, but General Montiano would not suffer him to be executed, having been employed by him; however, they embarked all their troops and halted under Jekyl; they also confined all the French on board and embarked with such precipitation that they left behind them cannon, etc., and those dead of their wounds unburied."

John Wesley.

During the short stay of John Wesley in Georgia, his mind was filled with the importance of the work of religious instruction of the Indians and the settlers, and he decided that George Whitefield was just the man for that work. Accordingly, he wrote so strong an appeal to him that Whitefield came over in the next ship. A portion of the letter reads thus : "What if thou art the man, Mr. Whitefield ? Do you ask me what you shall have? Food to eat and raiment to put on; a house to lay your head in such as your Lord had not, and a crown of glory that fadeth not away." Whitefield's chief work in Georgia was the founding of the orphan asylum, which he named Bethesda, or house of mercy. It opened with forty inmates, and the number ran up to 150. This noble charity still exists, and its good work cannot be overestimated.

Internal Affairs.

A change in the government of the colony was made two years before Oglethorpe's departure, by its division into two counties, each governed by a president and four assistants. These counties were Savannah and Frederica, the former including the territory extending southward to Darien, and the latter including Darien and all the territory to the southern limit of the colony. William Stephens was made president of the county of Savannah, but no appointment was made for Frederica, as Oglethorpe's home was on St. Simon's Island and his authority as governor extended over the whole colony. In 1743, on Oglethorpe's return to England, the plan was modified, and the Trustees made Mr. Stephens president of Georgia. He governed the colony six years, but his administration was not marked by any special act of progress, and the degree of prosperity was inappreciable. Moreover, the colonists became dissatisfied on account of certain regulations of the Trustees which did not exist in the other colonies. Among these were the prohibition of the use of negro slaves and the sale of rum. In June, 1735, and in December, 1738, petitions were sent to the Trustees asking that the use of negro slaves be permitted. Such men as the Rev. George Whitefield and the Rev. Mr. Bolzius, pastor of the Salzburgers, urged the repeal of the restriction in regard to slavery. Finally, yielding to the pressure, the Trustees repealed the regulation against the sale of distilled liquor and allowed the use of slaves under certain conditions.

Another cause of dissatisfaction among the colonists was the restriction which prevented a settler from either mortgaging or selling his lands. This restriction was not removed until May 25, 1750.

Trouble arose in 1749 through fear that the Indians might become hostile. This state of affairs was brought on by a woman. This woman was an Indian, and could speak English. When the colonists landed at Savannah Oglethorpe used her as an interpreter. Her first husband was named Musgrove, and the second Matthews. She afterwards married the Rev. Thomas Bosomworth, a priest of the Church of England, who induced her to make a demand on the colony for 5,000 as compensation for her services and for damages to the property of her first husband. She claimed to be an Indian princess and empress of the Creek Indians. She laid claim to the islands of Ossabaw, Sapelo and St. Catherine's, as well as certain lands just across the river from Savannah, but President Stephens opposed all of her claims and would not agree to anything that she urged. She excited the Indians and marched a large number of them to Savannah, escorted by her husband in his priest's garb, the Indian chiefs and warriors appearing in their feathers and war paint. Notwithstanding the fears of his people, Mr. Stephens assembled the soldiers and declared that the Indians must give up their arms before entering the town. This they did, and the Bosomworths were arrested and locked up. The president addressed the Indians and convinced them that the woman was no princess and that the land claimed by her belonged to the Creek Nation. This brought about peace and quiet. The Bosomworths went to England and tried to persuade the King and the Trustees to comply with their demands, and invoked the aid of the courts. They gave trouble many years and were finally given about 2,000 and a title to St. Catherine's Island, where both of them died and where they are buried.

A change for the better occurred in the year 1750, as at that time the Honorable James Habersham described the condition of the province in these words: "My present thoughts are that the colony never had a better appearance of thriving than now. There have been more vessels loaded here within these ten months than have been since the colony was settled." At that time the population had grown to 1,500. In that year the Trustees resolved that a Provincial Assembly should be established which should be composed of delegates elected by the people, who would then look after the interests of the inhabitants and to suggest to the Trustees those measures which might be considered to be for the good of the colony. It was to meet once a year in Savannah, and each session was not to continue beyond one month. The first session was held Jan. 15, 1751, and was composed of sixteen delegates elected the year before. It lasted twenty-two days, and Francis Harris was elected speaker. That year William Stephens, who had become infirm and aged, resigned the office of president, and on April 8 the Trustees appointed Henry Parker as his successor. James Habersham was made secretary of the colony. The assembly recommended the organization of the militia, and President Parker proceeded to carry out their wishes. The first muster was held in June, 1751, in Savannah, when 220 men appeared under the command of Capt. Noble Jones.

The next year, 1752, a body of people, Congregationalists in religion, under a grant of land situated on the Midway River, moved into Georgia from Dorchester, S. C., and made a valuable addition to the population. From this body have descended some of Georgia's most illustrious citizens.

Georgia a Royal Province.

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