GHS Publications & Georgia History
Since 1840 the Georgia Historical Society has been sharing our state's past by publishing works that explore genealogy, history, and biography.
Below is a sample of books published by the Georgia Historical Society. Click here or scroll down to read excerpts from Georgia: A State History published in 2003.
Barclay, Anthony. Wilde's Summer Rose, or The Lament of the Captive: An
Alleged Plagiarism (1871).
Bennett, Barbara S. and Bearden, Tracy D. Georgia Historical Quarterly Index:
Volumes I-LX, 1917-1976 (1991).
Brandon, Josephine Hart. Pages of Glory: Georgia's Documentary Heritage (1998).
Britt, Albert Sidney, Jr. Overture to the Future at the Georgia Historical Society
Britt, Albert Sidney, Jr. and Anthony Roane Dees, eds. Selected Eighteenth Century
Manuscripts. Collections of the Georgia Historical Society Vol. 20 (1980).
Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. 1 (1840).
Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. 2 (1842).
Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. 3 (1873).
Coolidge, Herman W. Four Naturalists and Their Drawings of American Birds.
Coulter, Ellis Merton. John Jacobus Flournoy, Champion of the Common Man in the
Antebellum South (1942).
The Counties of the State of Georgia (1974, 1988).
D'Alonzo, Mary Beth. Streetcars of Chatham County: Photographs from the
Collection of the Georgia Historical Society . In association with Arcadia
Dick, Susan E. and Johnson, Mandi D. Savannah, 1733 to 2000: Photographs from
the Collection of the Georgia Historical Society . In association with Arcadia
Granger, Mary. Savannah River Plantations (1947).
Gunther, Justin. Historic Signs of Savannah: Photographs from the Collection of the
Georgia Historical Society . In association with Arcadia Press (2004).
Harwell, Richard Barksdale. Confederate Imprints at the Georgia Historical Society.
Hawes, Lilla Mills, ed. Jones Sees a Ghost (1981).
5, 1770 through June 22, 1781. Collections of the Georgia Historical Society Vol.
_______, ed. Letters of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1806. Collections of the Georgia
Historical Society, Vol. 9 (1916).
Historical Society Vol. 11 (1955).
_______, ed. The Proceedings and Minutes of the Governor and Council of Georgia,
October 4, 1774 through November 7, 1775, and September 6, 1779 through
September 20, 1780. Collections of the Georgia Historical Society Vol. 10
Hawers, Lilla Mills, and Karen Elizabeth Osvold, eds. Checklist of Eighteenth
Historical Society Vol. 19 (1976).
Inscoe, John C. James Edward Oglethorpe: New Perspectives on His Life and
Legacy. In association with James Edward Oglethorpe Tercentenary
Commission, Oglethorpe University (1997).
Johnston, Edith Duncan, ed. The Kollock Letters, 1799-1850 (1946-1948).
Jones, Charles Colcock, Jr. Anniversary Address Delivered before the Georgia
Historical Society in Hodgson Hall on the 14th of February, 1881. (1881).
_______. The Life and Services of the Honorable Major-General Samuel Elbert of
Kole, Kaye. The Minis Family of Georgia, 1733-1992 (1992).
Kollock, Susan Marion, comp. Letters of the Kollock and Allied Families, 1826-1884
Society, Vol. 7 pt. 1 (1909).
Levy, B.H. Mordecai Sheftall: Jewish Revolutionary Patriot (1999).
Mackall, William W. The Duty of the Hour: Remarks by Mr. W. W. Mackall. (1918).
Historical Society . In association with Arcadia Publishing (2007).
Simpson, John Eddins, ed. The Jones Family Papers, 1760-1810. Collections of the Georgia Historical Society Vol. 17 (1976).
Spalding, Phinizy. The Book of Accessions: Georgia Depositories, 1973-80 (1981).
Spracher, Luciana M. Lost Savannah: Photographs from the Collection of the
Georgia Historical Society. In association with Arcadia Publishing (2002).
Stanley, Bess D. Marriage Records of Liberty County, Georgia, 1785-1895. (1957).
Olmstead, Charles H. The Memoirs of Charles H. Olmstead (1964).
Stephens, William B. A History of the State of Georgia. In association with D.
Appleton & Co. (1847).
Sullivan, Buddy. Georgia: A State History. In association with Arcadia Publishing
Waring, John Frederick. Cerveau's Savannah. (1973).
West, Charles N. The Life and Times of William Harris Crawford of Georgia (1892).
Wheeler, Frank T. Savannah River Plantations: Photographs from the Collection of
the Georgia Historical Society . In association with Arcadia Publishing (1998).
Wilson, Amie Marie and Mandi Dale Johnson. Historic Bonaventure Cemetery,
Photographs from the Collection of the Georgia Historical Society . In association
with Arcadia Publishing (1998).
Wood, Virginia Steele and Mary R. Bullard, eds. Journal of a Visit to the Georgia
Wood, Virginia Steele and Ralph Van Wood, eds. The Reuben King Journal, 1800-
Works Projects Administration. Index to Collections of the Georgia Historical
Society: Volumes I-IX (1938).
Excerpts from Georgia: A State History by Buddy Sullivan, in association with the Georgia Historical Society (Arcadia Publishing, 2003).
W. Todd Groce
President & CEO, Georgia Historical Society
Anyone traversing modern-day Georgia will find a land that both resembles and stands in stark contrast to the image of the state in popular culture. From the towering skyscrapers and massive traffic jams of Atlanta to the moss-draped oaks and quiet, ancient squares of Savannah, Georgia seems to the visitor a paradox in itself, a state that comfortably straddles both the old and the new South. Somehow, in that uniquely southern way, the past and the present seem to merge into one. Georgians may not live in the past, to paraphrase the historian David Goldfield, but the past clearly lives in Georgians.
That past has diverged from the nation's and given Georgia and its people a distinctive culture and character. Some of the best, and the worst, aspects of American and southern history can be found in the story of what is arguably the most important state in the South. Yet just as clearly Georgia has not always followed the road traveled by the rest of the nation and the region.
Georgia's early years foreshadowed the journey that lay ahead. Alone among the thirteen original colonies, Georgia served as an outpost of Spain's new world empire and became the battleground where Spanish dreams of conquering and colonizing the Atlantic coast came to an ignominious end. Unlike the other colonies, Georgia was not created for riches or religious liberty. Instead it was founded by an English aristocrat for the seemingly incongruous purposes of establishing both a military buffer and humanitarian society where slavery was initially outlawed. The state's conservatism during the crises of the Revolution and the Civil War was remarkably different from the radicalism of South Carolina, its neighbor to the north. Later during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, Georgia once again followed its own course, quietly desegregating its public facilities and for the most part rejecting the violent opposition to black equality demonstrated in neighboring Alabama and Mississippi. Georgia would go on to embrace the creed of the New South so enthusiastically that what had been the weakest and most undeveloped colony in the eighteenth century would be transformed by the dawn of the twenty-first into the richest, most urbanized and technologically advanced state in the region.
Despite these differences, however, the story of Georgia is typically southern. The growth of the Cotton Kingdom, the devastation of the Civil War, the political campaigns of the Solid South, the racial oppression of Jim Crow, and the economic rebirth and revitalization of the post-World War II era are all part of both the Georgia and the southern experience. Indeed, from the invention of the cotton gin on a plantation near Savannah to the emergence of the urban goliath of Atlanta, one could tell the story of the South through the lens of this single state.
Georgia's Two "Forgotten" Centuries
Recent scholarship has demonstrated fairly conclusively that the land that was to become the state of Georgia was the scene of the first European attempt to establish a permanent colony in the present-day United States. In the fall of 1526, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, a Spanish official and sugar planter from the island of Hispaniola, founded the colony of San Miguel de Gualdape on the southeastern coast of the future United States, quite possibly in the vicinity of Sapelo Sound in present day McIntosh County, Georgia. In the context of western-hemisphere exploration and colonization, it must be emphasized that Ayllon's colony was a mere thirty-four years after Columbus made landfall in the lesser Antilles, thirty-nine years before the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine (regarded as the first permanent European settlement on the U.S. mainland), eighty-one years before the arrival of the English at Jamestown, and fully 207 years prior to Oglethorpe's landing at Savannah in 1733. Over five hundred Spanish colonists accompanied Ayllon and, although the effort was not a success due to attrition caused by disease and troubles with the local Indians, it nonetheless served as the precursor of later Spanish attempts to explore the region.
Further Spanish explorations of the section that was to include Georgia were those of Hernando de Soto and Tristan de Luna. The former led an expedition from the Gulf of Mexico through upper Florida and much of Georgia in 1540. In northwestern Georgia, de Soto encountered--with violent consequences--the Coosa Indian chiefdom along the Etowah River.
In the fall of 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles established St. Augustine on the upper east coast of Florida. A year later, Menendez began expanding his interests northward along the coast. He developed a series of missions on the barrier islands from St. Augustine northward to the Savannah River where resident Indian populations were indoctrinated in Spanish religion, culture and farming techniques. Jesuit and, later, Franciscan priests, conducted evangelical activities on the sea islands of Georgia. Governed from St. Augustine, the missions were largely self-sufficient, particularly in that section of the middle and upper coast comprising the Guale chiefdoms. The name Guale (pronounced AWall-ie) came from the Spanish appellation for the island of Guale--present-day St. Catherines Island. Here, about 1570, the Spanish established the principal Franciscan mission of the coast, called Santa Catalina de Guale. Other Franciscan missions were located on Sapelo Island (San Jose de Sapala), St. Simons Island (Santo Domingo de Asao and San Simon) and Cumberland Island (San Pedro de Mocama). These missions interacted with Guale Indian populations on the islands and at the larger Guale towns, representing various chiefdoms, on the mainland: Tupiqui, Espogache, Tolomato and Talaxe, among others.
In 1597, a Native American revolt, known as the Juanillo Rebellion, precipitated by increasing resentment over the Spanish dominance of the region, resulted in the massacre of five Franciscan friars. Following a brief abandonment of the missions, peaceful relations with the Guale were reestablished and Spanish missionary activities resumed by 1603. This effort was solidified by a visitacion by the Roman Catholic bishop of Cuba in 1606.
There followed half a century of relatively peaceful activity by Spain along the Guale coast, a period in which Spanish military and evangelistic hegemony reached its peak. However, beginning in 1670, with the establishment of Charles Town and the new English colony of South Carolina, increasing troubles between England and Spain, based largely on commercial considerations in the region, led to the eventual decline of the Spanish missionary presence in Georgia. In 1680, an English force, with Indian allies, attacked Santa Catalina, the primary mission at St. Catherines Island. The mission was moved to Sapelo, the next island to the south, where it was active for another six years. Following further raids, Spanish officials in St. Augustine ordered the deactivation of missions north of the St. Marys River in 1686.
Nothing now remains of any of the Spanish missions and few references to them are to be found in the eighteenth-century English colonial records for Georgia. For this reason, historians paid scant attention to the mission era until recent years when careful scrutiny of official Spanish records in Europe led to a renewed interest in the Almost two hundred years. In 1981, an archaeological team led by David Hurst Thomas located the site of Mission Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island. A systematic investigation of the rich yield of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artifacts and several building foundations beneath the soil have led to a greater understanding of both the Spanish missionary culture and the resident Guale and Timucuan Indians to which the friars ministered.
The archaeological evidence at St. Catherines, Parris Island, and other mission sites has translated into greater understanding of the Franciscan presence on the Guale coast during the two lost centuries. Clearly, life was difficult for those on station at the remote, isolated barrier island missions, as well as for the resident Guale Indians. Infectious diseases took a heavy toll on Native Americans and Europeans alike, and epidemics of smallpox, typhoid and measles were not uncommon. This was particularly so among the Guale who had no immunity or resistance to these heretofore unknown diseases. Out of about one thousand Guale who inhabited St. Catherines Island and its environs when the Spaniards arrived in 1570, only a handful remained at the end of the mission era on the Guale coast 116 years later.
The accumulation by the Spanish and subsequent archaeological discovery of numerous religious artifacts at the Santa Catalina mission testifies to the intense effort by the Franciscans to impose Catholicism on the native people. Evidence on these sites also demonstrates the difficulty of the Spanish to adapt to their landscape environment--wheat residue found at St. Catherines was likely imported from Spain or perhaps St. Augustine, since surviving records indicate little success in the cultivation of this important Spanish dietary staple on the Guale coast. More is being learned about the lives of these far-flung missionaries as interest in the lost two hundred years increases among archaeologists and historians.
For thirty-five years following the abandonment of the missions, the coast of Guale lay at the center of increasing dispute between the English in South Carolina and the Spaniards in Florida. The stretch of coast between Beaufort and Amelia Island, known as the Adebatable land, came to represent the linchpin of a growing commercial struggle between England, Spain, and France. To protect their interests, Carolina merchants centered at Charles Town sponsored John Barnwell and his rangers to establish a permanent outpost, Fort King George, near the mouth of the Altamaha River in 1721. The English built a cypress blockhouse and stationed troops there for several years to deter the Spaniards from potential encroachments toward Carolina. The unhealthy Altamaha delta region took a far greater toll on them than did their Spanish adversaries, however, and the English abandoned Fort King George in 1727.
The Georgia Colony Under the Trustees
The concept for the establishment of a new English colony between South Carolina and Spanish Florida may reasonably be said to have begun as early as 1717 when Scotsman Sir Robert Montgomery proposed (to no result) his ambitious Amargravate of Azilia on the coast that would become Georgia. By 1729, the British Board of Trade was advocating an extension of South Carolina further southward, below the Savannah River, for protective purposes against Spanish Florida. South Carolina had become an important commercial enterprise with productive rice plantations along the coast from Georgetown to Beaufort, and a burgeoning slave and sugar trade with British colonies in the Caribbean.
At the same time, James Edward Oglethorpe, member of Parliament since 1722, was heading a committee to investigate deplorable conditions in English debtor prisons. Among the recommendations of Oglethorpe's committee was the release of thousands of Adebtors to form the basis of a new colony. This action would serve the additional purpose of providing a military buffer for South Carolina in response to the increasingly antagonistic Spanish authorities in St. Augustine. Thus, in 1730, a concerted Georgia movement had begun with Oglethorpe, John Viscount Percival, James Vernon, and others forming the corporation that came to be known as the Georgia Trustees. By 1732 the Trustees' proposal had received the blessing of King George II, the latter approving the settlement of lands between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers. The Trustees honored the king's support by giving their venture his name--Georgia.
There has been much written by earlier generations of Georgia historians regarding the philanthropic ideals upon which the new colony was founded. In actuality, few Adebtors were among the first settlers of Georgia. The Trustees, philanthropy notwithstanding, had two primary motives for the colony, one being to claim the disputed land along the coast between South Carolina and Spanish Florida, and the other being purely economic: the mercantilistic prospects (and profits) offered by the establishment of agricultural ventures and their attendant trade outlets with English possessions in the Caribbean basin. There was a great deal of emphasis placed upon silk production in the new colony, although this effort had met with little success in Virginia and the Carolinas earlier. They also viewed the semi-tropical climate of coastal Georgia as ideal for the cultivation of a variety of spices and the production of wine.
Oglethorpe himself accompanied the first group of 114 settlers to America, these being recruited through a vigorous promotional campaign by the Trustees (another 500 colonists followed a year later). The ship Ann, transporting the first colonists, sailed from London in November 1732 and arrived at Charles Town two months later. Proceeding to Beaufort, Oglethorpe quickly selected high ground at Yamacraw Bluff on the Savannah River, sixteen miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, as the site of a settlement. It is likely that Colonel William Bull, royal governor of South Carolina and an experienced surveyor, had considerable input in the selection of the site of Savannah. Chief Tomochichi of the local Yamacraw Indians, through interpretation provided by trader John Musgrove and his Native American wife of mixed descent, Mary Musgrove, gave Oglethorpe his approval for the settlement. Oglethorpe and the colonists, accompanied by Bull, landed at Savannah on February 12, 1733, and plans were immediately put in motion for the building of a town on the high bluff.
Oglethorpe and Bull laid out the new town of Savannah to be centered around a series of squares, likely modeled after eighteenth-century London grid patterns. The squares were to be surrounded by forty lots, each sixty by ninety feet. These groupings were comprised of two wards, north and south of the square, each with ten-lot sections called tythings. To the east and west of the squares were Trust lots for public use. This unique town plan incorporated a Common on three sides--for defensive purposes--with the river on the fourth (north) side. The Georgia Trustees envisioned a utopian land-use and land-grant system in their provision of lots in Savannah and the surrounding area. The first house in the square was framed and raised, Mr. Oglethorpe driving the first pin, Peter Gordon noted in his diary for March 1, 1733, "We are now divided into different gangs and each gang had their proper labor assigned to them, so that we proceeded in our labor much more regular than before [with] a set of shingle makers and a sufficient number of Negro sawyers who were hired from Carolina to be assisting us." Savannah's ward system was expanded as the town grew. By the early nineteenth century, the Common had been expanded to include two wide boulevards on the east and west sides.
Oglethorpe had received training as a military engineer both in England and on the Continent; thus, he was acutely aware of the need for the establishment of proper defenses. In this regard, he immediately fortified an inland outpost at Fort Argyle on the Ogeechee River to protect the southern and western approaches to Savannah, and a tidewater defensive work--the Thunderbolt fort on Augustine Creek--to guard Savannah's eastern flank. Establishment of good relations with the local Creeks was critical to the early success of the colony and Oglethorpe proved to be a capable diplomat. Afterwards Tomochichi fixed a lighted pipe of tobacco and presented it to Mr. Oglethorpe, who having smoked several whiffs they then presented it to the other gentlemen, wrote Gordon in his diary for March 7, 1733.
Later, to solidify his position, Oglethorpe signed a formal peace treaty with many of the chiefs of the Lower Creek nation, and on a return to England in May 1734, he presented Tomochichi and his nephew Toonahowi to the Royal court.