Based on the collections of the Georgia Historical Society, the following online educational exhibit has been prepared for students and educators. Ten events from the eighteenth century have been identified and are illustrated with a brief description and examples of supporting primary documents.
For larger images of the visual materials presented, you may click on the thumbnails found following each section. Click on the thumbnails of documents to enlarge them, or on the link to transcript for a typed version of the text.
In 1733, General James Edward Oglethorpe laid out the plan of the city of Savannah based on a system of town wards, each containing building lots, trust lots, and a central square. By 1734, the first four squares were laid out. Over the next century, Savannah would continue to grow and expand to the east, west, and south extending the square system as it went. The unique plan gives downtown Savannah much of its appeal to visitors today. Similar designs were used in the laying out of Ebenezer (seen below in 1747) and Brunswick.
View of Savannah as it stood on 29th of March 1734, drawn by Peter Gordon
Georgia Historical Society Map Collection, #1 SAV
In March 1734, Peter Gordon, one of the colony's original settlers, sketched the above view of Savannah looking south across the Savannah River at the settlement. When he returned to England, he was able to provide the colony's Trustees with this descriptive map and other invaluable information concerning the settlement of the colony.
Plan of Ebenezer, Georgia,
drawn by Samuel Urlsperger, 1747
Georgia Historical Society Map Collection, #112 GCCL,
from the Delores Boisfeuillet Collection
Take students on a walking tour of downtown Savannah, organized by the Massie Heritage Interpretation Center (at 207 East Gordon Street in Savannah), during which they can see firsthand the intact city plan designed by General Oglethorpe.
Examine maps of Savannah from the 19th and 20th centuries to demonstrate how the City of Savannah expanded Oglethorpe's original plan of wards and squares. Talk about how the squares affect the surrounding neighborhoods as opposed to later neighborhoods without central green spaces.
The seal used by the Trustees represented the colony's role within the British Empire, as well as its emphasis on the production of silk. The seal, seen in the above sketch, incorporated a black mulberry leaf with a silkworm and cocoon (mulberry leaves were used to feed the silkworms in sericulture, the cultivation of silk). The motto inscribed is"Non sibi sed aliis," Latin for "Not for themselves but for others." The seal and motto are a symbol of Georgia's role as a mercantile colony established to be the source of silk, not for their own benefit, but for England's.
In 1740, Benjamin Martyn (1699-1763) authored "An Impartial Enquiry into the State and Utility of the Province of Georgia." Martyn discussed the viability of the colony, describing both its strengths and weaknesses, while acting as Secretary to the Trustees.
Many critiqued of the usefulness and viability of the Georgia colony. In this document, Martyn lists these criticisms and explains, one by one, why they are invalid. Promotional literature about European colonies was not uncommon at the time - whether the information contained in that literature was true or not is another matter. Europeans interested in improving their lives and fortunes by emigrating from Europe to a colony in the New World were understandably apprehensive about the possibilities of untamed land, unfamiliar climates, and unfriendly natives. In the case of the Georgia colony, questions of the quality of the soil and the ability of colonists to propser without a dependence on slavery, which was banned in the colony until 1749, were foremost on many people's minds.
- Ask students to read the criticisms of the Georgia colony, along with Martyn's responses to them. Next have them assess the effectiveness and truth of the arguments put forth on both sides.
- Ask students to compose their own version of promotional literature for the City of Savannah and the State of Georgia today.
Reverend George Whitefield (1714-1770), printed in London for John Royall, n.d.
1361PH Georgia Historical Society Photograph Collection, Box 25, Folder 17, Item 4930
Reverend George Whitefield (1714-1770), a minister of the Church of England and one of the leaders of the Methodist movement, founded the Bethesda Orphan's Home in 1740 with the help of James Habersham. Now known as Bethesda Academy, it is the nation's oldest working orphanage.
Whitefield's efforts and success at Bethesda led to national recognition and attention during the 1740s. Due to his extensive travels in the American colonies, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures before George Washington. Benjamin Franklin was a supporter of the orphanage for a time, until he became persuaded that Savannah was not the best location for such a charitable institution. However, Franklin was unsuccessful in convincing his friend Whitefield that the orphanage would be better off if it were located in Pennsylvania.
Bethesda Home for Boys, 1740
1361 PH Georgia Historical Society Photograph Collection, Box 7, Folder 12, Item 1303
In 1748, Savannah minister Samuel Fayrweather wrote to Reverends Thomas Prince and Thomas Foxcraft providing a detailed account of the orphanage at Bethesda.
Fayrweather includes important historical information about Bethesda and describes the positioning and architecture of the home, the surrounding grounds and orchards, and the service, work, prayer and education of the students.
Have students read accounts of Bethesda in Carl Solana Weeks's book Savannah in the Time of Peter Tondee. Peter Tondee and his brother Charles were early residents of the orphanage, and Peter later became a successful tavern owner in Savannah. His famous Tondee's Tavern (formerly located at the corner of Broughton and Whitaker streets) was a frequent meeting place of the Liberty Boys, who were supporters of the patriot cause during the era of the American Revolution.
Arrange a visit for students to historic Bethesda Academy on Ferguson Avenue in Savannah (www.bethesdaacademy.org ). There is a museum on the property which recounts the history of the institution.
Samuel Fayrweather's Account of Bethesda, 1748, MS 249 S. Fayrweather Papers, Item 1
Early Maps of Georgia
Carte de la Caroline and Georgia Pour Servir a l'Histoire Generale des Voyages, drawn by M. B. Ing of the French Navy, 1757
(Map of Carolina and Georgia to Serve the General History of Travels)
Georgia Historical Society Map Collection, #298 SS
Maps serve an important purpose in historical studies. Maps can be used for many different reasons. They represent what was known and unknown about a particular area. Countries used maps to explore unknown places and establish their claim in the new territories. The above 1757 map of the southeastern coast of the British colonies in North America reveals many place names that are familiar to residents of these areas today. It provides geographic details, including rivers, mountains, and islands, as well as latitude and longitude markers. The below map, drawn by Samuel Urlsperger ten years earlier, shows settlements, forts, and trade paths in the colonies of Georgia and South Carolina.
Southeast Coast of the American Colonies, drawn by Samuel Urlsperger, 1747
Georgia Historical Society Map Collection, #112 GCCL, from the Delores Boisfeuillet Collection
1. Have students compare and contrast these maps with modern maps of the same regions.
2. Discuss what was happening in 1747 and 1757, both in Europe and the American colonies. Talk about the different reasons the above maps may have been used.
Council of Safety
Council of Safety Minutes, 19 December 1775
MS 282 Georgia-Council of Safety Papers, Volume 1
Revolutionary fervor was slower to take hold in Georgia than other American colonies. Yet when news reached Savannah that British troops fired on American Minute Men in Massachusetts, acts of rebellion became much more prominent in the colony. Such acts included a raid by Savannah's Liberty Boys, a local group of patriots, on the public powder magazine. In July 1775, a Provincial Congress was established to act as a separate government in Georgia in opposition to Royal authority. The Congress also established a sixteen-member Council of Safety.
The Provincial Congress exercised executive and judicial powers as a body through committees. When the Congress was not in session the Council of Safety served as the executive committee with the power to raise troops, direct military activities, undertake Indian negotiations, issue monies, provide expenditures and oversee the publication of a newspaper. The December 19, 1775 sample of the recorded minutes of the Council of Safety meetings, seen above, reflects the types of day-to-day responsibilities of the Council. After the adoption of the state Constitution in 1777, the Council of Safety was dissolved.
1. Discuss the kinds of activities in which the Council of Safety might have been involved.
2. Have students hold a mock Council meeting and present different issues that might have come before this war-time council.
3. Look at the names of the Council members listed in the document above, what did these men go on to do during and after the American Revolution?
Royal Governor Sir James Wright
Sir James Wright (1761-1785), portrait painted by Andrea Soldi, n.d.
1361PH Georgia Historical Society Photograph Collection, Box 25, Folder 15, Item 4925
Sir James Wright (1716-1785), an attorney and plantation owner, was appointed Royal Governor of Georgia in April 1761 after the resignation of Governor Henry Ellis. Wright was the third and last British Royal Governor of the Colony of Georgia. Wright was a very successful governor, encouraging the colony's growth by attracting new settlers, successfully negotiating with the Native Americans and overseeing the expansion of Georgia's territory. Wright himself became one of the largest landowners in the state with eleven plantations and 523 slaves.
As revolutionary fervor spread through the colonies in the early 1770s, Wright's popularity, along with his administrative ability, effectively delayed rebellious activity in Georgia. Yet he could not stop the growing dissatisfaction with colonial rule. In January 1776, a group of patriots led by Joseph Habersham issued an arrest warrant for Governor Wright and briefly took him prisoner. Within a month, Wright broke his parole and fled Savannah for London on the British Navy man-of-war, the HMS Scarborough.
Arrest Warrant for Governor James Wright, January 1776
When the British captured Savannah in December 1778 Wright was reinstated as Royal Governor. The British continued to hold the city until after the battle of Yorktown in October 1781. Wright and the royal government evacuated Savannah on July 11, 1782 and returned to England. Sir James Wright died in London on November 20, 1785 and is buried at Westminster Abbey.
1. Have students read the arrest warrant and discuss why a popular governor like James Wright might be arrested and thrown out of office by the American revolutionaries.
2. Discuss the powers of the Royal governors. Who oversaw the colony before its transfer to the Royal Crown?
Count Casimir Pulaski
Count Casimir Pulaski (1745-1779)
1361PH Georgia Historical Society Photograph Collection, Box 25, Folder 9, Item 4856
Count Casimir Pulaski (1745-1779) was born in Warka, Poland near Warsaw. After fighting for Polish independence from the Russian Empire, Pulaski became inspired by the ideals of the American patriots fighting for independence from Great Britain. He came to America and joined the revolutionary effort in 1777. His first fighting along the frontlines took place at the Battle of Brandywine. Before long he was commissioned a Brigadier-General and placed in command of the American cavalry.
In the battle for Savannah in October 1779, also known as the Siege of Savannah, Pulaski was given charge of the armies of both the American and French forces under General Benjamin Lincoln and Count d'Estaing, respectively. The British had controlled Savannah for almost a year, and the combined French and American forces made a valiant attempt to gain control of the city. The battle took place on Spring Hill Redoubt, southwest of the town. While leading a cavalry charge, Pulaski was wounded by a grapeshot, or bullet, that pierced the upper part of his thigh. He was taken at once to the USS Wasp where he later died on October 11, 1779 of gangrene without regaining consciousness. He was buried at sea. Pulaski was the only high-ranking officer of foreign birth to lose his life for the American cause during the American Revolutionary War. A monument was erected in his honor in Monterey Square in Savannah during the 19th century.
Pulaski Grapeshot that killed Count Casimir Pulaski, October 1779
A-1361 Georgia Historical Society Artifact Collection, Item A-1361-48
The Pulaski Grapeshot is mounted on an engraved silver candlestick and inscribed, "Grapeshot which mortally wounded Count Casimir Pulaski, Oct. 9, 1779, extracted from his body by Dr. James Lynah, ancestor of present owner, James Lynah, Esq." The Lynah family kindly donated this artifact to the Georgia Historical Society, where it is on display to the public.
Pulaski Monument, Monterey Square, Savannah, 1857
1361PR Georgia Historical Society Print Collection, Box 3, Folder 40a
1. Visit the Savannah History Museum at the Savannah Visitor's Center, on the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Liberty Street in Savannah (www.chsgeorgia.org ). The museum is near the site of the Siege of Savannah battle in which Pulaski was injured and provides a good overview history of Savannah.
2. Visit the Pulaski Monument in Monterey Square on Bull Street in Savannah. Have students look up recent articles regarding the monument's restoration and the attempts to verify the remains of Pulaski.
3. Discuss what other foreign groups were involved with the Siege of Savannah, particularly the Haitian forces. How did their involvement with the American Revolution influence their circumstances in their own country?
Abigail Minis Petition for Certificates, 14 January 1780, MS 568 Minis Colonial Papers, Item 4
Abigail Minis (c.1701-1794) was one of the earliest settlers of the Georgia colony. She landed in the new colony with her husband and children in July 1733. Her husband, Abraham Minis, became a successful merchant and land owner in Savannah. After his death in 1757, Abigail took over the management of the family's mercantile firm and tavern and oversaw more than 1,000 acres of land in and around the city of Savannah.
Throughout the American Revolution the Minis family supported the Patriots. During the Siege of Savannah, in October 1779, Abigail provided provisons to the American and French forces trying to capture the city from the British. After the failed attempt to unseat the British from Savannah, Minis and her family temporarily moved to South Carolina. While in Charleston, South Carolina, Abigail wrote the above letter on January 14, 1780 to her friend and fellow Savannahian Mordecai Sheftall, who was currently in Philadelphia. Abigail was requesting he help her gain reimbursement for the assistance she provided the Continental Army during the Siege of Savannah. Abigail Minis eventually returned to Savannah where she died on October 11, 1794 at the age of ninety-three.
1. Discuss the various options Abigail Minis had while trying to get reimbursded. Did she choose the most effective approach?
2. Discuss the role of women in Georgia's colonial society. Would that role affect her chance of success in gaining reimbursement for her aid during the American Revolution?
United States Constitution
United States Constitution, First Printing, with Abraham Baldwin's Handwritten Notes, c.1787
From the collections of the Georgia Historical Society
The Constitution of the United States was completed on September 17, 1787 and adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It was later ratified by special conventions in each of the thirteen states. It created a more unified government in place of what was then a group of semi-independent states operating under the Articles of Confederation. The new Constitution took effect in 1789 and has since served as a model for the constitutions of numerous other nations. It is the oldest national constitution still in use.
Abraham Baldwin was born in 1754 in Connecticut and educated at Yale. After spending time as a chaplain in the Continental Army, Baldwin moved to Georgia in 1783. In the years that followed, Abraham Baldwin served as a trustee of the endowment for the University of Georgia. He wrote the charter for the University that was adopted in 1783. In 1787, Baldwin, as a Georgia delegate to the Confederation Congress, was appointed as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He sat on the committee charged with working out the details of the transfer of government under the Articles of Confederation to a new government under the Constitution. Baldwin's working copy of the Constitution, with his handwritten notes visible in the text and along the margins, is in the collections of the Georgia Historical Society. The content of this edition varies slightly from the final version adopted in 1787 and ratified by the states.
United States Constitution of 1787 with Abraham Baldwin's Handwritten Notes, c.1787
From the collections of the Georgia Historical Society
1. A comparison of the United States government under the Articles of Confederation to the government under the United States Constitution could include a discussion of difficulties faced by Baldwin and his committee in working out the transition from one form of government to another.
2. Compare the ratified version of the Constitution to this version and discuss the differences. Look at Baldwin's handwritten notes, were they applied in the final draft?
Early Georgia History
William Bacon Stevens' History of Georgia, published 1847
Georgia Historical Society Rare Book Collection, F286.S84 Rare
In 1847, Reverend William Bacon Stevens, M.D. published the first volume of History of Georgia, from its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption of the Present Constitution. An excerpt of which is seen here with an image of General James Edward Oglethorpe. By the time of its publication, more than a century had passed since Oglethorpe's arrival in 1733 without a comprehensive account of Georgia's history. By 1839, in an effort to collect materials reflecting the story of Georgia since the American Revolution, a small group of men organized the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, GA. It was the state's first historical organization. As officers were elected for the new Society, William Stevens became its first corresponding secretary and later librarian. With the support of the Society, Stevens worked for years collecting and studying the records of Georgia's past. The result of Stevens' efforts was the first volume, seen here, published in 1847, and a second volume published in 1859.
William Bacon Stevens' History of Georgia, published 1847
Georgia Historical Society Rare Book Collection, F286.S84 Rare
Title page and pages 114-115 and 116-117 describing the condition of the Georgia colony in 1734
1. Discuss with students the different records, documents, maps, etc. that might be used to create a history if no book on the subject existed.
2. Visit the New Georgia Encyclopedia online at www.georgiaencyclopedia.org, and discuss the effort it would have taken William Stevens to create his book on Georgia history compared to our easy access to historical information today.
3. Visit a library to see how many books on Georgia history we have today.
Click here for a quiz about 18th century Georgia and other teacher resources.