Last Years of the Century

President George Washington visited Savannah, Georgia, in 1791. The Midway Society appointed a committee to write a letter of gratitude on their behalf and deliver it to the chief executive when he was in Savannah. Members of the committee were James Maxwell, Colonel Daniel Stewart, Reverend Abiel Holmes, Henry Wood, and John P. Wood.


Part of the letter read.


“Though situated in the extreme part of the Union, we gratefully acknowledge that we have already experienced the propitious influence of your wise and parental administration.

“To the troops stationed on our frontier by your orders, and to the treaty lately concluded with the Creek Indians under your auspices, we are indebted. under Providence, for our present tranquility. The hatchet is buried, and we smoke with our Indian neighbors the calument of peace.

“Distant as our situation is from the Seat of Government, permit us to assure you that our influence, however consi­derable in the national scale, shall not be wanting in encour­aging submission to the laws of the United States, and thus under God perpetuate the blessings of an efficient Federal government now so happily established.”

President Washington’s reply to the letter said in part:


“From the gallantry and fortitude of her citizens, under the auspices of Heaven, America has gained her independence. To their industry and the material advantage of the country, she is indebted for her prosperous situation.

“Continue, my fellow Americans, to cultivate the peace and harmony which now exists between you and your Indian neighbors. The happy consequence is immediate–the reflection which arises on justice and benevolence will be lastingly grateful.

“A knowledge of your happiness will lighten the cares of my station, and be among the most pleasing of their rewards.”


The Midway and Newport Library Society was established before the Revolutionary War. It was a successor to the Dor­chester and Beech Hill Alphabet Society established in South Carolina before 1740. It was discontinued during and rein­stated after the Revolutionary War. Its first officials after its reinstitution were Reverend Abiel Holmes, president, Thomas Stevens, librarian, William Quarterman, treasurer, and Jona­than Elliott, clerk.


At one time the Midway and Newport Library Society contained 500 books. Its members seemed to have had a good sense of humor. They proposed this in a letter to a Savannah newspaper: “Would it not be a great advantage should the legislature establish a lottery to be drawn every fourth year, in which all the old bachelors over 25, and all old maids over 21 should be drawn out in pairs and married on the spot?”


Reverend William McWhir became headmaster of Sun­bury Academy in 1791. He replaced Reverend Reuben Hitch­cock, who remained at the school as a teacher. McWhir was a Presbyterian minister, a native of Ireland, graduated from Belfast College, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Belfast. He emigrated to America in 1783, settled in Alex­andria, Virginia, and for ten years was principal of an academy of which George Washington was a trustee, and whose step­children he taught.


Reverend McWhir raised the standards of Sunbury Acade­my until it became one of the best schools in Georgia. He married Mary Lapina Baker, widow of Colonel John Baker, and they had no children.


Reverend A.T. Holmes, probably related to Reverend Abiel Holmes, migrated from South Carolina to Liberty County after the Revolutionary War to teach at Sunbury Academy. He had two sons, Lathrop and Liberty Holmes, who became physicians, practiced medicine in Liberty Coun­ty, and married Sarah Sumner and Susannah Quarterman, respectively.


Georgia paid the first of several high honors to Liberty County citizens when it instituted a county on December 12, 1792, and named it Screven County in honor of Briga­dier General James Screven. It was also in 1792 that the state carved a county from Liberty County and named it McIntosh County in honor of the McIntosh families, some of whom are prominent in Liberty County history.


The General Assembly, after the Revolutionary War, auth­orized the construction of a public road from Sunbury to Wilkes County, Georgia. The authorization was never fully implemented, but the Sunbury Road was built from Sun­bury to Greene County, Georgia. It was recognized as a state highway in 1792, and was the longest vehicular route in the state at that time.


The Liberty County Jockey Club held its regular business meeting in June 1793 in Corkers Tavern at the North New­port River bridge. That site in four more years would be Riceboro, second county seat of Liberty County. Stewards for the club were Jonathan Fabian, Roger P. Saunders, and John P. Mann. Its race track later became the first place of muster and parade ground of the Liberty Independent Troop.


During the autumn of 1795, Reverend Cyrus Gildersleeve, pastor of Midway Church, was granted leave by its congrega­tion to visit friends and relatives in the North. The church was left without a pastor in his absence. A deduction was made from his salary by the church for the time he was absent. That sum went to Thomas Stevens, who read sermons and conducted prayer meetings and other church activities during the partor’s absence.


John Dollar (1742-1797), first sheriff of Liberty County in 1786, died at his Antrim Plantation near Sunbury. His daughter, Jane Dollar, married John J. Bourquin, a Savannah attorney, in 1801.


The General Assembly in 1798 named Peter Winn , Colon­el Daniel Stewart, and Thomas Stevens to recommend educa­tional facilities for Liberty County. They appointed nine Liberty Countians to a committee to assist in the matter.