People, Current Events, And Lifestyle (1807 – 1835)

The Taylors Creek Camp Meeting probably commenced when the Taylors Creek Methodist Church was established in 1807. Land for a permanent camp meeting site was do­nated in 1818 by J.P. Mell, Newman Bradley, and Robeson Bird. The camp meetings began with a night service on the first Friday in October, and came to a close the following Tuesday night. Five services a day, conducted by more than one minister, were held on each of the five days.


Andrew Walthour owned two rice plantations on the Liberty County coast. He, and everybody else, was plagued by swarms of mosquitoes during the summer months. He apparently discovered that the mosquitoes were not so preva­lent inland on high ground, because shortly after the War of 1812 he built a home inland on high ground. The site was at first known as Sand Hill. Residents of a community which grew up around his home changed its name to Walthourville.


Such homes as those built by Walthour and his neighbors were called “retreats.” The homes were spacious and in some cases larger than the plantation dwelling. They did not know that mosquitoes caused malaria fever. They were well aware, however, that the death rate from “ague” or fever was great­er along the swampy coast than it was on high ground inland.


The national figure most admired by Liberty County residents in 1817 was former President Thomas Jefferson. They liked the Republican doctrines he devised. They liked what the Republicans were doing, and deplored policies and doctrines of the Federalists. The latter openly expressed their dislike for followers of the Jefferson doctrines. It was during this period of time that the first division of the North and South emerged.


By 1817 there was plenty of land for sale along the Georgia coast. The Columbian Museum and Savannah Daily Gazette advertised the sales.


State representatives for Liberty County in 1817 supported a plan to establish a permanent school fund for the state. But it was many years before an organized system of tax-sup­ported schools existed in Georgia.


Members of the Midway Society in 1817 voted to assess 75¢ on each seat in Midway Church to raise $200 to repair the cemetery wall and paint the church. A part of the money, they said, would be used to supplement the pastor’s salary.


It was in April 1817 that female members of Midway Church formed an organization known as the “Liberty County Female Cent Society.” They later changed the name to “Liberty County Female Cent Society to the American Society for the Educating of Pious Youths for the Gospel Ministry.” The members declared themselves solely Presby­terian, although their church was of the Congregational denomination. They operated eight Sunday schools for slaves, contributed to the education of a number of ministers, and engaged a minister to preach to white persons in destitute sections of the county.


It was during this period of time that members of a Lad­son family in South Carolina migrated to Liberty County. Their connections with Liberty County families, particularly the Dunwoody’s, made them some of the most important people in the county at the time.


Brigadier General Daniel Stewart resigned his commission in the Georgia Militia in 1817. That same year, the Liberty Independent Troop was a component of the First Squadron, Georgia Militia, and was attached for duty to the Fourth Battalion, Second Regiment, First Brigade, Georgia Militia.


Outstanding social events in Liberty County at the end of 1817 and the beginning of 1818 were the marriages of Hester Amarantha Elliott, daughter of John Elliott III to James S. Bulloch, and Martha Stewart, daughter of Brigadier General Daniel Stewart, to John Elliott III, a widower.


The U.S. invaded Florida, still occupied by Spain, in 1818. Justification for the invasion was a contention by the U.S. that West Florida was a part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. A year later Spain ceded all of Florida to the U.S.


A Baptist church was organized near Riceboro in 1818.


Reverend Thomas Sumner Winn was its first pastor. He died soon afterward, and was replaced by Reverend Henry K. Ripley. The church was large and had a gallery for slave wor­shippers.


Deaths of prominent Liberty Countians in 1818 include Elizabeth White, who briefly operated a “Female Asylum” at Sunbury for destitute women, Thomas M. Kallender, Thomas Stevens, and John Cooke, all physicians, and Thomas Bradwell, a major in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812.


It was “hard times” for many people in Liberty County in 1818. An economic depression, the seventh the nation had known since 1790, gripped the entire country. Like most of its predecessors it lasted for three years.


A new form of recreation became available to Liberty County when the first playhouse in Georgia, the New Thea­ter, opened in Savannah, Georgia, on December 14, 1818. The opening play was “The Soldier’s Daughter.” It was per­formed by a traveling troupe of actors and actresses. Admis­sion to the theater was $1 and 50¢ to the gallery. The per­formance began at 6:30 p.m. No smoking was permitted in the theater, and there were refreshments for sale in the lobby.


The General Assembly on December 15, 1818, consti­tuted two new counties in North Georgia and named them for citizens of Liberty County. They were Hall County and Gwinnett County, named for Lyman Hall and Button Gwin­nett. Gwinnett was second and last president of the Georgia Council of Safety, while Hall was governor of the state. Both were signers of the Declaration of Independence.


Members of the Jones Creek Baptist Church met in a brush arbor from the time the church was established in 1810 until they erected a log meeting house on property of Andrew Walthour. In May 1819, Walthour deeded the land to the church on which the meeting house stood.


It was in 1819 that Reverend William McWhir, a Presby­terian minister and retired headmaster of Sunbury Academy, died, He and his wife since his retirement had resided on the Springfield Plantation of John and Margaret McCartney Stevens. Both McWhir and his wife were buried in Sunbury Cemetery.


One of the most important national events of 1819 was the departure of the S.S. Savannah from Savannah, Georgia, for New York and England. There were Liberty Countians on hand for the elaborate ceremonies. President James Mon­roe was in town to make a speech on the occasion of the first transatlantic crossing of a steamship. The vessel was actually a sailing packet equipped with a steam engine and iron pad­dle wheels.


Elijah Baker (1769-1839), who served as ordinary of Liberty County longer than any other ordinary in history, in 1819 advertised in a Savannah newspaper that the estate of Thomas M. Kallender, a deceased physician, would be sold at Riceboro in May of that year by William Robarts, execu­tor of the estate.


Baker also advertised that year that the estate of John Robarts, deceased, would be disposed of at Riceboro by Elizabeth Robarts, his widow, Joseph Quarterman, and Louis LeConte, administrators of the estate.


Cotton in 1819 sold for about 50¢ a pound, rice for six cents a pound, corn for $1 a bushel, and sugar for $8 per 100 pounds. There was virtually no market for naval stores that year.


It was during the period 1800-1820 that a class of people emerged along the coast of Georgia best described by Fanny Kemble Butler, an English actress, in a book she wrote after she divorced Pierce Butler of McIntosh County, Georgia. She called them “filthy, proud, and penniless,” and said that they were “despised by the slaves, would not work, and squatted, stole, and starved.” Louis LeConte, who studied medicine but was not a medical doctor, traveled among the people and gave them medical attention. In some cases he brought half-starved, ill children home with him and nursed them back to good health. Some of the plantation families tried to elevate the lives of the poor people with religion, but their efforts accomplished little. Some of the poor people, on their own, lifted themselves up by their bootstraps and became a part of the mainstream of Liberty County life. Their descendants, in time, became valuable citizens of Liberty County.


British writers who traveled in Georgia during the period 1800-1820 said that the favorite alcoholic drinks of Liberty Countians were mint juleps, mint slings, two concoctions called “Hail-Storm” and “Snow Storm,” and one mixture called “Tom and Jerry.” They found the “drunken habits” of the poor, backwoods people of Liberty County “disgusting” and almost as objectionable as their “constant chewing and spitting of tobacco.” Affluent plantation families in Liberty County were not critized by the writers, most likely because they were guests of the families when they passed through the county. But there was drunkenness among the affluent. Louis LeConte on one occasion had guests who became so intoxicated that they had to be put to bed by the butler. This so disgusted LeConte that he never again served intoxi­cating drinks to his guests.


Liberty Countians in 1820 were probably reading a new book written by Washington Irving and titled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon. The book included the stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”


Liberty County had no permanent jail 70 years after it was first settled. The state on December 22, 1820, author­ized the Inferior Court to levy an extra tax for the purpose. A brick jail was constructed at Riceboro, the county seat, by March 1, 1822.


Walthourville Academy was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1823. Its first commissioners were Samuel J. Axson, Brigadier General Daniel Stewart, Thomas Bacon, Thomas Mallard, and Samuel Smith. The school house was built on property donated for the purpose by Andrew Walt­hour. The first headmaster was Edward Pyncheon.


William H. Crawford was the choice of Liberty County voters during the presidential election of 1824. He was opposed by John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay. No one candidate received a majority of the electoral vote, so the House of Representatives elected Adams the following year.


It was in 1824 that the Marquis de Lafayette, champion of the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, visited all 24 of the United States. He excited Liberty Coun­ty planters with his plans for joining rivers in Georgia by canals and creating a statewide waterway to the sea via the Altamaha and Ogeechee rivers. His plan was seriously con­sidered by the state legislature, but the coming of the rail­roads put the scheme on the shelf of historical memories.


Many, many years later the plan was taken off the shelf and seriously considered when an alternate route was sought by the U.S. government for transporting missiles made in Alabama to launching pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida.


William Fleming, father of William Bennett Fleming, in 1824 received a grant of land at Gravel Hill near property of John and Jane Martin. He deeded parcels of his proper­ty to John Osgood Jr., Oliver Stevens, Peter Farley Winn, Joseph Norman, Simon Alexander Fraser, John Bacon, and Reverend Murdock Murphy, because he wanted them to be his neighbors. A civic group known as the Church and Society of Gravel Hill changed the name of the community to Flemington in honor of William Fleming.


James M. Wayne (1790-1867) was Judge of Superior Courts of the Eastern Circuit during the period 1824-1829. He was a native of Savannah, Georgia, and served two terms as a U.S. Congressman. He made several speeches at Rice­boro in support of Andrew Jackson when he was running for president of the U.S. Jackson was, of course, elected and appointed Wayne to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1835. He served as an associate justice until he died. He remained a U.S. citizen during the Civil War.


The Savannah Georgian newspaper reported that cotton crops in Liberty County had been seriously damaged by a northeast gale on June 3, 1825. The news item said “very heavy rain cut and protracted the plants.”


It was during the first 25 years of the nineteenth century that industrial growth in America occurred which caused plantation owners in Liberty County to acquire more land and slaves, and raise more cotton. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin on Mulberry Plantation at Savannah, Georgia. A power loom for spinning and weaving was installed in a Massachusetts factory. The New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland manufacturing regions spread to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and northern Kentucky. Water power was harnessed for cotton mills, and coal re­placed wood as fuel.


Reverend Robert Quarterman became pastor of Midway Church in 1824. He was the first native-born Liberty Coun­tian to fill its pulpit. The Midway Society set his salary at $800 a year.


Agriculture continued to be the only industry in Liberty County. A report in later years by the Georgia Department of Agriculture said: “The absorption of practically all of the available capitol in the purchase of land and slaves, prevented the development of manufacturing, and, in fact of any but agricultural industry.”


A contribution by Liberty County to the future national economy occurred in 1825 when striped, or ribbon, sugar cane plants from Liberty County were introduced to Louisi­ana. In time, descendants of those same plants made that state one of the largest producers of sugar in the world.


The General Assembly in 1825 enacted a law requiring all components of the state militia in Liberty County to hold future musters at Ganeys Hill in Flemington. The Liberty Independent Troop that year was still assigned to the First Squadron, Georgia Militia, and attached for duty to the Fourth Battalion, Second Regiment, First Brigade, First Division, Georgia Militia.


The state legislature in 1826 enacted laws regulating elec­tion districts in Liberty County, and trading by country merchants. The latter law became so unpopular that it was repealed a few years later.


The General Assembly instituted Baker County, Georgia, on December 12, 1825. It was named for Colonel John Baker of Liberty County, one of Georgia’s best soldiers during the Revolutionary War.


Residents of the 18th Militia District, along the Tattnall County line, decided during this period of time that the county seat of Tattnall County was nearer and therefore more convenient to them than the county seat of Liberty County at Riceboro. They petitioned the state representa­tive for Liberty County, who introduced a bill in the state legislature which was passed and placed the district in Tatt­nall County. From that time on there was never again an 18th Militia District in Liberty County.


There apparently were difficulties in Wayne, Liberty, and Glynn counties maintaining a roster of constables during this time. The General Assembly in 1830 approved legislation requiring Inferior Courts in those counties where there was no candidate for constable, to compile a list of persons liable to serve, and draw at least two, who would serve a one-year term.


The state legislature provided that fees for constables would be raised in addition to their former fee of 25 percent of each fine they levied in all cases. It also gave the Inferior Court the power to appoint constables at any time, when there was no regular constable available.


New names began to appear on the roster of Liberty County officials as the nineteenth century grew older. Charlton Hines migrated from Effingham County to Liberty County early in the century and was elected state senator in 1828. He served in that office for eight terms, not all in sequence.


Constant changes were taking place all over Georgia by 1828. The state capitol moved from Savannah to Augusta in 1785,to Louisville in 1796, and to Milledgeville in 1806. Macon was founded in 1824 and Columbus in 1828.


Travel was more available but as rugged as ever in 1828. There were stagecoach stations at Riceboro and Sunbury, and the central stagecoach station in Savannah was the Geor­gia Hotel. An average stagecoach load was four persons. You were required to purchase your ticket in advance, and if you failed to show up got no refund. The stagecoach line assumed no responsibility for your luggage.


Roswell King Jr. built a bridge over the Ogeechee River and it became known as “King’s Bridge.” It was built to accommodate the transport of Liberty County plantation products to Savannah, Georgia, and must not have been a very substan­tial structure. A stagecoach outbound from Sunbury, loaded with passengers, luggage, and freight, plunged into the Ogee­chee River when the bridge collapsed. Passengers and horses clawed their way out of the swift river downstream.


Gold was discovered in 1828 at Dukes Creek in White County, which at that time was still a part of Habersham County, Georgia. It was also claimed in 1828 that gold had been discovered in Lumpkin County, Georgia. Some Liberty Countians joined the “gold rush” and in the process helped found Roswell, Georgia”


A travel guide in 1829 described Sunbury as having “a flourishing academy, a house of worship for the Baptists, 20 dwelling houses, two stores, three offices, and a popula­tion of 150.” The travel guide did not say so, but at that time Sunbury was no longer a port of any importance. It had been 15 years since the last ship of any size made port at Sunbury and took on a load of cotton.


Stewart County was instituted by the General Assembly on December 30, 1830. It was named for Brigadier General Daniel Stewart of Liberty County.


The Gum Branch Primitive Baptist Church was organized in 1833 out of the Beards Creek Primitive Baptist Church. Its congregation worshipped in a brush arbor on land donated for the purpose by Fanshaw Long Jr. A part of the land be­came a church cemetery. Samuel and David Delk were charter members of the church and its chief organizers. Sur­names of other families in the community who affiliated with the church include Robinson, Wells, Mobley, Flowers, Price, Tatam , and Baker.


The Taylors Creek Union Academy was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1833. I its board of trustees consisted of Eli Bradley, Enoch DanieL Robert Hendry r.. James H. Laing, and William H. Martin. Its spring and fall terms ex­tended over a ten-month period. Some of its teachers over the years were Reverend Moses W. Way Sr., Moses W. Way Jr., Reverend John W. Turner, Samuel J. Andrews, Joseph I. Daniel, Alice Wilson, and George M. Mills.


The Bank of Darien in McIntosh County, Georgia, received a charter from the General Assembly on October 15, 1833. State Senator Charlton Hines of Liberty County,chairman of the senate banking committee, gave the people of McIntosh County considerable assistance in establishing the institution.


No license was required to sell whiskey in Liberty County until 1833. It was in that year that the state legislature ap­proved a measure authorizing the Inferior Court to grant or refuse liquor licenses.


Poor Schools, forerunner of public schools, were estab­lished by the General Assembly on December 21,1833. The schools were for children of those parents financially unable to send them to a tuition school. The Liberty County Infer­ior Court was given the responsibility of setting up the schools, and collective farms when such help was needed. There were Poor Schools in Liberty County by the winter of 1834, but no collective farms were ever established in the county.


James N. Mobley of Effingham County, Georgia, married Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Peacock, descendant of one of the founding families of Liberty County,  in 1832. The following year they established a home and farm near the Gum Branch community. Some of their descendants were still a part of Liberty County life 150 years later.


A new community started evolving in Liberty County dur­ing this period of time. Its earliest settlers had such surnames as Way, Shaw, Brewer, Wheeler, Foster, Hodges, Benton, and Zorn. They organized a Missionary Baptist Church and worshipped in a brush arbor. Jack Way, a member of the new community, in 1834 donated three acres of land on which members of the church congregation erected a log building to replace the brush arbor. They named it Elim Baptist Church from a passage in the Holy Bible.


The settlement around Elim Baptist Church became known as the Elim community. I its residents were small farmers who owned no slaves. They shipped to markets what they pro­duced on their farms on river boats from Hughes Landing on the Altamaha River. It was at Jones Creek, near Hughes Landing, that they got their mail and shopped in a general store. They used a stagecoach at Jones Creek or a river boat at Hughes Landing, to travel to other points.


Walthourville Union Institute was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1834. Its first trustees were E.A. Busbee, George Walthour, Raymond Harris, William P. McConnell, William Robarts, William N. Way, and Richard S. Baker. It and the Walthourville Academy, incorporated in 1823, were combined as the Walthourville Union Academy on June 1, 1836. Its first trustees were George W. Walthour, Charles West, William Q. Baker, Edwin H. Bacon, and William J. Way.


Tranquil Academy, which later became Tranquil Institute, was incorporated at Flemington by the General Assembly in 1835. I its first trustees were Robert Quarterman, Ezra Stacy, Simon Alexander Fraser, and William J. Way.


John and William Wells, brothers, migrated from North Carolina before 1830, married local girls, and received grants of land in the upper part of the county. Elias Still Ray and his wife and family migrated from South Carolina in 1835 and settled on two grants of land also in the upper part of the county. Descendents of all three men were still residing in Liberty County 150 years later.