Signs of the Times (1754-1758)

Governor Reynolds arrived in Georgia in early November 1754 to take up his duties as chief executive of the last royal colony in America. He established the Georgia Militia on January 24, 1755. Each of the Georgia districts was sub-di­vided into Military Districts, a flexible system of apportion­ment of military forces to provide protection from Creek Indians of the population. The number of Military Districts in a district depended on the size of its population.


Each district had a general militia, also known as the un­-uniformed or line militia. This included all eligible white males from 18 to 45 who were not otherwise exempt. The general militia was formed into one company per Militia District, with the minimum number of 100 men required to form such a district. Each company had a captain, a first lieutenant, and a second lieutenant, all elected by members of the company. It also had an ensign and a clerk or orderly sergeant. Its number of sergeants and corporals, appointed by the captain, depended on the size of the company.


The general militia in Georgia was organized into two bri­gades. Specific organizations were delineated in the First Brigade because its area of responsibility encompassed the coastal region of Georgia where most of the population resided at that time. The Second Brigade, with no such delin­eations, covered a generally unpopulated area from Augusta to the northern border of the First Brigade.


The First Brigade was divided into four regiments. The First Regiment with its First and Sixtieth Battalions, and the Thirty-Fifth Regiment with its Second and Third Battalions, was stationed in an area around Savannah. The Second Regi­ment with its Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Battalions, was sta­tioned in the middle part of coastal Georgia, which included the Midway District. The Third Regiment with its Seventh, Eighth, and Seventy-fourth Battalions, was assigned to the southernmost parts of coastal Georgia. That was the way the Georgia Militia looked on paper in 1755.


From four to six general militia companies formed a bat­talion commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel. Two or more battalions formed a regiment commanded by a colonel. Regiments were formed into brigades commanded by a briga­dier general. The brigades formed a division commanded by a major general. The division commanders took their orders from the governor.


Residents of the Midway District in early January 1755 were ordered by colonial authorities to elect one of ‘their number to represent them in the General Assembly. They chose Mark Carr. Governor Reynolds did not approve of their choice. They then chose John Elliott Sr. on January 31, 1755. Governor Reynolds approved of their choice this time.


The first muster of a company of general militia in the Midway District took place at the Meeting House on May 12, 1755. The new organization was a part of the Fourth Battal­ion, Second Regiment, First Brigade, First Division, Georgia Militia.


By the summer of 1755 there was doubt about the owner­ship of certain tracts of land in the Midway District. Colonial officials, in some cases, had granted the same piece of land to two persons. Representative of the Midway District traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and reached an agreement with the officials on the disputed land.


Residents of the Midway District in September 1756 were notified by colonial authorities that trouble with the Creek Indians appeared eminent. It seems the Indians had settled on the Ogeechee River amid some white settlers. Some of the Indians were accused of stealing horses and were killed by the white settlers.


Plantation owners in the Midway District constructed log fortifications in several parts of the district where residents could go to fight off the Indians should they attack them. There was a fortification on the Mark Carr plantation, while another enclosed the Meeting House. The Indians, however, retreated from their hostile stance, blamed themselves, and assured one and all that they wanted to live in peace. The log fortifications were never used, and were either dismantled or fell into disrepair.


Residents of the Midway District in February 1757 were greatly encouraged to hear of the arrival at Savannah, Geor­gia, of Lieutenant Governor Henry Ellis. They were dissatis­fied with Governor Reynolds, who they thought was badly influenced by William Little, the colony clerk. They appar­ently believed Lieutenant Governor Ellis would be more sympathetic to their needs.


Neighbors of the Midway District residents in July 1757 were taken prisoners and had their vessel commandeered by a French privateer while on a trading voyage to Saint Augus­tine, Florida. The privateer captain told them he had heard of a ship with a rich cargo anchored off Saint Catherines Island. He demanded that they guide him to the area. They convinced the captain that they knew nothing of the ship and he released them and their vessel.


On arrival at Saint Augustine the traders dispatched a letter overland to the Midway District warning its residents to take defensive measures should the privateer find Saint Catherines Island and attack them. On July 11, 1757, a de­fense force of about 25 men was organized at the Meeting House.


The defense force set up a camp and built a log fortifi­cation on high ground overlooking the Midway River and Saint Catherines Island sound. Eight small cannons were placed in the fortification. The defense force remained on guard until August 1757. but the French privateer never appeared. Site of the fortification became Fort Morris at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.


It was in March 1758 that the districts of Georgia were abolished, and the colony was divided into parishes. The Midway District became Saint Johns Parish. It extended from the Atlantic Ocean inland about 30 miles to a line from the Ogeechee River to near the Altamaha River and a junction with Saint Andrews Parish. It was bordered on the north by Saint Phillips Parish, and on the south by Saint Andrews Parish.