Signs of the Times (1784-1790)

With the establishment of the Liberty County Superior Court at Sunbury, Liberty County commenced the slow process of constructing a county government. The recon­struction of Georgia actually began when the Constitutional Convention was assembled in January 1784. It was at this time that Lyman Hall of Liberty County was appointed governor of the state. During his administration he initiated action to establish the University of Georgia.


In October 1784 the state executive council met and addressed itself to the matter of lawlessness in Georgia. A poster was printed and placed in prominent places through­out the state. It said, “There are notorious characters who infest the roads and other parts of the state, and they are murdering and plundering the virtuous inhabitants of the same.” The council offered a reward of ten guineas to any person bringing in dead or alive seven outlaws whose names were included on the poster.


The state executive council also addressed itself to matters of public health. It reminded Georgians that a law was al­ready on the books to “prevent the bringing in and spreading of malignant distempers into the state.” It ordered captains of ships making port at Savannah or Sunbury to complete an oath or affirmation that passengers and crews on their ships were in good health and free of contagious diseases, and that none had died of such during the voyage.


There was a rapid depreciation of Continental currency following the Revolutionary War. British currency was used for most transactions. Georgia had the least taxable property of the states, and no taxes at all were collected from 1778 through 1783.


Sunbury just after the Revolutionary War was home to some of the most famous people in America. Governors and a signer of the Declaration of Independence resided side by side with war heroes. These attractive, colorful, and well-edu­cated people operated old and new plantations, harvested timber, built ships, raised cattle, and engaged in a lively social life in Sunbury and Savannah.


For these active participants in the Revolutionary War, it was a time of rest after the rigors of the immediate past. It was a time to bask in the admiration of the world for their triumphs on battlefields. The glow of victory brought an air of excitement and exhilaration to the port and town it had never known before.


Within three years after the Revolutionary War, hostile Creek Indians emerged generally from the south side of the Altamaha River and commenced several years of raiding plantations, kidnapping slaves, plundering, and killing and sometimes scalping Liberty County citizens. The Liberty County Regiment of Militia, reformed in 1781, was charged with stopping the attacks. By 1785,  it was composed of five infantry companies of general militia known as the Sunbury, Midway, Newport. Sapelo, and Canoochee companies.


The fort at Beards Bluff lay directly in the path most often traveled by the Indians to reach coastal plantations of Liberty County. It was renovated, renamed Fort Telfair, for Governor Edward Telfair of Georgia, and garrisoned with militia and federal troops. It stemmed, but did not stop the flow of Indians into liberty County. Lives were lost defend­ing the fort, especially during one attack by about 300 Indians.


At the height of the Creek Indian attacks, William Quar­terman Jr., John Quilling, Samuel Bennett, Nathaniel Rogers, and others, were killed and some of them scalped. Most of the attacks occurred in the vicinity of Midway, Sunbury, and Sapelo Island. Plantations were sometimes burned. and white children and slaves carried off. Some of the slaves were re­trieved, but not the white children.


John Eatton LeConte built a stockade on his Woodmans­ton Plantation to protect his family, neighbors, and slaves from the Indian attacks. They fought off several attacks from that stockade.


Plantation owners posted armed guards to protect their slaves as they worked in the fields. People attended services in Midway Church fully armed. The entire county for a time was in a virtual state of siege.


John Lambert, one of the most substantial plantation owners in Liberty County, died in 1786. He left behind a unique and most interesting will which eventually touched the lives of many white and black Liberty Countians.


Sunbury Academy was established by the state legislature on February 14, 1786. The state provided for its endowment from the sale of property confiscated by the state after the Revolutionary War. Members of its board of commissioners appointed by the state were James Dunwody, John Dun­wody, Reverend Cyrus Gildersleeve, Peter Winn, and Colonel Daniel Stewart. Its first headmaster was Reverend Reuben Hitchcock, a Yale College graduate and Congregational min­ister. The school commenced operations in early 1788 in a vacant building in town, but by late that year its commis­sioners had erected a 2 1/2 story school building on Kings Square.


A convention of delegates from nine states to compose the U.S. Constitution opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 25, 1787. The document when completed was offered to all of the states for ratification. Georgia’s ratify­ing convention was held in the state capitol at Augusta on December 28, 1787. The document was adopted with little debate. Delegates to the convention from Liberty County were James Powell, John Elliott Sr., and James Maxwell.


A military unit known as a “Body of Light Horse” was organized in Liberty County in 1788 to augment the general militia fighting hostile Creek Indians. Its captain was Michael Rudulph. He was the son-in-law of Colonel John Baker, a resident of Sunbury, and a hero of the Revolutionary War.


The Liberty County militia was almost constantly on the move fighting Creek Indians from the Altamaha River to Bryan County, and from the coast to what soon would be Tattnall County. Captain Josiah Tattnall, for whom Tattnall County was named, was dispatched with militia from Chat­ham County to help fight the Creek Indians.


The Georgia constitution effective the first Monday in 1789, established a superior court in each county and dir­ected that they hold sessions twice a year. Judges were elected by the General Assembly, and their terms of office were for three years. The General Assembly, on December 23, 1789, reorganized the superior courts and divided the counties into the Eastern and Western judicial circuits. It fixed the time of holding court to twice a year in each coun­ty. The Liberty County Superior Court was a part of the Eastern Judicial Circuit from December 23, 1789 to Febru­ary 24, 1873.


A treaty of peace with the Creek Indians was arranged by Colonel Daniel Stewart and others by 1790. Fort Telfair was abandoned, and the Liberty County Battalion was dis­banded except for the First Troop of Horse. The state now made grants of land in the upper part of Liberty County to make the peace treaty more binding. Veterans of the Revo­lutionary War who received such grants of land from 1790 to the early years of the nineteenth century include Robert Hendry, John, Theophilus, and Israel Baxter, Martin Martin, Levi Morgan, James Scott, David Delk, William Hall Parker, John Benton, and Abram Daniel. Inns and taverns were established on the Macon-Darien Road in what today is Long County, two of them by Timothy Barnard and Archibald Baggs.