Little known is the
fact that Early County or, for that matter, Southwest
Georgia was not included in the original charter creating
the Colony of Georgia. Flags of Spain, France, England,
The Confederate States of America, and the United States
have flown over Blakely . Also, in reality there were two
Early Counties. The first, created in 1818, included 3,750
square miles of Southwest Georgia bordering on Florida. The
second was located approximately 514 square miles along the
eastern bank of the Chattahoochee River.
The Creek Indians, who inhabited the middle and
southern portions of Georgia, were hostile to the Americans
and assisted the British in the War of 1812. They committed
many atrocities among the settlements in middle and lower
Georgia and Alabama. Aroused by this, the government sent
several expeditions against the Creeks, one of which was
under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson. General
Jackson conquered the Creeks and, under the treaty at Fort
Jackson in Alabama on August 9,1814, obtained lands the
Creek Indians ceded to Georgia that compose much of
present-day South Georgia.
The signing of the treaty with the Creek Nation
settled all adverse claims to the South Georgia Territory
and it was now in shape to make into new counties.
Accordingly, out of the acquired territory, the Georgia
Legislature, by an Act on December 15, 1818, created three
counties: Early, Irwin, and Appling. However, Early County
was not organized until an official Organization Act was
passed on December 21, 1819.
Early County was named in honor of Governor Peter
Early, a Virginia native who served Georgia as a
congressional delegate, and, later, Governor of Georgia from
1813 to 1815.
In 1817 a limited number of people settled in Early
County, but by 1818 quite a few took up residence on
Harrod's Creek (now known as the Old Factory Creek) on the
No provisions were made for the election of county
officers until the Organization Act was passed in 1819. A
temporary courthouse was established at the home of Richard
Grimsley for the election of county officers and sessions of
the Inferior Court. The first court was held on March 27,
1820 and continued to be held here until 1825.
As settlers began to settle in different parts of
Early County it became necessary to create new counties for
the administration of law and order. The following counties
have been created from the original Early County:
Decatur, in 1823.
Baker, in 1825.
Thomas, from Decatur and Irwin, in 1825.
Dougherty, from Baker. in 1853.
Calhoun, from Early and Randolph, in 1854.
Clay, from Early and Randolph, in 1854.
Mitchell, in 1857.
Colquitt, from Thomas and Lowndes, in 1856.
Grady, from Thomas and Decatur, in 1905.
Seminole, from Decatur, in 1920.
the County of Baker was formed out of Early County in 1825,
it necessitated a change in the location of public
buildings. A commission of five was appointed to select the
new location. They chose the present site of the City of
Blakely, giving it that name in honor of Captain Johnston
Blakeley (notice the difference in the spelling of the two).
The captain disappeared at sea with his ship, the US sloop
"Wasp", and the entire crew. The disappearance remains a
complete mystery as it did when it occurred some one
hundred and eighty-five years ago. In 1826, Benjamin
Collier, a member of the commission appointed to select a
new site for the county seat, gave twenty-five acres of land
to the town of Blakely. Part of this land today is the
public square, on which sits the present Early County
Courthouse. Blakely was incorporated as a town in 1871, and
as a city in 1900.
South and Civil War
As it was with most of the antebellum South, cotton was king
in Early County. It was easy to transport and would not
spoil, which was a key to its success because there was a
lack of adequate facilities to transport perishable crops.
However, in the mid nineteenth century, agriculture was not
possible without labor. Much of this labor came from
Exactly thirty- two days after the first shots of
the Civil War, a Confederate flagpole was erected in Blakely
(May 16, 1861). Today, it is the only Confederate flagpole
Early County was one of the
first to organize and volunteer an infantry company on
behalf of the Confederate States of America. The Early
Guards was a group of 80 men who joined the 13th Georgia
Regiment at Griffin, Georgia. They were ordered to
Richmond, Virginia, and later defended Savannah.
A Confederate Navy Yard at Saffold , Georgia
produced one gunboat, The Chattahoochee, and had two
others under construction at the end of the war.
The Civil War was over,
the slaves were free, and the economy was paralyzed. All of
the South began to rebuild from total devastation. In
Early County, many landowners established various
enterprises to keep their land. Blakely remained a market
for the farmers of the county.
In 1873, free schools were established in Early
County. Prior to that only private schools or academies
Blakely and Early County have had three
newspapers. The Early County News was established in
1859 and has remained a vital part of our community since
that time. Two other rival newspapers appeared during the
1890's, but they did not survive.
Over the years four known courthouses have been
located in Blakely. The first was a simple hewed log
building. In 1836 a framed building was constructed. A
third, colonial style, courthouse was erected in 1857. The
present two-story, brick courthouse was constructed in 1905.
Note: As taken from "Historical Notes on Early County and
Blakely, Georgia" by D. H. McDowell and Collections of
Early County Historical Society 1971 Volume 1.