The "Early" Years
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 Chattahoochee River.
         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.

When 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.

Old 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 enslaved Africans.
         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 still standing.
          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.

New South
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 were available.
         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.

This partial history was created and maintained by the Current Issues class at Early County High School under the supervision of Mrs. Ashley and Mrs. Whitehead.  Please visit their site ( for more exciting history and history of schools, districts, and much more.


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