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Bulloch History with Roger Allen

The first colonization of Georgia

    Everybody knows that James Edward Oglethorpe was the first person to establish a colony on the Georgia coast, right?
Well, not exactly. It just so happens that back in the late 1500’s Spanish explorers built at least 18 forts and missions on the Georgia coast. Starting with the first mission, San Pedro de Mocama, established on Cumberland Island in 1587, these Guale Missions were abandoned in 1597 after the devastating Guale War.
The next colonialization of the Georgia region came when King Charles I granted Sir Robert Heath a grant of land that included all of modern-day Georgia. Heath, however, never made a serious effort to settle this territory. In 1663, King Charles II decided that Heath’s heirs had no claim to this land, and awarded the grant to eight of his friends. These Lords Proprietors, the oldest being known as the Lord Palatine, took control of what would become the Province of Carolina.
    Its northern border extended all along the Virginia border, while its southern border extended westward from present-day Daytona Beach (which included the Spanish settlement at Saint Augustine). The first towns actually settled in the Carolinas were: 1st, the area around Roanoke River (1653); 2nd, the area around Cape Fear (1665); and 3rd, the area around Charleston (1670).
    In 1717, Lord Carteret, then the current Lord Palatine, agreed to allow a portion of the Carolinas to be settled by Scottish Baronet Sir Robert Montgomery. His plan was for the creation of the “Margravate of Azilia,” over whose residents he would rule as a sort of lesser “King.” His grant included the area between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers which encompassed some 400 square miles.
    In 1720, after Montgomery had failed to get the colony started, John Barnwell (a former business partner) changed the concept where the ultimate ruler would be replaced by a council of gentlemen planters who would oversee indentured servants. He established Fort King George on the Altamaha River, garrisoned with British troops (sent from their Gibraltar base) to protect the Carolinas from Spanish incursions. After being ravaged by sickness, these troops were withdrawn to Port Royal.
    Back in England, James Edward Oglethorpe was the seventh child of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe. While serving five months in prison for killing a man in a brawl, he witnessed firsthand the horrors of the British prison system. After being appointed to Parliament as the representative for Haslemere (1722), he got appointed to the Prison Discipline Committee and intensified his efforts to start a new life for many of these poor souls in his proposed colony in the New World. It turned out that there were never any debtors used as colonists but rather those selected as the “deserving poor.”
    This “buffer state” as he called it, would separate the “Debatable Lands” (ie: Georgia) currently being claimed by both Spain and England. He got the support of the Lord Viscount Percival (who soon became the first Earl of Egmont and the first president of the Trustees Of Georgia), as well as Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations Edward Ashe and Martha Bladen in convincing the King to grant them the charter to start the colony. He and 20 of his closest friends took on the task of laying out, and then populating the new colony.
    Arriving on February 12, 1733 on Yamacraw Bluff, Oglethorpe had already enlisted the help of them founder of the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge Dr. Thomas Bray to seek out religious colonists to establish a foothold on the Georgia coast. Amongst the first to arrive were the Salzburgers from Austria who established Eben Ezer in 1734 and the Scottish Highlanders from Inverness who established New Inverness (now Darien) in 1736.
The rest of the story, as people are wont to say, is history.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger dodger53@hotmail.com

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