Major Joseph Habersham, a Savannahian, was born on July 28, 1751 to James Habersham and Mary Bolton. His father, James, filled in for Royal Governor Sir James Wright when he was in England.
Habersham was sent to Princeton, N.J., to be educated at the College of New Jersey, where he studied for six and one-half years. Concerned for his health and happiness, James sent young Joseph to London in May 1768.
There, he stayed with William Knox, the Province's Agent to the King. In England, he served as his father's mercantile representative, returning to Savannah in November 1771.
Joseph went into business in Georgia with fellow Patriot-to-be Joseph Clay. They joined the new "Council of Safety," whose other members included Noble W. Jones, Edward Telfair, William Gibbons, and John Milledge, to name a few.
Habersham was a staunch patriot, despite his father's Loyalist leanings. In fact, he was one of the six "Sons of Liberty" who broke open the Kings Powder magazine on the night of May 11, 1775.
Much of this powder was then smuggled to Boston hidden in a shipment of rice, and was reportedly used in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Along with Captain Oliver Bowen, Joseph directed the first American naval vessel that operated in Georgia's waters during the American Revolution. In July of 1775, the two men attacked and captured Captain Maitland's schooner as it entered the Savannah River.
Upon examination, Habersham and Clay found the ship carried tons of gunpowder and other supplies intended to be distributed to Royal forces in Georgia. Habersham shipped over 500 pounds of gunpowder up to Philadelphia for the Continental Army's use.
Habersham was selected to serve as a major in the Georgia Battalion commanded by Col. Lachlan McIntosh and Lt. Col. Samuel Elbert. He was elected a member of the Provincial Congress which met in Savannah on July 4, 1775.
At a special meeting of the Council of Safety held on Jan. 18, 1776, it was decided to arrest Gov. Sir James Wright and the members of the Executive Council. Habersham volunteered for the job.
Arriving at the Governors Mansion, now the Telfair Museum, he pushed past a sentry, grabbed the governor's shoulder, and said "Sir James, you are my prisoner." The members of the Executive Council who were present fled the building.
Placed under house arrest, Wright eventually made good his escape by sneaking out of his house on February 11 and seeking refuge onboard a British vessel anchored at the mouth of the Savannah River.
In May 1776, Habersham married Isabella Rae, daughter of Brampton plantation owner John Rae. Isabella bore him 10 children.
From 1785 to 1786 Habersham participated in the Continental Congress' deliberations, and was a member of the Convention when it ratified the Constitution. Returning to Savannah, from 1790 until 1791 Habersham served as a member of the city council of Savannah, and from l792 until 1793 served as Savannah's Mayor.
When President George Washington visited Savannah in 1791, Habersham was chosen to give the welcoming speech. In 1795 President Washington appointed him the Postmaster General of the United States.
Once Thomas Jefferson assumed office, Habersham resigned, and returned home to Savannah to re-enter private business. In 1805 he became president of the Bank of the United States' branch in Savannah. Habersham died in Savannah on Nov. 17, 1815.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger firstname.lastname@example.org