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History of Savannah Georgia (part 3)

By 1820, despite a hault in shipping caused by a quarantine of the city due to a recent outbreak of yellow feverSavannah had grown to become the eighteenth-largest urban area in the United States. Savannah may have seemed slow, but it was growing in wealth and reputation, and by 1820, Savannah was exporting $18 million worth of goods. The ugly truth about Savannah at this time, was that the wealth accumulated was mainly the product of slave labor an the forced removal of indigenous peoples of the region.


(Image courtesy of Willis Hakim Jones)

The cargo hold of a slave vessel

Officially slavery had been banned by General Oglethorpe and the founding Trustees within the 13th colony. Unofficially, slavery in Georgia was stillpracticed by importing enslaved laborers from South Carolina while the politicians in Savannah had their backs turned. Though a shifty excuse for the practice of slavery-it was a constant topic among Georgia colonists, who incessantly preached that the colony would never see prosperity unless it followed in suit with the example set by South Carolina. Tired of hearing the arguements, and mildly afraid of public backlash, the Trustees gave in and slavery was officially permitted in the beginning in 1750. Officially, slavery existed in Georgia one hundred fifteen years.

By the end of the 18th century the slave population exceeded the free population in Savannah (5,146 free and 8,201 slave in 1800). There is very little actual documentation as to the exact numbers outside of those found within the Census Bureau which state that between 1810 and 1830, there was a decrease in the number of slaves in the city, followed by an increase in the slave population from 9,478 in 1830 to 14,018 in 1850. Even as the population of free people of color began to boom and had risen by 68 percent between 1850 and 1860, the slave population remained relatively stable.


Buddy Sullivan, Georgia: A State History (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Press, 2003).

Men Picking Cotton, Robert E. Williams Photographs, 1872-1898, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, presented in the Digital Library of Georgia

History of Savannah, Georgia (part 1)

English: Postage stamp, USA, 1933: General Jam...

English: Postage stamp, USA, 1933: General James Oglethorpe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Savannah’s History

According to various sources, such as, the Georgia Historical Society,  and The New Georgia Encyclopedia,  Savannah’s recorded history begins in 1733. Savannah was created BEFORE the establishing of Georgia, and was the first step in the cities creation, which received its charter from King George II in April 1732, as the thirteenth and last of England’s American colonies. In November 1732, Oglethorpe, with 114 colonists, sailed from England on the Anne. General James Oglethorpe, a visionary,

Courtesy of Georgia Info, Digital Library of Georgia
James Oglethorpe

social reformer, and military leader, landed on a bluff high along the Savannah River, then known as Yamacraw Bluff, on February 12, 1733. Oglethorpe named the 13th and final American colony “Georgia” after England’s King George II. Savannah became its first city, and remains an outstanding examples of eighteenth-century town planning in North America

Savannah, and the new colony, was intended to have been a philanthropic endeavor. The plan was to offer a new start for England’s working poor and to strengthen the colonies by increasing trade, establishing cordial relations with Chief Tomochichi of the resident Yamacraw Indians, and provide a refuge for English debtors. Through these measures, the basis for an agrarian class of small farmers working in tandem with the merchants of Savannah would be established, providing a commercial outpost and a buffer zone, protecting it from the advance of the Spanish in Florida.

Under the original charter, individuals were free to worship as they pleased and rum, lawyers and slavery were forbidden. The ban onslavery was lifted in 1750. The ban on lawyers in 1755. Bans on “spirituous liquors” were lifted 1742, and the ban on Catholics living in the colony was repealed after commercial disputes in the region between England and Spain were settled in 1748.

Unique in many ways, Savannah was a peaceful and successful venture, and never had to deal with the warfare and conflicts most other early American colonies met face first with. This was almost entirely the result of  Oglethorpe becoming good friends with the local Yamacraw Indian chief, Tomochichi and his family. Oglethorpe and Tomochichi pledged mutual goodwill and the Yamacraw chief granted the new arrivals permission to establish Savannah on the bluff. As a result of the friendship between Oglethorpe and Tomochichi, Oglethorpe was pleased with the idea of proceeding as planned and hopeful that his dream of a city named Savannah would be made into a realization.

Mostly compiled back in England, Oglethorpe laid the city out in a series of grids, which consisted of extra wide streets, shady public squares, and elaborate parks and fountain monuments. Savannah’s residents beam with pride and stubbornness, and for good reason. Of the original 24 squares, created as meeting places for commerce and social interactions, 22 squares are still in existence today because Savannans are absolute about preserving the history of what they believe is the most beautiful city in the United States.


Shot of a drawing at Wormslew Historic site, S...

Shot of a drawing at Wormslew Historic site, Savannah, Georgia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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