A Bicentennial Look Back
December 14th marks the 200th anniversary of the creation of Twiggs County, Georgia. Named for Revolutionary War Hero, General John Twiggs, Twiggs County lies in the geographic center of the State of Georgia. Carved out of the county of Wilkinson, Twiggs County became a central location for businessmen, doctors and lawyers until the westward expansion of Georgia began in the 1820s and climaxed in the 1830s.
Among its natives, Twiggs County counts many important persons of 19the Century, Georgia. Governor James M. Smith (Georgia governor) ,Col. James W. Fannin (martyr of the War for Texas Independence), Dudley M. Hughes (congressman and M.D. &. S. railroad organizer), Bishop James E. Dickey (President of Emory College), General Phillip Cook (Confederate General, Congressman and Georgia Secretary of State), Stephen F. Miller (legal writer and attorney), Thaddeus Oliver (author of All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight), William P. Zuber (early Texas historian), and William Young (father of cotton manufacturing in the South). In the past century, the list of famous Twiggs Countians included Chess "The Goat Man" McCartney (folk icon), Earl Hamrick (one of the nation's longest serving sheriffs), and Chuck Levell (keyboardist for the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton).
The first county officers were Sheriff Edmund Nunn, Inferior Court Justices Francis Powell, John Lawson, Robert Glenn and Arthur Fort, Inferior Court Clerk Edwin Hart, Superior Court Clerk Archibald McIntyre, Tax Receiver Maj. James H. Patton, Surveyor Peter Livingston, Tax Collector James H. Spann, Coroner James Wheeler and Justices of the Peace William Hemphill, William Melton James McCormick, Jonathan Bell, Arthur Fort, and James Vickers. Representative James Johnson and Senator Robert Glenn were the first to represent Twiggs County during the legislative session of 1810.
The first county seat was established at Marion, located within a short distance from the exact center of the state. Named for General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, South Carolina's hero of the American Revolution, Marion became a focal point for rising professionals. But, with the westward advances into southern, western and northern portions of Georgia, the town of Marion began to fade away.
County officials decided to move the seat of government nearer to the center of the county to Jeffersonville, which had originally been known as Raines' Store. The attempt to remove the courthouse began in the 1850s. Originally the plans were to simply pick up the courthouse and move it to a new site, also to be named Marion. In 1867, the Military government of Georgia called a temporary halt to the removal of the original tw0-story wooden courthouse to Jeffersonville. The move was soon completed. The old courthouse stood in Jeffersonville until a 1901 fire destroyed it. The current courthouse, with some recent and major modifications, is the county's only other court building.
In addition to Jeffersonville and Marion, other Twiggs towns include Adams Park, Asa, Big Oak, Big Sandy, Bullard's, Buzzard Roost, Danville, Dry Branch, Fitzpatrick, Huber, Ripley, Sabine, Tarversville, Twiggsville, and Willis.
Early citizens of Twiggs spent many years in fear of Indian attacks upon homes and outposts along the state's frontier which coincided with the state line, which was the Ocmulgee River. The state militia, under the command of General David Blackshear of Laurens County and locally under Colonel Ezekiel Wimberly, established a series of three forts along the river. From these strategic points, spies under the command of Maj. James Patton, a Twiggs resident serving out of Fort Hawkins at the future site of Macon, reconnoitered across the river to keep the settlers informed of any threats during what later became known as the War of 1812.
Indian problems resumed in 1818. General Andrew Jackson traveled through Twiggs County while marching toward the scene of fighting further to the southwest. In the mid 1830s, troubles with the Indians in southern Georgia and Alabama arose once again. Troops from Twiggs responded once again to protect the borders of Georgia.
The lure of the paradise of Texas was too much for many Twiggs County families to ignore. So, many of them packed up their belongings and headed for the fledgling new republic. When the settlers went to war with Mexico, former Twiggs citizens took up arms in defense of their new homeland.
Unlike their neighbors to the east, Laurens and Wilkinson counties, the citizens of Twiggs voted to secede from the Union in 1860. The men of the county organized The Twiggs County Volunteers (Co. C, 4th Ga.), The Faulk Invicibles (Co. I, 26th Ga.), The Slappey Guards (Co. G, 48th Ga.), and the Twiggs Guards (Co. 9, 6th Ga.) Among the more well known soldiers was Dr. Andrew J. Lamb, who served aboard the C.S.S. Virginia, aka the Merrimac.
One of the last true Civil war battles in Georgia occurred along the northern border of Twiggs County in November 1864. As the right wing of Gen. William T. Sherman's army was proceeding toward Gordon down the Central of Georgia railroad, they were attacked in their rear by militia and reserve units out of Macon. Although the Battle of Griswoldville paled in comparison to the number of combatants, the number of deaths and wounded was comparable to the major slaughters of the war.
In its early years, the county's main resources were thought to have been limited to timber and agriculture. But when kaolin was discovered in abundance, Twiggs County became one of the leading producers of the "white gold" in Georgia. Although supplies of kaolin are slowly dwindling, it remains one of the county's leading industries.
During the Cold War years after World War II, the United States military established a Nike missile base along present day I-16 and the present site of Academy Sports in order to prevent an attack on nearby Warner Robins Air Force Base.
After two hundred years, Twiggs county remains a fine place to live. Convenient to the metropolitan areas of Macon and Warner Robins, Twiggs Countians enjoy a quiet and peaceful rural life. Happy 200th birthday, Twiggs County!
For more reading see: History of Twiggs County by J. Lannette O'Neal Faulk and Billy Jones. Also see Collections of Twiggs Countians, by Kathleen Carswell.