Taylor County History

Taylor County History

Early life

The MUSKOGEE INDIANS were living here when the white man came. They had followed the fall line near Augusta, later to Milledgeville, on to Jones County, through Crawford County, across the northern part of Taylor County to Columbus. The early settlers followed the same pattern of migration, and were established in Milledgeville by 1810.

Early settlers called them "Creeks" because they lived along the creeks.

The Old Federal Road followed the old route around 1800, and was later called the Wire Road because of a telegraph line nailed to the pine trees along the route from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans.

The old Federal Wire Road crosses the north part of Taylor County. Today Highway 208 crosses the county along the route complete with historical markers relating its significance. It runs past Fickling Mill, Crowell Methodist Church, Jarrell's Store, Wesley Methodist Church, Shiloh Primitive Baptis Church and continues past Horeb Baptist Church into Talbot County.

This Wire Road was a stagecoach road crossing Georgia from Augusta, through Macon to Columbus as part of the main route from Washington to New Orleans. Along the Wire Road telegraph lines, the longest lines up to that time, were completed in July, 1848.

During construction of the line horse relays carried dispatches from New Orleans along the road to the nearest point from which the line could operate. When completed the line, often attached to live trees, was in constant need of repairs.

About three miles from the Flint River on this road is the Crowell Methodist Church, founded in 1826, on the site of an Indian Agency. Near the church were stables where fresh horses were kept for stagecoaches. Near Fickling's Mill was an inn where travelers on coaches spent the night. Many noted guests including, Henry Clay, General LaFayette, James Polk, were entertained at numerous inns along this main route to New Orleans. The Peter Corbin mansion which stood about a mile from the Flint River on the Wire Road, entertained General LaFayette. (See Corbin Family, by Charles Culver Corbin, Jr. at Butler Library)

The Indians were gradually driven Westward, and by 1805 all the territory east of the Ocmulgee River had been ceded to whites.

Col. Benjamin HAWKINS was appointed (1796) agent for all the Indians west of the Ocmulgee River, and an Agency Reserve was established which was on the border of Crawford and Taylor Counties. He is mentioned in the popular book (and T.V. drama), True Women by Janice Windle. One of the women came from this area.

The first one was Colonel Benjamin HAWKINS born in 1754, the son of Col. Philemon Hawkins. He was selected by General George WASHINGTON as French Interpreter on his official staff during the American Revolution when a senior studying at Princeton. He later was elected a congressman from North Carolina, and in 1796 appointed Agent for all the Indians south of the Ohio.

Col. Hawkins had his residence on the East side of the Flint River. The surrounding area was used to teach the Indian better ways of growing food and other skills.

Early in 1812, fearing that he might die, he sent for his common-law wife, Lavinia DOWNS, to come to the Agency to be with him. She was the daughter of (NOTE: below)Isaac Downs, a dispatch rider for Col Hawkins, stationed at Ft. Wilkinson.

another version of the marriage and who Lavinia Downs was.

Lavinia was born in 1782 (30 years younger than Benjamin). The Moravian missionaries at the Agency performed the marriage ceremony. He also made a will Jan 9, 1812 dividing his considerable estate into 8 equal parts...(wife, 6 children and a nephew). Jeffersonia, a daughter, was born after the will was made and there was controversy at the time of the probate, 1816.

Land Opens to Settlers

In 1821, all the territory between the Ocmulgee and the Flint was ceded to Georgia. Along the western side of the river, large acreages were acquired by wealthy planters. A trading post was established on the Chattahoochee River called Fort Mitchell (Columbus of today) and boats from the Gulf brought supplies.

Between the Chattahoochee and the Flint Rivers was a wilderness of pines which attracted settlers from other sections and was called Muscogee County. Just before 1850 a railroad from Macon to Oglethorpe was built, and surveyed a branch with a proposed terminus at Columbus. Columbus meanwhile had begun its own railroad and the two met at what is now BUTLER.

Creation of Taylor County

Marion County had been cut from Muscokee in 1821, and Taylor county was created by the Legislature on January 15, 1852 from Marion, Talbot and Crawford counties. It was named in honor of Gen. Zachary Taylor, a military hero in the Mexican War and the 12th president of the United States who had died in 1850 while in office.

Zachary Taylor was probably well known to some of the early Taylor County residents through their military service. He defeated the Seminole Indians in 1837, near Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and was awarded the honorary rank of brigadier general. Early Georgia men very likely fought with him in this campaign.

Additionally, they may have been with him during the Mexican War of 1846 when he invaded Mexico and captured Matamoros and Monterrey. In the Battle of Buena Vista (which really made him famous), General Taylor won a decisive victory over Santa Anna and became a national hero.

Campaign Year - Upson Pilot Sept 20, 1848
Letter written by Gen Taylor on Feb 221, 1847 when Mr. Polk's Mexican General and special friend, "Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna" was advancing upon Buena Vista with his hordes of Mexican savages, "Old Rough and Ready" retired to his ten and addressed a letter to an intimate personal friend, in which he says
"This may be the last communication you will receive from me. I have been stripped by the government of regular troops, and reduced in volunteers; and thus stripped and at the mercy of the foe, have been expected to retreat or resign; but I SHALL DO NEITHER-- I care not for myself, but feel deeply for the noble soldier who are about to be sacrificed for their country--we shall stand still and give them battle, relying on a just Providence for a right result".
Such is the man now before the American people for the first office in their gift.

Governor George W. Towns (1801-1854)(governor from 1847-1851) owned land west of the Flint River, and he hoped to have the county seat located on his property. He had land laid off in blocks and deeded some to the railroad and another for the courthouse. It was to be named REYNOLDS after the Superintendent of the Railroad.

However, because of its better location, another site eight miles west was chosen. This site was known as "Wolfpen" after a pit dug to entrap the wolves where the two railroads had built their "turntable". This was also the highest point of the county, and favored by planters who lived there in the summers to avoid the bad "night air" of the rivers, which they believed caused malaria.

The Inferior Court Justices (Thomas J. Riley, Jeremiah Wilchar, Hiram Drane, John Sturdivant) chose the name BUTLER after General Wm. Orlando Butler, also a noted officer in the Mexican War and a poet who wrote "The Boatman's Horn", a popular song. He held the honor of being the only soldier entering as a private to rise to the rank of Commander of the U.S. Army. Butler County, Iowa is also named after him.

On April 19, 1852 the Inferior Court ordered that a courthouse be built on the plan of Marion County's Buena Vista Courthouse.

(Taken from The Butler Herald, Thursday, August 8, 1935)
To the offcials of Taylor County Saturday, August 1, 1935, will be recorded as one of the most eventfUl dates in the county's history, once on that date the re-establishment of headquarters at the court house began, made possible by the erection of the new building, work on which was begun last year. Since that date officials have occupied temporary quarters in various office buildings in separate locations about the city, some being crowded for space and otherwise greatly inconvenienced.

The new building replaces the one erected in 1853, one year after the creation of Taylor County, and which served it's purpose well during the seventy-nine years of it's existence, except that for the past few years it had developed into a dangerous and unsafe condition. The citizens of Taylor County passed a bond issue and the 20 year bonds were issued February 17, 2934. The following August, County Comm~ssioners-Messrs H. S. Wail, E. C. Perkins, Jr., and W. M. BI-own-called for sealed bids, plans were drawn by architect, Mr. F. Roy Duncan, of Columbus and the County Commissioners employed Mr. M. Entrekin as supervisor.

A few months after work started on the court house two of the commissioners were taken from us by death, Mr. Perkins passing away in February and Chairman Wall in May. of 1935. Mr. Wall took a most active part in the erection of the new building. These gentlemen were succeeded on the board by Mr. H. H. Riley, of Butler and Dr. G. W. Fickling, of Reynolds, respectively, who with the assistance of Mr. Brown, original member of the board, have carried the work on to a successful conclusion.

The building, such as now attracts the attention of the public upon entering the city from any direction, has two stately colonial fronts, east and west. The dock tower with it's four views rises high above the top of the buildings and may be seen for miles.

Entering the building from the west front the first office on the left is that occupied by Hen. R. P. McGuffin, sheriff; and across the hall to the right the office of the county Commissioners. The next approach is an attractive corridor and passing from this to the left is the office of Hen. Thelmon Jarrell, Clerk of County; across from his office are the oflices of Hen. G. A. Roberts, Tax Commissioner, and Hen. W. T. Rustin, county school superintendent. Crossing the corridor again will be found to the right the office of Hon. L. T. Peed. ordinary, and to the left suite of rooms occupied by County Agricultural Agent G. C. Daniel and his assistants , Mr. W. F. Bremby and Miss Lonie Parks, and Miss Willie Leggitt, home demonstration agent. The second floor is for the use of the court session alone and is gained by a double flight of stairs, one on the north the other on the south wing of the building. Besides the large auditorium and balcony there are three jury rooms-two for trial juries the other for sessions of the grand jury- and office space each for superior court judge, solicitor-general and court reporter.

To make the building complete there are toilets in most of the offices and others for the public.

In 1860, there were 645 households with 3,596 free white and 2,430 slaves.    The county seat is Butler...also named for a Mexican War hero, Wm. Orlando Butler.

Politicians who were born in Taylor County Cemeteries and Memorial Sites pertaining to Politicians

For a more detailed account of this history see the book by Essie Jones Childs,"They Tarried in Taylor" available from the Central Georgia Genealogical Society.

If you find dead links, please let me know: Virginia Crilley.

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