|Georgia saw its beginnings in the vision of a group of prominent
Englishmen led by James Edward Oglethorpe and the Earl of Egmont. After
forming the Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America,
these enlightened members of British society petitioned the King for a
charter and a tract of land. Their petition was granted and they set
forth to establish the new Colony with a tri-fold purpose:
- Foremost, they desired to aid the poor. As the idea of the Colony
evolved and began to take shape, the definition of “the poor” was
expanded to include “unfortunate Englishmen or non Englishmen”. Originally, the idea may have been to assist those imprisoned as
debtors. Faced with a flood of applicants, most of whom were merely
“unfortunate” and not debtors, the Trustees selected those they felt
most likely to succeed in the new Colony. Between 1733 and 1742,
twenty-eight hundred persons crossed the Atlantic to join the new
Colony; of these, over one thousand paid their own way. Even among those
sent at the expense of the Trustees, released debtors were rare and
numbered fewer than one dozen.
- The second goal for Georgia was to
provide England with goods for trade and commerce and, according to the
Charter, increase the wealth of the realm. The Trustees may have been
well meaning, but perhaps not the most practical of men. They envisioned
Georgia supplying silk and wine. It seems they considered all land able
to grow anything equally well, and all men, intrinsically knowing how to
farm. Of the first group of settlers only three had any type of farming
experience. John Penrose was a husbandman, Joseph Fitzwalter, a
gardener, and John Gready was the only one actually listed as a farmer.
- Lastly, Georgia was intended to fortify England's claim to the Southern
territory. She would provide a buffer between South Carolina and the
Spanish at St. Augustine and defend against Indian attacks.
So, just who were those folks who crossed an ocean in hopes of a
better life? By 1743 over two thousand persons had made the journey.
The first group of settlers to reach Georgia arrived in early 1733 on
the frigate Anne. James Edward Oglethorpe, the only Trustee ever to
visit Georgia, accompanied this group of one hundred and fourteen. While
one can only imagine the difficulty of crossing the Atlantic in the dead
of winter, they weathered the voyage in relatively good health. During
the crossing there were only two deaths: James Cannon, 7 months old, and
nine month old James Clark. Both children were said to be sickly before
the voyage even began.
Rumor has it that attorneys were banned from the Colony. Not true.
were two among those early colonists – Will. Aglionby and Will
Williamson, neither of whom endeared themselves to their fellow
colonists. Aglionby was described as a mischief maker in the Earl of
Mostly, the colonists were ordinary people --
blacksmiths, apothecaries, apprentices, bookkeepers, carpenters,
locksmiths, masons, ministers, schoolmasters, tanners and the like.
The first English child born in Georgia was named Georgia. The daughter
of Henry and Hannah Close, Georgia was born on born 17 March 1733. For
being the first child born in the Colony, she was presented with a
silver boat and spoon from James Hume of South Carolina.
The first year proved exceedingly difficult for the Colonists. Twenty-nine, or roughly 25% of the one hundred and fourteen died within
that first year.
Back in England, the Trustees continued to make rules for the Colony.
Sale and/or consumption of rum was prohibited. English beer was
acceptable and plenty had been provided for the colonists. Slavery was
prohibited – not for moral reasons, but because the Trustees felt it was
not practical for Georgia. Yet, when the city of Savannah was being laid
out, South Carolina slaves were hired to fell trees.
By far, the majority of Colonists were from England. A few came from
Northern Italy, Switzerland and Wales. A group of English Jews came in
1733 at their own expense. Non English settlers included the Salzburgers
(German Protestants), who arrived in March of 1734 and settled at
Ebenezer. The language barrier kept them from interacting much with the
other colonists. Another group of German Protestants, the Moravians,
arrived between 1735 and 1738. They soon migrated to Pennsylvania as
they found their religious beliefs, which prohibited fighting, to be in
conflict with the defensive objectives of the Colony. In 1735, the
Scots Highlanders, who had no such qualms about fighting, settled at
Despite setbacks and hardships, the Colony thrived. By 1755, land was
granted in fee simple rather than through the restrictive tail male
system imposed by the Trustees. The Trustees charter expired and Georgia
became a royal colony.