Georgia’s founding remembered: 284 years ago today

The Colony of Georgia was founded 284 years ago today on Feb. 12, 1733 when a hardy band of 114 men, women and children arrived at Savannah on the ship Anne. James Edward Oglethorpe, a member of the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America, a London-based corporation chartered by King George II in 1732, was in charge. The last of the 13 original colonies that would later become the United States, it was named for George II, who at his death in 1760 was buried in Westminster Abbey in downtown London. Georgia is one of the best-documented colonies, given the Trustees’ records, newspapers of the times, and other sources.

We know now that the original colonists were recruited from around the greater London area, and although they came here with various skills, each family was given a town lot, a garden lot and a farm lot, whether they had any prior farming expertise or not. Their voyage was a risky one, for the Anne was not the Queen Mary: It held barely 120 people, the colonists-to-be and the crew. There was no communication with anyone after they left England on November 16 until they arrived in Charleston on January 13. But it takes brave and desperate people, seeking a better future, to leave everything to found a colony.

The Georgia Historical Society in Savannah is the lead organization in commemorating Georgia’s founding annually with its Georgia History Festival, now underway. Its website georgiahistory.com includes an education section for schoolteachers with important information and documents about Georgia’s founding and other aspects of Georgia history.The society, founded in 1839, manages the Georgia Historical Marker program, and also produces the Today in Georgia History timeline of important events.

TOPIC: BETHESDA ORPHANS HOME RECORDS

Georgia’s first orphanage, the Bethesda Academy, was founded in 1740 by the Rev. George Whitefield, an itinerant evangelist. He established a much needed orphanage in the colony near Savannah. Because of his fundraising and preaching in America as well as in the British Isles, he was able to build and fund the Academy. The recent discovery of the 1770 inventory of the books in its library and the building’s furnishings provides a glimpse into the lives of the occupants. “Inventories of (Colonial) Estates, Vol. F, 1754-1770,” is in the Georgia Archives, along with other colonial records. Unfortunately the records of the children Bethesda cared for are missing. For more on Bethesda, see Edward J. Cashin, “Beloved Bethesda,” published in 2001 by Mercer University Press.

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Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O.Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or gagensociety.org.

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