Wilkes County was created in 1777 as one of the original 11 counties of Georgia. The original Wilkes (in some old records Wilks) County included all of the area now in Lincoln, Elbert, and Wilkes Counties; most of Oglethorpe, Madison, Taliaferro and Warren Counties, half of Hart County and parts of Clarke, Glascock, Greene Hancock, and McDuffie Counties, and present day Wilkes County. The County seat is Washington
AN OVERVIEW OF LOCAL HISTORY
Copyright by Robert Willingham
Originally comprising a vast fertile stretch of Piedmont countryside ceded from the Creek and Cherokee Indians in 1773, Wilkes County was truly that first land of opportunity for pioneers who would later journey further westward to fill the state with their independent attitudes and sturdy determination.
The area that is now Wilkes County, bordered on the north by the Salwegee (now Broad) River and on the south by Little River was chiefly used by the Native Americans as a hunting preserve. Also the major trading route to the chief Cherokee town of Tugalo extended directly through this section. Numerous Indian artifacts such as arrowheads, pottery, and weaponry have been uncovered in Wilkes County over the years.
As early as the 1750s white settlers and even some free blacks had begun migrating into the area well before the British crown arranged for the purchase of the land from its Native American caretakers. When the boundary survey team came through in 1773, among the group was the naturalist William Bartram whose "Travels in Georgia and Florida" is a classic of American natural history.
Into this seeming Eden--and it was marketed so to prospective settlers--came those seeking economic opportunities, fresh lands, and deeply desired freedom. Most came from the Carolinas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, from along what would become known as the "Valley Road"--the way westward. Ironically, this is virtually the same route Jefferson Davis and his entourage of Confederates would take on their flight south from Richmond at the close of the War Between the States.
Wilkes County's earliest white settlers were a relatively homogeneous group with English or Scotch-Irish ancestry who made their homes along the numerous creeks that criss-crossed the county or along the Broad or Little Rivers. Early in January 1774, a band of Creek Indians attacked a small fort built on Little River by David and William Sherrill. Seven settlers were massacred. Several other depredations occurred closely afterward and it was not until October of that year that a treaty of amity was signed.
It was a raucous era with no government, no towns, and little communication in this Wilderness.
Strong undercurrents of independence were stirring and Wilkes County, formed officially by state decree on 5 February 1777, was a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment. These hardy backwoodsmen rarely shied away from a fight and they were eager for this fray. The War brought substantial dislocation to the settlers already in Wilkes and the vast number of men joined up. Led by Elijah Clarke, John Dooly and others, Wilkes County soldiers fought all over the Southern theatre of operations, from Cowpens and Camden to the sieges of Augusta. British-led loyalist activity was particularly heavy in the back country of Georgia and violence was commonplace sometimes within communities and even families.
On 14 February 1779, an American force of about 400 men under the command of Colonel Andrew Pickens with Clarke and Dooly accompanying attacked an encamped group of 700 Tories led by British Colonel Boyd at Kettle Creek in south Wilkes County. The utter surprise gave the Americans a huge advantage which allowed them to rout the invaders inflicting heavy casualties. The Battle of Kettle Creek proved an important and significant advance for the American cause. It protected the settlers of the upcountry from the continued ravages of militant Tory bands and led to an increased amount of pride and patriotism. From an economic standpoint it enabled the Americans to secure almost 600 horses and a large quantity of arms and supplies necessary for the continental storehouses. The victory at Kettle Creek also firmly prevented the British from wholly occupying the State of Georgia.
This proved to be even more significant the following year when the British threat to Augusta forced the Georgia State Capitol to be removed to Heard's Fort on Fishing Creek in Wilkes County. Governor Richard Howley had left office to take a seat in the Continental Congress. President of Council George Wells was killed in a duel and on 18 February 1780, the reins of government fell into the hands of Wilkes Countian Stephen Heard. It was Heard and others of this county who kept the state operating in its direst hour.
Only a month before, the state legislature had authorized a board of commissioners appointed to oversee the "Town at the Court house in Wilkes County which shall be called Washington." This act officially chartered the settlement which had previously been known as Fort Heard and Fort Washington. Little progress on the town would be made, however, until hostilities had ceased and peace had been made.
On 31 July 1783, Washington was re-chartered by the legislature with its governing body composed of Stephen Beard, Micajah Williamson, Robert Harper, Daniel Coleman, and Zachariah Lamar. As originally laid out, the town consisted of 48 lots and Broad Street (now Robert Toombs Avenue), Market Street (now Court Street), and Middle Street (now Spring Street). Other streets were unnamed but included the present Liberty, Allison, Pope, and Jefferson Streets and Alexander Avenue. The east and west limits of town (Alexander and Pope) were "beautified" by plantings of China trees. The town was designed in a grid pattern with a central plot reserved for a public square all surrounded by a town common. This plan remains intact and the primary historic districts of the city are part of this pattern. The streets of the old town are narrow and tree-lined with homes generally close to the street. The court had moved from McLendon's on Fishing Creek to Washington for the April term in 1780 and met initially at Micajah Williamson's tavern. By 1786, a log court house had been erected.
Wilkes County after the Revolution was a popular area of settlement as the land was inexpensive and of good quality. The population increased rapidly and, although pioneers still came from the Carolinas as did most of the earlier settlers, a much larger percentage were now progressing southward from Virginia. Many of these Virginians established themselves in a closely knit settlement along Broad River and also in Washington itself.
Wilkes was Georgia's first "mother of counties" as Elbert, Lincoln, Greene, Oglethorpe, Warren, and Taliaferro were all cut from the original bounds of Wilkes County.
The 1790 census for Georgia recorded only 82,548 persons in the state, but of that number 31,268 were resident in Wilkes County. Due to these numbers and the powerful personalities the county produced, Washington and Wilkes was a major force in the political development of Georgia and the South. Of Georgia's antebellum governors, ten were from Wilkes.
The 1790s also saw the town of Washington becoming a more cosmopolitan place in the backwoods of Georgia. Uprisings on the West Indian island of Santo Domingo had displaced many of its French settlers and a surprisingly large number of them found their way from Charleston upcountry to Washington. Foremost among them was Louis Prudhomme whose slave market on West Square was a notable site for over a decade. At one point in the early 1800s there were so many French-speaking residents that the local newspaper considered a bilingual edition.
In its earliest years there was little concern for either religion or education among the county's settlers, but once the Revolutionary War ended both Methodists and Baptists began to gain converts in large numbers. Through the influence of traveling preachers such as Francis Asbury, the Methodists made strong spiritual inroads among the transplanted Virginians and Grant's Meeting House not far from Washington became the "mother church" for Georgia's Methodists. Even more Baptists were scattered around the county. And it was in Washington in 1790 under a large poplar tree that the Rev. John Springer became the first Presbyterian minister ordained in Georgia.
Washington's first educational institution was a modest school for small children in 1784, but three years later the town was described as having "a good Latin and grammar school." In 1788, Rev. Springer began an academy at Walnut Hill four miles north of Washington which developed into a well-respected institution. By the early 1790s, the Wilkes County Academy had been established, first on Liberty Street and shortly afterward moved to the west extent of town. Sale of lands from the town common benefited the academy as did a lottery specifically designated for educational purposes.
An event that occurred in 1793 profoundly influenced the development of Washington and Wilkes County. In that year Eli Whitney received a patent for his cotton gin. Whitney had spent some time perfecting his gin and tutoring children a few miles east of Washington at John Talbot's plantation, Mount Pleasant. The acreage of Wilkes County which had seen fields of tobacco so like the lands from which the pioneers had come would soon be transformed into clay hills covered with row after row of cotton plants. Forest land was denuded to provide the open spaces needed for the money crop. The strong movement of the 1790s to abandon slavery was quickly forgotten as the need for manpower to operate cotton plantations began to far outweigh social consciousness. It became a simple matter of economics. Slave labor was considered a necessity. The black-white ratio in Wilkes County was transformed between 1790 and 1810 from over 76% white to approximately 50-50.
With increased economic opportunities and a less transient population, Wilkes County gradually was gaining in society and sophistication. The words penned in 1787 by New Englander Sarah Porter Hillhouse who had come to Washington with her husband, "It's a good place for business and unless some misfortunes happen to Mr. Hillhouse, he will make money here, but...all the State of Georgia would be no inducement to me to bring my dear little lambs in this flock of wolves, as I may properly call many of the inhabitants of this State!" were now being revised even by Sarah herself. She had been thrust into the rude frontier from a more genteel New England. But as she toughened this "frontier" settlement gained a more civilized. appearance as well. After the death of her husband in March of 1803, she assumed management of the town's newspaper, the Monitor, and by 1805 had contracted with the Georgia legislature to do some state printing also.
Washington continued to be a political center, not just for Wilkes County but for Georgia. Factional arguing between John Clark and William H. Crawford and their followers sowed the seeds for two party politics in the state, even leading to duels and death.
As Washington grew so too did much of the housing for the community. It must be remembered that the town was a thriving bustling place well before Eli Whitney had perfected his gin. Its landscape was dotted with clapboard dwellings long in advance of the planters' penchant for towering colonnades. Its charm and its distinction come from the fact that it remarkably documents architecturally the growth of a Southern community from Federal beginnings through planter era affluence, from Victorian ebullience through beaux arts classical revival.
Other Jordan Families in this county
Matthew Jordan and many of his descendants migrated from Albemarle County, VA to Laurens County, SC then to Wilkes County, GA. Some of these descendants then migrated to Autauga County, AL between 1815 and 1821. The earliest relative in that set was William B. Jordan who was born in AL about 1815. I believe he was William Benjamin Jordan and was related to the William, Benjamin and Reuben Jordans who migrated to Wilkes County, GA and who were descendants of Matthew Jordan b 1712 in VA, d November 1769 in Albemarle, Virginia.
Children of MATTHEW JORDAN and JUDITH WARE are:
i.REUBEN JORDAN, b. 1754, Albemarle County, Virginia; d. 1816, Broad River Settlement, Wilkes Co., GA. ii.JONAS JORDAN, b. Abt. 1755, Amelia County, Va; d. November 1826, Wetumpka, Autauga Co., AL. iii.WILLIAM JORDAN, b. 1756, Albemarle County, Virginia or Amelia Co., VA; d. ??Wilkes Co., GA. iv.BENJAMIN JORDAN, b. 1758, Wilkes County, Georgia. v.JOHN JORDAN, b. 1760, Wilkes County, Georgia; d. 1831. vi.FLEMING JORDAN, b. February 12, 1763, Wilkes Co., GA; d. August 12, 1831, Madison Co., AL. vii.MATTHEW JORDAN, b. 1764, Wilkes County, Georgia; d. 1825, AL.
Notes for MATTHEW JORDAN:
Notes for Jr. Matthew Jordan:
August 5, 1802 Franklin Co. Ga Deed Book"00" PG 79
This indenture made this fifth day of August one Thousand Eight Hundred and Two between Mathew Jordan of the county of Elbert and State of Georgia of the one part & Fleming Jordan of the county of Oglethorpe & State aforesaid of the other party witnesseth that the said Fleming Jordan hath for and in consideration of the sum of three hundred and twenty dollars to him in hand paid at or before the sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath granted bargained and sold and do by these presednts grant bargain and sell to the said Matthew Jordan a certain tract or parcel of land lying in the county of Franklin and on the waters of the Oconee & Broad Rivers, beginning at a Post Oak corner running thence North fifty degrees East? Fifty four to a pine thence sosth forthy degrees? five chanins to a hickory thence north fifty degrees east forty chains to a post oak thence sought forty degrees east forth chains................................................................ .... ..................
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Fleming Jordan (seal)
Daniel G. Moore
Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia extracted from the original court records of Augusta County 1745-1800 Circuit court records, section '1" judgements page 238
Eades vs Robertson-O.S. 325;N.S. 117- letter signed M. Jordan addressed to Col john Jordan, Albemarle County, near mouth of Rockfish River, Virginia; postmarked Goose pond, Ga 8th June, 1815; dated 8th June, 1815; My dear Brother--Having wrote to you so often and receiving no answer from you, distresses me very much. my distressed situation still obliges me to write you again. I am afraid that the money Cabel received for me will be entirely lost for the want of those papers. i have so often begged of you to send me, which is a copy of the deed he made to Mr. Eads and a copy of the power I made him to sell the land with yours and Mr Eade. Certificate to the amount paid him., The loss of this money has placed me entirely dependent on mu friends which is a most miserable life a man can live. i have not language to express to you the my distressed mind, altho I am in a friend's house. Therefore, my dear brother, I hope you will do the best you can for me. The man Cabell who has taken me is perhaps one of the worst characters that ever came to this state. i have nothing more worth writing to you, your relations are all well in this part of the world. Mrs. Crews desires to be remembered top all her relations and particularly to her aunt Judy, who she wrote to by Mr. marks some time ago. She would be glad to hear if the lette4r came safe to hand. i wish you to have the County Seal annexed to them papers as they will be of no effect without, and direct them to Oglethorpe County at the Goosepond office. I am your affectionate brother--m. Jordan. Deed, 22nd April 1812 by Robert I. Cabell, attorney-infact for Matthew Jordan of District of Abbeville, South Carolina, to Joseph Eads of Albemarle, 227 acres on waters of Fluvanna River, part of 1,000 acres formerly belonging to Mathew Jordan, deceased of Albemarle, which was divided, and this fell to Matthew, Jr. proved in nelson, 27th April, 1812. Recorded in Albermarle, 7th September, 1812.
At the home of his brother, Fleming Jordan in AL
viii.SARAH JORDAN, b. Abt. 1765; m. CHARLES ROSE, VA. ix.MILDRED (MILLY) JORDAN, b. 1766, Wilkes County, Georgia; m. CHARLES IRVING. x.JUDITH JORDAN, b. Abt. 1769, VA. xi.ELIZABETH JORDAN, b. Abt. 1770, VA; d. Abt. 1860.
GEORGE JORDAN (ARTHUR, GEORGE, ARTHUR, ARTHUR, WILLIAM, JOHN, JOHN, JOHN, JOHN, WILLIAM, WILLIAM, PETER, JOHN, RICHARD) was born Abt. 1720 in Greenville Co??, VA, and died 1789 in Wilkes Co., GA. He married (1) PATIENCE WARREN. He married (2) HANNAH SMITH.
George Jordan is the 1st cousin of Burrell Jordan (b 1724-1731) whose descendants migrated from Greenvile Co., VA to Northampton Co., NC then finally to Washington Co., GA. Burrell's son John (b May 08, 1756) was living in Washington Co. while George was living in Wilkes Co., GA.
There are a Warren, Benjamin and James Jordan in Morgan Co., GA in the 1820 census. They are likely the descendants or relatives of George Jourdan. They are mentioned in Wilkes Co documents in association with George's son Benjamin.