History of Western Civilization and Selected Local Histories

eXTReMe Tracker

Last updated 08/26/2011

County History: Irwin County was one of seven counties created on Dec. 15, 1818, by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws 1818, p. 27). [Click here for a legal description of Irwin County's original boundaries.] Irwin, Appling, and Early counties extended across south Georgia and were created from Creek lands acquired in 1814 by the Treaty of Fort Jackson.

Irwin, Appling, and Early counties were organized by an act of Dec. 21, 1819, which provided for election of county officials in each county.

From 1825 to 1906, portions of Irwin Counties original boundaries were used to create the following counties: Lowndes and Thomas (1825), Worth (1853), Coffee (1854), Berrien (1856), Wilcox (1857), Tift and Turner (1905), and Ben Hill (1906).

Georgia's 41st county was named for former Georgia governor Jared Irwin (1750-1818). [For more information on Jared Irwin, click here and here.]

For more on the history of Irwin County, click here.

County Seat: The Dec. 21, 1819 act organizing Irwin County authorized the five justices of the county's first inferior court to select the location of the county's seat of government, which was to be "as near the centre thereof as convenience will admit" (Ga. Laws 1819, p. 65). Until a county seat was selected and a courthouse built, county courts were to meet in the home of David Williams. Irwin County's inferior court was unable to decide on where the county seat should be located, so on Dec. 21, 1820, the legislature authorized the inferior court to select a temporary county seat until a permanent one could be designated (Ga. Laws 1820, p. 28). What happened next is unclear. Maps of Georgia published in 1822 and 1823 show a site in north Irwin County marked "C.H." -- which indicates the location of the courthouse. However, Irwin County did not yet have an official county seat. On Dec. 13, 1823, the legislature vested William Foulsom, James Crum, Sellaway McCall, Joshua Griffin, and Alexander McDaniel as courthouse and jail commissioners with the authority formerly delegated to the inferior court (Ga. Laws 1823, p. 62).

On Dec. 24, 1825, the legislature authorized the five courthouse commissioners named above to also select a county seat for Irwin County and to purchase land, have lots laid off, and sell the lots (Ga. Laws 1825, p. 55). The act further provided that once a county site had been chosen, the inferior court was then responsible for contracting to have a courthouse and jail built. However, the commissioners could not agree on where to locate Irwin's county seat -- so on Dec. 19, 1827, the legislature appointed Cornelius Tison, Lott Whitten, Jonathan Smith, Miles Adams, James L. Wilcox, Ludd Mobly, and Jacob Paulk as new commissioners to select a county seat (Ga. Laws 1827, p. 187).

On Dec. 23, 1830, the legislature finally stepped in and designated the location of Irwin County's seat of government as land lot 225 in the fourth district of the county (Ga. Laws 1830, p. 216). If that lot could not be purchased, the act authorized the purchase of any lot within two miles of lot 225 for use as the county seat. The legislature also directed that the county seat be named Irwinsville.

For whatever reason, the legislature on Dec. 22, 1831 changed the location of Irwin's county seat to land lot 39 in the third district, though again directing that it be named Irwinsville (Ga. Laws 1831, p. 81). The act named Robert H. Dixon, Jacob Young, William Bradford, Daniel Look, and Reuben Marsh as commissioners with authority to lay out and sell town lots and to contract for building a courthouse and jail. On Dec. 22, 1857, the legislature incorporated Irwin County's seat of government as "Irwinville" -- and not "Irwinsville" as directed in the 1830 and 1831 acts (Ga. Laws 1857, p. 179).

Around 1880, a community named Ocilla developed around 10 miles southeast of Irwinville. (The name Ocilla was of Creek origin, believed to be the name of an Indian town or chief.) Built around timber and turpentine, Ocilla grew rapidly after a railroad from Fitzgerald was completed in 1897. That same year, the legislature incorporated Ocilla on Nov. 24 (Ga. Laws 1897, p. 282).

Soon afterwards, the railroad was extended southward, connecting Ocilla to major railroads. Within 10 years, the town's population tripled. Meanwhile, Irwinville declined as residents and businesses moved to Ocilla and Fitzgerald.

On April 29, 1907, a petition to change the county seat from Irwinville to Ocilla signed by two-fifths of the voters of Irwin County was submitted to the county ordinary (probate judge). That same day, the ordinary directed that an election be held on June 12, 1907. In that election, over two-thirds of the vote supported removal of the county seat, so on Aug. 19, 1907, the legislature designated Ocilla as the new county seat of Irwin County (Ga. Laws 1907, p. 307). A new courthouse in Ocilla was not completed until 1910, so Irvinville may have continued as de facto county seat from 1907 to 1910 due to the fact that the county courthouse was located there.

Home | GeocitiesSites.com | uCan | Southern Storage Solutions | www.akavar.us | TourMyNewHome.net