You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Georgia? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Georgia city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Peach State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Milledgeville (Photos)
- Fayetteville (Photos)
- Decatur (Photos)
- Newnan (Photos)
- Rome (Photos)
- Albany (Photos)
- Calhoun (Photos)
- Roswell (Photos)
- Barnesville (Photos)
- Alpharetta (Photos)
For being 214 years old, Milledgeville doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Georgia? That would be Sandy Springs — a brand spanking 1 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Georgia… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Georgia, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 115 out of 151 in Georgia with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 76.2% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Milledgeville turning out to be the matriarch of Georgia at the ripe old age of 214.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
Milledgeville, named after Georgia governor John Milledge (in office 1802–1806), was founded by European Americans at the start of the 19th century as the new centrally located capital of the state of Georgia. It served as the state capital from 1804 to 1868.
Fayetteville was founded in 1822 as the seat of the newly formed Fayette County, organized by European Americans from territory ceded by force the Creek people under a treaty with the United States during the early period of Indian removal from the Southeast. Both city and county were named in honor of the Revolutionary War hero the French Marquis de Lafayette. Fayetteville was incorporated as a town in 1823 and as a city in 1909.
Decatur was established at the intersection of two Native American trails: the Sandtown, which led east from the Chattahoochee River at Utoy Creek, and the Shallowford, which follows today’s Clairmont Road, and eventually crossed near Roswell. It was named for United States Navy Commodore Stephen Decatur.
Newnan was established as county seat of Coweta County (replacing the defunct town of Bullsboro) in 1828 and was named for North Carolinian General Daniel Newnan. It quickly became a prosperous magnet for lawyers, doctors, other professionals, and merchants. Much of Newnan’s prosperity was due to its thriving cotton industry, which relied on slavery.
People of the Mississippian culture are known to have inhabited the area from about 1000 CE. These people are believed to have died off from disease brought by exposure to the Spaniards in the late 16th century. The Cherokee migrated into the Southeast and established themselves in the early 17th century.
The region where Albany is located was long inhabited by the Creek Indians, who called it Thronateeska after their word for ‘flint’, the valuable mineral found in beds near the Flint River. They used it for making arrowheads and other tools. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, and the United States made treaties to extinguish Creek and other Native American land claims in the Southeast. The US Army forcibly removed most of the native peoples to Indian Territory, lands west of the Mississippi River.
European-American settlement began with Nelson Tift, of Yankee stock from Groton, Connecticut, who took land along the Flint River in October 1836 after Indian removal. Tift named his new town Albany after the capital of New York; both were located at the navigable heads of rivers. Alexander Shotwell laid out the town in 1836. It was incorporated as a city by an act of the General Assembly of Georgia on December 27, 1838.
Calhoun was a part of the Cherokee Nation (including New Echota, capital of the Cherokee Nation) until December 29, 1835. Cherokee leaders such as The Ridge and William Hicks had developed numerous productive farms in the fertile Oothcaloga Valley. When the Cherokee refused to give up the remainder of their lands under the Indian Removal Act, after years of land cessions to the United States for white settlers in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, President Andrew Jackson sent US troops to the northern region of Georgia to force most of the tribe to move to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River, most notably present-day Oklahoma. (See more information on Trail of Tears.)
In 1830, while on a trip to northern Georgia, Roswell King passed through the area of what is now Roswell and observed the great potential for building a cotton mill along Vickery Creek. Since the land nearby was also good for plantations, his idea was to put cotton processing near cotton production.
Toward the middle of the 1830s, King returned to build a mill that would soon become the largest in north Georgia – Roswell Mill. He brought with him 36 African slaves from his own coastal plantation, plus another 42 skilled carpenter slaves bought in Savannah to build the mills. The slaves built the mills, infrastructure, houses, mill worker apartments, and supporting buildings for the new town. The Africans brought their unique Geechee culture, language, and religious traditions from the coast to north Georgia.
Barnesville was founded in 1826 and named for local tavern owner Gideon Barnes. In 1920, Barnesville was designated seat of the newly formed Lamar County.
In the 1830s, the Cherokee people in Georgia and elsewhere in the South were forcibly relocated to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) under the Indian Removal Act. Pioneers and farmers later settled on the newly vacated land, situated along a former Cherokee trail stretching from the North Georgia mountains to the Chattahoochee River.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Georgia
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Georgia. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Georgia.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Peach State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Georgia:
- Sandy Springs (Founded in 2017)
- Peachtree Corners (Founded in 2017)
- Johns Creek (Founded in 2017)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Georgia
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