Effingham County History

Effingham County

In Colonial days, Effingham County was referred to as St. Matthews Parish, of which Ebenezer was the center. Following the Revolution, the legislature named Effingham County as one of the eight original counties in Georgia, created by the State Constitution in 1777.

When the original Effingham County was established, it was one of the largest of the eight counties. Since then, a number of other counties, or portions of counties, have been cut out of Effingham, including Bulloch, Screven, Candler, Emanuel, Bryan and Evans Counties.

It is named for Lord Effingham who, prior to the Revolutionary War, served as a colonel in the British Army. When the conflict began and he was ordered to take up arms against the colonists, as a strong believer in colonial rights, he refused to do so.

In 1784, Tuckasee King was selected as the first county site of Effingham County and remained so for more than 10 years. The next location for the center of county government was Elbertston, a settlement on the Ogeechee River.

In 1796, the Legislature of Georgia appointed a commission of five Effingham County citizens to name and designate a county site within five miles of the center of the county. On the commission were: Jeremiah Cuyler, John G. Neidlinger, Jonathan Rahn, Elias Hodges and John Martin Dasher. They designated the site and named the place Springfield in 1799.

After moving the site three times in the first 25 years of the history of the county, it has remained the same for almost 200 years.

In 1900, the population of the county was 8,334. That same year, the population of the various towns was as follows: Tusculum, 50; Stillwell, 110; Springfield, 107; Guyton, 500; Clyo, 160; Rincon, 91; Marlow, 150; Pineora, 46; and Egypt, 250.

Governor Treutlen

John Adam TreutlenEffingham can proudly boast that it was the home of not only a stern Revolutionary patriot, but also Georgia's first governor, John Adam Treutlen.

Although there is little authenticated information about him, a record of Jerusalem Lutheran Church at Ebenezer, Georgia, dated 1747, shows that John Adam Treutlen was 14 years old and that "he arrived in this land with the last German people." Using family and church records, historians concluded that John Adam Treutlen was born in 1734. Family records show that he was born in Berchtesgaden, Austria, in 1726.

The Treutlen family fled from Austria to England to avoid persecution and soon decided to join the other German emigrants in Georgia. However, their troubles were not over.

At the time of their departure, England and France were at war. Ships flying the flag of one country would prey on the ships of the other. Captains of these ships were often pirates who hoisted the flag of any country convenient for their purpose. The ship on which the Treutlens embarked was stopped and boarded by either Frenchmen or pirates. The father was captured and imprisoned The later died in prison). The family possessions were stolen.

Mrs. Treutlen and her two sons, Frederick and John Adam, finally reached shore in America. Frederick, the oldest, secured a grant of land at Vernonburg, married and settled there.

The mother later remarried, and John Adam was placed under the care and tutelage of Pastor John Martin Bolzius at St. Matthew Parish, Ebenezer. Pastor Bolzius commended him for his industry, zeal in learning, and his obedience in conduct:

John Adam Treutlen later became a teacher at Ebenezer and was elected a deacon in Jerusalem Church. He remained a high official in the congregation and a leader in the colony as long as he lived.

In 1756, John Adam Treutlen married Margaretha Dupuis' at Ebenezer. Born in Purysburg, SC, Margaretha had been orphaned at an early age and Sent across the Savannah River to the Lutheran school at Ebenezer. The couple had nine children, one of whom died in infancy.

Treutlen was active in the affairs of Georgia for many years before and during the Revolution. In addition to his official duties in Jerusalem Lutheran Church, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the parish of St. Matthew and represented the parish in the Commons House of Assembly. He was a colonel of the militia and a soldier in the Continental Line.

He was also selected as one of 15 members of the Council of Safety, formed by the rebels on June 22, 1775. This council exercised full governmental authority while the Provincial Congress was not in session. In January, 1776, the Council of Safety ordered the arrest of Royal Governor Wright.

As one of the representatives from St. Matthew Parish, now Effingham County, Treutlen was a member of the Provincial Congress of Georgia, which met in Savannah on July 4, 1775. In this congress, which' governed Georgia for the next two years, Treutlen took his place among such men as Walton, Habersham, Houstoun, Telfair, Clay, and McIntosh. This congress began the deliberations which brought the colony officially into the Revolution.

Treutlen was also a member of Georgia's first Constitutional Convention, which met intermittently from October 1776 to February 1777. A committee composed. of Treutlen, Button Gwinnett, William Belcher, Joseph Wood, Josiah Lewis, Henry Jones, and George Wills was selected "to reconsider and revise" the constitution (Rules and Regulations of 1776). When they had completed the writing of the constitution, the convention itself declared this first Constitution of the State of Georgia to be adopted.

This Constitution of 1777 provided for a unicameral legislature, called the House of Assembly, which was empowered to choose a Governor for a term of one year and an executive council of 12 members selected by the legislature from its own membership. In May 1777, John Adam Treutlen was elected Georgia's first governor under this constitution by a large majority, winning over his opponent, the Honorable Button Gwinnett.

Members of Treutlen's Executive Council were Jonathan Bryan, John Houstoun, Thomas Chisholm, William Holzendorf, John Fulton, John Jones, John Walton, William Few (who later signed the Constitution of the United States on behalf of the Georgia delegation), Arthur Fort, John Coleman, Benjamin Andrews, and William Peacock.

Many trials beset the new governor. Shortly after he assumed office, his wife, Margaretha, died. As commander-in-chief of the State Militia, he had to defend the state not only from invasion by the British, raids by the Tories and uprisings by hostile Indians on the Western border, but also from incorporation by the neighboring state of South Carolina. The Assembly of South Carolina had adopted a resolution to extend its borders to the Mississippi River. William Henry Drayton Esq. was very active in a campaign to persuade Georgians to favor the scheme.

On July 15, 1777, on advice of the Executive Council, Governor Treutlen issued a fiery proclamation "offering a reward of one hundred pounds, lawful money of the said State, to be paid to any person or persons who shall apprehend the said William Henry Drayton.." Drayton eluded the aroused citizens of Georgia and escaped to his home in South Carolina. The State of Georgia was preserved.

Securing money for the struggling army of patriots was one of the major problems of the new states. Governor Treutlen helped meet this need in Georgia by mortgaging his property, which was quite extensive.

At the expiration of his term as Governor, Treutlen retired to his plantation, north of Ebenezer at Sisters' Ferry (near the present town of Clyo). At this home site, he married Mrs. Anne Undsette (Unselt) in 1778 or 79. There were no children by this marriage.

Trouble continued to pursue Treutlen. He suffered constant harassment by the Tories. who knew that his name was on the list of persons proscribed by the British Parliament as Rebels. In this proscription, Treutlen was listed Rebel Governor and exempted from all amnesty proclamations. This harassment continued until, in 1779. his home and barn were burned and he left his devastated plantation, fleeing to St. Matthews Parish, S.C. with his family.

Treutlen still remained active in the affairs of Georgia and was elected in 1781 from his old parish to the Georgia legislature, which met in Augusta in 1782, and in which he served. He was also elected at the same time from St. Matthews Parish, S.C., to the South Carolina General Assembly, but he did not accept.

During that same year, Treutlen met his death under mysterious circumstances. There are several versions of his brutal murder in South Carolina by Tories. One is that he was killed at his home near Two Sisters' Ferry and buried in one of his fields near the Savannah River.

A monument to Governor Treutlen was erected several years ago on the grounds of Jerusalem Lutheran Church at Ebenezer by his interested local and out-of-state descendants. It was unveiled at special services during the Labor Day meeting of the Georgia Salzburger Society on Sept. 19, 1963.

Jerusalem Lutheran Church

At the site of the historic town of Ebenezer stands Jerusalem Lutheran Church. Built in 1769, it is the oldest church, or for that matter, public building, in the state of Georgia.

It seems symbolic that the white swan steeple should have endured through the years and even two great wars in this area of the country. There is a bullet hole in the swan that was put there by a British musket during the occupation of Ebenezer by the Tories during the Revolutionary War.

Two bells in the bellfry are used to toll the call to worship. An interesting story is behind the two bells. In 1738, before the church was built, the Rev. George Whitfield, English revivalist, visited Ebenezer and was so impressed by the community and its religious endeavors that upon returning to England, he sent them a gift. It was a bell, which was placed in the old wooden church that served them at that time.

In 1750, the Salzburgers felt the need for a larger bell, since many of the congregation had
moved further away and could not hear the original bell. So they wrote to Rev. Whitfield to send them another and larger bell, for which they paid.

But on the arrival of the new bell, the congregation could not bear to give up their little bell. Both bells were then placed in Jerusalem Lutheran Church when it was completed. Since shortly after 1750, these two bells - the oldest bells in Georgia - have called the people to worship in Ebenezer.

So here, after traces of the town of Ebenezer have all but disappeared, survives the swan and the church, in perhaps more beauty and glory than ever before.

The church was built by the citizens of Ebenezer in the years 1767-69 and is built of the hand-made bricks of the Salzburgers. The bricks made of clay deposits from around the site are of irregular size and many still carry visible fingerprints of these early workmen. It is said that the women of the town carried the bricks from the kiln to the building site in their aprons.

It was in this church and the wooden structure that preceded it that the Salzburgers operated their fine school. Here many of Georgia's outstanding Colonial leaders received their education.

In its more than 200 years of history, the old church has felt the severe effects of the wars that have transpired. The British soldiers occupied the church during most of the Revolutionary War, using it for a hospital at first, and later as stables and a commissary. It is said that the beautiful alter of the church was further desecrated by using it as a butcher block.

The red brick walls of the old church are 23 inches thick, and show light spots on the sides, which are said to be the result of salt meat being stored inside during the Revolutionary War.

After Gen. Anthony Wayne drove the British out of Ebenezer in 1782, the Georgia Legislature met in the church in July 1782.

Jerusalem was occupied by soldiers once again when General Sherman, on his march to the sea, took over the church. He burned all the fences and the church pews.

The pews in the balcony are original, as are some of the panes of glass. The pews used in the sanctuary are hand-carved of pines and dated around 1830.

The old cemetery adjoining the church is said to be the oldest cemetery in Georgia which is still in use, dating back to the very early days of Ebenezer.

Since the very beginning, church services have been held regularly, having never been discontinued. Up until 1803, all services were conducted in the mother tongue of the Salzburgers - German.

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