Bethesda: Its Founding

Bethesda: Its Founding

Bethesda: It's Founding

Courtesy of Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Marker Text: The idea of establishing an orphanage in Georgia was suggested by Charles Wesley and James Edward Oglethorpe. Enthusiastically embraced by the Reverend George Whitefield, he labored toward that end after his arrival in Georgia in 1738.

Through his efforts substantial sums were raised and a grant of 500 acres obtained in 1739 from the Trustees of the Colony. Site of the Orphan House (far removed from “the wicked influence of the town”) was selected by Whitefield’s faithful co-worker, James Habersham, who wrote, “The boys and girls will be taught to labor for souls as well as for their daily bread.”

March 25, 1740, Whitefield laid the first brick in the Orphan House to which he gave the name Bethesda, hoping it would ever prove what the word imported, “the House of Mercy”.

November 3, 1740, 61 children took up residence at the “Great House”, described by an English traveler of the period as a “square building of very large dimensions, the foundations of which are of brick, with chimneys of the same; the rest of the superstructure of wood”.

Since then hundreds of young people have gone forth from Bethesda’s sheltering arms to make their mark in the world, among them Governor John Milledge and General Lachlan McIntosh.

Tips for Finding This Marker: On Old Montgomery Road in Savannah

To learn more about this marker topic, visit our Hidden Histories online exhibit.