Additional Featured Historical Figures

Paul Amatis

Paul Amatis, an Italian silkmaker, had a vision for the fledgling Savannah colony: it would be used to manufacture silk. A recognized expert in the field, Amatis clashed with the colony’s chief Magistrate and store owner Thomas Causton, who remained in charge during General James Oglethorpe’s absence. Amatis also had disagreements with Causton’s friend and public gardener Joseph Fitzwater. Amatis was of the opinion that Fitzwater had neglected the ten-acre trustees garden, in which he had planted fruits and vegetables for the colonists. Amatis instead planted mulberry tress and grape vines.

Despite the fact that the mulberry trees did not provide adequate food for the silk worms, Amatis was successful in procuring silk as one of the first exports from Savannah. He was also successful in exporting wine, though neither silk nor wine exports brought consistent money to the colony. Oglethorpe eventually dismissed Amatis—replacing Fitzwater to his public gardening position—but not before Paul Amatis made his distinct mark on the new colony of Savannah.

Adapted from Savannah in the Old South by Walter J. Fraser

John Martin Boltzius

 John Martin Boltzius

John Martin Boltzius (1703-1767) Rare Pamphlet Collection, S540.A2.T39

Born in Forst, Germany, John Martin Boltzius is best known for strongly opposing slavery during the early years of the Georgia colony, and for serving as senior minister to the colony’s German-speaking Protestants called Salzburgers. The first group of Salzburgers sailed from England to Georgia in 1734, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 7, then proceeding to Savannah on March 12. Boltzius was met by General James Oglethorpe when the first group of Salzburgers arrived in Georgia from England in 1734. Oglethorpe assigned Boltzius and his group about twenty-five miles upriver in an area on Ebenezer Creek. Boltzius and the Salzburgers named their new settlement Ebenezer.Boltzius saw primarily to the spiritual care of the colonists, but soon took responsibility for their physical well being. He was opposed to corporal punishment, preferring to admonish colonists for their misdeeds instead. Boltzius also left behind an important description of the task system under which many enslaved workers labored in lowcountry Georgia. He worked unceasingly for the good of the colony, eventually establishing the colony’s first water-driven gristmill. Boltzius and the Salzburgers also created the first Sunday school in Georgia in1734, followed by the first orphanage in 1737. The Salzburg community survived the American Revolution, Sherman’s occupation, and an 1886 earthquake. Boltzius’ Jerusalem Church houses the oldest Lutheran congregation America to conduct worship in its original building.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on John Boltzius

Suggested Reading:

George Fenwick Jones, The Salzburger Saga: Religious Exiles and Other Germans along the Savannah (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984).

Alexander Pyrges, “German Immigrants at the Ebenezer Settlement in Colonial Georgia, 1734-1850: Integration and Separatism” (master’s thesis, Kansas State University, 2000).

H. A. Scomp, History of the Salzburgers ([Springfield, Ga.]: N. V. Turner, 2002).

Samuel Urlsperger, Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America, 8 vols., ed. George Fenwick Jones (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1968-85).

From the GHS Collection:

Microfilm: Live Oak Public Libraries collection of Thomas Gamble scrapbooks, 1930-1934. MS 1740.

Andrew Bryan

Born a slave in Goose Creek, South Carolina, Andrew Bryan (1737-1812) became a ground-breaking Baptist leader and helped establish the colony’s first African-American Baptist church in Savannah.

After being transported to Savannah by his owner Jonathan Bryan, Bryan became a Christian under the preaching of an African-American minister named George Liele. Bryan assumed leadership of Liele’s congregation after Liele left for Jamaica. Andrew’s brother Sampson also converted to Christianity, and helped his brother preach despite beatings and imprisonment they both received.

Eventually Bryan bought his and his family’s freedom and continued to grow his church community. Even after his death in 1812, his work still bore fruit, and the membership in First African Baptist Church had swelled to 2,795 by 1831.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Andrew Bryan

Suggested Reading:

Andrew Billingsley, Mighty like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Leroy Fitts, A History of Black Baptists (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1985).

Carter G. Woodson, The History of the Negro Church, 3d ed. (1921; reprint, Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1992).

Ulysses Davis

Ulysses Davis (1913-1990) was born in Savannah, where he worked as a barber at the West Savannah Barbershop for fifty years. Davis was also a self-taught sculptor and displayed many of his works around his barbershop. His work is on display in two galleries at the Beach Institute African American Cultural Center in Savannah.

Adapted from the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation website:

Count Charles Henri d’Estaing

Charles Henri d’Estaing (1729-1794) was born in France in 1729, where he entered the army as a colonel of infantry. He ultimately joined forces with Count de Lally in the East Indies, and was taken prisoner during the Siege of Madras. D’Estaing was paroled, but before his parole was ratified, D’Estaing joined the French East Indian Company in its attacks against British factories in the Persian Gulf and Sumatra.

D’Estaing found himself a prisoner again, this time of the British Crown as he sailed back to France in 1760. He was imprisoned in Portsmouth on conditions that he had broken his parole, but was released again when the charges could not be substantiated. Upon his release, D’Estaing began working with American generals in order to disrupt British attacks. D’Estaing experienced terrible luck when a storm tore apart many of his vessels that were posed to attack British ships. He docked in Boston for repairs, and eventually succeeded in capturing St. Vincent and Grenada.

D’Estaing’s ill luck continued when he attacked British-controlled Savannah in 1779. He and the Americans were repulsed with heavy losses, and d’Estaing felt compelled to retire. Life back in France was not much better; he fell out of favor in court, and in 1793 he found himself testifying in support of the royal family during the trial of Marie Antoinette. He was sent to the gallows on April 28, 1794.

Adapted from New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Charles Henri d’Estaing

From the GHS Collection:

Manuscript: John Laurens letter, 1779, MS 483; John McQueen deeds and letters, 1765-1807, MS 538

Microfilm: Archives nationales (France) collection on the Siege of Savannah, 1779, MS 1494

Rare: Storm over Savannah : the story of Count d’Estaing and the siege of the town in 1779, E241.S26 L3

John Deveaux

John Deveaux was one of many African-Americans to hold a prestigious office under the presidency of William McKinley, thanks to McKinley’s patronage policies. Deveaux served as Collector of Customs, but not before he founded the Savannah Tribune, Savannah’s first African-American newspaper.

Deveaux was seen as a leader of Savannah’s “Negro Aristocracy,” and his appointment as customs collector angered many whites, especially members of the cotton exchange. Deveaux quelled most of his critics through his diligent work and fair execution of his duties, and was reappointed to the post of customs collector with little controversy.

Adapted from Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900-1920. by Dittmer, John. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980.

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: The trouble they seen : profiles in the life of Col. John H. Deveaux, 1848-1909 / Charles L. Hoskins, F294.S2 H67 1989

Henry Ellis

A highly intelligent and skillful man, Henry Ellis (1721-1806) departed Ireland as a teenager for a life on the sea, where he attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales and the patronage of the Board of Trade, Lord Halifax. Ellis conducted experiments for members of England’s Royal Society. He was also involved in the slave trade from 1750 until 1755.

Henry Ellis replaced the unpopular John Reynolds as Georgia’s second royal governor, and colonists found him fair and competent. Ellis settled the land disputes of Mary Musgrove Bosomworth, which had long caused friction between Georgians and the Creek nation. Ellis also developed lasting friendships with Creek leaders, which helped the colonists in their bitter war with the French and the French-allied Indians.

When poor health forced Ellis to cede the governorship to James Wright, he planned the successful British take-over of Cuba. Ellis eventually retired and died in Italy at the age of eighty-five.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Henry Ellis

Suggested Reading

W. W. Abbot, The Royal Governors of Georgia, 1754-1775 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959).

Edward J. Cashin, Governor Henry Ellis and the Transformation of British North America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994).

Kenneth Coleman, Colonial Georgia: A History (New York: Scribner, 1976).

Harold E. Davis, The Fledgling Province: Social and Cultural Life in Colonial Georgia, 1733-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976).

Tom Waller, “Henry Ellis, Enlightenment Gentleman,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 63 (fall 1979): 364-76.

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Governor Henry Ellis and the transformation of British North America Edward J. Cashin, F289.E45 C37 1994

Manuscript: Henry Ellis instructions, 1759, MS 77; Henry Ellis papers, 1757-1760, MS 942

Rare: An act for the better settling the province of Georgia : passed the 19th of July, 1757, KFG30 1755 .A32

William Washington Gordon

William Washington Gordon (1796-1842) was an eminent Georgia citizen, a skilled lawyer, and is perhaps best known for being the first president of the Central Railroad and Banking Company. Born to Elizabeth Meade Gordon and Revolutionary War veteran Ambrose Gordon, William Gordon became West Point’s first Georgia graduate. After leaving West Point, he moved to Savannah to study law under Judge James Moore Wayne. He later married Wayne’s niece, Sarah Anderson Stites. His legal career included positions as legal advisor to the city of Savannah, alderman, representative and senator for Georgia, and mayor of Savannah.

Gordon’s 1836 appointment as president of the Central Railroad and Banking Company’s board of directors forced him to abandon his legal career and step down as Savannah’s mayor. In his new position, Gordon oversaw work on a rail line that would connect to the center of Georgia’s cotton belt. Sadly, he did not live to see rail line completed, dying in 1842 at the age of forty-six. The line was completed in 1843. In 1850, Gordon County was named in his honor. He was the grandfather of Girl Scout Founder, Juliette Gordon Low.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on William Washington Gordon

From the GHS Collection:

Manuscript: Gordon family papers, 1802-1946, MS 318

Nathanael Greene

Though Nathanael Greene (1742-1786) hailed from Rhode Island and never set foot on Georgia’s soil during the American Revolution, this famous general helped secure American victory and ultimately liberated Georgia from British rule.

Greene attracted the attention of General George Washington during the Siege of Boston in 1776, and at thirty-four became the youngest general in the Continental Army. By 1780, Greene was leading the Revolutionary army in its southern campaign. His brilliant military strategies reduced the might of the British army, and it was Greene who directed General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s campaign in Georgia that resulted in the end of British rule.

After the Revolution, a grateful Georgia government gave Greene Mulberry Grove Plantation. However, the plantation was not profitable, and Greene died not long after assuming control of the plantation. He is buried in Johnson Square in Savannah.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Nathanael Greene

Suggested Reading:

Edward J. Cashin, “Nathanael Greene Campaign for Georgia in 1781,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 61 (Sring 1977): 43-58.

Terry Golway, Washington’s General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005).

The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, ed. Richard K. Showman and Dennis M. Conrad (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Rhode Island Historical Society, 1976).

Elswyth Thane, The Fighting Quaker: Nathanael Greene (Mattituck, N.Y.: Aeonian Press, 1972).

Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolution (New York: Twayne, 1960).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: The home of Gen. Nathanael Greene at Coventry, Rhode Island, F89.C7 G3; The Life of Nathanael Greene, Major-General in the Army of the Revolution. Ed. by W. Gilmore Simms, E207.G9 S5; Nathanael Greene; strategist of the American Revolution, E207.G9 T48; The Papers of General Nathanael Greene / Richard K. Showman, editor, Margaret Cobb and Robert E. McCarthy, assistant editors, assisted by Joyce Boulind, Noel P. Conlon, and Nathaniel N. Shipton, E207.G9 A3 1976; Washington’s General : Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution / Terry Golway, E207.G9 G65 2005.

Manuscript: Gov. Brownson’s letter to Nathanael Greene, 1781 December 1 / Nathan Brownson, MS 1586

Rare: The discovery of the remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene : first president of the Rhode Island Cincinnati / address by Asa Bird Gardiner, E207.G9 G37 1901; Life of Nathanael Greene : major-general in the army of the revolution / by George W. Greene, E207.G9 G74 1848; Memoirs of the life and campaigns of the Hon. Nathaniel Greene : major general in the army of the United States, and commander of the Southern department, in the war of the revolution / by Charles Caldwell, E207.G9 C34 1819; Nathanael Greene : an examination of some statements concerning Major-General Greene, in the ninth volume of Bancroft’s History of the United States / by George Washington Greene, E207.G9 G812 1871; The remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene. A report of the Joint Special Committee of the General Assembly of Rhode Island appointed to take into consideration the desirability of securing within, E207.G9 R4; Sepulture of Major General Nathanael Greene : and of Brig. Gen. Count Casimir Pulaski / by Charles C. Jones, Jr., LL. D, E207.G9 J65 1885

Button Gwinnett

As one of the three Georgians who committed treason against the British Crown by signing the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett’s (1735-1777) place in history is secure. Gwinnett, a native of England, came to Savannah in 1765 and set up shop as a merchant. His failed business was an indicator of future financial crises, and Gwinnett turned his attention to politics. He became embroiled in the debate over British rule, and voted for independence on July 4, 1776.

Gwinnett’s troubled military career mirrored his financial woes. He aroused the ire of Lachlan McIntosh, commander of Georgia’s Continental Battalion, when Gwinnett’s military foray into British East Florida failed miserably. McIntosh ridiculed Gwinnett in public, and Gwinnett responded by challenging McIntosh to a duel. Both men shot each other, but only Gwinnett died from his wounds. The exact location of his grave remains a mystery. Gwinnett County was named in his honor in 1818.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Button Gwinnett.

Suggested Reading

Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958).

Steve Harvey, “Rare Signature Now on Display,” Atlanta Constitution, May 19, 1983, p. 40A.

Harvey H. Jackson, Lachlan McIntosh and the Politics of Revolutionary Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979).

Charles Francis Jenkins, Button Gwinnett: Signer of the Declaration of Independence (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1926).

T. R. Steiner, “Richard Gwinnett and His ‘Virtuous Lover,’

Elizabeth Thomas: A Literary Romance of Eighteenth-Century Gloucestershire,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 78 (winter 1994): 794-809

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Button Gwinnett, signer of the Declaration of Independence, E302.6.G95 J38 1974; Famous signers of the Declaration; with photographic illustrations, E221 .M15

Manuscript: Button Gwinnett letters and plat, 1767-1777, MS 336 Microfilm: Papers of the Continental Congress, Georgia State papers, 1775-1788, MS 5918

Rare: The burial place of Button Gwinnett : a report to the mayor and aldermen of the city of Savannah / by the Savannah-Chatham County Historic Site and Monument Commission, E302.6.G95 B87 1959; The Declaration of independence; illustrated story of its adoption, with the biographies and portraits of the signers and of the secretary of the Congress, by William H. Michael, E221 .M62; The Gwinnett Bible / by Charles F. Jenkins, E302.6.G95 J4 1926

Lyman Hall

Another of the three Georgian’s to sign the Declaration of Independence, Lyman Hall (1724-1790) also served as a representative to the Continental Congress and as Georgia’s governor from 1783-1784.

Hall was also a Yale graduate, an ordained Congregational minister, and eventually a doctor. Hall practiced medicine in Savannah following the Revolution, only to be elected governor in 1783. His administration faced many difficulties, but Hall did manage to play a supporting role in the establishment of the University of Georgia. He died at the age of sixty-six in 1790.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Lyman Hall.

Suggested Reading

Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958).

James F. Cook, The Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004, 3d ed. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Famous signers of the Declaration; with photographic illustration, E221 .M15

Microfilm: Papers of the Continental Congress, Georgia State papers, 1775-1788, MS 5918

Rare: The Declaration of independence; illustrated story of its adoption, with the biographies and portraits of the signers and of the secretary of the Congress, by William H. Michael, E221 .M62; Honoring the memory of Wallingford’s most illustrious son, the Honorable Lyman Hall : signer of the Declaration of Independence / [by] David A. Buckley, jr., John P. Stevenson, James P. Craig, E263.G3 H22 1916; Lyman Hall : Georgia patriot / James W. Hall, E263.G3 H23 1959

Patrick Houstoun

Born as the grandson Scottish knight and baronet Sir Patrick Houstoun, Patrick Houstoun (1698-1762) left Scotland in 1734 and settled near what is now Richmond Hill, Georgia, land that would later belong to Henry Ford. When Patrick’s cousin Sir John Houstoun died without male heirs, the title of baronet passed to Patrick. Houstoun then entered the political area, serving all three royal governors. He was soon appointed as a member of the Royal Council of Georgia, and Houstoun found himself the ranking member within mere months. Houstoun spent his time advising the governor on matters ranging from Indian affairs to matters of public safety.

Houstoun’s duties didn’t end there. In addition to raising six children with his wife Priscilla, Houstoun also sat on the Upper House of Assembly, which was affiliated with the Royal Council and often met daily when the council was in session. In addition, Houstoun assumed the position of register of grants and receiver of quit rents, which were notoriously difficult to collect. He also served as commissioner for defense of the colonies. Houstoun died in 1762, leaving everything to his wife. The title of baronet passed to his twenty year old son, also named Patrick.

From the Dictionary of Georgia Biography.

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: The Houstouns of Georgia, HD9651.7.A13 .H473 1930

James Jackson

A man given to duels and bloody brawls, James Jackson (1757-1806) made his resounding mark in Georgia politics, especially in regard to the Yazoo land fraud of 1795. A native of Devonshire, England, Jackson arrived in Savannah in 1772 and took part in the failed defense of Savannah in 1779. He went on to be elected to the United States Senate in 1793, a seat he would resign to return to Georgia to overturn the Yazoo Act which had granted 35 million acres in present-day Mississippi and Alabama to four companies for $500,000. The deal had been conducted with bribery and corruption, and Jackson and his supporters were successful in rescinding the act.

Jackson was also responsible for ushering in Georgia’s first real political party. Since most of those involved in the debauched Yazoo land deal were Federalists, Jackson found it relatively easy to include Georgia in the Jeffersonian Republican Party. By 1802, Jeffersonians controlled the federal government.

Adapted from New Georgia Encyclopedia article on James Jackson.

From the GHS Collection:

Manuscript: James Jackson papers, MS 422; C.H. Warren illustration of the burning of the Yazoo Act, ca. 1914, MS 1675; Edward Telfair papers, MS 791; Georgia Commission to Attend a Treaty with the Creek Indians journal, MS 280; Georgia Executive Council papers, MS 284

Noble Jones

One of the colony’s original settlers, Noble Jones (1701-1775) arrived on the Ann with General James Oglethorpe in 1733, and in fact remained friends with Oglethorpe all his life. Jones did not plan to stay in the colony but soon found himself quite at home in Georgia and became Oglethorpe’s Surveyor. Oglethorpe also appointed Jones as the “Agent for the Indians” and for Tomochichi.Jones also aided Oglethorpe when the general laid siege to Spanish-controlled St. Augustine. Shortly after his service, he received a land grant and built Wormsloe. Jones came to Oglethorpe’s aid again in 1742 when Spanish forces invaded, and it was Jones’ scouts who provided vital information to Oglethorpe that led to the Spanish defeat at the Battle of Bloody Marsh.

Jones also served the Trustees government as Captain of the Marines and Scout-boat at Wormsloe, Assistant to the President, Register of the Province, Member of the Council that reported on the state of the colony, and Colonel of the Regiment.

Adapted from Dictionary of Georgia Biography and Men of Mark in Georgia by William Northern

Suggested Readings:

A List of the Early Settlers of Georgia, edited by E. Merton Coulter and Albert B. Saye

Captain Jones’ Wormsloe by William M. Kelso

Wormsloe: Two Centuries of a Georgia Family by E. Merton Coulter

British Drums on the Southern Frontier by Larry E. Ivers

Georgia Journeys by Sarah B. Gober Temple and Kenneth Coleman

The Fledgling Province by Harold E. Davis

Men of Mark in Georgia by William Northern

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Captain Jones’s Wormslow : a historical, archaeological, and architectural study of an eighteenth-century plantation site near Savannah, Georgia / by William M. Kelso, F294.W6 K44; The Jones family papers, 1760-1810 edited by John Eddins Simpson, F281 .G35 v.17

Manuscript: Court of Savannah, Grand Jury record, MS 690; Court of Savannah, Grand Jury record, MS 690;

Rare: Wormsloe; two centuries of a Georgia Family by E. Merton Coulter, F289.J69 C6; Wormsloe : an historical plantation dating from 1733, cover piece by Cornelia Cunningham,F294.W6 W67 1937 (rare pamphlet)

Alice Woodby McKane

Despite extreme setbacks—the death of both her parents at age seven, and the three-year loss of her eyesight—Alice McKane (1865-1948) rose above tribulation to obtain a medical degree in 1892 and to co-found the first training school for nurses in southeast Georgia. Her co-founder was her friend, fellow doctor, and husband Cornelius McKane. The couple also traveled to Monrovia, Liberia where they opened the country’s first hospital, complete with a nurse training school similar to the one in Savannah.

Upon her return to Savannah, she worked hard to establish the McKane Hospital, which opened in 1896. Following her husband’s death in 1912, Alice continued practicing medicine and joined the NAACP. She also published two books: The Fraternal Sick Book (1913) and a book of poetry entitled Clover Leaves (1914).

Adapted from Georgia Women of Achievement website:

Cornelius McKane

Cornelius McKane’s (1862-1909) heritage can be traced to a West African king named Mannah Funacai, or more commonly “King George.” McKane was born in Georgetown, Dutch Guiana, and traveled with his parents at the age of ten to Liberia. Before he departed Guiana young McKane met his grandmother, who made him promise to one day return and help the people of her native land.

McKane never forgot his promise. In fact, it was bolstered when he finished his schooling in America and visited Monrovia, where he met his great grandmother who exclaimed in her native language that he was a gift from God.

Thus empowered, McKane decided to pursue a career in medicine, moving to Savannah after his training because of the dearth of black doctors in the area. He soon met Alice Woodby, who had overcome incredible odds to become the only black female physician in Georgia in 1892. Woodby and McKane married, and he found that Alice shared his desire to help the people of Monrovia. The couple divided their energies between West Africa and Savannah, founding Monrovia’s first hospital and nurse training school, and establishing the McKane Hospital and the McKane Training School for Nurses in Savannah. McKane, a skilled orator and active clergyman, died in Boston in 1909.

Adapted from Charles Elmore, “Black Medical Pioneers in Savannah, 1892-1909: Cornelius McKane and Alice Woodby McKane,” in Georgia Historical Quarterly vol. 88, no. 2, Summer 2004.

Abigail Minis

Abigail Minis (ca. 1701 – 1794) and her family arrived in Savannah in July 1733, marking her as one of the colony’s first settlers. Abigail’s husband died in 1757, leaving her to oversee and manage the family’s 1,000 acres, mercantile firm, and tavern — along with their eight children. A shrewd businesswoman, Abigail continued to amass property throughout Coastal Georgia and South Carolina well into her eighties.

During the American Revolution, Abigail and her family were loyal to the patriot cause, providing provisions for American and French soldiers during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. When the Americans and French failed to retake Savannah from the British, Abigail and her family fled to Charleston. Abigail returned to Savannah, where she lived until her death at the age of ninety-three. She was buried in Sheftall Cemetery.

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: The Minis family of Georgia, 1733-1992 by Kaye Kole. Savannah, Ga. : Georgia Historical Society, c1992CS71.M658 1992; The Jews in early America : a chronicle of good taste and good deeds by Sandra Cumings Malamed,McKinleyville, Calif. : Fithian Press, 2003, E184.3512 .M35 2003

Manuscript : Jacob Florance Minis letter, 1917, MS 564; Jacob Minis colonial papers, 1768-1793, MS 568; American Jewish Archives collection on Georgia history, MS 1157; Philip Minis papers, MS 566

Samuel Nunes

Born as Diogo Roberio (later changed to Samuel Nunes, ca. 1668 – ?) practiced medicine in Lisbon until his arrest and property seizure in 1703. His crime was speaking out against the Portuguese Inquisition and openly supporting Judaism. Roberio was tried, but was released under the condition that he remained in Lisbon permanently. Long suspected of being Jewish, Roberio and his family were accused of smuggling Jews from Portugal to England. Roberio and his family successfully fled to England, where he took the Hebrew name Samuel and openly confessed his true faith.

In 1732, Nunes made plans to take a group of Jewish settlers from England to the Georgia colony. Nunes arrived in 1733 to find colonists dying from an epidemic. Nunes’ sprang to the aid of the colonists and soon controlled the outbreak, an action that eased the Trustees’ misgivings about Jews settling in the colony. The Trustees communicated orders to General James Oglethorpe to give no land to Nunes and his fellow Jews, but Oglethorpe received the directions after granting land to the new settlers.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear sparked fears of Spanish invasions, and Nunes and his fellow settlers, recalling the horrors of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, fled the colony. Nunes relocated to New York, where his daughter lived. Though it not known what happened to Nunes later, family tradition supports the claim that he returned to live in Savannah.

Adapted from the Dictionary of Georgia Biography article on Samuel Nunes

John Reynolds

Little is known about the early life of Georgia’s first royal governor, John Reynolds (ca. 1713-1788). Reynolds was born in England, where he rose in the ranks of the Royal Navy. As was common at the time, Reynolds received his next appointment from his patron. Phillip Yorke, first earl of Hardwicke and lord chancellor of England, persuaded the president of the Board of Trade Lord George Halifax to appoint Reynolds as the colony’s first royal governor in 1754.

Reynolds’ time as governor was marked by controversy and disappointment. He openly stated that he would gladly leave the colony as a soon as a more profitable venture presented itself, and he executed the duties of his office more like a naval commander than a civic servant. The governor’s council became increasingly agitated by Reynolds’ leadership style, which often left them in the dark.

Eventually, the council focused its ire on William Little, a friend of Reynolds who served in many capacities. The council accused Little of dishonesty and interference with governmental affairs. The firestorm of Reynolds’ tenure endured until the Board of Trade recalled him back to England to stand trial for his actions, giving the colony to Governor Henry Ellis in his stead. Reynolds defended himself adequately and received no punishment except an order to resign as royal governor. Reynolds did so, and resumed his naval career until his death, by the time of which he had reached the rank of full admiral.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on John Reynolds

Suggested Reading

W. W. Abbot, The Royal Governors of Georgia, 1754-1775 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, [1959]).

Kenneth Coleman, Colonial Georgia: A History (New York: Scribner, 1976).

James F. Cook, The Governors of Georgia, 1754-2005, 3d. ed. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005).

Frank Lambert, James Habersham: Loyalty, Politics, and Commerce in Colonial Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Colonial records of the State of Georgia edited by Kenneth Coleman and Milton Ready ; sponsored by the Georgia Commission for the National Bicentennial Celebration, F281 .C712;

Manuscript: John Reynolds commissions, 1754, MS 657

Mary Telfair

Mary Telfair (1791-1875) was born in Augusta, then the capital of Georgia, to Sarah Gibbons and Edward Telfair, who was serving as governor at the time. A child of keen intellect and curiosity, Mary quickly grew into a voracious reader and a woman with strong opinions about national and world events. This was strange for the 19th century, when women were expected to be informed conservationists, though not in the political arena. Above all, women were expected to wed.

Telfair’s inherited wealth freed her from this expectation, and she devoted her life to travel and helping others. Upon her death, her will stipulated money be left to complete Hodgson Hall for the Georgia Historical Society. She also endowed the Savannah Widow’s Society and founded the Mary Telfair Hospital for Women. Telfair is perhaps best known for leaving her home, art collections, and the remainder of the money to establish the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences. Architect William Jay designed the original Telfair house, which opened its doors as a museum in 1886, earning its distinction as the oldest public art museum in the South.

Suggested Reading:

Charles J. Johnson Jr., Mary Telfair: The Life and Legacy of a Nineteenth-Century Woman (Savannah, Ga.: Frederic C. Beil, 2002).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Mary Telfair : the life and legacy of a nineteenth-century woman / Charles J. Johnson, Jr, F294.S2 J62 2002; Mary Telfair to Mary Few : selected letters, 1802-1844 / edited by Betty Wood, F294.S2 T45 2007

Manuscript: Mary Telfair papers, 1790-1875, MS 792; Savannah Widows’ Society : records, 1822-2001, MS 1651; Telfair Hospital Alumnae Association papers, 1902-1978, MS 1282

Rare: The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences : proposed scheme of organization, F294.S2 T34 1883

Peter Tondee

A native of England, Peter Tondee (ca. 1723 – 1775) arrived with his father and brother in Savannah in May of 1733. When Tondee’s father died in July, he and his brother were entrusted to Paul Amatis, manager of the fledgling silk trade. Custody was later transferred to a local magistrate, Henry Parker. The boys were not destined to remain with Parker, though, and evangelist and founder of Bethesda Home for Boys, George Whitefield, took Peter and his brother. Peter, who was sixteen at the time, soon became apprenticed Savannah carpenter James Papot. Tondee would go on to work on the first building of Christ Church and a two-story brick courthouse on Wright Square.

Tondee also owned Tondee’s Tavern, which became a minor hotbed of revolutionary politics. Two Provincial Congresses met in the tavern, the last of which oversaw the creation of the state’s first government. Tondee’s wife Lucy took over management of the tavern when her husband died in 1775, and continued opening its doors to patriots until the British occupation of Savannah in 1778. Lucy Tondee died in 1785, and in 1796, the first of Savannah’s many devastating fires burned the Tondee lot and building to the ground.

Suggested Reading

Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958).

Kenneth Coleman, Colonial Georgia: A History (New York: Scribner, 1976).

Harold E. Davis, The Fledgling Province: Social and Cultural Life in Colonial Georgia, 1733-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976).

Carl Solana Weeks, Savannah in the Time of Peter Tondee (Columbia, S.C.: Summerhouse Press, 1997).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Savannah in the time of Peter Tondee : the road to revolution in colonial Georgia by Carl Solana Weeks, F294.S2 W44 1997; The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789 by Kenneth Coleman. F290 .C55; Colonial records of the State of Georgia edited by Kenneth Coleman and Milton Ready, sponsored by the Georgia Commission for the National Bicentennial Celebration.

Rare:The colonial records of the state of Georgia compiled and published under authority of the legislature by Allen D. Candler. F281 .C71.

George Walton

George Walton (ca. 1749-1804), along with Button Gwinnett and Lyman Hall, served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. Originally from Virginia, Walton arrived in Savannah in 1769 and began a lucrative law career. He suspended his career to travel to Philadelphia to participate in the fateful events leading up to July 4, 1776.

Walton’s role in the American Revolution continued, and he was captured by Archibald Campbell during the British takeover of Savannah in 1778. After the revolution, his political career saw him take positions as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1788, as governor of Georgia 1789, and as a state senator, filling the seat James Jackson left when he stepped down to rescind the Yazoo Land Act. Walton eventually retired to his home in Augusta, where he died in 1804. Walton County is named in his honor.

Suggested Reading

Edwin C. Bridges, “George Walton: A Political Biography” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1981).

Edwin C. Bridges, Georgia’s Signers and the Declaration of Independence (Atlanta: Cherokee Publishing, 1981).

Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958).

James F. Cook, The Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004, 3d ed. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Famous signers of the Declaration; with photographic illustrations, E221 .M15; George Walton and “College Hill,” Augusta, Georgia : a report for the Historic Preservation Section, Office of Planning and Research, Department of Natural Resources / by Edwin C. Bridges, F294.A9 B750; George Walton Williams : the life of a Southern merchant and banker, 1820-1903 / by E. Merton Coulter, HC102.5.W54 C68

Manuscipt: Chatham County Superior Court records, 1783, MS 139; George Walton letters and biography, 1778-1797, MS 833; Georgia Provincial Congress proceedings, 1775-1779, MS 287 Microfilm: Papers of the Continental Congress, Georgia State papers, 1775-1788, MS 5918

Rare: The Declaration of independence; illustrated story of its adoption, with the biographies and portraits of the signers and of the secretary of the Congress, by William H. Michael, E221 .M62

George Whitefield

The evangelical preacher George Whitefield (1714-1770), along with John and Charles Wesley, is largely responsible for leading the spiritual Great Awakening in America and Evangelical Revival in his native England. Whitefield’s preaching and methods were out-of-step with standards of the day, and Whitefield often found himself preaching outdoors rather than inside churches. Along with his religious fervor, Whitefield had a great sympathy for what he called Georgia’s “poor orphans.” He repeatedly petitioned for funds to open an orphanage, an academy, and eventually a college. In 1740, construction began on the Bethesda Orphan house, with Whitefield providing ₤2,539 to aid in the process. He returned to England, where he continued raising money for his orphans.

The Wesleys broke with Whitefield in 1741, and in 1749 Whitefield became a chaplain to Selinda, the Countess of Huntingdon, who in turn became the trustee of Bethesda when Whitefield died in 1770. Bethesda Home for Boys flourishes today as a foster home and a day school, and remains the country’s oldest children’s home.

Suggested Reading

Robert Backhouse, ed., The Journals of George Whitefield (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1993).

Edward J. Cashin, Beloved Bethesda: A History of George Whitefield’s Home for Boys, 1740-2000 (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2001).

Marcus L. Loane, Oxford and the Evangelical Succession (London: Lutterworth Press, 1950).

Douglas Macleane, A History of Pembroke College, Oxford (Oxford, Eng.: Clarendon Press, 1897).

John Pollock, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972).

Luke Tyerman, The Life of the Rev. George Whitefield, 2 vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1876-77).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Beloved Bethesda : a history of George Whitefield’s home for boys, 1740-2000 / by Edward J. Cashin, HV995.S45 C37 2001; Bethesda, an historical sketch of Whitefield’s House of Mercy in Georgia, and of the Union Society, his associate and successor in philanthropy. By Thomas Gamble, Jr, HV995.S452 B43; George Whitefield ; the life and times of the great evangelist of the eighteenth-century revival [by] Arnold A. Dallimore, BX9225.W4 D34; “George Whitefield”, a lecture, delivered in Savannah, Georgia, on Monday evening, December 16th, 1878, BX9225.W4 H370; George Whitefield, M. A., field preacher. By James Paterson Gledstone., BX9225.W4 G6 1901;

Manuscript: Cheshunt College collection on Bethesda College, 1770-1778, MS 1133; Inventing the “great awakening” / Frank Lambert, BR520 .L35 1999; John Johnson papers, 1770-1792, MS 430; John Wesley and George Whitefield in Scotland; or, The influence of the Oxford Methodists on Scottish religion, by the Rev. D. Butler, BX8495.W5 B8; Journals, BX9225.W4 A215 1960; A letter to His Excellency Governor Wright, HV995.S452 B58 1768; Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, BX9225.W4 G45 1972; Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, BX9225.W4 G45 1836; Select sermons of George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 S35 1964; A sermon on the death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, preached on Sunday, November 18, 1770, BX9225.W4 W45 1953

Microfilm: Georgia records, 1735-1822, MS 4000

Rare: An account of money received and disbursed for the orphan-house in Georgia / by George Whitefield ; to which is prefixed a plan for the building, F289 .W44 1741; An apology in behalf of the Revd Mr. Whitefield : offering a fair solution of certain difficulties, BX9225.W4 F690; The best match : a sermon preached at Cambvslang on Sabbath evening, after the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, July 11th, 1742 / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 B48 1743; Bethesda : a historical sketch, with incidental recollections of Whitefield and Habersham, its founders, HV995.S452 B48 1860; A brief and general account of the first part of the life of the Reverend Mr. George Whitefield : from his birth to his entering into holy-orders / written by himself, BX9225.W4 W551 1740; The Christian’s companion, or Sermons on several subjects : to which are added several prayers / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 .C47 1739; A continuation of the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s journal : from his arrival at London, to his departure from thence on his way to Georgia, BX9225.W4 W553 1739; A continuation of the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s journal : from his arrival at Savannah, May 7, BX9225.W4 W558 1741; Directions how to hear sermons : a sermon preached at Christ’s Church in Spittlefields, London / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 D47 1739; Eighteen sermons / preached by the late Rev. George Whitefield ; taken verbatim in short-hand, and faithfully transcribed by Joseph Gurney ; revised by Andrew Gifford, BX9178.W5 E5 1797; The eternity of hell torments : a sermon preached at Savannah in Georgia / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 E83 1738; George Whitefield : a biography, with special reference to his labors in America / compiled by Joseph Belcher, BX9225.W4 B4 1857; The great danger of conformity to the world : a sermon preached on Friday, October 22d, 1742, in the high-church-yard of Glasgow / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 G73 1743; An inquiry into the itinerancy and the conduct of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, an itinerant preacher, BX9225.W4 H633 1745; A journal of a voyage from London to Savannah in Georgia : in two parts / by George Whitefield, with a short preface, shewing the reasons of its publication, BX9225.W4 W555 1739; A journal of a voyage from London to Savannah in Georgia : in two parts, Part I, from London to Gibraltar, Part II, from Gibraltar to Savannah / by George Whitefield, BX9225.W4 W555 1738; Journal of a voyage from Savannah to Philadelphia, and from Philadelphia to England, MDCCXL [1740] / by William Seward, gent., companion in travel with the Reverend Mr. George Whitefield, E162 .S51; The life of the great preacher, Reverend George Whitefield, “The prince of pulpit orators” : with the secret of his success and specimens of his sermons / by A. S. Billingsley, BX9225.W4 B59 1878; Memoir of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon / compiled from authentic documents by the Rev. Alfred H. New, BX9225.H82 N48 1859; Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield / By John Gillies, D.D, BX9225.W4 G45 1837; Memoirs of the life and character of the late Rev. George Whitefield, BX9225.W4 G45 1813; Memoirs of the life of the Reverend George Whitefield, M.A. : late chaplain to the Right Honorable the Countess of Huntingdon, BX9225.W4 G45 1798; Remarks on the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s journal : wherein his many inconsistences are pointed out, BX9225.W4 W553 1739; A sermon on the death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, by John Wesley, BX9225.W4 W45 1770; Sermons on various subjects / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 .S37 1739; Some remarks on a late pamphlet intitled, The state of religion in New-England, since the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield’s arrival there / by George Whitefield, BX9225.W4 W56 1749; Worldly business no plea for the neglect of religion : a sermon preached at the Parish Church of St. Lawrence, Old Jewry, London / by George Whitefield, BX9178.W44 W67 1739

For more on George Whitefield, see our Three Centuries of Georgia History online exhibit.

James Wright

James Wright

James Wright (1716-1785)
From the GHS Print Collection

Serving as Georgia’s third and last royal governor from 1760 to 1782, James Wright (1716-1785) is often regarded as the most popular and competent of the governors. Though he tried and failed to stop the Revolution from catching fire in Georgia, he was successful in holding it off while other colonies fully embraced the patriots’ cause.

Wright was born and educated in England, but eventually purchased plantations and practiced law in South Carolina. Wright was appointed as the third royal governor when poor health forced Henry Ellis to resign. Wright dutifully enforced the 1765 Stamp Act, which helped to spark the American Revolution. In fact, Georgia was the only of the colonies in which stamps were sold. Wright was powerless to stop the armed rebellion of 1776.

He was captured, but escaped and fled to England on a British warship. There he petitioned for a full assault on the Georgia colony, an idea fully realized in the invasion of Savannah in 1778. Despite a brief stint as a royal governor during Savannah’s British occupation, Wright eventually returned to England when the British abandoned Savannah in 1782. Wright died at the age of sixty-nine at his home in Westminster, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Wrightsborough is named in his honor.

Suggested Reading

W. W. Abbot, The Royal Governors of Georgia, 1754-1775 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959).

Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958).

James F. Cook, The Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004, 3d ed. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005).

Leslie Hall, Land and Allegiance in Revolutionary Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001).

From the GHS Collection:

Manuscript: James Wright papers, 1772-1784, MS 884; Letters from Sir James Wright, F281 .G35 v.3

Microfilm: Board of Trade and Secretaries of State, America and West Indies, Georgia colony records, 1732-1781, MS 1738