Early Bryan County History

By Joseph L. Buhler, Sr.
Bryan County, Georgia lies between the Ogeechee River on the east and the Cancoohee River, Mt. Hope Creek, and the Jerico-Laurel View River that becomes the Midway River on the west. It is bordered on the south by the Intercoastal Passage and on the North by Bulloch County.

The southern portion (Ogeechee Neck) was settled first, with communities such as Hardwicke and Cross Roads being mentioned in colonial times. Ogeechee Neck has had a number of names, as a political sub-division in the more than 250 years of its civilization. At first, it was part of Chatham County, which included settlements on the Savannah River and on both banks of the Ogeechee River. Next, it was part of Midway District, and then it became York district of the Great Ogeechee District. When Georgia became a province, Ogeechee Neck was named St. Phillips's Parish.

In the organization of the new state during the Revolution, the Ogeechee Neck section was part of Liberty County. On December 19, 1793, Bryan County was created from Liberty (1777) and Effingham (1777) counties by the Georgia Legislature. (Some documents state Bryan County was formed in 1793 with 439 square miles taken from Chatham County (1777)). It was then divided with Screven County in 1796 to form Bulloch County and again with Montgomery County in 1812 to form Emanuel County. The last division was with Tattnall County in 1914 to form Candler & Evans Counties. It was originally divided into the 19th General Military District (19th GMD) (Northern Half) and the 20th General Military District (20th GMD) (Southern Half). Later the middle portion of the county was designated the 1139th GMD.

Bryan County was named in honor of Jonathan Bryan who came from South Carolina with Oglethorpe to help establish the Georgia colony at Savannah. Jonathan Bryan was born in South Carolina on September 12, 1708, the youngest son of Joseph Bryan, an early colonist of South Carolina. Jonathan Bryan came to Georgia in 1752, the year the Trustees resigned their chapter. He was appointed public treasurer of the province in May 1755 and held this post until April 3, 1756 when he resigned. He was a member of the Council of Safety, the Convention and State Congress. In 1778 all public records of the province were placed in his safe keeping at his home at the Union. Mr. Bryan's plantation near Savannah was Brampton Plantation, on the Savannah River, almost next door to the Hermitage Plantation. He had plantation holdings elsewhere in the county. His Bryan's Cowpen further up the Ogeechee River was a landmark of its day in describing Royal Grants. He was a friend of John and Charles Wesley, who founded Methodism in Georgia and James Whitfield, who founded Bethesda, the first orphanage in America. He died March 12, 1788.
(web site coordinator note: George Whitefield founded Bethesda (James Whitefield was a marshal under the British Colonial government and a Revolutionist when the Revolutionary War broke out). The Wesleys did not start what is now called Methodism until several years after they returned to England from Georgia.
re: J. G. (Jerry) Braddocks Sr. Charleston, SC)

Hardwicke was first named George Town (for the King of England), and was laid out in 1745, but no public buildings were erected. Later it was renamed for Lord Hardwicke, Lord High Chancellor of England. It was temporarily selected as the first county seat when Bryan County was created in 1793. In 1797 the General Assembly designated the cross roads, two miles from the Ogeechee Bridge as the county seat. This was known at the time as Cross Roads (Ways Station) a railroad stop in 1797, named for one of the Ways families, of which many inhabited this section. Ways Station was later renamed Richmond Hill after Richmond Hill Plantation founded by Henry Ford in 1925. A wooden courthouse was built in 1854 and the site later became known as Bryan Courthouse.

A frame courthouse was built at Eden in 1860 when Eden was named the county seat. Most researchers say that Eden and Clyde were the same place. A two-story courthouse was built at Clyde in 1901, and it served as the county seat until the Federal government annexed (1938-1941) 105,000 acres of land from the middle of Bryan County. Clyde was named for Sir Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde, noted Field Marshal of Scotland.

There is documentation in the early Bryan County Court Records that William Harn of Bryan County donated 2 acres of land in 1815, where the Courthouse was built. All records of the Ordinary's office were destroyed by fire in 1866. It is said that the Clerk of Court built a new home across the street from the Courthouse and moved some of the records to his house for safe keeping, because the Courthouse was a "fire trap". His home burned to the ground two weeks later destroying those records. In 1935 the County Seat was moved to Pembroke in the northern portion of the county.

Pembroke was founded in 1892 on the South & Western Railroad line and was incorporated in 1905. Pembroke was named for Pembroke Whitfield Williams, a leader in education & community development. He was the son of James T. & Susan A. (Harvey) Williams (The History of Bryan County, 1793-1985, page 145). This family shows up in the 1860 Census, page 26, Family # 176.

The first session of the County Commissioners to be held in Pembroke was on February 15, 1937. The Courthouse was completed in 1938. An annex was added in 1969 and the latest renovations were completed in 1990.

Describing Bryan County in his "Statistics of the State of Georgia," (1848), George White made these remarks: "In 1845, the post office was Eden and the population was 971 white and 2,387 black, a total of 3,358. The Neck was settled by wealthy planters, and the upper portion of the county inhabited by farmers, who own a few slaves."

"The lands of the Ogeechee are of good quality, adapted particularly to rice. The inland swamps are small and few in number. The quantity of high land adapted to cotton and corn is limited. Rice and cotton are the chief products. During the last two years sugar and syrup have been made."

"Rice land has averaged when reduced to cultivation about $50 per acre, though at present it would sell for $75 to $100 per acre. Uncleared river lands have generally sold for $10 per acre. High land of mixed quality uncleared and without a settlement sells for $1 to $2 per acre."

"Negro men hire at $60 per annum, women at $50. The average product of rice is 46,000 bushels, of Sea Island cotton 500 bags. The average product of Sea Island cotton is about 100 pounds per acre, rice from 40 to 50 bushels, corn 15 bushels."

"When the rice lands on the Ogeechee were first cultivated, 92 bushels per acre have been harvested from selected land, and 82 bushels the average of an entire crop. But the soil deteriorates under the present system of culture, and cannot without rest and manure be made to yield much more than one-half as much as when new."

Compiled by Joseph L Buhler, Sr. from assorted documents, and any errors within are solely his.
Mount Pinos Webspinners -- Sunday, 19-May-02 17:06:30 PDT

This site is maintained by jarrard2@bellsouth.net

Return to Bryan County Page

© 2002 Carolyn Barber Jarrard 1