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Lumpkin City

Lumpkin City Hall is located at 544 Martin Luther King Junior Drive, Lumpkin, GA 31815; phone: 229-838-4333.

Beginnings [1]

Between 1828 and 1830 Lumpkin was selected as the site of a new county seat in this area, the land was surveyed, and lots were laid out, sold, and developed. By 1830 a thriving community had come into existence in what had been just a few years earlier a virtual wilderness. This pattern of exploration and settlement was typical of western Georgia in the early nineteenth century .

The site on which Lumpkin now stands was chosen, in 1828, to be the county seat of Randolph County, later divided into Stewart County. At this point the town was surveyed and laid out in a gridiron pattern on a north/south axis. Lumpkin quickly became not only the governmental seat of the county, but also the commercial center. Located in the middle of Stewart County, Lumpkin provided a center point for shopping. Dry goods stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, and drug stores were built around the courthouse. This brought people from all over the county to purchase goods. The economy of Stewart County was, and still is, based on agriculture. Cotton, peanuts, wheat and barley created the cash needed to allow farmers to come to town and purchase supplies. Settlers in Lumpkin farmed land outside of town. The Baptist and Methodist Churches were the two religious organizations of Lumpkin. The Lumpkin Baptist Church was organized in 1828, and the Lumpkin Methodist Church was organized in 1837. These two churches are still the major ones in Lumpkin. Education has always been extremely important to the citizens of Lumpkin. The first public school was organized by the county commissioners in 1830. At one point Lumpkin had both a male and female academy. Nothing remains of these two schools, but the Lumpkin High School, built in 1907, attests to the lengthy recognition of the importance of education. Transportation began in Lumpkin prior to its establishment, when Indian trails passed through the area going from the Creek Indian Capital at Coweta to Florida. As settlers moved into Southwest Georgia, roads were cut from town to town. Modern highways still follow these road beds. The railroad has made significant contributions to the development of Lumpkin. Architectural styles represented include localized versions of Plantation Plain, Greek Revival, Victorian, Classical Revival, and Bungalow; types include commercial, residential, educational, governmental and religious. The styles and types are generally representative of the region.

The Creek Indians were present in the Lumpkin area prior to 1825. Apparently two Indian Trails passed to either side of the present town. No documentation nor archeological findings suggest that these early inhabitants of Stewart County settled in the area. Major Indian villages were to the west, on the Chattahoochee River, and the southeast, at the Singer Moye Site (N.R. listed), Andrew Jackson and his troops passed through the area on the way from Tennessee to Florida in 1818. This was the first trail blazed by the whites. It became known as the Seminole War Path.

In February of 1825, the Treaty of Indian Springs was signed between the United States and the Creek Indian Nation. This treaty deeded to the United States all land lying east of the Chattahoochee River. From a portion of that land, Lee County was created in 1825. Three years later, in 1828, a portion of Lee County became Randolph County. The town of Lumpkin was built on lots 82 and 111 in the 23rd district. Lot number 82 was selected by county commissioners appointed to select a permanent seat of government while Stewart was still a part of Randolph County. It was purchased in May, 1830 for $15,00 at public sale by the county commissioners. At this point the county surveyor began to lay off the grid plan. Land sold quickly, for in July of 1830 it was reported at a meeting of the Inferior Court of Randolph County that 27 land lots had been sold out of the 40 lots laid aside; many of these were settled by farmers. At this meeting also it was decided to name the public site Lumpkin, in honor of Wilson Lumpkin, governor of the State of Georgia. In December of 1830, Stewart County was laid off from Randolph County, with Lumpkin remaining the county seat of Stewart County. In 1831 the first courthouse, a log structure was built.

In 1836 the Creek Indian War momentarily disrupted Lumpkin's growth. The Creek Nation, dissatisfied with the Treaty signed in 1825, began to attack settlers on the river banks. "The Georgia Guards", with many members from Lumpkin, fought in this war. Lumpkin never was actually attacked, but leading citizens were involved, including Jared Irwin, who was killed. By 1836 the town was well established, with not only a Baptist Church, but a Methodist congregation as well. Listed were 36 dwellings, 14 stores, 3 confectioners, 3 taverns, a blacksmith shop, 3 lawyers, 2 doctors, and a male academy. In the years to follow, until 1860, the town showed a steady consistent growth with an established commercial district and a residential district in the same location as existing ones. Almost totally self-sufficient, farmers grew cotton, wheat, oats, rye, corn and barley, and raised cattle and sheep. Property owners generally had slaves to work the fields, with an average of 6 to 10 slaves working 100 to 600 acres. There were also some large property owners, such as Mr. Boynton, listed in the 1853 tax digest, who had 4,750 acres of land and 83 slaves, and John Fountain who had 5200 acres of land and 166 slaves.

During the five-year period of the Civil War, the town of Lumpkin was virtually suspended in time as family members enlisted in one of the five Stewart County regiments and went to fight for their beliefs. Johan Singer, a tailor and shoemaker from Stuttgart, Germany, contributed to the regiments by making shoes while others worked making bandages or providing food. No war traffic, other than local groups, came directly through Lumpkin or threatened any real property.

After the Civil War, men returned home to salvage neglected farms and property, and adjust to the new economic system with no slavery. By 1879-80, Lumpkin was back on its feet with 1000 inhabitants. The community boasted four grist and sawmills, three churches (The Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian), and five schools, two white and three black. These included the Masonic Academy, which had been founded for girls in 1852, and began accepting boys in 1877. The town had 3 doctors, 5 lawyers, 2 druggists, 2 saloons, and one general store, with another doctor starting a practice in 1880 along with 2 more lawyers, 7 grocers, 3 general stores, and 2 carriage makers. Specialty stores also opened, with a jeweler, a tailor, and a furniture store. Chief exports at this time were cotton, lumber, oats, and peanuts.

Lumpkin continued its upward growth swing when, in 1886, the Americus, Preston and Lumpkin Railroad line opened. The local newspaper, The Lumpkin Independent, gave a weekly report of progress prior to its opening, suggesting the importance, as well as the fascination, of this new machine. Once the trains started through, it is interesting to note that the newspaper published more ads, from further points, than ever before. The new buildings on the square, replaced after the fire of 1880, housed nine general stores, six lawyers, six groceries, three doctors, and two druggists, among others, while the town had one guano (fertilizer) factory, two carriage makers, one cotton gin, and a cotton agent. The old wooden courthouse, having outlived its usefulness, was replaced by a brick building. It was during this time too that Lumpkin received its first direct communication with the outside world. Previously freight and mail were shipped to Atlanta, via Cuthbert, but with the railroad, the Southern Express and the Western Union, Lumpkin came into its own.

By 1901, the Stewart Academy became the Lumpkin Public School, which built a new brick building and later a wooden annex on the same land originally given to the Masonic Female Academy by Willard and Hollis Boynton. This school was built to serve the citizens of the town. In 1909, with a population of 1500, resurgence of growth, perhaps attributed to increased farm productivity during World War I, showed all buildings on the square occupied with a series of grocery, hardware, and dry goods stores. An opera house and the new brick jail also suggest that Lumpkin had attained a new outlook. By 1922, the Sanborn Insurance maps show that the automobile had made its impact with auto repair shops and filling stations on the square. Residential areas followed the same growth lines of 1848, except the Methodist and Baptist congregations moved into the Uptown area. A fire in 1922 destroyed the courthouse; a brick building, the current courthouse, soon replaced it.

  1. Nancy Alexander, Lower Chatahoochee APDC and Richard Cloues, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Lumpkin Georgia Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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