Georgia Genealogy Trails

"Where your Journey Begins"

Hancock County, Georgia History
The Story of Georgia and the Georgia People 1732 to 1860
by George Gillman Smith, D.D.
Originally published c. 1901

Submitted by K. Torp, ©2007


Greene was laid out in 1786, but in seven years its popu lation had grown so rapidly that a new county was carved out of its southern extremity, and from Greene and Washington one was made, known as Hancock, in honor of John Hancock. It was a large county and embraced all varieties of soil. There were the rich red hills, the fertile valleys along the rivers and creeks, heavily timbered with oaks and hickories, and the wide stretches of gray post-oak land and pine-barrens.

The Oconee river with its limpid waters formed its western boundary, and the Ogeechee was on the east. A number of large creeks and sparkling brooks dashed through its forests, and although the Indians were just over the Oconee river and were then hostile, the tide of settlement could not be stayed.

The first settlers of Hancock, according to White, were: General H. Mitchell, Bollin Hall, Charles Abercrombie, General Adams, Henry Graybill, Joseph Bryan, William Rees, Jonathan Adams, John Montgomery, Jacob Dennis, Archibald Smith, T. Holt, T. Raines, J. Bishop, Isham Rees, M. Martin, R. Clarke, R. Shipp, F. Tucker, L. Barnes, W. Wyley, William Saunders, James Thomas, Jephtha Pope, Jonas Shivers, William Hardwick, L. Tatum, R. Moreland.

One who examines this list and the one which follows will find that some of the first settlers of Hancock came from Jefferson, Burke and Columbia, while the bulk of them can be easily traced to the tide-water counties of Virginia and to North Carolina.

In a list of accounts filed by the executor of the estate in Sparta of David Clements in 1801 there were these names:

John Lewis, James Lucas, Jonathan Davis, Joseph Bonner, Simon Holt, John Dowdell, Alex Bellamy, Lindsay Thornton, Isaac Evans, John Shackelford, Robert Tucker, John Hall, William Harper, Thomas Winn, John Trippe, Dr. R. Lee, James Lamar, Thomas Lamar, Peterson Thweat, Captain Samuel Hall, Duncan McLean, R. Respass, Wm. Lawson, Job Taylor, Dudley Hargrove, Dr. John Pollard, Robert Montgomery, Seth Parham, Homer HoD, Jas. Huff, Philip Turner, Dixon Hall, Peter Flournoy, William Hardwick, Thomas Byrd, Frances Lawson, Thos. Glenn, Gabe Lewis, David Lewis, Jos. Lewis, Arch Lewis, Little Reese, John Freeman, William Lewis, Isaac Dennis, John Dudley, Thomas Jones, William Kelly, Isaac Dunegan, John Dyer, William Johnson, Malachi Brantley, Francis Lewis, Bollin Hall, George Lewis, George Weatherby, John Perkins, Jas. Parnell, Thomas Broadnax, John Cain, Jos. Middlebrooks, H. Jones, R. Tredewell, Woodruff Scott, John Sasnett, Jas. Bonner, Isham West, Thos. Carney, Isaac Wilson, John Brewer, Thomas Carter, Drury Thweat, Jas. Arthur, Daniel Melson, S. Parham, Harris Brantley, William Hatcher, C. Leonard, W. Collier, C. R. Bonner, S. Kirk, Isham Loyd, Andrew Jeter, Isham Askew, James Childs, Joel Reese, Thomas Pentecost, James Hamilton, William Powell, Ben Harper, Robert Simmons, E. Bomar.

There was evidently a much larger white population in the rural parts of Hancock in 1800 than there is now in 1900. There were only thirteen hundred slaves in Greene, of which Hancock was a part, in 1790.

Tobacco had been the staple in Hancock and Greene to 1800, but with the coming in of cotton culture it ceased to be cultivated. Hancock became rapidly peopled after 1800 with the wealthy people of Virginia and North Caro lina. The delightful “Dukesboro Tales” of Richard Malcolm Johnston have their location in this county, in the village of Powellton, and the pictures which he gives are portrayals of real people.

The first settlements of Hancock were in the northern and eastern sections of the county on Shoulderbone creek and the Ogeechee river. The hills were heavily timbered, and when cleared were very productive. The county was exposed to the Indians, but it was soon settled.

There were two classes of settlers before the century began—the slave-owner who had a few negroes, a plantation of perhaps four hundred acres, great herds of cattle, flocks of sheep and droves of hogs, and the sturdy yeoman who had little besides his hands and his preempted land of two hundred acres.

At first there was little difference in social features, but as years sped on the division between the classes became marked, and, as in all middle Georgia, the plantation ab sorbed the farm and the planter took the place of the farmer.

Hancock offered special attractions to the North Carolina and Virginia slave-owners, and they moved into it rapidly after the opening of the cotton industry in the beginning of the century.

Schools became a necessity, and in the thickly settled parts of the county school villages sprang up. Mt. Zion became a center for the Presbyterians, where Mr. Carlisle P. Beman had a famous classical school, and Powellton, where Jesse Mercer had his home and near where Rev. Malcolm Johnston and Governor Rabun lived, was a famous Baptist village with an academy.

Sparta was without a schoolhouse or a church at the beginning of the century, but there was preaching in the court-house, and in 1802 David Clements left a bequest to build a church and gave a lot of ground on which an acad emy was to be built. This academy was probably where the graded school building is now located.

The Baptists and Presbyterians came with the first settlers, and the Methodists were not far behind them. There were no church buildings in the county for some years. Services were held in private houses. In 1802 there was a camp-meeting on Shoulderbone creek, where there were on Sunday over five thousand people assembled.

As Hancock was on the frontier it was much exposed to Indian forays. It met them so bravely the county site was called Sparta. Sparta was soon a village of importance. It did a large trade for many years and became an educational center. It had its regular chartered academy, and before there was a female college in Georgia Mrs. Warne had a female academy of high grade in Sparta. The Methodist church in Sparta was erected in 1805 There had been services at the home of John Lucas for several years before that, and a conference was held in the village in 1806, and seventy years afterward the Georgia Conference met near the spot where it had held its session seventy years before. Sparta was for a long time a thrifty country town, but with the building of the railroads on each side its commercial importance declined. The wealthy planters in the county had their homes in the village, and, with the lawyers and doctors and country mer chants, made a good society of cultured people. As in all these middle Georgia towns, the change of things after the war made a great change in the village. The railroad was completed, the trade in fertilizers was immense and Sparta began to advance, and it has become now a hand some country town, with an elegant court-house, a fine public school building and many charming homes

The religious history of Hancock is full of interest, but we can only glance at it here. Governor Rabun was a Baptist deacon and lived at Powellton. Jesse Mercer had his home in that village, and there the Georgia Baptist Con vention was organized. The Presbyterians had a settlement at Mt. Zion and a congregation at Smyrna, and the Rev. Mr. Gildersleeve published at Mt. Zion the Missionary, which was the first periodical of that kind in the South.

Many of the families we have found in Hancock went into Putnam, Baldwin, Jasper and Montgomery, across the Ocmulgee and the Flint into the western counties and to Alabama.

Colonel Chappel, who was born in Hancock and lived in Putnam and Monroe, has given a picture of this county and its first settlers, which is not too highly colored to be true, and upon which I have freely drawn. No county ever was settled by a worthier people, and for enterprise and skill no county ever had planters who surpassed many of those in Hancock. They were men of great moral worth and simplicity of life, and are too many to be men tioned. They formed communities where there was every thing to elevate and refine. Bishop George F. Pierce, when a young man, fixed his home in Hancock and called it Sunshine, and here, beloved and honored, he spent all the time he could spare from his exacting labors.

Hancock is still a large county and has the villages of Devereux, Culverton and Jewells in its borders.
Hancock has fine quarries of granite, which have been utilized only in late years, and no county in the State is so rich in “jaspers” of the most beautiful kinds.

This county has been rendered famous by being the first county in which new modes of culture for corn and cotton were applied to the pine woods.

Mr. David Dickson bought a large body that was called Pine-barren and began the liberal use of commercial fertilizers upon it, and began to farm on a new and untried plan. He succeeded and his system of farming excited great attention, and his modes of cultivation were recognized as wise and were adopted in many sections of the country, and that portion of the county which had been regarded as the poorest became one of the best.
The distinguished men of Hancock could hardly be numbered. The Abercrombies, so famous in the early history of Georgia and Alabama, resided here. The Lewises came to this county in its first settlement, and have been distinguished men in a number of different walks of life. Governor Rabun was a resident of this county. Colonel James Thomas and Hon. Eli Baxter were prominent lawyers and politicians in Sparta.

Judge Linton Stephens, judge of the supreme court, colonel in the Confederate army and member of the Confederate Congress, lived and died in Sparta.

Dr. W. J. Sassnett, distinguished as a preacher and a philosopher, was born in this county and died in it.

Dr. Lovick Pierce, so famous as a Methodist preacher throughout the South, died at his son’s home in Sparta.

Towns, Hamlets, and Villages

Terrell County was created from Lee and Randolph in 1856 and was named for Dr. William Terrell of Hancock county, a member of the Georgia legislature and representative in Congress. It is in the southwestern part of the state and is bounded on the north by Webster and Sumter counties, on the east by Lee, on the south by Dougherty and Calhoun and on the west by Randolph. The county is well watered, the soil is a gray, sandy loam, the face of the land is undulating, and there is a heavy growth of yellow pine, oak and hickory, with white oak, ash, maple, sycamore, poplar, gum, and magnolia on the streams. Much of the yellow pine has been cut away, but there is still a fine revenue from lumber. Cotton, sweet and Irish potatoes: sugar-cane and the cereals are the principal crops raised.  Melons and peaches do well and prove profitable. Sandstone is found in the county, but it is not quarried. Manufacturing attracts much attention, especially at Dawson, the county seat.  Parrott, Bronwood, and Sasser are other towns. The county roads are in good condition and the wagon trade with these towns is considerable. The population of the county in 1900 was 19,023, an increase of 4,520 since 189O.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz

a post-village of Hancock county, with a population of 50, is in the valley of Shoulderbone creek, ten miles northwest of Sparta, which is the most convenient railroad station.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz

, a town in the eastern part of Hancock county, was incorporated by act of the legislature in 1872. The population in 1900 was 500. It has a money order postoffice, with rural free delivery, several mercantile concerns, a cotton mill with 4,000 spindles and 121 looms, good church and school accommodations, express and telegraph service, etc. Mayfield, two miles north, on the branch of the Georgia railroad that runs from Augusta to Macon, is the nearest railroad station.
(Source: Georgia Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, VOL II, by Candler & Evans, Publ. 1906. Transcribed by Tracy McAllister)

Linton, a town in the southern part of Hancock county, was originally called Buffalo but the name was changed by act of the legislature on Dec. 13, 1858.  It is about fifteen miles east of Milledgeville, and twelve miles south of Sparta.  The population in 1900 was 176.
(Source: Georgia Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, VOL II, by Candler & Evans, Publ. 1906. Transcribed by Joanne Morgan)

Mayfield, a town in Hancock county, is on the Macon & Camak division of the Georgia railroad, at the point where it crosses the Ogeechee river. It has a money order postoffice, express and telegraph service, some mercantile and shipping interests, and in 1900 reported a population of 93.
(Source: Georgia Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, VOL II, by Candler & Evans, Publ. 1906. Transcribed by Kim Mohler)

Pride, a post-hamlet in the northern part of Hancock county, is not far from the Greene county line.  The nearest railroad station is White Plains.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz

Powelton, a post-town in the northeast corner of Hancock county, reported a population of 162 in 1900.  It is the principal trading center for a large agricultural district and is well provided with school and church advantages. Barnett is the nearest railroad station.
Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Transcribed by Kristen Bisanz

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