Today, the Georgia State Quarter Coin remembers the start of the thirteenth colony 283 years ago.
Edward Sylvester Ellis summarized Georgia’s humble beginnings in his book, The Youth’s History of the United States, published in 1887.
The last settled of the original thirteen colonies was Georgia. The founder was James Oglethorpe, a member of an ancient and honorable English family, and a man whose career was almost as varied and romantic as that related of Captain John Smith, in the account of the early settlement of Virginia.
Oglethorpe went to the University of Oxford when only sixteen years old, and entered the army as ensign at twenty-one. He was engaged in fighting from that time forward until the establishment of peace in 1718. He was brave and had a great deal of military ability, as his career in Georgia shows.
After quitting the army he became a member of parliament. He and some other philanthropists were greatly shocked by the condition of the prisons of England. They found the inmates in a horrible state, and as many of them were innocent of any crime except that of being in debt, Oglethorpe was stirred to do something for them.
It was on his motion in 1728, that an investigation was made which led to many reforms. A rich citizen of London died about that time and willed that his wealth should be spent in liberating insolvent debtors.
As the poor persons were likely to fall into debt again, if nothing more than their simple release was secured, Oglethorpe persuaded the parliamentary committee who had charge of the funds to use them in colonizing the southern part of the Carolinas, with the poor but worthy debtors.
This was practical charity beyond all question and the plan was popular from the first. The House of Commons voted a liberal sum to be added to the bequest, and it was also increased by donations from the Bank of England and from many benevolent private persons.
The government decided to erect the territory into a separate province, which should be named Georgia, in honor of George II, then the king of England.
No scheme of the kind ever started with better promise. It was publicly declared that one purpose was to convert the Indians; and the assurance was given that all who chose to emigrate to the province should receive citizenship, no matter what their religious faith might be.
In addition pecuniary help would be furnished all the original Protestant emigrants, from whatever part of Europe they might come.
These liberal offers, as one may well believe, were eagerly accepted by many in different parts of the continent as well as in England.
The trustees aimed to keep away the idle and vicious and to select only those who were honestly anxious to build up homes in the New World.
There were so many applicants indeed that the principal work for a time was that of sifting the worthy from the unworthy ones.
The royal charter of Georgia was dated June 9, 1732.
The province it provided for extended from the Savannah on the north to the Altamaha on the south, and from the sources of those rivers westward to the Pacific, with the usual ignorance of the period as to what such a grant included.
The government of the colony was vested for twenty-one years in a corporation of twenty-one noblemen and gentlemen. Among them were Anthony Ashley Cooper, fourth Earl of Shaftesbury, Stephen Hales and James Oglethorpe.
High hopes were entertained of the scheme by its many friends.
Grapes grew so exuberantly in the country that it was believed wine would be largely produced.
England at the time paid two and a half million dollars a year to Piedmont for unmanufactured silk, of which it was thought a large portion would be made in Georgia and exchanged for English goods.
The olive also was to be raised, so that the mother country would no longer have to depend on Italy for her oil.
Among the one hundred and twenty emigrants (representing thirty-five families), which sailed from Gravesend in November, 1732, with Oglethorpe, were a few Piedmontese silk-workers, who had in their charge a quantity of silk-worms’ eggs produced in their own land.
They were an excellent set of men, and among them were bricklayers, carpenters, farmers and other persons accustomed to industrial pursuits.
They were also furnished with fire-arms and swords and trained in their use.
The king sent seventy-four pieces of cannon with ammunition and materials for building forts.
They also took with them all the supplies they would need until able to raise their own.
The voyage was a tedious one of fifty-seven days before the Anne reached Charleston. There a warm welcome awaited them.
Governor Johnson asked the assembly of South Carolina to vote the new comers a large number of breeding cattle and other supplies, and the assembly promptly did so. Under the escort of mounted rangers and scout-boats furnished by the Carolinians, the emigrants sailed to Port Royal.
Landing at Beaufort, accompanied by Mr. Bull, of Charleston, afterward the governor of South Carolina, Oglethorpe went up the river to locate the settlement.
The present city of Savannah stands on the site he selected. In laying out the town, Oglethorpe was wise enough to bear in mind that it was to have a future.
The streets and avenues of each quarter crossed each other at right angles, leaving at certain intervals open public squares or little parks ; and some of the names given by the wise founder of Georgia still cling to these streets — such as Drayton, Bull, Whitaker, and Abercorn.
The following week the company were taken to the bluff which Oglethorpe had chosen for the site of the new settlement. They were charmed, and all set to work with a will.
The leader did not forget the example of William Penn, and, before clearing the ground, he secured the consent of Tomo-chichi, the nearest chief.
In taking this wise step, Oglethorpe received great help from Mary Musgrove, the half-breed wife of an Indian trader living in the neighborhood.
She overcame the misgivings of the old sachem, who walked timorously forward and handed to the leader a bison skin, painted inside with the head and feathers of an eagle.
“Here,” said he, through the interpreter, “is a buffalo skin adorned with the head and feathers of an eagle. The eagle means speed, and the buffalo strength. The English are swift as the eagle, and strong as the buffalo. Like the eagle, they flew hither over great waters, and, like the buffalo, nothing can withstand them. But the feathers of the eagle are soft and signify kindness; and the skin of the buffalo is covering, and signifies protection. Let these, then, remind them to be kind and protect us.”
The Georgia State Quarter Coin shows against a view of Savannah, circa 1734.