Take a drive from one end of the county to another and you’ll pass through numerous little towns. Here’s a little trivia about our area.
The Lower Creek Indians first lived in the territory of Georgia known as Emanuel County. They hunted for deer and other wild game for food and pelts, held War and Green Corn Dances, and fished in the Ohoopee and Canoochee Rivers. In 1540, Spanish Explorer General Hernando De Soto traveled through Georgia and by 1732, a royal charter for the state was granted to Englishman James Oglethorpe. The new colonists were to be citizen-soldiers, supply the mother country with natural resources while keeping the Spanish, French, and Indians at bay from the better-established colonies to the North. In 1741, the Trustees divided Georgia into two counties: Savannah and Frederica. The Savannah County was later divided into districts, and these districts were divided into eight parishes for the establishment of religious worship in accordance with the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England
On February 5, 1777, the parishes were replaced with counties, this being ratified by the first State Constitutional Convention in Savannah. The section of Georgia now known as Emanuel County became a part of Washington County. From Washington County, at a later date, was formed Montgomery County, with its county seat at one time located within five miles of Swainsboro. In 1812, Emanuel County was created by the Georgia Legislature, being taken boldly from territories then embraced by Bulloch and Montgomery counties. Emanuel County was named after David Emanuel who served as governor of Georgia in 1801. Emanuel was a member of the Democratic Republican Party and was the first Jewish governor of any U.S. stat.
On November 18, 1814, an act was approved by former governor Peter Early, designating a site for public buildings in Emanuel County. It was restricted to within one mile of the place pointed out by Jesse Mezzel as the center of the county, and it was to be located on the highest hill within three miles of Steve Rich’s horse lot near Modoc, where the first court in Emanuel County was allegedly held. This hill, 317’ high, is now the site of the Swainsboro’s downtown square. The county commissioners agreed upon a county seat, and it was made permanent by act approved on December 6, 1822. The name of the town was to be Swainsboro.
Today, Swainsboro is believed to be named after Stephen Swain who represented Montgomery and Emanuel counties in the state senate for 33 years. The name was briefly changed in 1852 to Paris but changed back to Swainsboro shortly after. The name given to the town is unique; there is only one Swainsboro in the world. Its nickname, of course, is most commonly referred to as the “Crossroads of the Great South” because of the transcontinental crossing of U.S. Highways 1 and 80 on Main and Main downtown by the square.
Nunez’s namesake is one of two physicians: either Dr. Samuel Nunez, who is credited for putting a stop to an epidemic through Georgia in the 1700s, or Dr. Jackson Morgan Nunez, a longtime local physician who passed in 1934.
Twin City, of course, gets its name from two neighboring, nearly identical cities, Summit and Graymont. Those two municipalities combined in 1921, exactly 100 years ago this year, hence the City of Twin City’s centennial celebration. The combination of Summit and Graymont allows Twin City to join only a few other “double towns” in the world: Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Helena–McRae, Budapest (comprised of historic Buda and Pest), and three ancient cities of Hankou, Hanyang, and Wuchang, which now are consolidated into Wuhan, China (believed to be the origin of COVID-19).
Garfield, incorporated in August 1905, is believed to be named after former president James Garfield, who was assassinated just 16 years before.
Oak Park residents, tip your cap to Hansel R. Williamson. This pioneer settler and landowner is thought to have led the way in creating the city. One of Oak Park’s claims to fame is that in 1934, the town elected a mayor and five-person council composed of entirely women. The election of an all-woman government was a first for Georgia, and it was novel enough that the event was covered by Associated Press and United Press news stories, both calling it “Petticoat Rule.”
Norristown got its start some 230 years ago when Williams Laird opened a cotton gin and gristmill there. The Georgia General Assembly incorporated Norristown as a town in 1907, but the town’s municipal charter was unfortunately repealed in 1995.
Summertown’s namesake is a rather unusual but understandable one in that this part of Emanuel draws its moniker from early settlers who came to the area to build summer homes. In addition to the quaintness of the countryside Summertown provided, the area was a good selection as it allowed residents to escape the Ogeechee lowlands, which were often plagued by malaria-ridden mosquitos. The Georgia General Assembly incorporated Summertown as a town in 1906.
Adrian gets its name from the first postman to run its post office; W.R. Smith was given the honor of choosing the town’s name because of the position he held for the United States Postal Service and the duties he provided. The town was incorporated in 1899; the U.S. Post Office there had been in operation for eight years before that. Izola Curry, the assailant who tried (and failed) to kill Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958 was born in Adrian 17 years after the town’s incorporation.
Stillmore, like Summertown, got its name in an unusual way. The town perked up following a railroad boom in the area. The U.S. Postal Service sent over a list of potential names for the city. The post office included with the list a note that if the townspeople so desired, for lack of approval of any of the names on the list, USPS officials would send “still more” names. This phrasing caught the attention of the residents, and they asked if this could be the town’s name instead. The USPS obliged, and that’s all they wrote!
Finally, linguist William Bright believes “Canoochee” may be a name derived from the Muscogee language, meaning “little ground”. The Georgia General Assembly incorporated the place as the “Town of Canoochee” in 1912 with town corporate limits extending in a one-half mile radius from the Savannah and Statesboro Railway depot. However, the town’s charter was officially dissolved in 1995.
And there you have it! There’s your local trivia for the week!