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Milledgeville, Georgia
City of Milledgeville
Old Governor's House
Motto(s): 
"Capitols, Columns and Culture"
Location in Baldwin County and the state of Georgia
Location in Baldwin County and the state of Georgia
Milledgeville, Georgia is located in the United States
Milledgeville, Georgia
Milledgeville, Georgia
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State Georgia
County Baldwin
Incorporated December 12, 1804; 217 years ago (1804-12-12)
Named for John Milledge
Government
 • Type Council–Manager
Area
 • Total 20.48 sq mi (53.05 km2)
 • Land 20.32 sq mi (52.63 km2)
 • Water 0.16 sq mi (0.42 km2)
Elevation
330 ft (100 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 17,070
 • Density 839.98/sq mi (324.31/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern Time)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
31061
Area code(s) 478
FIPS code 13-51492
GNIS feature ID 0332390

Milledgeville is a city in and the county seat of Baldwin County in the U.S. state of Georgia. It is northeast of Macon and bordered on the east by the Oconee River. The rapid current of the river here made this an attractive location to build a city. It was the capital of Georgia from 1804 to 1868, including during the American Civil War. Milledgeville was preceded as the capital city by Louisville and was succeeded by Atlanta, the current capital. Today U.S. Highway 441 connects Milledgeville to Madison, Athens, and Dublin.

As of April 1, 2020, the population of Milledgeville was 17,070 down from 17,715 at the 2010 US Census.

Milledgeville is along the route of the Fall Line Freeway, which is under construction to link Milledgeville with Augusta, Macon, Columbus, and other Fall Line cities. They have long histories from the colonial era of Georgia.

Milledgeville is the principal city of the Milledgeville Micropolitan Statistical Area, a micropolitan area that includes Baldwin and Hancock counties. It had a combined population of 52,534 at the 2020 census. The Old State Capitol is located here; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Much of the original city is contained within the boundaries of the Milledgeville Historic District, which was also added to the NRHP.

History

Milledgeville, named after Georgia governor John Milledge (in office 1802–1806), was founded by European Americans at the start of the 19th century as the new centrally located capital of the state of Georgia. It served as the state capital from 1804 to 1868.

In 1803 an act of the Georgia legislature called for the establishment and survey of a town to be named in honor of the current governor, John Milledge. The Treaty of Fort Wilkinson (1802), in which the Creek people, hard pressed by debts to white traders, agreed to cede part of their ancient land, had recently made available territory immediately west of the Oconee River. The white population of Georgia continued to press west and south in search of new farmland, and the town of Milledgeville, carved out of the Oconee wilderness, helped accommodate their needs.

In December 1804 the state legislature declared Milledgeville the new capital of Georgia. The new planned town, modeled after Savannah and Washington, D.C., stood on the edge of the frontier, where the Upper Coastal Plain gives rise to the foothills and plateau of the Piedmont. The area was surveyed, and a town plat of 500 acres (2.0 km2) was divided into 84 4-acre (16,000 m2) squares. The survey also included four public squares of 20 acres (81,000 m2) each.

In 1807 fifteen wagons, escorted by troops, left Louisville, Georgia, the former capital, carrying the treasury and public records of the state. The new statehouse, though unfinished, managed to accommodate the legislators. Over the next thirty years the Capitol building was enlarged with a north and south wing. Its pointed arched windows and battlements marked it as the United States' first public building in the Gothic revival style.

Governor Jared Irwin (re-elected in 1806) soon moved into a handsome two-story frame structure known as Government House, on the corner of Clarke and Greene streets. The new capital was a rather crude frontier community with simple clapboard houses, a multitude of inns and taverns, law offices, bordellos, and hostelries. The town attracted several blacksmiths, apothecaries, dry-goods merchants, and booksellers. Travelers to the town generally remained unimpressed, noting the ill-kept and overcrowded inns, the gambling, the dueling, and the bitter political feuds.

Life in the antebellum capital

Old Georgia State Capitol
Georgia's second capitol building, built 1807-1837 (1937 photo, HABS)

After 1815 Milledgeville became increasingly prosperous and more respectable. Wealth and power gravitated toward the capital, and the surrounding countryside became caught up in the middle of a lucrative cotton boom as large plantations were developed, based on slave labor. Cotton bales regularly were set up to line the streets, waiting for shipping downriver to Darien.

Such skilled architects as John Marlor (1789-1835) and Daniel Pratt (1799-1873) designed elegant houses for wealthy planters; colossal porticoes, cantilevered balconies, pediments adorned with sunbursts, and fanlighted doorways all proclaimed the Milledgeville Federal style of architecture. The major religious congregations built fine new houses of worship on Statehouse Square. The completion in 1817 of the Georgia Penitentiary heralded a new era of penal reform.

Public-spirited citizens such as Tomlinson Fort (mayor of Milledgeville, 1847–1848) promoted better newspapers, learning academies, and banks. In 1837-1842 the Georgia Lunatic Asylum (later the Central State Hospital) was built here. Oglethorpe University, where the poet Sidney Lanier was later educated, opened its doors in 1838. (The college, forced to close in 1862, was rechartered in 1913, with its campus in Atlanta.)

The cotton boom in this upland area significantly increased the demand for slave labor; planters bought slaves transported from the Upper South in the domestic slave trade. By 1828 the town claimed 1,599 inhabitants: 789 free whites, 27 free blacks, and 783 African-American slaves. The town market, where slave auctions took place, was located on Capital Square, next to the Presbyterian church. Skilled black carpenters, masons, and laborers constructed most of the handsome antebellum structures in Milledgeville.

Two events epitomized Milledgeville's status as the political and social center of Georgia in this period:

  • In 1825 the capital was visited by the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) aristocratic soldier, the Marquis de Lafayette. The receptions, barbecue, formal dinner, and grand ball for the veteran apostle of liberty seemed to mark Milledgeville's coming of age.
  • The Governor's Mansion was constructed (1836-38/39); it was one of the most important examples of Greek revival architecture in America.

By 1854 Baldwin County had a total population of 8148, of whom 3566 were free (mostly white), and 4602 were African-American slaves.

American Civil War and its aftermath

Burning of the penitentiary at Milledgeville, GA - November 23 1864
Burning of the penitentiary at Milledgeville, GA by the Union Army (November 23, 1864)

On January 19, 1861, Georgia convention delegates passed the Ordinance of Secession, and on February 4, 1861, the "Republic of Georgia" joined the Confederate States of America. In the closing months of the war, in November 1864 Union general William T. Sherman and 30,000 Union troops marched into Milledgeville during his March to the Sea. Before leaving a couple of days later, they had poured sorghum and molasses down the pipes of the organ at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. But the Union forces spared most of the antebellum buildings there, as Sherman had relatives in the city.

In 1868, during Reconstruction, the state legislature moved the capital to Atlanta—a city emerging as the symbol of the New South as surely as Milledgeville symbolized the Old South.

Milledgeville struggled to survive as a city after losing the business of the capital. The energetic efforts of local leaders established the Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College (later Georgia Military College) in 1879 on Statehouse Square. Where the crumbling remains of the old penitentiary stood, Georgia Normal and Industrial College (later Georgia College & State University) was founded in 1889. In part because of these institutions, as well as Central State Hospital, Milledgeville developed as a less provincial town than many of its neighbors.

Twentieth century to present

In the 1950s the Georgia Power Company completed a dam at Furman Shoals on the Oconee River, about 5 miles (8 km) north of town, creating a huge reservoir called Lake Sinclair. The lake community became an increasingly important part of the town's social and economic identity.

In the 1980s and 1990s Milledgeville began to capitalize on its heritage by revitalizing the downtown and historic district. It encouraged restoration of historic buildings and an urban design scheme on Main Street to emphasize its character.

By 2000 the population of Milledgeville and Baldwin County combined had grown to 44,700. Community leaders have made concerted efforts to create a more diversified economic base, striving to wean the old capital from its dependence on government institutions such as Central State Hospital and state prisons. The state has recently closed some prisons and reduced jobs at Central State, due to tightening state budgets.

Geography

Milledgeville is located at 33°5′16″N 83°14′0″W / 33.08778°N 83.23333°W / 33.08778; -83.23333 (33.087755, -83.233401) and is 301 feet (92 m) above sea level.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.6 square miles (53.3 km2), of which 20.4 square miles (52.9 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 0.74%, is water.

Milledgeville is located on the Atlantic Seaboard fall line of the United States. The Oconee River flows a half mile east of downtown on its way south to the Altamaha River and then south to the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Sinclair, a man-made lake, is about 5 miles (8 km) northeast of Milledgeville on the border of Baldwin, Putnam and Hancock counties.

Milledgeville is composed of two main districts: a heavily commercialized area along the highway known to locals simply as "441," extending from a few blocks north of Georgia College & State University to 4 miles (6 km) north of Milledgeville, and the "Downtown" area, encompassing the college, buildings housing city government agencies, various bars and restaurants. This historic area was laid out in 1803, with streets named after other counties in Georgia.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1810 1,256
1820 2,069 64.7%
1840 2,095
1850 2,216 5.8%
1860 2,480 11.9%
1870 2,750 10.9%
1880 3,800 38.2%
1890 3,322 −12.6%
1900 4,219 27.0%
1910 4,385 3.9%
1920 4,619 5.3%
1930 5,534 19.8%
1940 6,778 22.5%
1950 8,835 30.3%
1960 11,117 25.8%
1970 11,601 4.4%
1980 12,176 5.0%
1990 17,727 45.6%
2000 18,757 5.8%
2010 17,715 −5.6%
2020 17,070 −3.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Milledgeville racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 8,055 47.19%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 7,685 45.02%
Native American 23 0.13%
Asian 280 1.64%
Pacific Islander 16 0.09%
Other/Mixed 456 2.67%
Hispanic or Latino 555 3.25%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 17,070 people, 5,895 households, and 2,852 families residing in the city.

2010 census

The population of the town of Milledgeville was 17,715 at the 2010 census.

Educational institutions, colleges and universities

Milledgeville's public school system is governed by the Baldwin County School District.

Public elementary schools

  • Lakeview Academy
  • Lakeview Primary
  • Midway Hills Academy
  • Midway Hills Primary

Public middle school

  • Oak Hill Middle School

Public high school

  • Baldwin High School

Private schools

  • Georgia Military College prep school (grades 3–12)
  • John Milledge Academy (grades K–12)

Schools for higher education

  • Central Georgia Technical College
  • Georgia College & State University (commonly known as Georgia College)
  • Georgia Military College

Libraries

Milledgeville's public library system is part of the Twin Lakes Library System. Mary Vinson Memorial Library is located downtown. Georgia College & State University also has a library.

Historic schools

The school system building facilities were revamped during the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, with all new buildings, including a new Board of Education office. This required relocation and merging of older schools. The concept of a middle school was introduced, whereas previously 6th through 9th grades were housed in separate schools. Closed older schools include:

  • Northside Elementary School (now a shopping center)
  • Southside Elementary School (now a church)
  • West End Elementary School (torn down)
  • Harrisburg Elementary School (torn down)
  • Baldwin Middle School (was located in old Baldwin High School) no
  • Boddie Junior High School (8th and 9th grades)
  • Baldwin High School (old location)
  • Carver Elementary School (5th and 6th grades / now an alternate school)
  • Sallie Davis Middle School (7th grade)

Transportation

Major roads

  • US 441.svg U.S. Route 441
    • U.S. Route 441 Business
  • Georgia 22.svg State Route 22
  • Georgia 49.svg State Route 49

Pedestrians and cycling

  • Oconee River Greenway

Notable people

  • Melvin Adams, Jr, better known as Fish Scales from the band Nappy Roots
  • Nathan Crawford Barnett, Georgia Secretary of State for more than 30 years
  • Ella Barksdale Brown, journalist, educator
  • Kevin Brown, professional baseball player
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene, United States Representative
  • Wally Butts, college football coach
  • Earnest Byner, professional football player
  • Lisa D. Cook, American economist
  • Pete Dexter, novelist, journalist and screenwriter
  • Eugenia Tucker Fitzgerald, founder of the first secret society at a girls' college
  • Tillie K. Fowler, politician
  • Joel Godard, television announcer
  • Willie Greene, professional baseball player
  • Oliver Hardy, motion picture comedian
  • Nick Harper, professional football player
  • Charles Holmes Herty, academic, scientist and businessman
  • Leroy Hill, professional football player
  • Maurice Hurt, professional football player
  • Edwin Francis Jemison, Civil War soldier who died in battle
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon, author
  • William Gibbs McAdoo, US Secretary of the Treasury
  • Blind Willie McTell, influential blues guitarist
  • Bill Miner, Canada's "Gentleman Bandit"
  • Celena Mondie-Milner, professional track and field player
  • Powell A. Moore, politician and public servant
  • Flannery O'Connor, author, honored with a U.S. Postal Service stamp
  • Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, historian
  • Barry Reese, writer
  • Lucius Sanford, professional football player
  • Tut Taylor, bluegrass musician
  • Ellis Paul Torrance, psychologist
  • Larry Turner, professional basketball player
  • William Usery Jr., labor union activist and U.S. Secretary of Labor
  • Carl Vinson, congressman
  • J. T. Wall, professional football player
  • Rico Washington, professional baseball player
  • Rondell White, professional baseball player
  • Robert McAlpin Williamson, Republic of Texas Supreme Court Justice and Texas Ranger
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