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Wilkes County, Georgia facts for kids

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Wilkes County
Wilkes County Courthouse
Map of Georgia highlighting Wilkes County
Location within the U.S. state of Georgia
Map of the United States highlighting Georgia
Georgia's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Georgia
Founded February 5, 1777; 246 years ago (1777)
Named for John Wilkes
Seat Washington
Largest city Washington
 • Total 474 sq mi (1,230 km2)
 • Land 469 sq mi (1,210 km2)
 • Water 4.6 sq mi (12 km2)  1.0%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 23/sq mi (9/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 10th

Wilkes County is a county located in the east central portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 10,593. The county seat is the city of Washington.

Referred to as "Washington-Wilkes", the county seat and county are commonly treated as a single entity by locals, including the area's historical society and the Chamber of Commerce. It is part of the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA).


Wilkes County, named for British politician and supporter of American independence, John Wilkes, is considered Georgia's first county established by European Americans; it was the first of eight original counties created in the first state constitution on February 5, 1777. The other seven counties were organized from existing colonial parishes.

Wilkes was unique in being land ceded in 1773 by the Creek and Cherokee nations in their respective Treaties of Augusta. It is located in the Piedmont above the fall line on the Savannah River.

Between 1790 and 1854, Wilkes County's area was reduced as it was divided to organize new counties as population increased in the area. The Georgia legislature formed the counties of Elbert, Oglethorpe, and Lincoln entirely from portions of Wilkes County. Wilkes also contributed part of the lands used in the creation of Madison, Warren, Taliaferro, Hart, McDuffie, and Greene Counties.

Wilkes County was the site of one of the most important battles of the American Revolutionary War to be fought in Georgia. During the Battle of Kettle Creek in 1779, the American Patriot forces were victorious over British Loyalists.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, colonists used enslaved African Americans to clear land, cultivate plantations, and process cotton in this area. Long-staple cotton would not grow in this area and short-staple cotton required much labor to process. In 1793, Mount Pleasant, a cotton plantation east of Washington, was the site where Eli Whitney first perfected his revolutionary invention, the cotton gin. It allowed mechanization of processing of short-staple cotton, making its cultivation profitable in the upland areas. As a result, there was a dramatic increase in the development of new cotton plantations throughout the Deep South to cultivate short-staple cotton. Settlers increased pressure on the federal government to remove Native Americans, including the Five Civilized Tribes from the Southeast. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

Production of short-staple in the Deep South soon superseded long-staple cotton, grown primarily on the Sea Islands and in the Low Country. Such expansion dramatically increased the demand for slave labor in the Deep South, resulting in a longstanding domestic slave trade that transported more than a million slaves in forced migrations to the Upper South. King Cotton brought great wealth to many planters in the decades before the Civil War.

None of the battles of the American Civil War was fought in or near Wilkes County. But it was here, on the site of the present Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, that President Jefferson Davis met for the final time with the Confederate Cabinet. They officially dissolved the government of the Confederate States of America. Wilkes County was the last-known location of the gold rumored to have been lost from the Confederate Treasury.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 474 square miles (1,230 km2), of which 469 square miles (1,210 km2) is land and 4.6 square miles (12 km2) (1.0%) is water.

The northern quarter of Wilkes County, in a curved line from Rayle through Tignall to the northeastern corner of the county, is located in the Broad River sub-basin of the Savannah River basin. The eastern portion of the county, from Washington east, and bordered to the north and west by the Broad River sub-basin, is located in the Upper Savannah River sub-basin of the larger Savannah River basin. The rest of the county, south of Washington, is located in the Little River sub-basin of the Savannah River basin.

Major highways

  • US 78.svg U.S. Route 78
  • Business plate.svg
    US 78.svg U.S. Route 78 Business
  • US 378.svg U.S. Route 378
  • Georgia 10.svg State Route 10
  • Georgia 10 Business.svg State Route 10 Business
  • Georgia 17.svg State Route 17
  • Georgia 44.svg State Route 44
  • Georgia 47.svg State Route 47
  • Georgia 80.svg State Route 80

Adjacent counties


Changes in agriculture through mechanization, the Great Depression, and a mass migration of African Americans from the area in the mid-20th century have resulted in a decline of population in the rural county since 1930.

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 31,500
1800 13,103 −58.4%
1810 14,887 13.6%
1820 17,607 18.3%
1830 14,237 −19.1%
1840 10,148 −28.7%
1850 12,107 19.3%
1860 11,420 −5.7%
1870 11,796 3.3%
1880 15,985 35.5%
1890 18,081 13.1%
1900 20,866 15.4%
1910 23,441 12.3%
1920 24,210 3.3%
1930 15,944 −34.1%
1940 15,084 −5.4%
1950 12,388 −17.9%
1960 10,961 −11.5%
1970 10,184 −7.1%
1980 10,951 7.5%
1990 10,597 −3.2%
2000 10,687 0.8%
2010 10,593 −0.9%
2018 (est.) 9,876 −6.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 10,593 people, 4,263 households, and 2,841 families living in the county. The population density was 22.6 inhabitants per square mile (8.7/km2). There were 5,158 housing units at an average density of 11.0 per square mile (4.2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 53.0% white, 42.8% black or African American, 0.5% Asian, 0.2% American Indian, 2.0% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.4% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 10.3% were American, and 9.1% were English.

Of the 4,263 households, 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.7% were married couples living together, 18.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 33.4% were non-families, and 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.96. The median age was 43.4 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $28,022 and the median income for a family was $39,109. Males had a median income of $36,993 versus $24,874 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,993. About 21.2% of families and 25.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.7% of those under age 18 and 17.2% of those age 65 or over.

2020 census

Wilkes County Racial Composition
Race Num. Perc.
White 4,952 51.77%
Black or African American 3,838 40.13%
Native American 22 0.23%
Asian 59 0.62%
Other/Mixed 295 3.08%
Hispanic or Latino 399 4.17%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 9,565 people, 3,979 households, and 2,421 families residing in the county.


Notable people

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