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Seaborn: Columbia County history, deja vu

Posted: October 4, 2017 - 2:19am

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."

-Willa Cather

 

Sometimes I think the major qualification for public service is knowing how to pick a good fight.

Why do I think this? Because whether the issue is setting the millage rate or deciding how many apartments to allow per acre and storm drain, every major decision has been enthusiastically proposed and vigorously protested.

Today, as we consider important decisions, I thought it might be fun to look back and see how much today's county residents and those who lead us resemble our forebears.

Thomas Brown might have been future Columbia County's most notorious British Loyalist during the Revolutionary War, but he was far from alone. Historians believe one in four colonists remained loyal to the Crown throughout the war, but in this part of Georgia that ratio was one in three.

As the youngest colony in the new world, Georgia's ties to the mother country were stronger than those of the other 12 and for good reason.

The Native American threat was still very real here and Georgians believed they needed the British to protect them from harm.

At least many verbal battles were fought here between those who were loyal to the Crown and the Patriots who fought for independence.

Following the war, prominent Georgia leaders William Few and George Walton agreed on many points about their new (Richmond) County, except one: where to place the county seat.

Few thought those who lived in the western part of the county should not have to travel 30-40 miles by horse-drawn carriage to hold court and vote. But Walton, who lived in Augusta, was not about to go "way out in the woods" for the same purpose.

With strong support for each side, the stalemate lasted 10 years - until December 10, 1790, when the Georgia General Assembly cut the county in two and granted each man his wish.
With exploding cotton production in the 1830s, businesses and population in and around Columbia County were booming. But no longer were crude roads or, because of fluctuating water levels, the often impassable Savannah River adequate to move people, products and supplies from one location to another. Without depending on the government, area businessmen pooled their own resources and began making plans to build the Georgia Railroad.

Simple solution, right? Well, you should have heard the objections.

No matter how treacherous the river, it was still cheaper to transport goods by water than by rail, the planters said. Next came concerned citizens who forbade trains from coming within four miles of a town.

So, current county leaders and citizens alike, take heart. Good decisions - as in all the above - usually win out in the end, not because one side is necessarily more powerful or wise than the other, but because any decision is made stronger with input from an informed, concerned and, yes, vocal public.

 

Barbara Seaborn is a local, free-lance writer, and author of the book: As Long as the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County's Past. E-mail comments to seabara@aol.com.

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