SS8H2: The Colony of Georgia

SS8H2 The student will analyze the colonial period of Georgia’s history. The colony of Georgia was officially founded on February 12, 1733. Contrary to popular belief, Georgia was not a debtor’s colony and not a single debtor was released from prison to settle the 13th colony. In addition, James Oglethorpe was not the primary “founder” of Georgia nor was he the colony’s official “governor,” but one of 21 trustees who were responsible for governing the colony. Nevertheless, the story of Georgia’s founding is still unique in comparison to the establishment of the other 12 colonies. It is an interesting narrative of people, events, and even rules that most students find fascinating. The intent of this standard is for students to gain a better understanding of the events that lead to the foundingof Georgia and the captivating people that took part in Georgia’s colonial history. Additionally, students should learn about the difference between the Trustee and theRoyal periods of the colony and how these changes shaped the future state of Georgia economically, politically, and socially.

Create a chart like the one below for the following terms:

James Oglethorpe, the Charter of 1732, reasons for settlement, Tomochichi, Mary Musgrove, the city of Savannah, Salzburgers, Highland Scots, malcontents, and the Spanish threat from Florida. (Each heading is one of these words and in the same order beginning with James Oglethorpe)

a. Explain the importance of James Oglethorpe, the Charter of 1732, reasons for settlement (charity, economics, and defense), Tomochichi, Mary Musgrove, and the city of Savannah.

James Oglethrope

James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785)is often given credit as the “founder” and “first governor” of Georgia. He is portrayed as a man who was so upset about the treatment of Britain’s debtors that he established a colony for the “worthy poor;” helping those released from debtors’ prison start a new life in Georgia. While this myth is historically inaccurate, it should be understood that Oglethorpe did play an important role in the establishment of Georgia and served as its unofficial leader during the colony’s early years. Oglethorpe, a member of the British Parliament, was instrumental in an effort for British prison reform after his friend, Robert Castell, died from small pox. Castell was sent to prison due to his inability to pay his debts and contracted the disease from his cellmate. Oglethorpe started a campaign to reform Britain’s prisons and considered the possibility of creating a colony for those in debtor’s prison as well as Britain’s “worthy poor.” Unfortunately, Oglethorpe’s dreams of a colony created to help debtors pay off their debts never came to pass. Still, Oglethorpe lobbied to create a new colony and eventually he, along with 20 other Trustees, was granted a charter to establish Georgia. Today, Oglethorpe’s role in the creation of Georgia is heightened due to the fact that he was the only trustee to travel to the new colony. Oglethorpe took on the roles of both military and de facto civilian leader of the colony, and in many cases acted against the policies of the trustees. During his time in Georgia, Oglethorpe befriended Native Americans, Tomochichi and Mary Musgrove, allowed groups of Jewish, Scottish, and German immigrants to settle in the colony, created the towns of Savannah and Fredericka, and fought the Spanish on three separate occasions. Oglethorpe left Georgia in 1743, never to return. Nonetheless, Oglethorpe was alive to witness the colony he “created” break away from England and become part of the United States of America—a fact that students often find fascinating.

The Charter of 1732

Georgia’s Charter of 1732 outlined in great detail the reasons for Georgia’s settlement and is a remarkable document based on its rules for the colonist and its uniqueness compared to the founding of the other 12 original English colonies. Georgia was founded for three reasons: charity, economics, and defense. Of the three, the only true success of the colony had under the trustees was Georgia’s defense of South Carolina.

Reasons for Settlement

Arguably, the most important reason for Georgia’s founding was defense. In the 1730s, South Carolina was a profitable British colony that was constantly threatened by the Spanish in Florida. Georgia’s primary role was to serve as a military “buffer” between the two. In other words, Georgia was created to defend South Carolina from the Spanish. This is evident from the forts that Oglethorpe constructed and his bringing the martial Highland Scots to reoccupy the abandoned Fort King George. During the Battle of Bloody Marsh the Georgia colonists repelled a Spanish attack, and after this battle the Spanish threat to both Georgia and South Carolina was eliminated. The second reason Georgia was founded was due to the economic policy of Mercantilism. The Trustees hoped that Georgia would be able to produce four agricultural products that could not be grown successfully in England. These products were rice, indigo, wine, and most importantly silk. In fact, silk was so important to the trustees that all colonists were required to set aside land to grow mulberry trees which the silk worms feed on. Like Virginia, and the other southern colonies, some Georgia colonists grew tobacco, but this did not become an important crop until the late colonial period and early statehood. For the most part, none of these products reached the levels of success that the Trustees had hoped. Georgia’s wine industry never developed during the colonial period, and the silk industry, for the most part, was unsuccessful as well (though by 1767 the Salzburgers did produce and export over a ton of silk to England). Rice, indigo, and tobacco became more successful during the Royal period and early statehood.

To remember these agricultural products use the acronym W.R.I.S.(T). and call them the “Wrist Crops.”(Wine, Rice, Indigo, Silk, Tobacco)

The final reason for Georgia’s founding was charity. As mentioned previously, Oglethorpe originally hoped to create a colony for debtors and the “worthy poor.” Unfortunately, this dream never became a reality and no debtor was ever released from prison to live in the colony. While most of Georgia’s first settlers were certainly not rich, many were skilled craftsmen who were looking for a “new start” in North America. Incentives such as 50 acres of land (500 acres if the colonists paid their own way), one year’s supply of food, and free seed and agricultural supplies for a year were simply more than could be expected in England. These incentives caused many settlers to try their luck in the new colony.

The Charter of 1732 set up several rules that would eventually lead to discontent amongst the colonists. First, due to the idea that the colony would be one for the “worthy poor,” the Trustees forbade rum (alcohol) and slavery in fears that both would make the colonists lazy and unwilling to work hard. Second, the trustees barred liquor dealers, lawyers, and Catholics from the colony. Other rules of the colony included that the colonists were required to defend the colony, grow mulberry trees, they could not sell their land, their land could not be passed down to female heirs, and they had to obey all of the Trustees’ rules. The Trustees also included a prohibition of Jews settling in Georgia in the original charter; however, a group of Portuguese Jews arrived in the colony soon after it was established. In the group was a doctor, Samuel Nunes, who is often credited for “saving the colony.” Against the rules of the Trustees, Oglethorpe allowed the Jewish immigrants to settle in Savannah.


Two of the more interesting figures in the founding of Georgia were Chief Tomochichi and translator Mary Musgrove. Tomochichi was the chief of a tribe called the Yamacraw Indians. Tomochichi created this tribe in 1728 with members of the Creek and Yamasee Indians. Tomochichi’s group of around 200 believed that their best opportunities would come from an alliance with the English instead of the Spanish. Tomochichi allowed Oglethorpe to settle on “Yamacraw Bluff” (the future home of Savannah) in hopes that the English would serve as allies and trading partners. Oglethorpe and Tomochichi developed a strong and long lasting friendship. Through the help of Mary Musgrove, who served as a translator, Tomochichi advised Oglethorpe on matters of Indian affairs and relations with the Spanish.He traveled with Oglethorpe to England and helped establish English speaking schools for Native Americans in Georgia. When Tomochichi died in 1739, he was said to be in his 90’s. Based on his achievements and service to the colony he was buried in Savannah with full English military honors.

Mary Musgrove

Musgrove was born to a Creek Indian mother and English father. Due to this fact, Musgrove spoke both languages and understood the norms of both cultures. In 1717, Mary married fur trader John Musgrove, and they set up a trading post near the Savannah River. Mary’s fluency in both Creek and English served her well in her role as a trader and business woman. Musgrove became involved in the affairs of the colony of Georgia after her husband accompanied Oglethorpe on a trip to England. After this voyage, the trustees gave John land near Yamacraw Bluff. The Musgroves moved their trading post to this area and Mary continued to manage the successful business after John died in 1735. In addition to her business, Musgrove served as Oglethorpe’s personal interpreter from 1733-1743. Musgrove continued to move up the ranks of colonial society, especially after her third and final marriage to the Reverend Thomas Bosomworth. She offered many years of service as the colony’s primary Indian ambassador. However, she became a thorn in the side of the colony’s leadership after the Trustee period. Throughout her life, she received land grants from Tomochichi and other Creek chiefs. Nonetheless, British and Georgia officials refused to recognize her claims. Musgrove took matters into her own hands and fought for her land by leading a group of 200 Creek Indians to Savannah to argue on her behalf. She also fought for her claim in English courts. In 1760, after several years of struggle, Musgrove and Royal Governor Henry Ellis compromised, and Musgrove received St. Catherine’s Island and a large sum of money. In turn, Musgrove gave up her other land claims. Musgrove died on St. Catherine’s Island sometime after 1763.

City of Savannah

The city of Savannah is Georgia’s first city and former capital. Savannah was founded 16 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean on what was called Yamacraw Bluff. The city is unique due to the fact that it is one of North America’s first “planned towns,” though no one is quite sure who influenced its plan. A popular story is that it was inspired by architect Robert Castell, Oglethorpe’s friend who died in debtor’s prison. Savannah was Georgia’s capital until 1786 and has played an important social, economic, and political role in the state’s history from its creation in 1733.

b. Evaluate the Trustee Period of Georgia’s colonial history, emphasizing the role of the Salzburgers, Highland Scots, malcontents, and the Spanish threat from Florida.

Trustee Period

The Trustee Period in Georgia’s history was a unique though unsuccessful social and economic experiment. The trustees, who were for the most part religious men and social reformers, wanted to start a colony of self-sufficient yeomenfarmers who did not involve themselves in alcohol and slavery. In turn, the British government hoped for a colony that could produce agricultural products that Britain had to import from other countries. These goods included silk and wine. Neither of these hopes proved to be successful. Nonetheless, as a buffer colony Georgia did prove its worth by successfully defending both South Carolina and itself from the Spanish threat from Florida. In the end, due to the permanent departure of James Oglethorpe in 1743 and the complaints made by the Malcontentsconcerning the selling of rum and their desire to institute slavery, the Trustee period ended one year before the Charter of 1732 was set to expire. In sum, the lofty goals of the trustees never came to pass.

The Salzburgers

The Salzburgers were a group of peaceful and hard working German speaking protestant refugees from present day Austria. This group was being persecuted by the Catholic monarch of their province who issued the Edict of Expulsion, which gave the Salzburgers three months to leave their native land. King George II, who was himself a German Protestant, offered the Salzburgers the opportunity to settle in the colony of Georgia. Upon arriving in Georgia, the Salzburgers settled a town they named Ebenezer, meaning “Stone of Help.” However, this settlement was too far inland and located in an area that was too swampy with poor water. Many Salzburgers died during their first two years in Georgia. Eventually, the Salzburgers were given permission to relocate to a better location which they named “New Ebenezer.” Once they settled in this new town, they became some of the most successful and industrious colonists in Georgia. They are given credit for being the first group of Georgians to develop a water powered grist mill, a Sunday school, and an orphanage. They were also the only group to have any large scale success with silk production. The Salzburgers remained strictly antislavery during the later colonial years and extremely loyal to the trustees. This was due to the help the trustees gave the Salzburgers during their immigration to the colony. It should also be noted that Georgia’s first Patriotgovernor, John Adam Treutlen,was a Salzburger. The town of New Ebenezer was damaged during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. However, the church they built in 1763 still stands today. It contains the longest running Lutheran Congregation in the United States. Many of the Salzburgers’ descendants stilllive in the area they settled over 250 years ago. Today a summer camp is located on the site that was New Ebenezer.

Highland Scots

Though the Scottish Highlanders shared the Salzburgers’ antislavery beliefs and valued the importance of hard work and religion, they were quite different in many aspects. The Scottish Highlanders were brought to Georgia by James Oglethorpe based on their reputation for being some of the best soldiers in the world. The group was given land near the abandoned Fort King George, which they named Darien. With the promise of owning their own land, the Highland Scots fought in the Battle of Bloody Marsh and in two failed campaigns to capture St. Augustine, Florida. Many of the Scottish Immigrants’ ancestors played important roles in Georgia’s history. Today, McIntosh County is named in honor of one of these important families.


Soon after the first colonists arrived in Georgia, they began to voice displeasure with the rules established by James Oglethorpe and the Trustees. These dissenters became known as the “Malcontents.” Most of the Malcontents were individuals who had paid their own way to the colony and were not financially obligated tothe Trustees. The Malcontents complained about the limits the Trustees placed on land, the right to buy rum, and most importantly, the ban on slavery. After over 10 years of Malcontent complaints, in 1751, the Trustees ended restrictions on land ownership and legalized slavery; thus forever changing Georgia’s history.

Spanish Threat from Florida

Though the War of Jenkins’Ear has a comical name that often makes students laugh, this war was important to the survival of the colony of Georgia and helped Georgia serve its function as a buffer for South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida. The war was named after a British captain, Robert Jenkins, who had his ear cut off by the Spanish after he attempted to raid one of their ships. Jenkins, who survived the attack, brought his ear to the English Parliament which in turn caused the English public to demand retribution against the Spanish. Once war was declared, James Oglethorpe made a failed attempt to capture St. Augustine. After the English retreated, Spain decided to attack and destroy the young Georgia colony. The Spanish attacked St. Simon’s Island but were soundly defeated by the colonist and their Indian allies during the Battle of Bloody Marsh. After this battle the Spanish never overtly threaten the colony again. In 1748 both sides agreed that the border between English Georgia and Spanish Florida would be the St. Johns River.

c. Explain the development of Georgia as a royal colony with regard to land ownership, slavery, government, and the impact of the royal governors.

Georgia as a Royal Colony

Rules concerning landownership, rum, and slavery were relaxed or ended during the twilight of the Trustee period and the colony of Georgia profoundly changed during the Royal period. The trustees, frustrated with the lack of economic and social success of the colony, returned the colony to the king; one year before the expiration of the Charter of 1732.

Royal Governors

Upon receiving the colony King George II appointed Naval Officer John Reynolds as the first Royal Governor of Georgia in 1754. Reynolds was warmly welcomed by the Georgia colonists when he first arrived. During this time period, Georgians, who had very little say in the affairs of the colony under the trustees, were given a new charter that allowed for an assembly, a court system, and elected officers for the first time. However, a series of political blunders both with the colonists and Native Americans proved Reynolds was too inept to be a royal governor. The complaints by the people of Georgia led to Reynolds’ recall in 1756. The next royal governor was Henry Ellis. Though he was royal governor for only three years (1757-1760), Ellis is often credited for bringing self-government to Georgia after the debacle that was Reynolds’ administration. Ellis was a naturalist and scientist, and for five years, a slave trader. Ellis was successful as royal governor. He was instrumental in dividing Georgia in to eight parishes (later counties) as well as working to keep the Creek Indians neutral during a war with Cherokee. After three years as royal governor, Ellis was forced to leave Georgia due to ill health. However, even after he left Georgia, Ellis played a role in forming Georgia’s modern boundaries. Due to Ellis’ successful plan in taking Cuba from Spain during the French and Indian War, England was able to leverage the gain and trade Cuba back to Spain in exchange for moving Georgia’s borders to the Saint Mary’s river. Ellis lived until 1806, dying at the age of 85. Note: It has been said that Ellis used to walk the streets of Savannah with a thermometer hanging around his neck, checking the temperature. He regularly claimed that Georgia was one of the hottest places on earth. Students enjoy this anecdote and it helps them remember Ellis. Georgia’s third and final royal governor was James Wright. Wright, who spent much of his life in North America, was Georgia’s governor from 1760-1776 and then again from 1779-1782 when the British recaptured Savannah during the American Revolution. Until the Revolution, Wright was a popular governor. He is given credit for expanding Georgia by encouraging settlement into the state by other North American colonists and gaining land due to two Indian land cessions. During the early stages of the Revolution, Wright stayed loyal to the English and did his best to keep Georgia from joining the other colonies in their protests and revolt. It was due to his influence that Georgia was the only colony to sell stamps during the Stamp Act of 1765 and did not send a representative to the First Continental Congress in 1774. Eventually, Revolutionary fervor took hold of Georgia and Wright was arrested. He was able to escape to a British ship and returned to England. There he called for a full scale attack on the state which took place in 1778. After the war, Wright unsuccessfully lobbied the British government for loyalist financial losses during the Revolution. He died in 1785 at the age of 69.

Directions for Royal Governors:  Make a chart identifying the three Royal Governors of Georgia, the years that they served, what they did as Governor, if they were liked by the colonists and why.

Land Ownership/Slavery

During the Royal Period, Georgia’s population grew due to new land policies, land gains from Native Americans and the Spanish, and the surge of settlers and slaves this new land brought. Many of the new settlers were Scots-Irish immigrants who were considered “undesirable” by the established Georgia colonists and were given the derogatory name “crackers.” This group often worked and laid claim to lands in the frontier of the colony. Slaves, on the other hand, were forced to come to Georgia. With the restrictions on slavery removed, the colony’s slave population increased from 500 in 1750 to 18,000 in 1775.