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Author: Lee Ann Caldwell

Life in the Capital City: Augusta, 1786 – 1795

AS GEORGIA and its 12 sister states gloried in their hard-won independence in the mid-1780s, Augusta was the southwestern frontier of the United States. New settlers poured into Georgia’s piedmont over the next decade, making Augusta the hub of the expanding backcountry. The history of Augusta during the early years of the nation is a story of transition from a rugged frontier society to a more refined town. From 1786 through 1795 Augusta served as capital of the state, a reflection of the shift of power from the coast to the burgeoning interior. By the mid-1780s weekly stage coaches carried people and mail between Augusta and Savannah and Augusta and Washington, connecting to both the coast and interior. In 1790, commerce with South Carolina had increased so greatly that Wade Hampton built a toll bridge across the river from the Carolina shore to Center (5th) Street. υ As state capital, Augusta was the site of the most significant political events in the state’s early history. In 1787, Georgia gladly sent representatives to the convention being held in Philadelphia to revise the central government. A stronger central government, leaders reasoned, would be able to help negotiate the removal of the Creeks and Cherokee even further westward, opening more new territory for land-hungry migrants. When the completed Constitution arrived in Georgia that autumn, a convention met in the capital city to consider...

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Georgia on His Mind

Fire on the mountains— snakes in the grass. Satan’s here a-billin;— oh, Lordy, let him pass! — Portion of the poem The Mountain Whippoorwill by Stephen Vincent Benet, which was the inspiration for Charlie Daniel’s song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” MANY HAVE ENJOYED Charlie Daniel’s incredible fiddling in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” or the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but may not have known that both had an Augusta connection—they were inspired by the work of poet and author Stephen Vincent Benet.  The talented Benet, although not a native Augustan, spent his coming-of-age high school years living in the building that now bears the Benet name on the Summerville campus of Georgia Regents University. There he wrote his first published verses and there he learned about the American South firsthand.  The first Stephen Vincent Benet in America was the son of Spanish immigrant Peter Benet who settled in St. Augustine, Fla., when it was still Spanish territory. He was born there in 1827, only eight years after the Adams-Onis treaty, negotiated by Augustan John Forsyth, made Florida a territory of the United States. He attended University of Georgia before becoming the first Floridian to get an appointment to West Point after Florida’s admission to the Union as a state in 1845. Following graduation from the academy, he became a career army officer and,...

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Pure in Heart, Brave in Spirit: the Life of Silas X. Floyd

When the reverent David Floyd died on October 9, 1900, the newspaper wrote that it was “one of the largest funerals of a colored person every witnessed.” In spite of a downpour that continued through the afternoon, there was not a vacant seat in Trinity Christian (then Colored) Methodist Church and many stood in the yard in the rain. Eulogists included the well-known newspaper editor Rev. William J. White and CME Bishop R. S. Williams, while professor A. R. Johnson served as usher. Floyd was a “man who was known, honored and esteemed by the entire community, both black...

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