Wilkes County was the first county in Georgia formed under the Georgia Constitution of 1777. It was named for British Parliamentarian and American Independence supporter John Wilkes. Just three years later, the county seat, Washington, was incorporated and became the first chartered town named for George Washington.
Washington-Wilkes has played a major role in not only Georgia's history but our nation's as well. The Revolutionary battle of Kettle Creek was fought in Wilkes County on February 14, 1779. This battle was responsible for driving the British out of northeast Georgia.
During the War Between the States, Washington-Wilkes played host to the last cabinet meeting of the Confederacy, which took place in the old Bank of Georgia building- also known as the Heard House-and was attended by Jefferson Davis. It was also the last place that the infamous Confederate gold was tracked... and never found.
More history can be found at Washington-Wilkes Historical Foundation.
Interesting Facts about Washington & Wilkes County
- Wilkes County (pop 10,500) originally ceded from the Creek and Cherokee Indians in 1773 and was officially formed by state decree on February 5, 1777.
- Wilkes County is named for John Wilkes (1727-1797), an English parliamentarian and publicist.
- Washington-Wilkes has more antebellum homes per capita than any other city in America - over 100.
- In the Battle of Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779, the American forces defeated 700 Tories, thus checking the British from occupying the entire State.
- Washington (pop 4,950) was the first town in the United States incorporated in the name of George Washington on January 23, 1780
- On July 22, 1790, Washington's Reverend John Springer became the first ordained Presbyterian minister in Georgia.
- Eli Whitney spent time perfecting his cotton gin and tutoring children a few miles east of Washington at John Talbot's plantation, Mount Pleasant (now the Griggs Home).
- Bolton's Factory on Upton Creek was the first State chartered cotton mill south of Connecticut (c. 1810).
- The first gold stamp operation in the United States was set up by Jeremiah Griffin on Little River in 1833.
- Washington is the home of Robert Augustus Toombs (1810-1885), one of the most important figures in mid-nineteenth century American political life. Lawyer, state legislator, U.S. Representative and Senator, First Secretary of State of the Confederacy (February 21-July 11, 1861), Confederate General (at Battle of Sharpsburg [Antietam] 1862 - saving the day for General Lee by holding Union General Ambrose Burnside at bay for four hours), he was a vitriolic critic of Jefferson Davis and an "unreconstructed rebel."
- Washington is the home of Edward Porter Alexander (1835-1910), graduate of West Point (3rd Class of 1857), Confederate General, Chief of Artillery for General James Longstreet at Battle of Gettysburg, and credited as founder of the Signal Corps. Home (circa 1808) first brick home North of Augusta is still in the same family.
- Washington is the home of John Archibald Campbell (1811-1889), Associate Justice of U.S. Supreme Court (1853-1861), who resigned to become Confederate Assistant Secretary of War when Georgia seceded (Liberty St. next to Mary Willis Library).
- At the last Confederate Cabinet Meeting (Georgia State Branch Bank - once on the Square), the Confederate Government essentially disbanded at Washington on May 4, 1865.
- In Washington, GA on May 4, 1865, as the last official act of the Confederate States of America, President Jefferson Davis appointed Captain Micajah Clark CSA Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.
- Washington is the site of final distribution of the Confederate Treasury on May 4, 1865. Some of this gold is still unaccounted for.
- We are home to the first free Public Library in Georgia, Mary Willis Library (Liberty at South Jefferson), 1888.