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Wilkes County, Georgia

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Please add profiles for those who were born, lived or died in Wilkes County, Georgia.

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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[3] 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.

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.

In 1793, American Eli Whitney perfected his revolutionary invention of the cotton gin at Mount Pleasant, a cotton plantation east of Washington. It allowed mechanization of the 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 from the region, including the Five Civilized Tribes from the Southeast. In 1794, Revolutionary War veteran Elijah Clarke, led a group of men from Wilkes County into traditionally Creek lands and established a town and several forts and called it the Trans-Oconee Republic. While short lived, the incursion was part of a broader movement of incursion into traditionally native lands. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 and the government forcibly removed most of the members of these tribes to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

Production of short-staple cotton in the Deep South soon superseded that of long-staple cotton, grown primarily on the Sea Islands and in the Low Country.[9] Such expansion dramatically increased the demand for slave labor in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 from 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 here President Jefferson Davis met for the final time with the Confederate Cabinet, and they officially dissolved the government of the Confederate States of America.[10] Wilkes County was the last-known location of the gold rumored to have been lost from the Confederate Treasury. The present-day Wilkes County Courthouse was built in Washington at the site of the cabinet meeting.

Adjacent Counties


  • Rayle
  • Tignall
  • Washington (County Seat)



USGW Archives

Genealogy Trails

Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places