General James Oglethorpe was given a royal charter for the establishment of a colony to be called Georgia on this day in 1732. Its name was derived from the king who granted that charter, George II.
Oglethorpe who was then serving as a British parliamentarian, concocted a benevolent plan wherein debtors would be allowed to work off their obligations in the new colony rather than face time in debtors’ prison. Those of “means” in England gave generously to this noble endeavor so that those facing persecution, imprisonment or even abject poverty might begin anew in the New World. Interestingly, the first settlers that were chosen were selected for their practical skills such as carpentry and (blacksmithing), leaving many of the debtors “high and dry” on England’s shores as those deemed most capable set sail for Georgia.
116 settlers sailed from England to Georgia on November of 1732. Upon landing on a bluff that would become part of city soon to be named Savannah, the colonists set about to construct a sturdy fortification to ensure the safety of their residents. Once the fort was completed, Oglethorpe went to work to establish good will with the Native American tribes that surrounded them. Over the subsequent years, the relationship would be beset with countless “ups” and downs.” Oglethorpe also battled numerous conflicts and invasions from neighboring Florida, a colony under the control of Spain. Once, however, he believed the colony to be relatively secure and peaceful, he returned to England.
In 1736, he again departed for Georgia with 300 new colonists as well as famed pastor, John Wesley who spent much time,once he arrived, attempting to convert the Native Americans in the area to Christianity without a great deal of success. He would later return to his home country and begin to sow the seeds of a movement now known as Methodism.
Oglethorpe’s genius shone brightly in his philanthropic endeavors, his military prowess and his great organizational skills. But if one truly wants to see what is perhaps his most brilliant accomplishment, one need look no further than to the city of Savannah and its perfectly laid out series of 24 squares, 6 of which were a part of his original plan for the “grand dame” of all southern cities. His unique layout for Savannah is regarded by many of the world’s most acclaimed land planners as nothing short of perfection. It’s impossible not to be charmed by Oglethorpe’s magnificent Savannah, the only US city to rival the graceful splendor of Paris, France.
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