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Date Built: 2004-2006
Designer:Lott and Barber Architects
Other Information: The historical record of Effingham County's different courthouses is sketchy to non-existent. In the county's history, four towns have served as county seat -- Tuckasee King (1784-87), Elberton (1787-97), Ebenezer (1797-99), and Springfield (1799-today). There is no record as to what served as courthouse in Tuckasee King and Elberton. All that is known about Ebenezer is that town officials apparently built a courthouse and jail there in 1797 or 1798. But this action was done without sanction of the General Assembly, which in 1797 provided that Effingham court session be held at the home of James Wilson until a new county seat could be selected. In 1799, the legislature named Springfield as county seat and directed the building of a courthouse there.
In 1816, the General Assembly authorized Effingham County to levy a tax for building a new courthouse. If and when the tax was levied and a courthouse built is not known. Reportedly, a new courthouse was completed in 1849. That building served until 1908, when a new courthouse was constructed (see photo).
In 2004, construction began on the present courthouse, which is officially designated the Effingham County Judicial Complex. Construction was completed in late 2006, and in January 2007 officials began moving in. Formal dedication of the new facility took place in March 2007. The old courthouse remains in use as offices for the district attorney. County administrative officials are housed in a separate building near the new courthouse that once served as a church.
County Courthouse Historical Marker: Click here
County History: The land that would form Effingham County was ceded to the English by the Creeks in the Treaty of Savannah on May 21, 1733, confirmed and expanded by agreements of 1735 and 1736. By an act of March 15, 1758, the colonial legislature created seven parishes. The area of present-day Effingham County primarily fell in St. Matthews Parish, which stretched along the Savannah River north of Savannah. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Whig forces took control of government in Georgia. On Feb. 5, 1777, they adopted the state's first constitution -- the Constitution of 1777. Art. IV of that document transformed the existing colonial parishes into seven counties, with Indian ceded lands forming an eighth county. Effingham County, which was fourth on the list and thus is considered Georgia's fourth county, consisted of all of Saint Matthew Parish and that part of Saint Philip Parish north of the Canoochee River (see map). The county was named for Lord Effingham, an English nobleman who championed the rights of the American colonies.
In 1793, the legislature created Screven County from portions of Effingham and Burke counties. Land from Effingham County also was used to enlarge Bryan County (1794) and Chatham County (1850).
County Seat: At the time of Effingham County's creation, the American Revolution was underway. As a result, county government performed few functions during the war. In 1784, the General Assembly designated Tuckasee King as Effingham's county seat. Tuckasee King, named for the chief of an Uchee Indian village, was situated on the Savannah River near present-day Clyo. In 1787, the General Assembly moved the county seat from Tuckasee King to a new site, which the legislature named Elberton. Located on the northern banks of the Ogeechee River near a place called Indian Bluff (see map), Elberton presumably was named for Samuel Elbert, who had served as Georgia's governor from 1785 to 1786. When Effingham County was created in 1777, the Ogeechee River flowed through the center of the county. However, after large areas of Effingham were taken away to form Screven and Bryan counties in 1793 and 1794, Elberton was now situated on Effingham's western border. Therefore, in 1795, the General Assembly appointed commissioners to select a new -- and more centrally located -- site for the county seat.
During the search for a new county seat, Effingham had a temporary seat of government -- Ebenezer. Founded in 1734 as a haven for persecuted Salzburgers from Europe, Ebenezer was located upstream from Savannah. Although it had been a thriving community in the decades after Georgia's founding, Ebenezer had gone into decline after the American Revolution. In 1796, the General Assembly named town commissioners for Ebenezer and authorized them to sell vacant town lots -- with the proceeds to go to building a new courthouse and jail. The legislation said nothing about Ebenezer becoming the new county seat of Effingham County, but it appears that Ebenezer officials used the proceeds of the sale of vacant lots to build a courthouse and jail there in 1797 or 1798.
While Ebenezer served as temporary county seat, the 1797 General Assembly named a new commission to select a county seat that would be located within five miles of the center of Effingham County. Until a new courthouse could be built, Effingham court sessions were to be held at the plantation house of James Wilson. In 1798, the commissioners proceeded to purchase land -- perhaps from Wilson -- for erection of a new courthouse and jail. In an act of Feb. 7, 1799, the General Assembly directed that Effingham's new county seat be named Springfield (though it is not clear why that name was chosen). The legislation also authorized the selling of the courthouse and jail at Ebenezer, with the proceeds to go toward construction of a new courthouse and jail at Springfield. On Dec. 31, 1838, the legislature incorporated Springfield.
After the Civil War, some Effingham County residents petitioned the General Assembly to change the county seat from Springfield to Guyton, a depot on the railroad to Savannah. In 1872, lawmakers directed that a referendum be held on removal of Effingham's county seat. Supporters of removal lost, so Springfield remained county seat.
Size of County (Total Area): 482.9 square miles
County Rank in Total Area: 34th out of 159
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