On Dec. 21, 1819, a year after Irwin County's creation, the
legislature authorized the county's inferior court to erect
a courthouse and jail (Ga. Laws 1819, p. 65). Until a courthouse
was built, the legislation provided that superior and inferior
courts be held at the house of David Williams. It is not clear
what served as Irwin County's courthouse for the next two decades.
Georgia maps published in 1822
show a site in northern Irwin County marked "C.H."
-- which was the common abbreviation for "courthouse." Irwin
County's first official courthouse was built in Irwinville --
reportedly in 1839. This building was replaced in 1854. A new
courthouse (see photo)
was built in 1883 and served until the present courthouse was
completed in 1910 (see photo
1 and photo
2) following the designation of Ocilla as new county seat.
A number of changes were made to the courthouse as part of a
major renovation in 1972.
County Courthouse Historical
Irwin County was one of seven counties created on Dec. 15, 1818,
by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws 1818, p. 27). [Click
for a legal description of Irwin County's original boundaries.]
Irwin, Appling, and Early counties extended across south Georgia
and were created from Creek lands acquired in 1814 by the Treaty of Fort Jackson.
Irwin, Appling, and Early counties were organized by an act
of Dec. 21, 1819, which provided for election of county officials
in each county.
From 1825 to 1906, portions of Irwin Counties original boundaries
were used to create the following counties: Lowndes and Thomas
(1825), Worth (1853), Coffee (1854), Berrien (1856), Wilcox
(1857), Tift and Turner (1905), and Ben Hill (1906).
Georgia's 41st county was named for former Georgia governor
Jared Irwin (1750-1818). [For more information on Jared Irwin,
The Dec. 21, 1819 act organizing Irwin County authorized the
five justices of the county's first inferior court to select
the location of the county's seat of government, which was to
be "as near the centre thereof as convenience will admit"
(Ga. Laws 1819, p. 65). Until a county seat was selected and
a courthouse built, county courts were to meet in the home of
David Williams. Irwin County's inferior court was unable to decide
on where the county seat should be located, so on Dec. 21, 1820,
the legislature authorized the inferior court to select a temporary
county seat until a permanent one could be designated (Ga. Laws
1820, p. 28). What happened next is unclear. Maps of Georgia
published in 1822 and 1823 show a site in north Irwin County
marked "C.H." -- which indicates the location of the
courthouse. However, Irwin County did not yet have an official
county seat. On Dec. 13, 1823, the legislature vested William
Foulsom, James Crum, Sellaway McCall, Joshua Griffin, and Alexander
McDaniel as courthouse and jail commissioners with the authority
formerly delegated to the inferior court (Ga. Laws 1823, p.
On Dec. 24, 1825, the legislature authorized the five courthouse
commissioners named above to also select a county seat for Irwin
County and to purchase land, have lots laid off, and sell the
lots (Ga. Laws 1825, p. 55). The act further provided that once
a county site had been chosen, the inferior court was then responsible
for contracting to have a courthouse and jail built. However,
the commissioners could not agree on where to locate Irwin's
county seat -- so on Dec. 19, 1827, the legislature appointed
Cornelius Tison, Lott Whitten, Jonathan Smith, Miles Adams, James
L. Wilcox, Ludd Mobly, and Jacob Paulk as new commissioners
to select a county seat (Ga. Laws 1827, p. 187).
On Dec. 23, 1830, the legislature finally stepped in and designated
the location of Irwin County's seat of government as land lot
225 in the fourth district of the county (Ga. Laws 1830, p.
216). If that lot could not be purchased, the act authorized
the purchase of any lot within two miles of lot 225 for use
as the county seat. The legislature also directed that the county
seat be named Irwinsville.
For whatever reason, the legislature on Dec. 22, 1831 changed
the location of Irwin's county seat to land lot 39 in the third
district, though again directing that it be named Irwinsville
(Ga. Laws 1831, p. 81). The act named Robert H. Dixon, Jacob
Young, William Bradford, Daniel Look, and Reuben Marsh as commissioners
with authority to lay out and sell town lots and to contract
for building a courthouse and jail. On Dec. 22, 1857, the legislature
incorporated Irwin County's seat of government as "Irwinville"
-- and not "Irwinsville" as directed in the 1830 and
1831 acts (Ga. Laws 1857, p. 179).
Around 1880, a community named Ocilla developed around 10
miles southeast of Irwinville. (The name Ocilla was of Creek
origin, believed to be the name of an Indian town or chief.)
Built around timber and turpentine, Ocilla grew rapidly after
a railroad from Fitzgerald was completed in 1897. That same year,
the legislature incorporated Ocilla on Nov. 24 (Ga. Laws 1897,
Soon afterwards, the railroad was extended southward, connecting
Ocilla to major railroads. Within 10 years, the town's population
tripled. Meanwhile, Irwinville declined as residents and businesses
moved to Ocilla and Fitzgerald.
On April 29, 1907, a petition to change the county seat from
Irwinville to Ocilla signed by two-fifths of the voters of Irwin
County was submitted to the county ordinary (probate judge).
That same day, the ordinary directed that an election be held
on June 12, 1907. In that election, over two-thirds of the vote
supported removal of the county seat, so on Aug. 19, 1907, the
legislature designated Ocilla as the new county seat of Irwin
County (Ga. Laws 1907, p. 307). A new courthouse in Ocilla was
not completed until 1910, so Irvinville may have continued as
de facto county seat from 1907 to 1910 due to the fact that
the county courthouse was located there.
Size of County (Total
Area): 362.8 square miles
County Rank in Total
Area: 73rd out of 159
City of Ocilla