Brantley County


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On August 14, 1920, the General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment to create Brantley County from portions of Charlton, Pierce, and Wayne counties (Ga. Laws 1920, p. 34). In that year's general election, Georgia voters ratified the proposed amendment on Nov. 2, 1920, which marks the date of Brantley County's creation (although a state historical marker on the courthouse square incorrectly cites the county's creation as the day the legislative act proposing the constitutional amendment was approved).

Why was Brantley County created by constitutional amendment instead of an act of the General Assembly? In 1904, Georgia voters had approved a constitutional amendment limiting the number of counties in the state to 145. The next year, the General Assembly created eight new counties, bringing the total number to 145 -- the constitutional limit. Nevertheless, there was continuing pressure to create more counties. Beginning in 1906, lawmakers got around the 145-county limitation by creating new counties through constitutional amendments that were not subject to the limitation. By 1924, Georgia had 161 counties -- 16 of which had been created by constitutional amendment. On Jan. 1, 1932, Milton and Campbell counties merged with Fulton, leaving 159 counties. In 1945, Georgia voters ratified a new constitution -- one which provided an absolute limit of 159 counties, with an additional provision that no new country could be created except through consolidation of existing counties.

Two years after Brantley County's creation, local authorities discovered that the legal description of the county's boundaries contained several errors. As a result, the General Assembly passed an act on Aug. 5, 1922, which corrected the language of the 1920 constitutional amendment (Ga. Laws 1922, p. 335). According to this act, Brantley County's boundaries were now defined as:

"Beginning at the southeast corner of Pierce County, at the southeast corner of lot of land number three hundred (300) in the ninth district of Pierce County, and thence northwards along the line between Pierce and Charlton Counties to the southwest corner of land lot number thirteen (13), in the second district of Charlton County; thence eastwards along the south line of land lots numbers thirteen (13), fifty-two (52), seventy-seven (77), one hundred and sixteen (116), one hundred and forty-one (141), one hundred and eighty (180), two hundred and five (205), and fractional lot two hundred and forty-four (244), and thence continuing in a straight line to the Big Satilla River, and thence northward along the channel of said Big Satilla River to the Camden County line;' thence northwards along the line between Wayne and Camden Counties to the Glynn County line; thence further northwards along the line between the Counties of Wayne and Glynn to a point on said county line one mile north of the main line of the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railway; thence westwards along a line one mile north of and parallel with the aforesaid main line of the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railway to the Little Satilla River and the line between the Counties of Wayne and Pierce; thence southeast along the channel of the Little Satilla River to the southwest corner of land lot number one (1) in the third district of Wayne County; thence southwards along the west lines of land lots numbers thirty-two (32) and thirty-one (31), in the second district of Pierce County to the channel of the Big Satilla River; thence westwards up the channel of the Big Satilla River, through Pierce County, to the county line between Pierce and Ware Counties; and thence south and southeast along the county line between Pierce and Ware Counties to the Charlton County line; and thence eastwards along the county line between Pierce and Charlton to the southeast corner of Pierce County, the point of beginning aforesaid."

There is a debate as to whom Georgia's 158th county was named for. The state historical marker on the grounds of the Brantley County courthouse and several other sources (including an article that appeared in a Savannah newspaper in 1920) say the county was named for Benjamin D. Brantley (1832-1891). Other sources, however, say the real person being honored was Brantley's son, William Gordon Brantley (1860-1934). The younger Brantley worked for a while with his father, but left home to attend the University of Georgia, where he graduated from law school. After practicing law in Pierce County, William Brantley represented Brantley County in the Georgia House of Representatives (1884-85) and Georgia Senate (1886-87). He also served as prosecuting attorney (1888-96), but is most remembered for serving eight terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1897-1913). For sixteen years, William Brantley represented the area that would become Brantley County in Congress. In 1913, after thirty years in public office, Brantley decided to return to the practice of law. Seven years later, the legislature created Brantley County. Which Brantley was the legislature honoring? The act creating the county did not say, and notwithstanding the Savannah newspaper account, there is not conclusive evidence. However, most Georgia counties are named for politicians or military heroes, and William Brantley seems far more likely to have the record of public service for which the legislature would honor when naming a new county.

Brantley County Place Names

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