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1714 Anglican minister George Whitefield (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Whitfield") was born in Gloucester, England. He attended Oxford University, where just prior to graduating in 1736, he was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England. At the encouragement of friends John and Charles Wesley, Whitefield came to Georgia in 1738 and began preaching to colonists in Savannah.
Three months later, he decided Georgia needed an orphanage so he returned to England to raise the necessary money. In 1739, Whitefield returned to America by way of Philadelphia, where he began preaching with a charismatic style not associated with the Church of England. From New England to South Carolina, Whitefield had a tremendous impact on audiences.
In 1740, he gave up his Savannah ministry to reach a larger audience in America, though he did succeed with creation of the Bethesda Orphanage on 500 acres granted by the Trustees near Savannah. Though his religious impact extended far beyond Georgia to both sides of the Atlantic, Whitefield maintained his interest in Bethesda Orphanage until his death in on Sept. 30, 1770 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In recognition of Whitefield, the Georgia General Assembly created Whitfield County in 1851 (with the name spelled to reflect its pronunciation).
1769 Prominent Baptist clergyman Jesse Mercer was born in Halifax County, North Carolina. The oldest of eight children, Mercer came to Georgia in 1773 with his family. Following in his father's footsteps, he was ordained a Baptist minister in 1789. Mercer was an eloquent and moving speaker, and soon was noted throughout the region for his original sermons. He worked with the Georgia Baptist Association, primarily to encourage foreign missions. He was influential in the founding of the General Baptist Association for the State of Georgia, which later became the Georgia Baptist Convention; Mercer helped write the organization's constitution, and was its first and only moderator until his death. Mercer brought the organization's official news organ, the Christian Index, to Georgia from Philadelphia and served as its editor for seven years. Mercer also authored two volumes, a hymnal entitled A Cluster of Spiritual Songs and A History of the Georgia Baptist Association.
Mercer remarried in 1827 ( his first wife and two infant daughters had died) to a wealthy widow. Through this inheritance he helped establish the Mercer Institute in Greene County in 1833. Largely through his work and financial donations, the school attained university status in 1837. Later, Mercer University was relocated to Macon and still exists as a testament to Mercer's faith and generosity. He died September 6, 1841, and his body was laid to rest in a cemetery adjacent to the old university campus. [Click here for more biographical information.]
1847 Gov. George Towns signed legislation authorizing erection of a state deaf and dumb school and asylum in Floyd County. That facility subsequently was built at Cave Spring.
1853 Gov. Herschel Johnson signed an act creating Kinchafoonee County as Georgia's 104th county.
Created from portions of Stewart County, Kinchafoonee County was named for the main creek that ran through the area. Criticism of the name, however, led local residents to seek to have the county's name changed. On Feb. 21, 1856, Gov. Johnson signed an act redesignating the county as Webster County. The new name honored former U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who as a U.S. senator had helped bring about the Compromise of 1850.
1861 Until this day, Georgia law prohibited a wife from having a bank account separate from her husband. However, this was changed when Gov. Joseph E. Brown signed an act allowing married women to have their own bank accounts so long as the total deposited was less than $1,000. In 1866, the law was amended to double the amount a wife could have in her own account.
1961 On the steps of Albany's city hall, 263 blacks, led by Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and Albany Movement President William Anderson, along with one University of Georgia white student were arrested as they knelt to pray for the release from jail of the hundreds of demonstrators. King, Anderson, and Abernathy were taken to the Sumter County jail in Americus. The jail was run by Sheriff Fred Chappell, referred to by King as "the meanest man in the world."
1967 North Carolina State beat Georgia 14-7 in the Liberty Bowl.
1976 President Jimmy Carter announced his intention to name Georgia Fifth District Congressman Andrew Young as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Formal appointment, which required Senate ratification, did not come until Jan. 29, 1977.
Georgia cities and towns incorporated by acts approved on Dec. 16:
1859 Blackshear (Pierce County)
1861 Summerville (Richmond County)
1895 Alto (Banks and Habersham counties), Battle Hill (Fulton County), Jakin (Early County), and Pinehurst (Dooly County)
In Their Own Words on This Day . . .
1777 Savannah merchant Joseph Clay wrote to some fellow merchants in another colony of a successful attempt to run the British blockade of Savannah, and his hopes of more such attempts in the future:
Source: Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. VIII, Letters of Joseph Clay, Merchant of Savannah, 1776-1793 (Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1913), p. 62.
1863 From Columbus, John Banks – who by 1864 would have seven sons fighting for the Confederacy – wrote about two of his sons in his journal:
Source: John Banks, Autobiography of John Banks, 1797 - 1870 (Austell, Ga.: privately printed by Elberta Leonard, 1936), p. 30.
For more, see This Week in Georgia Civil War History.
Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1893, reprinted by The National Historical Society, 1971), Series I, Vol. XLIV, pp. 726-728.
For more, see This Week in Georgia Civil War History.
1864 Located northeast of Atlanta, Forsyth County had escaped the destruction of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. Nevertheless, it suffered from a different type of predator – bands of lawless renegades (likely draft dodgers and Confederate deserters) roaming the countryside and stealing from defenseless citizens. From Cumming, Ga., F.M. Hawkins wrote Gov. Joseph E. Brown asking for help. But, his letter ended with a plea for Brown to get Georgia out of the Civil War:
Source: Mills Lane (ed.), Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), pp. 178-179.
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