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1729 After visiting Fleet Prison the previous day, James Oglethorpe and the Gaols [Jails] Committee returned to complete their investigation. After having asked that the neck iron on one prisoner -- Sir William Rich -- be taken off on Feb. 27, the committee found that warden Thomas Bambridge had not only put the neck iron back on Rich, but added two extra sets of the 15-pound irons.
On the 28th, they demanded to see Rich again and found him in great pain, his arms and legs swollen. Over the next month, the committee would interrogate many imprisoned debtors to uncover the abuses of England's privatized prison system, where wardens and staff extracted fees from prisoners (or their relatives) for every necessity. The committee's findings would lead to prison reforms and new concerns about the plight of imprisoned debtors and England's other worthy poor.
1766 Politician John Clark (Clarke) was born in Edgecomb County, N.C. Just as the Revolutionary War broke out, Clark's family moved to Georgia, where his father, Elijah Clarke, became a leader in the backcountry revolt. After spending a year in school in North Carolina, young John returned to help his father. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a captain at age sixteen. After the war, Clark became a major general in the Georgia militia. He entered the political ring in 1801, when he was elected to represent Wilkes County in the Georgia General Assembly. Soon, Clark was embroiled in the political factionalism of his times, his chief opponent being William Harris Crawford. The dispute between the two turned bloody in 1802, when Crawford killed a Clark supporter in a duel. Debate between the two continued to rage until they met in a duel themselves in 1807. Crawford was wounded in the duel, but recovered. Clark again challenged Crawford to another duel, but Crawford refused. In response, Clark whipped one of Crawford's supporters through the streets of Milledgeville.
Crawford went on to serve in the U.S. Senate, while Clark earned support from many the small farmers in his region. In 1819, the legislature elected Clark governor over Crawford-ally George Troup. Clark was subsequently reelected in 1821. His terms as governor saw him trying to institute several democratic reforms, but the only one which soon came to fruition was an attempt to move the election of the governor from the legislature into the hands of the people -- which occurred in 1824. Clark retired from Georgia politics the following year, then moved to Florida as a federal Indian agent. He died there on October 12, 1832.
1822 Lawyer, judge, and Confederate general Matthew Duncan Ector was born in Putnam County, Georgia. A lawyer and politician before the Civil War, he joined the 14th Texas Cavalry as a private in 1861, rose to brigade adjutant, and rapidly advanced to colonel and then brigadier general in 1862. Ector participated in Bragg's invasion of Kentucky and subsequently commanded the 1st Brigade of McCown's Division at Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga. During the Atlanta campaign, Ector commanded his own brigade in French's Division. Subsequently, he was involved in the defense of Mobile. After the war, he served as a lawyer and judge. Ector died on Oct. 29, 1879 in Tyler, Tex.
1863 Four Union gunboats -- the USS Montauk, Wissahickon, Seneca, and Dawn -- shelled and destroyed blockade runner Rattlesnake (formerly the CSS Nashville) near Fort McAllister, Georgia. For more, see This Week in Georgia Civil War History.
1866 Gov. Charles Jenkins signed a joint resolution of the General Assembly authorizing Georgia's participation in the federal program of funding land-grant colleges under the Morrill Act of 1862.
1874 Gov. James Smith signed legislation creating the Georgia Department of Agriculture -- the first such state agency in the nation.
Georgia cities and towns first incorporated by acts approved by the governor on Feb. 28:
1876 Crawford (Oglethorpe County), Duluth (Gwinnett County), Oconee (Washington County), and Stockton (Clinch now Lanier County)
Other actions affecting Georgia local governments on Feb. 28:
1939 Town charter of Mauk (Taylor County) repealed.
In Their Own Words on This Day. . .
1839 On St. Simons Island, Fanny Kemble Butler was now desperate to leave her husband's plantation because of the misery due to slavery that she witnessed daily, as evidenced by this entry in her journal:
Source: John A. Scott, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 by Frances Anne Kemble (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), pp. 214-216.
1862 During the Civil War, far more soldiers -- both Confederate and Union -- died from sickness and disease than enemy bullets. Less than a year from the outbreak of hostilities, Atlanta's hospital was full -- leading local authorities to convert hotels and other buildings to makeshift hospitals. Local merchant Samuel P. Richards recorded in his diary the large number of sick Confederate soldiers being treated in Atlanta:
Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 original volume), Vol. I, p. 531.
1879 In Richmond County, Gertrude Thomas, who loved to read and write, discovered a way to help herself with these activities, as she recorded in her journal:
Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 382.
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