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This Day in Georgia History

February 09, 1819

John Milledge Died

Politician John Milledge died near Augusta. Born in Savannah in 1757, Milledge was an active participant in the revolutionary movement by age 18, when he stole gunpowder from the royal governor’s magazine in 1775. Milledge was present when both Savannah and Augusta were captured by the British (and when they were recaptured by patriot forces) – and he fought in virtually all major battles fought in Georgia. After the Revolution, Milledge became involved in politics, serving in the Georgia legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1792. In Congress, his main objective was to secure military protection from the Indians and Spanish along Georgia’s western border. Milledge opposed the Yazoo Land Act, believing western lands should be sold to settlers in order to stabilize the frontier and help erase Georgia’s debt. After serving several terms in Congress, the Georgia General Assembly elected him as governor in 1802. During his administration the land lottery was instituted as a means of distributing frontier lands to settlers. In 1806, Milledge was elected to the United States Senate, where he became president pro tempore in 1809. Because of the illness of his wife in Georgia, Milledge resigned from the Senate and retired from politics. But his contributions to Georgia did not end. Although the University of Georgia had been chartered by the legislature in 1785, little had been done to make it a reality. Milledge served on a committee to find an appropriate site in 1800. Then, when the state did not have the money to purchase the site chosen (a tract along the Oconee River), Milledge bought the site for $4,000 and then donated it to the state. In the University’s early years, Milledge worked closely with president Josiah Meigs, offering both financial and moral encouragement. In his honor, the General Assembly named Georgia’s new state capital Milledgeville in his honor. Later, both Athens and Augusta named major avenues in his honor. Also, the University of Georgia recognized Milledge with a classroom building and an academic chair.