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This Day in Georgia History

February 01, 1733

Colonists Arrived at Yamacraw Bluff

To view a monument commemorating the first colonists’ arrival, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

After spending the previous night at a temporary encampment on Trench’s Island off the South Carolina coast, James Oglethorpe and the first Georgia colonists boarded a sloop and five smaller boats. The small flotilla then proceeded down the inland waterway to the mouth of the Savannah River. Waiting for an incoming tide, they rode the tide upriver for about twelve miles to Yamacraw Bluff – the site on the south bank that Oglethorpe had selected on his advance visit a week earlier. On that visit, Capt. Francis Scott and a small force of rangers had accompanied Oglethorpe and had stayed behind to build a stairway up the forty-foot high sandy embankment. As the colonists finally arrived, Scott and his men fired a musket salute from the bluff. Those with weapons in the boats below returned the salute. Landing on the river bank, Georgia’s first colonists eagerly climbed the stairs to view their new home. Arriving at the top, they saw a clear area along the edge of the bluff backed by a forest of tall pine trees. After looking around, the men began unloading what they would need to spend their first night. The Trustees had purchased four large tents, so these and bedding were carried to the top of the bluff. As the colonists began setting up their communal tents, Oglethorpe set up a small personal tent. Within an hour of their arrival, a group of Yamacraw Indians – including chief Tomochichi and his wife Senauki – walked down from their nearby village upriver to greet the colonists. With them was John Musgrove, who with wife Mary operated a trading post near the Yamacraw village. The Indians were dressed in their finest outfits, and one among them danced around with a huge feather fan that had rattles and bells. For over fifteen minutes, this Yamacraw danced performing “Antick Postures” and waving his fan over Oglethorpe and touching him on all sides. After the dance, Oglethorpe invited the Indians into his tent. With Musgrove translating, they exchanged pleasantries for another fifteen minutes. Afterwards, the Yamacraws returned to their village, and the colonists continued work on setting up their tents. That night, all apparently went well for the colonists – except for one who sneaked off to the Musgroves’ trading post and had too much to drink and had to be forcibly carried back to the camp. [Note: Today, we celebrate Feb. 12, 1733, as the anniversary of the founding of Georgia. However, all letters, diaries, and records of the time indicate that the colonists arrived on Feb. 1, 1732/33. Feb. 1 (Old Style) represents the same date as Feb. 12, 1733 (New Style).]