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This Day in Georgia History

June 14, 1736

Plans for Augusta to be Drawn

James Oglethorpe directed Trustees’ surveyor Noble Jones to draw up a plan for a new town at the head of navigation of the Savannah River, though it would be twelve months before Jones actually visited the site to begin surveying the town plan. The new settlement was to be named Augusta in honor of Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, who Frederick had married on April 26, 1736. Frederick, the son of King George II and Prince of Wales, would also be honored by a new town and forts named for him on St. Simons Island in 1736. According to the journal of Trustee proceedings maintained by the Earl of Egmont the new town was created “for the convenience principally of the Indian Traders.” Actually, the purpose of the fort was to regulate the Indian trade in Georgia. Abuses by white traders - in particular cheating the Indians and supplying them with rum - led Oglethorpe and the Trustees to determine that peace with the Indians depended on stopping the abuses. From now on, white traders working in Georgia would be required to first obtain a license in order to “trade, frequent, haunt, traffic or barter” with any Indian in the boundaries of Georgia. To enforce this, Oglethorpe directed that a fort be built and a town laid out at the Fall Line on the Savannah River. The Fall Line is a geographic feature that stretches across the Southeast and marks the head of navigation on rivers as they cross from the Piedmont to Coast Plain physiographic regions. North of the Fall Line, rivers are shallow and faster-flowing, with rocky bottoms - making them difficult for boats to navigate. As a result, white traders who worked the backcountry had used the Fall Line as the most northerly site inland to ship their deer skins and furs down river to Savannah and on to Charleston. Although 1736 is considered the year of Augusta’s founding, actual settlement would take a while. The first order of business was to build a fort. Ranger captain Roger Lacy, who was in charge of the fort’s construction, did not begin work until May 1737. Eleven months later, Fort Augusta was finally completed. As for the town of Augusta, according to the Earl of Egmont’s journal:

“He [Oglethorpe] order’d it should consist of 40 House Lotts each of an Acre, the largest Streets not narrower than 25 yards; a Square in the Center, & Lotts for Publick Buildings on each Side the Square. All the Publick Lotts together not to consist of less than 4 acres. the Common to consist of 600 acres, and the Lotts next the Town to be 50 acres, but only to each of those who have 500 acres. That a house in town and a 500 acre Lot Should be mark’d out to the following Indian Traders - Saml. Brown, George Currie, Cornelius Doehorty, Gregory Haines, Lochlane Macbane, Kenedy Obryen, Joseph Pavey

“50 acre Lotts were at the Same time order’d to such persons as Mr. Roger Lacy should think proper: the whole under the Same conditions as the rest of the Colony of Georgia were.”

The plan for Augusta laid out 40 town lots roughly parallel to the Savannah River. The lots were organized into eight blocks of five lots each. Each block was separated by a street, with a wide street laid out through the middle of town.