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This Day in Georgia History

December 16, 1714

George Whitfield Born

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).