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Ben Hill County



Courthouse
County Courthouse View large image

Source: David Seibert

LocationE. Central Ave. at S. Sheridan St., Fitzgerald
Date Built1909
Architecture StyleNeoclassical Revival
DesignerH.H. Huggins
Seat InformationThe proposed constitutional amendment creating Ben Hill County specified Fitzgerald as the county seat. Fitzgerald was settled in 1895 as a colony for former Union soldiers and was named for Indianapolis, Ind. newspaper editor P. H. Fitzgerald, who was the guiding force behind creation of the colony. In an act of Dec. 2, 1896, the General Assembly incorporated the new colony as a city (Ga. Laws 1896, p. 157).
Courthouse DetailsBen Hill County's first and only courthouse was built in 1909. Originally, it had a domed clock tower rising from the center of the building. When the courthouse was renovated in the early 1950s, the clock tower was removed.
County Data
Population17,634
Population 200017,484
Population Growth0.9
County SeatFitzgerald
County Area254.0 Square Miles
Location MapBen Hill County Location Map
History

On July 31, 1906, the General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment to create Ben Hill County (Ga. Laws 1906, p. 28). In that year’s general election, voters ratified the constitutional amendment on Nov. 6, 1906, which is considered the date of Ben Hill County’s creation (even though a state historical marker on the courthouse square incorrectly cites the date of the legislature’s proposal of the amendment as the date of the county’s creation). Georgia’s 146th county was named for former Confederate and U.S. Senator Benjamin Hill (1823-1882).

Why was Ben Hill County created by constitutional amendment instead of an act of the General Assembly? In 1904, Georgia voters had approved a constitutional amendment limiting the number of counties in the state to 145. The next year, the General Assembly created eight new counties, bringing the total number to 145, the constitutional limit. Nevertheless, there was continuing pressure to create more counties. In 1906, lawmakers sought to create a new county from portions of Wilcox and Irwin counties. Because an act of the legislature cannot conflict with the state constitution, the only option was to amend the state constitution. The legislature could have proposed an amendment that raised the constitutional limit to 146 counties. For whatever reason, supporters of the new county chose another approach. Leave the 145-limit in the constitution and simply add an additional provision that said: “Provided, however, That in addition to the counties now provided for by this Constitution there shall be a new county laid out from the counties of Irwin and Wilcox, bounded as follows . . . .” Thus began the practice in Georgia of creating new counties by constitutional amendment. 

By 1924, Georgia had 161 counties, 16 of which had been created by constitutional amendment. On Jan. 1, 1932, Milton and Campbell counties merged with Fulton, leaving 159 counties. In 1945, Georgia voters ratified a new constitution, one which provided an absolute limit of 159 counties, with an additional provision that no new country could be created except through consolidation of existing counties. 

As an interesting note, Ben Hill is one of 25 Georgia counties that today still have the original boundaries provided at the time of creation.

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Legal OrganThe Herald-Leader
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Historical Population
YearPopulation
2010 17,634
2000 17,484
1990 16,245
1980 16,000
1970 13,171
1960 13,633
1950 14,879
1940 14,523
1930 13,047
1920 14,599
1910 11,863