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Brantley County



Courthouse
County Courthouse View large image

Source: David Seibert

LocationNahunta
Date Built1930
Architecture StyleColonial Revival elements
DesignerUnknown
Seat InformationNahunta. The Aug. 14, 1920 legislation proposing a constitutional amendment to create Brantley County provided that Hoboken serve as county seat. Two days later, legislation was approved incorporating Hoboken. Soon, many Brantley County residents petitioned for removal of the county seat to Nahunta. A referendum was held on June 21, 1923, and of the total votes cast, 1,446 favored Nahunta and 458 supported Hoboken. Subsequently, the General Assembly designated Nahunta Brantley's new county seat effective Aug. 16, 1923 (Ga. Laws 1923, p. 216). In an act of July 28, 1925, the legislature incorporated Nahunta (Ga. Laws 1925, p. 1273). The name "Nahunta" appears to be of Indian origin, and Kenneth Krakow has identified an Iroquoian word of that spelling believed to refer to tall trees. However, that does not account for why the name was adopted in Georgia. Krakow offers as one possible explanation the story that a timber producer by the name of N.A. Hunter lived in the area. After the railroad came through, a siding was built to load his timber onto railroad cars. This siding was identified as "N.A. Hunter," which in time was noted on maps as "Nahunta." However, Brantley County genealogist Thomas Earl Cleland has checked census records from 1850 to 1900 and can find no N.A. Hunter living in the area. Probably the more plausible explanation is that many of settlers of southern Wayne County came from North Carolina. There is a Wayne County in North Carolina, and in that county was a small town known as Nahunta, which was south of a Nahunta Creek. Thus, when residents of that town came to Wayne County, Ga., they may have thought it fitting to also bring their old town name. Whatever the truth, Georgia's Nahunta owes its existence to the railroad. Around 1860, an east-west railroad was built from the future site of Waycross across southern Wayne County to Brunswick. (After the war, this became known first as the Brunswick and Albany Railroad, and then as the Brunswick and Western Railroad.) After the war (and likely in the 1870s), a railroad stop by the name of Nahunta developed. This Nahunta, however, is not the same as today's Nahunta. In 1902, a north-south railroad from Jesup to Folkston was completed through Wayne County. The new railroad intersected the old east-west railroad about a mile and a half east of Nahunta. Because of the importance of the railroad, residents began moving to the new junction, where a new Nahunta emerged. With that, the old Nahunta became a dead town.
Courthouse DetailsHoboken was Brantley County's original county seat, and the county's first courthouse was built here in 1921 -- the year following its creation. In 1923, the legislature designated Nahunta as Brantley's new county seat. It is not clear what happened to the courthouse in Hoboken or what served as the county's new courthouse for the seven years following removal of the county seat. A new two-story, brick courthouse was built in Nahunta in 1930 and continues to serve today, though an addition was constructed in 1978.
County Data
Population18,411
Population 200014,629
Population Growth25.9
County SeatNahunta
County Area447.4 Square Miles
Location MapBrantley County Location Map
History

On August 14, 1920, the General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment to create Brantley County from portions of Charlton, Pierce, and Wayne counties (Ga. Laws 1920, p. 34). In that year’s general election, Georgia voters ratified the proposed amendment on Nov. 2, 1920, which marks the date of Brantley County’s creation (although a state historical marker on the courthouse square incorrectly cites the county’s creation as the day the legislative act proposing the constitutional amendment was approved).

Why was Brantley 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. Beginning in 1906, lawmakers got around the 145-county limitation by creating new counties through constitutional amendments that were not subject to the limitation. 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 (see text) that no new country could be created except through consolidation of existing counties.

Two years after Brantley County’s creation, local authorities discovered that the legal description of the county’s boundaries contained several errors. As a result, the General Assembly passed an act on Aug. 5, 1922, which corrected the language of the 1920 constitutional amendment (Ga. Laws 1922, p. 335). According to this act, Brantley County’s boundaries were now defined as:

  Beginning at the southeast corner of Pierce County, at the southeast corner of lot of land number three hundred (300) in the ninth district of Pierce County, and thence northwards along the line between Pierce and Charlton Counties to the southwest corner of land lot number thirteen (13), in the second district of Charlton County; thence eastwards along the south line of land lots numbers thirteen (13), fifty-two (52), seventy-seven (77), one hundred and sixteen (116), one hundred and forty-one (141), one hundred and eighty (180), two hundred and five (205), and fractional lot two hundred and forty-four (244), and thence continuing in a straight line to the Big Satilla River, and thence northward along the channel of said Big Satilla River to the Camden County line;’ thence northwards along the line between Wayne and Camden Counties to the Glynn County line; thence further northwards along the line between the Counties of Wayne and Glynn to a point on said county line one mile north of the main line of the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railway; thence westwards along a line one mile north of and parallel with the aforesaid main line of the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railway to the Little Satilla River and the line between the Counties of Wayne and Pierce; thence southeast along the channel of the Little Satilla River to the southwest corner of land lot number one (1) in the third district of Wayne County; thence southwards along the west lines of land lots numbers thirty-two (32) and thirty-one (31), in the second district of Pierce County to the channel of the Big Satilla River; thence westwards up the channel of the Big Satilla River, through Pierce County, to the county line between Pierce and Ware Counties; and thence south and southeast along the county line between Pierce and Ware Counties to the Charlton County line; and thence eastwards along the county line between Pierce and Charlton to the southeast corner of Pierce County, the point of beginning aforesaid.

There is a debate as to whom Georgia’s 158th county was named for. The state historical marker on the grounds of the Brantley County courthouse and several other sources (including an article that appeared in a Savannah newspaper in 1920) say the county was named for Benjamin D. Brantley (1832-1891). Other sources, however, say the real person being honored was Brantley’s son, William Gordon Brantley (1860-1934). The younger Brantley worked for a while with his father, but left home to attend the University of Georgia, where he graduated from law school. After practicing law in Pierce County, William Brantley represented Appling County in the Georgia House of Representatives (1884-85) and Georgia Senate (1886-87). He also served as prosecuting attorney (1888-96), but is most remembered for serving eight terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1897-1913). For sixteen years, William Brantley represented the area that would become Brantley County in Congress. In 1913, after thirty years in public office, Brantley decided to return to the practice of law. Seven years later, the legislature created Brantley County. Which Brantley was the legislature honoring? The act creating the county did not say, and notwithstanding the Savannah newspaper account, there is not conclusive evidence. However, most Georgia counties are named for politicians or military heroes, and William Brantley seems far more likely to have the record of public service for which the legislature would honor when naming a new county.

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Legal OrganBrantley County Express
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Historical Population
YearPopulation
2010 13,063
2000 11,666
1990 10,430
1980 10,767
1970 10,291
1960 9,642
1950 9,218
1940 9,655
1930 9,133
1920 10,532