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This Day in Georgia History

May 08, 1777

John Treutlen Elected Governor

Georgia’s first state legislature convened in Savannah and elected John Treutlen as governor. Treutlen was a classic example of an American, rags-to-riches success story. Born in Germany around 1730, his family tried to emigrate to Pennsylvania but were captured and imprisoned by British forces. Treutlen’s father died in captivity, leaving his mother penniless when they were freed. So the entire family was sent to Georgia at the Trustees’ expense to work as indentured servants. Here young John attended the Ebenezer school, learned English, opened his own very successful business, and became a wealthy planter. He joined the Patriot cause during the American Revolution and was the first elected governor of Georgia, serving for less than one year - from May of 1777 until January 1778. During his brief tenure as governor, Treutlen tried to bring differing factions together, ease the state’s dire financial situation, and resist efforts by South Carolina to annex Georgia. When Savannah was captured by the British, Treutlen moved to a plantation he owned in Orangeburg, S.C. Here he was murdered in the spring of 1782. The date of his death and location of his remains is unrecorded. But his contribution to Georgia history was noted when the General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment to create a new county named in his honor in 1917. The following year, voters approved the amendment, thus creating Treutlen County as Georgia’s 154th county.