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This Day in Georgia History

November 15, 1859

George R. Gilmer Died

To view an image of Gilmer’s home, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Politician George R. Gilmer died in Lexington, Georgia. Born April 11, 1790 in what was then Wilkes (later Oglethorpe) County, Gilmer was educated at the academy of Moses Waddel (who later served as president of the University of Georgia). Gilmer studied law until the War of 1812, when he led an expedition against the Creek Indians. After the war, he returned to Oglethorpe County, where in 1818 he began the practice of law. That year, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. In 1820, Gilmer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but poor health led him not to seek reelection. Back in the Georgia legislature by 1824, Gilmer was again elected to Congress in 1827 to fill the seat of Edward Tattnall. Gilmer was reelected in 1828, but because he failed to signify his acceptance within the time provided by law, he seat was declared vacant. The next year,Gilmer was elected Georgia governor to one two-year term (1829-31). In Dec. 1832, the General Assembly created Gilmer County out of land in Cherokee territory now claimed by Georgia. Gilmer took office as governor in the midst of a gold rush, following the discovery of gold on the eastern boundary of the Cherokee Nation in 1828. Gilmer was a staunch believer in states’ rights with respect to Indians living in Georgia, so the Georgia legislature passed a law extending state law to all of the Cherokee Nation that was situated in Georgia. Furthermore, all whites residing in Cherokee territory were required to sign an oath to obey Georgia law. After several white missionaries were arrested for not signing the oath, Georgia’s actions were challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court - which ruled against Georgia (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia). But Gilmer defied the rulings and continued to work for the removal of the remaining Georgia Cherokees. In 1836, he was elected to a second term as governor (1837-39), and it was during his administration that the tragic Trail of Tears took place. After his term as governor, Gilmer retired from public life and returned to Lexington, Ga. Subsequently he authored his memoir, Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, and served on the board of trustees of the University of Georgia. Following his death, Gilmer was buried in the Lexington Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Lexington, Georgia.

Image of George R. Gilmer Died View large image
Source: Photo: Ed Jackson