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In Their Own Words

April 12, 1739

Oglethorpe a Busy Man

This lengthy entry in the journal of William Stephens showed the many problems encountered by James Oglethorpe, and an example of how he used his own money to try and help some colonists:

“…From this Time my Duty requiring daily
Attendance on the General, during the Time of his Abode among us, it must suffice to touch on a few Incidents only, worth most Notice in that Space. Among others, the Affair of Cattle- hunting, and afterwards taking due Care of them, which had been too long in a loose Way, was thought by the General deserving his Consideration; especially as the Stock of the Trustees, as well as that of private Persons, was greatly increased, notwithstanding the frequent Peculation made, whereof there had been many Instances. To cure which Evil, and put it under a proper Regulation, required much Thought, and divers Conferences betwixt the General, and such of the most sensible and deserving Inhabitants as he was pleased to advise with. At length several Conclusions were formed, and such Orders thereupon issued by the General, as it is to be hoped, when duly observed, may answer the End intended of securing to each their Property. At Savannah a Pindar was appointed, and who was to be furnished with Half a Dozen Horses, to enable him at the usual Seasons to hunt for, and bring home to a Cow-Pen, all such Heads as lay scattering many Miles wide, and not to be turned out again without being regularly branded and marked by the rightful Owners; and where there should be any Claim made, which was not sufficiently evident in Behalf of private Property; such, as well as all found without any Mark, were to be judged unquestionably to belong to the Trust. At old Ebenezer, where another Cow-Pen is appointed, a proper Person also is under the same Orders and Instrudlions as the former: By which Means, if punctually observed, it is expedled that the live Stock of this North Part of the Province, which at present is computed at near a Thousand, will soon multiply greatly. While some of our People showed themselves weary of cultivating Land partly through a lazy Indifference, and partly discouraged by bad Crops, which induced several to try their Fortune elsewhere; divers yet appeared desirous to make Experiment under all the Disadvantages so much talked of, whether or not it were possible to employ their Labour that Way with better Success, and besought the General to grant them sundry vacant Lots in Savannah; among whom he was pleased to make Choice of a few that he judged most promising, to gratify their Re- quest: And that such as were gone off rashly might see, that they made more Haste than good Speed, he promised a Bounty of two Shillings per Bushel for all Indian Corn, and one Shilling per Bushel for all Potatoes, which they should have grown, to all who continued to persevere in doing what they could on their Land, over and above what they could sell it for after next Harvest. The Way down to the Water-Side wearing away apace with the loose Sand, which made it very incommodious in passing up and down with Burdens, and the Crane growing often out of Repair, which made it dangerous, as well as expensive; the General agreed with one to to build a Wharf down at High-Water Mark, with a Store House, and proper Conveniences on it; which must undoubtedly prove a cheap Bargain to the Trust, who are to pay only 50 l. Sterling to the Undertaker, which is Duchee the Potter provided he can effect it; but there are few who think it possible it can be done for that Sum; and argue, that if it costs twice that Sum to do it firm and strong, it must not be thought dear. Mr. Bradley, whilst he waited on the General at Charles-Town, thought fit to make a Demand of 1200 l. Sterling, which he said was owing him from the Trust; but at Savannah we heard from Mr. Jones, that he stood Debtor 1900 l. However that may be, the General was pleased to tell me, that Mr. Bradley had fully resigned all future meddling with the publick Affairs belonging to the Trust; that he was content to sit down quiet on the five hundred Acres which were first granted; in order to which, that he might be enabled to go on with it, his Excellency was so good to advance him a certain Sum on his own private Credit, which was no Ways to interfere with his publick Accounts, that he was to stand to as before, and liquidate as he could. On Wednesday the i8th in the Afternoon the General left us again, and went South by Water, attended by two other Boats carrying some of his Officers and some of his Domesticks.”

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 314-316.