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In Their Own Words

December 30, 1737

Stephens Noted Poor Conditions in Early Georgia

William Stephens recorded in his journal the precarious state of many of the lots in colonial Savannah, some of which he attributed to poor luck with crops, and some to the Malcontents - the group of colonists opposed to the Trustees’ regulations governing colonial Georgia:

“…Walked early in the Morning to see how my People went on with their Work in Clearing of Ground; and spent the whole Forenoon among the neighbouring Lots, observing what Improvements were made ; or I might rather say, what a visible Neglect was to be observed almost every where ; for in all my Walks of this Kind, as well before, as now, I not only found Abundance of Lots untouched, and many which had little done upon them, but (which was yet worse) divers Improvements that had been made, now going to Ruin again, the Land over-run with Rubbish, and seeming to be wholly given up and abandoned ; at leastwise no Appearance of Cul- tivation intended upon them this Year coming ; so that the Number of those that were occupied to good Purpose was but small : One Reason which I often heard al- ledged for this, was the great Discouragement they found from the bad Crop that they had the last Season ; which is indeed allowed by every Body to have been such; and thereby all their Cost and Labour in a Manner wholly lost, to theirgreat Impoverishment: But it ought to be observed, that it was not a Misfortune peculiar to them alone; for the same Complaint is almost universal, thro’ all the Provinces; that their Indian Corn failed, though Rice, and some other Grain did pretty well : And the great Backward- ness that People at present shew to cultivate Land, is in a great Measure (I fear) owing to the constant Talk of some People, who are Landholders some Miles off, and live in Town, who are always exclaiming against their Tenures, the Loss they sustain by white Servants only, without a few Negroes, &c. (as I have before noted) which has filled divers of the Free-holders Heads of this Town also, and several of them (otherwise picqued too) are lately gone for Carolina, to seek for some Land there (vide 19th Instant) though it is said they do not de- sign to quit their Possessions in this Province. … “

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 59-60.