County History: The land that would form Effingham County was
ceded to the English by the Creeks in the
Treaty of Savannah on May 21, 1733, confirmed and expanded by agreements
of 1735 and 1736. By an
act of March
15, 1758, the colonial legislature created seven parishes. The area of
present-day Effingham County primarily fell in St. Matthews Parish, which
stretched along the Savannah River north of Savannah. With the outbreak of
the American Revolution, Whig forces took control of government in Georgia.
On Feb. 5, 1777, they adopted the state's first constitution -- the
Constitution of 1777.
Art. IV of that document transformed the existing colonial parishes into
seven counties, with Indian ceded lands forming an eighth county. Effingham
County, which was fourth on the list and thus is considered Georgia's fourth
county, consisted of all of Saint Matthew Parish and that part of Saint
Philip Parish north of the Canoochee River (see
map). The county was named for Lord Effingham, an English nobleman who
championed the rights of the American colonies.
In 1793, the legislature created Screven County from portions of
Effingham and Burke counties. Land from Effingham County also was used to
enlarge Bryan County (1794) and Chatham County (1850).
County Seat: At the time of Effingham County's creation, the
American Revolution was underway. As a result, county government performed
few functions during the war. In 1784, the General Assembly designated
Tuckasee King as Effingham's county seat. Tuckasee King, named for the chief
of an Uchee Indian village, was situated on the Savannah River near
present-day Clyo. In 1787, the General Assembly moved the county seat from
Tuckasee King to a new site, which the legislature named Elberton. Located
on the northern banks of the Ogeechee River near a place called Indian Bluff
map), Elberton presumably was named for Samuel Elbert, who had served as
Georgia's governor from 1785 to 1786. When Effingham County was created in
1777, the Ogeechee River flowed through the center of the county. However,
after large areas of Effingham were taken away to form Screven and Bryan
counties in 1793 and 1794, Elberton was now situated on Effingham's western
border. Therefore, in 1795, the General Assembly appointed commissioners to
select a new -- and more centrally located -- site for the county seat.
During the search for a new county seat, Effingham had a temporary seat
of government -- Ebenezer. Founded in 1734 as a haven for persecuted
Salzburgers from Europe, Ebenezer was located upstream from Savannah.
Although it had been a thriving community in the decades after Georgia's
founding, Ebenezer had gone into decline after the American Revolution. In
1796, the General Assembly named town commissioners for Ebenezer and
authorized them to sell vacant town lots -- with the proceeds to go to
building a new courthouse and jail. The legislation said nothing about
Ebenezer becoming the new county seat of Effingham County, but it appears
that Ebenezer officials used the proceeds of the sale of vacant lots to
build a courthouse and jail there in 1797 or 1798.
While Ebenezer served as temporary county seat, the 1797 General Assembly
named a new commission to select a county seat that would be located within
five miles of the center of Effingham County. Until a new courthouse could
be built, Effingham court sessions were to be held at the plantation house
of James Wilson. In 1798, the commissioners proceeded to purchase land --
perhaps from Wilson -- for erection of a new courthouse and jail. In an act
of Feb. 7, 1799, the General Assembly directed that Effingham's new county
seat be named Springfield (though it is not clear why that name was chosen).
The legislation also authorized the selling of the courthouse and jail at
Ebenezer, with the proceeds to go toward construction of a new courthouse
and jail at Springfield. On Dec. 31, 1838, the legislature incorporated
After the Civil War, some Effingham County residents petitioned the
General Assembly to change the county seat from Springfield to Guyton, a
depot on the railroad to Savannah. In 1872, lawmakers directed that a
referendum be held on removal of Effingham's county seat. Supporters of
removal lost, so Springfield remained county seat.