Washington Georgia History

Wilkes was one of the 8 original counties in Georgia and out of it came 9 other counties. In 1780 Washington was the Georgia Capital. At one time 38% of the state lived in Wilkes County.

Of the first 13 governors of Georgia 11 were from Wilkes County and 17 counties are named for men who lived in Wilkes at one time. George Walton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was a large land owner and 1st circuit judge of Wilkes.

Washington-Wilkes is noted for many firsts such as the Mary Willis Library, designed in the high Victorian style, the first public library in the State of Georgia (beautiful stain glass windows), many church related firsts, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin perfected, first cotton mill erected, first woman newspaper editor, Sarah Hillhouse, 1804, first woman hanged in Georgia, Polly Barclay (ouch!), 1806, first stamp mill for gold in the world invented and put into use near Washington by Jeremiah Griffin, 1831-1832, one of the first plastic garments ever cut in the world was in Wilkes County by Margo and Alfred Moses in February 1946.

When they were deciding where to put the University of Georgia in 1785, Athens was chosen because Washington was considered too urban.

Kettle Creek


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Washington-Wilkes has a fascinating connection to both Revolutionary and War Between the States history. A decisive battle of the Revolutionary War was fought at Kettle Creek, 8 miles west of Washington off Highway 44. The Patriots trounced the Tories on February 14, 1779 which broke the hold of the British and saved Georgia from capitulation. There is an active association connected to the Kettle Creek Battlefield site and tours are available to your group. There is a large monument, grave sites and trails are being put in. A lot of interest has developed in this site and it is going through constant land acquisition and improvement.

Civil War

Although, thankfully, no War Between the States battles were fought in or around Washington-Wilkes County, citizens both prominent and plain folk were players in the war and Washington civilians suffered like other Southerners. Robert Augustus Toombs was a founding father of the Confederacy and its first Secretary of State. He went on to become a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. A lawyer by training, he proved an impressive speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, and later in the Senate. He was a charismatic leader and fascinating fellow. Alexander Stephens, vice-president of the Confederacy, although a resident of Crawfordville, Georgia attended school in Washington and lived in a house while a student that is still standing today. Jefferson Davis came to Washington at the end of the war in 1865 and held the last meeting of the Confederacy in the Washington Bank Building. The Regents Bank on E. Robert Toombs Ave. is modeled after the old bank building where the meeting was held. There are many other Confederate Officers discussed in Skeet Willingham’s book, the "History of Wilke’s County".

Confederate Gold

The Confederate Gold was buried (or was it?) in Wilkes County. The following information is mostly from Kudcom.com:

On the night of May 24, 1865, two wagon trains filled with gold, one containing the last of the Confederate treasury and the other money from Virginia banks (about 1 million in today’s dollars) were robbed at Chennault Crossroads in Lincoln County.

Chennault Plantation, owned by Dionysius Chennault who was an elderly planter and Methodist minister, played a significant role in the story. The gold was to be returned to France who had loaned the money to support the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis had given his word that the gold would be returned regardless of the outcome of the war. Towards the end of the war, Captain Parker of the Navy and a group of other volunteers brought the gold from Richmond, Virginia, to Anderson, South Carolina, by train and from there by wagon hoping to get to Savannah to load it on a waiting ship.

Parker was to camp outside Washington, Georgia, where he was to meet with Jefferson Davis and receive further instructions. Parker's group camped on the Chennault place and then received word to proceed on to Augusta and then Savannah, while avoiding contact with the large number of Union troops present in Georgia.

Accordingly the group set out on their assigned mission, but unfortunately their scouts met Union troops before they got to Augusta. The group returned to the Chennault Plantation. Parker was unable to receive further instructions from Davis because he had already left Washington. It was on this night that the gold disappeared in a hijacking about 100 yards from the porch of the house. One theory says that the treasure was buried at the confluence of the Apalachee and Oconee rivers. Some say that some of the gold was divided among the locals. Some say part of the gold was used to pay the Confederate troops, who hadn’t been paid for quite a while.

Union troops later came to the Chennault Plantation to find the gold. They tortured the occupants of the house trying to force them to reveal where the gold was hidden but to no avail. The entire Chennault family was taken to Washington, DC to undergo intensive interrogation. They were questioned thoroughly as to the whereabouts of the gold, but the Chennaults could not tell anything that was not already known. They were released a few weeks later and returned to their home in Georgia.

As time went by, the Chennault plantation became known as the "golden farm," and for many years after that people came there to search for the missing gold. Down through the years, many gold coins have been found along the dirt roads near the plantation following a heavy rain storm.

Legend persists that the treasure was hastily buried on the original grounds of Chennault Plantation and remains there today.

The History Channel did a show on The Lost Confederate Gold and numerous treasure hunters have been here looking for it.


Many of the homes in Washington seem to have reported ghosts on the grounds to showing up in the homes or other places around the properties. Yes, some of our venues have visitors from voices to actual sitings of aberations. Don't be surprised.

When the war came to a close thousands of Confederate and Yankee soldiers passed down Robert Toombs Ave. (Main Street at that time) and Yankee soldiers occupied several of the antebellum homes that are available to your group for meetings, picnics, retreats, rewards weekends and celebrations. There are many interesting stories about these times in Skeet Willingham’s book, History of Wilkes County and Fanny Andrew’s book, "Diary of a Georgia Girl". Fanny’s book details the events just before the war ended when she was told to leave by her father, Judge Andrews to escape the Yankees and when she came back to Washington in the aftermath of the war and Reconstruction. It is a very interesting book. Gone With the Wind was not that far off, y’all!

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