Fitzgerald, Ben Hill County, is located in the heart of south central Georgia, twenty-five miles northeast of Tifton. Settled in 1896 by a land company under the direction of Philander H. Fitzgerald, the town is best known as a place of reconciliation among Civil War (1861-65) veterans.
Fitzgerald, a former drummer boy in the Union army, had become a pension attorney with a thriving practice in Indianapolis, Indiana. His interest in the welfare of his fellow veterans, well documented in the widely read weekly newspaper American Tribune, led Fitzgerald to conceive of the idea for a soldiers' colony in the South. Georgia governor William J. Northen was eager to settle some of the sparsely populated areas in the wiregrass region of the Coastal Plain, and after some negotiation they settled on the area around the site of the former turpentine village of Swan on the Ocmulgee River.
Early Reconstruction reconciliation was assured. There was little strife among the new colonists, who proved their dedication to unity by naming an equal number of streets in the city proper for Union and Confederate notables. In one of the first public-works constructions in the United States, a mammoth four-story hotel was built; it was named the Lee-Grant Hotel, to honor the leaders of the opposing sides of the Civil War.
In Benjamin Hill. Previously it was located in Irwin County, which was subdivided partly because Fitzgerald was about five times the size of the county seat of Irwinville. Almost immediately there was a model structure of government in the newly designated seat of government. A mayor and council were soon elected, and the city already had in place fire and police protection, infrastructure, and even a utility provider, which was quite rare at the time. The school system was among the first in the state of Georgia to issue free textbooks to students, in 1897.
state flags. This idea was derived from an early custom in the colony in which representatives of the many northern and midwestern states paraded in unity through the center of town.
The writers Brainard Cheney and Frances Mayes, as well as military leader Raymond G. Davis, were born in Fitzgerald.
Mayor Gerald Thompson, who held office from 1968 to 2011, made the growth of Fitzgerald his life's work. Through his efforts nearly thirty industries, East Central Technical College (later Wiregrass Georgia Technical College), and services usually expected only in larger cities thrived.
According to the U.S. census, the 2010 population of Fitzgerald was 9,053.
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