Appling County, located south of the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia, was created by an act of the state legislature in December 1818. The original boundary extended from the Altamaha River to the St. Marys River. Land for the county came from territory ceded by the Creek Indians to Georgia in the 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson and the 1818 Treaty of the Creek Agency. Appling was named as a posthumous honor for Colonel Daniel Appling of Columbia County, a well-known hero of the War of 1812 (1812-15). Appling was the parent county of all or part of Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Echols, Jeff Davis, Pierce, Telfair, Ware, and Wayne counties.
In spite of Appling County's isolation from more populated sections of eastern Georgia and its location in the pine barrens region of the state, the 1820 census listed 1,264 residents. The population of Appling increased when the General Assembly included the county in the state land lottery drawings for 1820, 1821, 1827, and 1832. Two dominant seed areas of migration into Appling were South Carolina and Tattnall County, Georgia.
In 1819 the General Assembly gave permission to Appling's inferior court justices to select a site for a county seat. The task rotated to five county commissioners and back to the justices between 1819 and 1828. Disagreements over the location prohibited a final selection until 1828, when the legislature designated Holmesville as the official site.
Appling's early economic activity consisted primarily of
The Altamaha River provided a popular avenue for early residents to ship products
The completion of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad in 1870 linked Appling to populated regions of the state and prompted the creation of three new towns.
Influential citizens of Appling County have included storeowner John Comas, a native of Barcelona, Spain.
Literary fame came to the county with the 1934 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Caroline Miller, Lamb in His Bosom. Miller briefly lived in Baxley while she wrote the novel, and she sought to incorporate the unique cultural activities and language patterns of wiregrass farmers in her work. More recently, Janisse Ray published Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (1999), an account of coming of age in Appling County and a call to preserve the rapidly disappearing ecological environment of the county. In 2003 Ray published a second book, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, dealing with her decision to return to live in her family's homeplace in Appling County.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Appling County is 18,236, an increase from the 2000 population of 17,419. Appling offers a variety of natural recreation sites, including Lake Mayer, the A. Randall Tuten Environmental Park, and Moody Swamp. Altamaha Technical College operates a satellite campus in Baxley.
Ruth T. Barron, Footprints in Appling County, 1818-1976 (Baxley, Ga.: Appling County Board of Commissioners, 1981).
Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (Minneapolis: Milkweed, 1999).
Janisse Ray, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home (Minneapolis: Milkweed, 2003).
Carol Ebel, Armstrong Atlantic State University
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