Berrien County, in southwest Georgia, was formed from parts of Coffee, Irwin, and Lowndes counties in February 1856. Berrien is Georgia's 116th county, with an area of 452 square miles. The county was named for John Macpherson Berrien, a Savannah lawyer who served variously as a judge (with a stint on the Supreme Court of Georgia), a state senator, a U.S. senator, and the attorney general under U.S. president Andrew Jackson. In the War of 1812 (1812-15) he was captain of the Georgia Hussars, a volunteer company from Savannah. He was also the first president of the Georgia Historical Society.
Alapaha was incorporated in 1881 on the site of a Seminole village with the same name. Its city hall is located in the old Alapaha Station, the former depot for the now defunct Brunswick and Albany Railroad. Some believe that Alapaha was the Creek word for "other side"; others believe it was the word Timucuan Indians used for "bear." The Alapaha Station Celebration occurs the second weekend of each November.
Enigma was incorporated in 1906. Histories of the town's name are apocryphal, and so as one source opined, the name remains an enigma. The Georgia writer Harry Crews used Enigma as the setting for his first novel, The Gospel Singer (1968).
Ray City was incorporated in 1909 as Ray's Mill. The white settlement dates to 1863, when locals knew it as Rays Pond. The current name was adopted in 1915, after the town was moved to the railroad junction.
Informally, Berrien calls itself the "Bell Pepper Capital of the World," and the economy of the county is primarily agricultural, concentrating on tobacco, corn, soybeans, peanuts, cotton, vegetables, hogs, beef, and forest products. One of Georgia's first post roads opened in Berrien County in 1823 to enable residents to send their crops to Florida. A fifty-acre industrial park is located just east of Nashville.
The Old Berrien County Jail, located in Nashville, is also known as the Berrien Historical Building and Agricultural Museum. The William G. Harrison/Eulalie Taylor House on Bartow Street in Nashville was built in the early twentieth century by the architect William G. Harrison and now holds law offices.
A state-supported park, the Paradise Public Fishing Area,
The population, according to the 2010 U.S. census, is 19,286, an increase from the 2000 population of 16,235.
Lorna Jean Brooks Hagstrom, The Brooks of Berrien County: A Collection of Brooks/Lewis Family Stories (DeLand, Fla.: n.p., 1993).
The History of Berrien County (Nashville, Ga.: Berrien County Chamber of Commerce, ).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.