In 1920 Brantley County, in southeast Georgia, became Georgia's 158th county. Prior to 1920, residents of the area that made up parts of Charlton, Pierce, and Wayne counties felt estranged from their county governments. Most of them lived in hard-to-reach rural areas, far removed from where political decisions were made. In 1919 a group of these dissatisfied Georgians created a "citizens' committee," led by local state senator J. K. Larkins, to convince their neighbors and the state legislature to create the new county.
The 444-square-mile county was originally inhabited by the Creek Indians. During the colonial period, the area fell within the bounds of land disputed by the Spanish and the English, a debate settled in favor of the English following the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742. The county was named for either Benjamin Daniel Brantley (1832-91), a merchant who encouraged the development of cotton ginning and turpentine manufacturing in the area, or his son, William Gordon Brantley (1860-1934), who served in both houses of the Georgia legislature and in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nahunta, incorporated in 1925, is the second community with this name to be located in the area. Old Nahunta was once a railroad stop west of present-day Nahunta and an important depot for travelers catching trains on the north-south line from Jesup to Folkston. The depot, originally built on stilts because of the area's swampy ground, was also a social gathering place. Among those who caught trains there were U.S. presidents Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (after the Duke's 1936 abdication of the British throne).
As late as 1950 heavy forest still covered 80 percent of the county's land, and its inhabitants relied on forest products more than on agricultural products for economic sustenance. An attempt at growing large orchards of Leconte pears in the early 1900s failed because of blight.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the county population is 18,411, an increase from the 2000 population of 14,629.
Special events include a bluegrass festival every spring and fall, and the Hoboken Trojan Fest.
Brantley County Historical and Preservation Society, The Story of Brantley County, Georgia (Nahunta, Ga.: The Society, 1999).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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