Crisp County, in south Georgia, is Georgia's 138th county. The 274-square-mile county was carved from Dooly County in 1905, after residents successfully petitioned for a division of that county. It was named for statesman Charles Crisp, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1894, and Cordele was selected as the county seat.
The area now forming Crisp County was once a province called Chisi, Ichisi, or Achese, which was inhabited by the Lower Creek division of the Muskogee Indians. The first Europeans visited the area in 1540, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his followers passed through. Priests traveling with the explorers said Mass in a village that historians have identified as a predecessor of the modern town of Cordele. This Mass may have been the first Christian religious service held in the southeastern United States.
In an effort to curtail English trade with Creeks in the region, Spanish Floridians allied with Apalachee Indians and attacked the English and Creeks in 1702. The English and Creeks prevailed against the invaders near the Flint River in what is now Crisp County, and the battle marked the opening of a campaign that led to England's successful bid for control of the Mississippi Valley.
Industry and Economy
Railroad transportation continues to be an important factor in Crisp County's economy, and Cordele–Crisp County is the only Georgia community located on Interstate 75 to be served by three major railroads. In addition to I-75, both U.S. Highways 41 and 280 run through the center of the county,
People and Places
Riley Shepard Brown, a writer of detective stories and other works, is from Cordele. He published two books, Men, Wind, and the Sea: The Story of the Coast Guard (1939) and Stringfellow of the Fourth (1960), and later wrote a weekly column for the Courier-Post in New Jersey. Mac Hyman, author of No Time for Sergeants (1954), was born in Cordele in 1923.
Joe Williams was born in Cordele in 1918 and went on to sing with Count Basie's big band from 1954 until 1961. He then performed until the 1990s with other bands, in club routines, in movies, and on television variety shows. Williams recorded forty albums over his career and finished first-place for five consecutive years in Down Beat magazine's polls of international critics (1974-78). He also played the part of Grandpa Al in the television comedy The Cosby Show.
Fort Early, built by Blackshear during the War of 1812 (1812-15), was used in 1818 by Andrew Jackson during his campaign against the Seminole and Creek Indians. A short line of the old Savannah, Americus, and Montgomery (SAM) Railroad has been refurbished within Georgia Veterans State Park, which runs the SAM Shortline Excursion Train regularly to Americus and Plains. There are also indoor and outdoor military museums on the site. The Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad depot, built in 1888 in Arabi, was moved to a location south of town and is today part of the local historical society's outdoor museum.
Education and Population
Darton State College of Albany, an institution of the University System of Georgia, has a satellite campus in Cordele. A branch of the South Georgia Technical College has operated in Cordele since 1999. The college's mission is workforce development.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population is 23,439, an increase from the 2000 population of 21,996.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Fort Early Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, History of Crisp County (Cordele, Ga.: privately printed, 1916).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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