Effingham County, on Georgia's eastern border, is the fourth of the state's eight original counties. The first inhabitants were Creek Indians who lost their land when some of their leaders signed treaties with the English in 1733, 1735, and 1736. During the colonial period Georgia was divided into parishes, and in 1777 Effingham County, with an area of 479 square miles, was created from the parishes of St. Matthew and St. Philip. The county was named for Thomas Howard, the third earl of Effingham, who championed the cause of the colonies in the years leading to the American Revolution (1775-83).
Within a few decades the Salzburgers occupied about twenty-five square miles in the county, establishing farms, gristmills, lumber mills, and a silk filature. In 1769 they built a red-brick church known as the Old Salzburger Church, or Jerusalem Church. The Salzburgers established the first Sunday school in Georgia in 1734 and the first orphanage in 1737, and theirs is the oldest continuing Lutheran congregation in America to worship in its original building. Other Salzburger settlements in Effingham County were Abercorn, Bethany, and Goshen. (Although Salzburgers did not found Abercorn, they began moving into the dying Scottish town in the 1740s.)
Hardship and Prosperity
The Civil War (1861-65) brought hardship when Union general William T. Sherman's troops came through the county on their march to the sea in 1864. Some Union soldiers encamped on the Eden Road after passing through Springfield. Others occupied Jerusalem Church, using its picket fence and hymnals for fires and engaging in skirmishes on the grounds.
The county received its first economic boost in the late nineteenth century when railroads began laying tracks there. The city of Rincon originated in 1891, when the South Bound Railroad laid tracks from Savannah to Columbia, South Carolina, through the area. Residents catered to the needs of railroad workers and began to prosper. They built cotton gins, lumber mills, and turpentine stills. Rincon grew enough to warrant incorporation in 1927. Another boost came in the 1980s with the arrival of large companies and factories, contributing to a growth spurt that made Rincon the largest of Effingham County's towns.
People and Places
Among the places of interest are the Effingham Museum in Springfield; Ebenezer Townsite and Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church; Guyton Historic District; Mossy Oak Music Park in Guyton; and Veterans Park.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Effingham County is 52,250, an increase from the 2000 population of 37,535.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Mary Dasher Douglass, History of Effingham County, Georgia (Charleston, S.C.: Walker, Evans and Cogswell, [1977?]).
Betty R. Waller, Effingham County (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2001).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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