Grady County, on the southwest border of Georgia, is the state's 139th county. Created in 1905 from 458 square miles of Decatur and Thomas counties, it was named after Henry W. Grady, prominent editor of the Atlanta Constitution and national spokesman for the "New South." Located on Interstate 75, Grady County is part of the "Plantation Trace Travel Region," which includes several southwest Georgia counties.
Seminole Indians originally held the land now encompassed by Grady County. The first white settlers traveled from the Carolinas along Indian trails from the South Carolina line near Augusta, across the state to Macon, and down to the southwest. Among the settlers was William Hawthorne, a Baptist minister and explorer who arrived in the 1820s and settled his family about three miles south of present-day Cairo, on Tired Creek. Some of his friends in North Carolina followed him and settled
The county seat, Cairo, was previously called Miller's Station for a stagecoach stop named after a nearby settler, Henry Miller. In 1859 the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad began running through the settlement on its route from Screven to Thomasville, and in 1867 it established Railroad Station Number 20, called the Cairo Station after a nearby post office. Lots were sold to prospective townspeople beginning in 1866, and the town was incorporated in 1870. When Grady County was created, Cairo was designated the county seat. The police department currently occupies the old depot, built in 1905. The first courthouse, built in 1908, burned down in 1980; a new courthouse was soon built on the same spot.
Cairo and Whigham are the two incorporated cities in Grady County. Whigham, originally called Harrell's Station, took its current name in 1880 for Robert Whigham, the owner of a large local mercantile store. Other communities in Grady County are Beachton, Calvary, Pine Park, and Reno. Calvary is home to an annual "Mule Day," which swells the population of the town from less than 200 to 60,000 or more.
A satellite campus of Southwest Georgia Technical College opened in Cairo in 2006.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Grady County is 25,011, an increase from the 2000 population of 23,659.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Yvonne Miller Brunton, Grady County, Georgia: Some of Its History, Folk Architecture, and Families, 2d ed. (Danielsville, Ga.: Heritage Papers, 1981).
Robert J. Rubanowice, A Sense of Place in Southern Georgia: Birdsong Plantation, Farm and Nature Center (Tallahassee, Fla.: South Georgia Historical Consortium, 1994).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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