Greene County, Georgia's eleventh county, comprises 388 square miles in northeast Georgia, due south of Athens. Created from part of Washington County by the state legislature on February 3, 1786, the county comprises land originally controlled by the Creek Indians, and its first years were marked by Indian raids during the Creek War. The legislature named the county after General Nathanael Greene, a hero of the Revolutionary War (1775-83), who died in the year of the county's formation. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Greene County is 15,994, an increase from the 2000 population of 14,406.
In addition to Greensboro, the county's largest communities are Siloam, Union Point, White Plains, and Woodville. Another community, no longer independent but still notable, was Penfield. Penfield was named after Josiah Penfield of Savannah, who bequeathed $2,500 to the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1829 to help fund education. Using Penfield's donation, the church purchased 450 acres of
Union Point, first settled in the 1770s as Thornton's Cross Road and incorporated in 1901, is located at and takes its current name from the site at which the Georgia Railroad runs two dissecting lines. Much of the town (the "historic district") was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Union Point has undergone extreme financial exigency, and a large hosiery plant was auctioned in August 2004. The town's Bethesda Baptist Church was organized in 1785, and the remains of an original slave gallery can be seen in its sanctuary, which dates back to 1818.
Siloam, settled during the 1840s, was first called Smyrna but, given that there was another Georgia town with that name, took its current name a few years later. Siloam is home to a private college-preparatory school, the Nathanael Greene Academy, which makes use of the town's original
White Plains, incorporated in 1856, was originally called Fort Nell. Its name refers to the surrounding sandy soil, which is quite light in color. White Plains was the birthplace of noted educator and college president William Heard Kilpatrick.
Woodville, first known as Beeman, was incorporated in 1911. Its name is said to have come from the regular loading of wood onto trains at its site along the rail line, several miles above Union Point.
Before the Civil War (1861-65), Greene County was largely given over to cotton plantations, with a well-to-do white population and a large slave population. Soil exhaustion and the ravages of the Civil War resulted in a shift from agriculture, in which landowners were the power brokers, to a market economy with a large number of small, poor farmers at its bottom and merchants and lawyers at its top.
Notable Places and People
Lake Oconee, among the
Notable former residents of Greene County include Georgia governor Peter Early; lawyer, statesman, and writer Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, who lived there for several years while serving first as a representative to the state legislature and then as a superior court judge; state legislator and supreme court justice Eugenius A. Nisbet; politician and Men of Mark author William J. Northen; Methodist bishop George Foster Pierce; and A. D. Williams, grandfather of Martin Luther King Jr. and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Jonathan M. Bryant, How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850-1885 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).
Arthur F. Raper, Preface to Peasantry: A Tale of Two Black Belt Counties (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1936).
Carolyn White Williams, ed. (data by Thaddeus Brockett Rice), History of Greene County, Georgia, 1786-1886 (Macon, Ga.: J. W. Burke, 1961; reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1979).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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