Within the borders of Baldwin County in central Georgia are some of the region’s most important historical landmarks. In 1807, just four years after the county was formed, Milledgeville, the county’s largest trading center, became the state’s new “frontier” capital. Since then, Baldwin County has continued to play an important role in the annals of Georgia history.

Created out of the land lottery of 1803, Baldwin County is named for Abraham Baldwin, an early and influential U.S. senator from Georgia. Georgia’s legislators acquired the land for Baldwin, Wayne, and Wilkinson counties through a treaty established with the Creek Indians. Today, Baldwin County occupies 258 square miles and borders five other counties: Hancock, Jones, Putnam, Washington, and Wilkinson. Almost immediately after the county’s formation, Georgia’s legislators chose it as the location of a new capital city to be known as Milledgeville, named after Georgia governor John Milledge.

Because of its central location within the state and its abundant supply of water, Milledgeville grew rapidly into a bustling frontier settlement.  Only two cities in the nation—Milledgeville and Washington, D.C.—can boast the distinction of being originally designed and planned as cities to house seats of government. On November 2, 1807, the state legislature held its first session in the newly completed statehouse in Milledgeville. Georgia’s first state penitentiary was also established within the historic city limits of Milledgeville in 1817, on land now part of the campus of Georgia College and State University. In 1837 the General Assembly provided for the establishment of the state’s first mental asylum, today known as Central State Hospital.

Baldwin County Courthouse
Baldwin County Courthouse

Courtesy of Dan Bowman

When the state of Georgia seceded from the Union in January 1861 during a legislative session held in Milledgeville, Baldwin County became a target for Union forces. In Union general William T. Sherman’s devastating march to the sea, his troops occupied Georgia’s capital city in November 1864. Sherman and his Union armies burned the state penitentiary, vandalized the city, and even held a mock session of the legislature in the statehouse to repeal the state’s ordinance of secession. In 1868, after the Civil War (1861-65), Georgia’s capital was moved from Milledgeville to its present location in Atlanta.

Today Milledgeville is home to two institutions of higher education: Georgia College and State University and Georgia Military College. Founded in 1889 as the Georgia Normal and Industrial College for Women, Georgia College and State University has since grown to become the state’s premier public liberal arts university. Georgia Military College, founded in 1879, now occupies the Old Capitol Building.

Georgia Normal and Industrial College
Georgia Normal and Industrial College

Courtesy of Georgia Archives.

Many of Georgia’s most notable residents have called Milledgeville home. U.S. representative Carl Vinson, who served for fifty years in the U.S. Congress, was born in Baldwin County. Comedian Oliver Hardy began his career in the Milledgeville Opera House. Acclaimed novelist and short-story author Flannery O’Connor wrote many of her works while living in Milledgeville. O’Connor is buried in her family plot in Milledgeville’s historic Memory Hill Cemetery.

Old Governor’s Mansion
Old Governor’s Mansion

Courtesy of Georgia College and State University

In addition to the Old Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, visitors to Baldwin County can explore Andalusia, O’Connor’s family farm; Milledgeville’s historic district; and the Lockerly Arboretum, a botanical garden and nature education center that hosts the Lockerly Heritage Festival each fall.

According to the 2010 U.S. census, Baldwin County’s population is 45,720, an increase from the 2000 population of 44,700.

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Old Governor’s Mansion

Old Governor’s Mansion

The Old Governor's Mansion is located in Milledgeville, the state's capital from 1807 to 1868. Construction on the mansion began in 1836 and was completed in 1838 or 1839. It is considered one of the finest examples of Greek revival style in the nation.

Courtesy of Georgia College and State University

Baldwin County Courthouse

Baldwin County Courthouse

The present Baldwin County courthouse, located in Milledgeville, was built in 1995-97 and was designed by the architectural firm Brittain, Thompson, Bray, and Brown.

Courtesy of Dan Bowman

Georgia Normal and Industrial College

Georgia Normal and Industrial College

Georgia Normal and Industrial College in Milledgeville, circa 1913. The college, known today as Georgia College and State University, was founded in 1889. The campus employs a quadrangle design on land originally used for a state prison.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #bal001.

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Old State Capitol

Old State Capitol

In December 1804 Milledgeville was declared by the legislature to be the new capital of Georgia. The pointed arched windows and battlements marked Milledgeville's capitol building as America's first public building in the Gothic revival style.

Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM 

Central State Hospital, late 1800s

Central State Hospital, late 1800s

Chartered in 1837, the State Lunatic Asylum, later Central State Hospital, opened in Milledgeville in 1842. Hospital staff under Dr. Thomas A. Green treated numerous Civil War veterans suffering from the effects of battle after the war ended in 1865.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, # bal025.

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