Blakely, the seat of Early County and nicknamed the “Peanut Capital of the World,” is located in southwest Georgia just east of the Alabama state line and fifty-two miles southwest of Albany. Satellite campuses of Bainbridge State College and Albany Technical College serve the area.

Establishment and Early Years

The  city of Blakely, incorporated in 1870, was named after Captain Johnston Blakeley (1781-1814). Born in Ireland, Blakeley immigrated to the United States in 1783. During the War of 1812 (1812-15) he commanded two vessels, the Enterprise and the Wasp. In October 1814, a little more than three months after capturing the British ship Reindeer, an act that earned him a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, Blakeley and the crew of the Wasp disappeared at sea.

Confederate Veterans’ Reunion
Confederate Veterans’ Reunion

Courtesy of Georgia Archives.

Although it was incorporated much later, Blakely was established in 1825. Blakely is now known for its production of peanuts, but cotton was the predominant industry before the outbreak of the Civil War (1861-65). After the war the timber industry, particularly the harvesting of hardwoods, emerged as an equally important economic activity.

With slow but steady growth after the Civil War, both Early County and the city of Blakely expanded and improved their infrastructures. The current courthouse was built in 1905 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The population of Blakely has slowly increased from 3,234 inhabitants in 1950 to 5,696 in 2000. Early County as a whole, however, has been losing population during the same period, declining from 17,413 in 1950 to 12,354 in 2000.

Blakely Today

Blakely, like other cities of its size in the poverty-stricken corner of southwest Georgia, faces difficult social and economic conditions. The rate of growth from 1990 to 2000 was 1.8 percent, while the state of Georgia grew at a rate of 26.4 percent. Thirty-four percent of the populace, more than three times the state average, live in poverty, as do half of all children (age eighteen and under) and nearly a quarter of the elderly. Thirty-six percent of the population did not graduate from high school, and only 12 percent of the population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Temple Mound
Temple Mound

Image from Courtney McGough

Such daunting statistics aside, the area has significant natural and historical attractions. Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park in Blakely is one of the largest mound complexes in the state. The last wooden Confederate flagpole in Georgia, erected by Confederate troops in 1861, still stands in Blakely. The Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge, located nine miles from Blakely, is the southernmost covered bridge in the United States. Built in 1891, the bridge measures ninety-six feet long and two spans wide. Blakely is also closely situated to the Chattahoochee River and is positioned approximately halfway between Lake Seminole and Lake Walter F. George.

Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge
Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Early County produces more peanuts than any other county in the nation, thus earning Blakely the nickname “Peanut Capital of the World.” Although more acres in Early County are planted in cotton, peanuts account for millions of dollars more in income and thus remain the most important cash crop in the county. A peanut monument is located in Blakely’s courthouse square.

In January 2009 a salmonella outbreak, which caused illness in more than 500 people and made national headlines, was traced to the Peanut Corporation of America’s peanut-processing plant in Blakely.

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Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge

Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge

Located nine miles southwest of Blakely, in Early County, the Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge is the southernmost covered bridge in the United States. It was built in 1891 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Johnston Blakely

Johnston Blakely

Captain Johnston Blakely, for whom the city of Blakely is named, immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1783 and commanded two ships during the War of 1812. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor after he and his crew disappeared at sea during the war.

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of William H. Huntington, 1883.

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Confederate Veterans’ Reunion

Confederate Veterans’ Reunion

A group of Confederate veterans gather in front of the Early County Courthouse, which was built between 1904 and 1905 in Blakely. The last wooden Confederate flagpole in Georgia, erected in 1861, still stands in the courthouse square.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, # ear034-82.

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Temple Mound

Temple Mound

The Temple Mound, part of Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park, is one of the largest in the southeastern United States. The park is located in Blakely.

Image from Courtney McGough

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