Located just west of Valdosta in southwest Georgia, on the Florida border, Brooks is a county of moss-laden oaks and a long and honored history.

In  1818 U.S. president Andrew Jackson made a treaty with the Spanish and the Native Americans and claimed the land that is now Brooks County for the United States. Settlers later came down the Coffee Road from middle Georgia in their covered wagons, ox-drawn carts, and buggies. These early settlers had three things uppermost in their minds: religion, education, and agriculture. Roads were projected to run from the courthouse to each part of the county.

Brooks County Courthouse
Brooks County Courthouse

Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Founded on December 11, 1858, Brooks County was created from portions of Lowndes and Thomas counties. The 494-square-mile county was named for Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina, an extremely popular young legislator known for his intensely southern sentiments and his zealous defense of southern rights. In 1853 Brooks was elected to Congress as a States’ Rights Democrat and served until his death four years later, at the age of thirty-eight. A year later the Georgia legislature showed their appreciation of him by naming a county for him.

The largest town in Brooks County, Quitman, was named the county seat. The first courthouse, a small, temporary building, opened in 1859. A permanent edifice was begun in the same year, but the Civil War (1861-65) delayed its construction. That courthouse, completed in 1864, is still in use today, although it has undergone remodeling and modernizing. Quitman is known as the Camellia City because of the plants grown there, and also because Betty Sheffield, developer of the well-known camellia variety of the same name, was a longtime resident. Other small towns in the county include Barney (famous for its peaches), Barwick, Morven, and Pavo.

Betty Sheffield Camellia
Betty Sheffield Camellia

According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Brooks County is 16,243, a decrease from the 2000 population of 16,450.

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Brooks County Courthouse

Brooks County Courthouse

In 1859 the home of Thomas Folsom in Quitman was used as Brooks County's first courtroom. Later that year, work began on a permanent courthouse. The Civil War slowed the building's progress, and it was not finished until 1864. In 1892 the courthouse underwent extensive renovation.

Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Betty Sheffield Camellia

Betty Sheffield Camellia

Quitman, in Brooks County, is known as the Camellia City. Longtime resident Betty Sheffield developed a camellia variety that carries her name.