In the heart of central Georgia’s wiregrass region, Dodge County stretches 500 square miles from the Oconee River to the Ocmulgee River.

The state legislature established Dodge County in 1870, forming it from parts of Montgomery, Pulaski, and Telfair counties. In 1872 and 1875, parts of Dodge County were shifted back into Telfair County. Dodge County was named for William Earle Dodge of New York, cofounder of one of the world’s largest mining and metals companies, and owner of significant timberlands in central Georgia.

The original inhabitants of the area were Creek Indians, who ceded their lands in the treaties of Fort Wilkinson (1802) and Washington (1805). White settlers began arriving in the 1840s.

William Dodge
William Dodge
Courtesy of Georgia Historical Quarterly

In 1869 the president of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad named a station stop in the area for William Pitt Eastman, a northeastern industrialist with extensive Georgia land holdings. Upon visiting the newly named stop, Eastman purchased property on both sides of the rail line and laid out a town. At Eastman’s invitation, William Dodge, president of the Georgia Land and Lumber Company, funded the building of a courthouse in exchange for the new county’s receiving his name. The county seat, named for Eastman, was incorporated as a town in 1871 and as a city in 1905. The current courthouse was built in 1908, replacing a courthouse built soon after the county’s creation. In addition to Eastman there are three incorporated towns: Chauncey, Chester, and Rhine.

During the 1870s the Georgia Land and Lumber Company, which bought more than 300,000 acres of land rich in longleaf pine for less than ten cents an acre in 1868, began to harvest timber in the county, displacing local farmers who in many cases were evicted by the company. A series of court cases, imprisonments, and assassinations arranged by the company in collusion with the federal government followed, and although in 1923 many of the original landowners finally regained their land, it was by then nearly barren. With the help of chemical fertilizers, landowners shifted from forestry to cotton farming, but six years later, with the onset of the Great Depression, many lost the little they had acquired. The county’s failing economy was further set back by boll weevil damage to cotton during the same era. This infestation led farmers to diversify their crops to include watermelon, peanuts, pecans, and livestock. There were also a few small sawmills in operation, and turpentine production provided some income.

Dodge Guest House
Dodge Guest House
Photograph by Harold B. Haley

Williamson Stuckey, a pecan farmer in Eastman, began selling his wife’s pecan candies in the mid-1930s, building a large and well-known national business by the 1960s. Stuckey’s business represented the beginning of the county’s economic shift away from farming.

Places of interest include Eastman House, built by William Pitt Eastman in 1872; Jay Bird Springs Resort, which boasts a large swimming pool of spring water; and Orphans Cemetery/Williamson Mausoleum, founded by Dodge County entrepreneur Albert G. Williamson and named in honor of the six orphaned Williamson brothers who moved to Dodge County from North Carolina.

Dodge County Courthouse
Dodge County Courthouse
Courtesy of Don Bowman

Eastman has two institutes of higher education: Middle Georgia College Aviation Campus (formerly Georgia Aviation Technical College), a satellite campus of Middle Georgia College; and Eastman Regional Academic Center, a satellite campus of Mercer University.

According to the 2010 U.S. census, the county’s population is 21,796, an increase from the 2000 population of 19,171.

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Dodge Guest House

Dodge Guest House

Built circa 1870, the Dodge Guest House is considered Dodge County's oldest residence. Located ten miles southeast of Eastman, it was built by William Dodge for executives of his Georgia Land and Lumber Company. Next door a "sister" house (demolished) served as the residence of Captain John C. Forsyth, the company agent. He was murdered there in 1890 at the behest of several conspirators against the Dodges.

Photograph by Harold B. Haley

William Dodge

William Dodge

William Dodge was president of the Georgia Land and Lumber Company, which owned 300,000 acres of longleaf pine in Georgia during the nineteenth century. In 1870 Dodge funded the construction of a courthouse in Dodge County, which was named in his honor.

Courtesy of Georgia Historical Quarterly

Dodge County Courthouse

Dodge County Courthouse

The Dodge County Courthouse, designed in the neoclassical revival style, was built in Eastman in 1908. The structure replaced a two-story wooden courthouse built around the time of the county's creation in 1870.

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Turpentine Camp

Turpentine Camp

A camp in Dodge County, pictured in 1937, housed workers in the turpentine industry that arose, alongside the lumber industry, in the area during the 1930s.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, #LC-USF34-017700-C.

Williamson Mausoleum

Williamson Mausoleum

The mausoleum of Martha Buchan (1858-1938) and Albert Genavie (1854-1925) Williamson is in the historic Orphans Cemetery, just north of Eastman. The Georgia marble structure, erected in 1912 and adorned by a three-ton, columned canopy enclosing the statuary of Italian marble, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photograph by Harold B. Haley