Dooly County, in central Georgia, is one of the state’s original counties, created in 1821 by the Georgia Land Lottery Act. It was named for John Dooly, a regimental commander in the American Revolution (1775-83) who was killed by loyalists to the British crown in his own home, following the restoration of the Colonial Assembly and the enforcement of the Disqualifying Act, which imposed penalties and restrictions on American patriot leaders.
The original inhabitants of the area were Creek Indians, who lost their land in 1821 in the first Treaty of Indian Springs. The first white settlers came from neighboring counties and states. The county, today 393 square miles, lost some of its original territory to Crisp, Macon, Pulaski, Turner, Wilcox, and Worth counties.
Vienna, the county seat, was settled decades before the adoption of its current name (after the capital of Austria) in 1841 and incorporation in 1854. The current courthouse, built in 1892, replaces several earlier courthouses. In addition to Vienna, there are five other towns: Byromville, first called Friendship, incorporated in 1905; Dooling, incorporated in 1907 with reactivation in 1989; Lilly, originally called Midway, incorporated in 1907; Pinehurst, first called Fullington, incorporated in 1895; and Unadilla, incorporated in 1890. The county also includes the communities of Findlay and Richwood.
Two major rail lines built tracks through Dooly County, leading to the formation of many of the county’s towns, each of which lies along one of the lines. The Atlanta, Birmingham, and Atlantic Railroad (eventually part of CSX Transportation) ran from the southern border through Vienna and on to Dooling and points north, and the Georgia Southern and Florida Railway Line (later a subsidiary of Norfolk Southern), ran from Richwood to Unadilla. Vienna is strategically located on the CSX line but is also close to the Norfolk Southern line.
Dooly County’s major economic focus has been agriculture; it currently claims to be the largest cotton producer in Georgia, as well as a leader in peanut production. A nursery operated by the Georgia Forestry Commission in the county produces about 80 million seedlings annually on 832 acres.
The Crisp Dooly Enterprise Center in Vienna is a business incubator intended to encourage both workforce training and new business development. This is one example of the efforts being made to help the county grow. Others are aimed at cultivating tourism, with such events as the “Big Pig Jig,” an annual barbecue cooking championship aimed at a national audience, as well as a number of museums and historic home tours.
Notable Dooly County residents include former governor George Busbee; former U.S. senator Walter F. George; Jody Powell, press secretary and aide to Jimmy Carter during his governorship and U.S. presidency; and Roger Kingdom, an Olympic gold medalist in track and field.
Among the county’s places of interest are the Lilly Historic District, which includes the historic Lilly School, home of the Dooly County Arts Council; and the William H. Byrom House, built by the founder of Byromville in 1859 with enslaved labor.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the county’s population is 14,918, an increase from the 2000 population of 11,525.