Originally Early County encompassed all of southwest Georgia, about 3,770 square miles. Gradually, all or part of ten counties (Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Decatur, Dougherty, Grady, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, and Thomas) were carved out of the original boundaries of Early County, reducing its size to its current 511.2 square miles. Today, Early County’s boundaries are the Chattahoochee River and Alabama to the west, Clay and Calhoun counties to the north, Baker County to the east, and Miller and Seminole counties to the south.

The earliest known inhabitants of the area were the Lower Creek Indians. The first white settlement was a 100-square-foot fort, Fort Gaines (now in Clay County), named after General Edmund Pendleton Gaines. In 1817 General Andrew Jackson pushed the Native American populations out of Georgia along what is now known as the Three Notch Trail. The following year the Lower Creeks ceded southwest Georgia to the Americans in a treaty that became law on December 15, 1818. The general area was named Early County after Peter Early, who was governor of Georgia from 1813 to 1815.

Temple Mound
Temple Mound

Image from Courtney McGough

In 1825 Baker County was cut out of Early County. This development forced Early County residents to establish a new county seat, a town that today is known as Blakely. Not incorporated until 1870, Blakely was named after Captain Johnston Blakeley, who disappeared in October 1814 with the crew of the U.S. sloop Wasp. During the Civil War (1861-65) the David S. Johnston’s Southern Confederate Navy Yard was established at Saffold, on the Chattahoochee River in the southern part of the county. The yard produced one gunboat, the CSS Chattahoochee, delivered on December 8, 1862. Two other boats were under construction when the war ended.

The  county is operated by a commission-administrator system with five elected commissioners. Its economy remains primarily agricultural, with large holdings in peanuts, cotton, beef cows, and timber. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population is 11,008, a decrease from the 2000 population of 12,354.

Early County Courthouse
Early County Courthouse

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Early County has three public schools and one private school, the Southwest Georgia Academy. Bainbridge State College holds classes at the high school, and Albany Technical College runs a satellite campus.

Kolomoki Artifact
Kolomoki Artifact

Courtesy of Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park

Foremost among Early County’s historical attractions is Kolomoki Mounds Historic State Park. The park contains one of the largest Native American temple mounds east of the Mississippi River. It and six other mounds in the park were constructed by the Swift Creek and Weeden Island Indians.

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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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Early County Courthouse

Early County Courthouse

The Early County Courthouse, in Blakely, was built in 1904-05 in the neoclassical revival style. The courthouse was renovated in 1992-93.

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Kolomoki Artifact

Kolomoki Artifact

A prehistoric artifact found at Kolomoki Mounds and on display in the museum at the Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park.

Courtesy of Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park

Confederate Monument

Confederate Monument

A Confederate monument, erected in 1909 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, stands in Blakely's courthouse square. This photograph of downtown Blakely, the seat of Early County, was taken in 1910.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
ear037-82.

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