Located in central Georgia, Jasper County was created in 1807 as the state’s thirty-first county from part of Baldwin County on land formerly held by Creek Indians. It is one of the “antebellum trail” counties, which stretch from lower northeast Georgia to the center of the state. The 370-square-acre county was named for Revolutionary War (1775-83) sergeant William Jasper, a hero of the 1776 Battle of Sullivan’s Island (also known as the Battle of Fort Moultrie) who died during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. The county was first named for John Randolph of Virginia, whose opposition to the War of 1812 (1812-15) made him so unpopular with Georgians that the legislature renamed the county in 1812. (In 1828 another county was named for Randolph.)
The Creek Indians long maintained settlements on the shoals of the Ocmulgee River, and Carolina fur trappers traded with them at a location known as the “Seven Islands of the Ocmulgee” as far back as the 1670s. The first non-Indians to settle in what became Jasper County arrived in the late eighteenth century. The first known white settler was a deer hunter known only by the name Newby, who lived near present-day Hillsboro as early as 1790. A treaty with the Creek nation that year provided land for a stagecoach route (the Seven Islands Stagecoach Road) from Augusta, Georgia, to Mobile, Alabama. Settlements grew up around the stagecoach stops.
The Seven Island Stagecoach Road became a valuable route for cotton planters, who shipped their cotton down the Ocmulgee River to mills near “Seven Islands,” which grew into a thriving commercial center complete with cotton gins and grist-, saw-, and textile mills. The products of these industries were shipped out to seaports via the stagecoach road.
In the 1830s and 1840s the importance of the river and coach road for transportation of goods declined in favor of rail transportation. During the Civil War (1861-65), however, Union troops laid two pontoon bridges across the Ocmulgee River at Planter’s Factory near Seven Islands and crossed into Jasper County between November 17 and 20, 1864. Sherman’s troops destroyed much of the railroad infrastructure during their march to the sea, and until the railroads could recover, the river once again was used for transporting goods. The Seven Islands mills were operated until cotton lost its dominance in Georgia’s economy. Abandoned mill buildings were finally torn down in the 1980s.
The county seat, Monticello, was named after U.S president Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia by the town’s founders, Virginians who had settled the area in 1808. Monticello was incorporated in 1810. Court was first held in the home of John Towns, one of the settlers. A log cabin served as courthouse until 1838, when it was replaced with a brick building. The current courthouse, made of marble and brick, was completed in 1907.
Among the other communities in Jasper County are Farrar, Hillsboro, Kelly, and Shady Dale, which is the only other incorporated town.
As with much of the state, cotton was once the primary crop grown in Jasper County. After “King Cotton” lost its battle with the boll weevil and economic depression, many farm workers left the county. Those who remained began growing peaches. Later they adopted a diversified range of commodities from livestock and poultry to wood products. During the 1980s a number of clothing and textile factories in the county closed, making a serious dent in the local economy. Residents began encouraging the growth of tourism by promoting their national forest areas and Jackson Lake.
Among the outdoor attractions is the Lloyd Shoals Dam, also called Jackson Lake, which covers 4,750 acres, with 135 miles of shoreline. The lake was formed when the Central Georgia Power Company (later, Georgia Power Company) created a dam and hydroelectric plant at Lloyd Shoals on the Ocmulgee River in 1910. Jasper County shares the lake with Butts and Newton counties. Part of the Oconee National Forest, the only national forest in Georgia’s Piedmont, is in Jasper County. Much of this large wooded tract was deforested during the cotton plantation era but has been replanted for both people and wildlife to enjoy. The Seven Islands Trail is in Monticello.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Jasper County is 13,900, an increase from the 2000 population of 11,426.