Marion County

Marion County, in west central Georgia, was established by an act of the state legislature in 1827,
two years after the Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Indian Springs (1825). Marion, the state's seventy-second county, was created from a large tract of land ceded from Lee and Muscogee counties, both established in 1826. Named for the Revolutionary War (1775-83) hero General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion of South Carolina, Marion County originally contained almost all the land that now makes up Schley and Chattahoochee counties and part of Macon and Taylor counties.
A committee of nine local citizens designated the town of Horry as the county seat, but Horry eventually lost the distinction to the township of Tazewell, in 1838. After years of political intrigue, the county seat was wrested from Tazewell and bestowed on Pea Ridge in 1849. Local residents felt that the name Pea Ridge did not elicit the respect befitting its new standing and decided to change its name to Buena Vista, in honor of U.S. president Zachary Taylor's recent victory in the Mexican War (1846-48).
Many of the earliest white settlers of the county were enticed by the combination of the 1827 land lottery and the rich soil that yielded profitable cotton crops. Marion County would see its greatest growth during the 1840s and 1850s. By 1850 the population climaxed at 10,280, of which 3,604 were slaves. Although ready market access by river or railway was nonexistent, the county's farms prospered by sending their commodities westward thirty-three miles to Columbus.
The end of the Civil War (1861-65) was a period of adjustment for Marion County. Reconstruction involved the reordering of political, social, and economic life, which led to fundamental changes in agriculture. Finding itself economically surpassed by more diversified counties, Marion tried to modernize by completing the Buena Vista and Ellaville Railroad in 1884. The county's vision of a "New South" was never realized, however. Heavily dependent upon agriculture, the county suffered through bank panics, the boll weevil crisis, and the Great Depression, and many residents were forced to start life anew in other, more urban locales.
One such emigre was Mark Gibson, the father of legendary Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson (1911-47). Josh Gibson, known as the "Black Babe Ruth," was born in Buena Vista and attended public schools there until his family relocated to Pittsburgh in search of stable employment during the 1920s. Though Gibson's talent blossomed in Pittsburgh, its seeds were sown on the farmlands of Buena Vista.
Another was Eddie Owens Martin. Like the Gibsons, Martin fled Georgia in the 1920s, forsaking life as a sharecropper for greater prospects in the North. During the 1950s Martin adopted the name St. EOM and returned to Buena Vista to live on his inherited property. Martin transformed his estate into a Zen-like environment that he called Pasaquan. By using religious and archetypal symbols reflecting influences from Africa, Asia, South America, and Easter Island, St. EOM created a mystic and artistic world in which he brought the past and future together. Pasaquan has been called one of the most important folk art centers in America.
According to the 2010 census, the population of Marion County was 8,742, an increase from the 2000 population of 7,144.


Further Reading
Rena S. Cobb, History of Marion County, Georgia: Motherland of Many (Fernandina Beach, Fla.: Wolfe, 1997).

Tom Patterson, St. EOM in the Land of Pasaquan: The Life and Times and Art of Eddie Owens Martin (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017).

Nettie Powell, History of Marion County, Georgia (Columbus, Ga.: Historical Publishing Company, 1931).
Cite This Article
Lyles, John J. "Marion County." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 31 October 2018. Web. 07 August 2020.
From Our Home Page
Late Victorian Architecture: Overview

Across Georgia, the period from 1895 to 1920 was an era of expansion and growth.

Upper Coastal Plain

The Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia is bounded on the north by the fall line and extends south to Florida and east to the upper terraces of th

Harriet Powers (1837-1910)

Harriet Powers is one of the best-known southern African American quilt makers, even though only two of her quilts, both of which she made after th

Kolomoki Mounds

The Kolomoki Mounds site is one of the largest prehistoric mound complexes in Georgia.

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries