Located in southwest Georgia, 200 miles south of Atlanta and 60 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida, Moultrie is the seat of Colquitt County. The region is the most productive agricultural district in the state, and the Moultrie area generates more nonpoultry agricultural revenue than any other town or city in Georgia. The town was named for General William Moultrie, a Revolutionary War (1775-83) leader who later became governor of his home state of South Carolina.
Situated deep in a forest of pines broken only by wiregrass and streams, the Moultrie area attracted occasional Seminole or Creek Indian parties hunting for game. Moultrie was officially established in 1859, when it was incorporated by the state legislature. The town did not grow, however, until the 1890s, when a school, a newspaper, a railroad, and several businesses came into being.
The economy flourished in the 1880s as the abundant supply of timber filled Moultrie’s naval stores, which were used to supply the shipbuilding industry. Later, turpentine stills and tram roads encouraged the building of a railroad. The first railway through Moultrie was the Boston and Albany Rail Road, which later became the Georgia-Northern Railway.
Timber in the region was cut at such a rapid rate that most of the trees were harvested by 1900. Local leaders then collaborated to shift the emphasis from lumber to farming to help the regional economy survive. They commissioned development companies to divide the once-forested areas into tracts of farmland and invited experienced farmers from North and South Carolina and north Georgia to move into the region. Their plans succeeded, and since the early 1900s, agriculture has been the largest business in Moultrie.
Today Moultrie has a population of 14,268, according to the 2010 U.S. census, and is a peaceful town of beautiful landscapes, huge sprawling trees, and attractive homes. There are stately buildings in the downtown square, and large magnolia trees surround the courthouse, which was built in 1902. Located in the center of the thriving downtown, the Moultrie Commercial Historic District, along with eight other structures, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fifteen-block downtown area contains commercial, professional, governmental, agri-industrial, and institutional buildings. The city is also home to Southern Regional Technical College, established as Moultrie Technical College in 1964.
In 1987 a satellite campus of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, known as “ABAC on the Square,” was established in the heart of downtown Moultrie.
The strength of Moultrie’s agricultural community is evident in its annual Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, which is held each October and brings more than 200,000 visitors to the city. The expo is the premier farm show in North America, with more than 1,000 private and corporate exhibitors.
Moultrie has earned a reputation for being an excellent place in which to raise families. The community has a temperate climate that allows for year-round outdoor activities. The Moultrie YMCA has produced two national championship gymnasts and numerous YMCA all-Americans, and between 1990 and 2000 it finished in the top ten programs in the YMCA Nationals. In 2003 the gymnastics program opened a new 11,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art practice and competition facility.
The Moss Farms Diving Tigers are members of a world-renowned diving program that has produced seven international award-winning divers and 149 YMCA all-Americans. Moss Farms divers have won the high school state championship for twenty-six of the last twenty-eight years, producing thirty-four high school all-Americans. The Moss Farms training facility hosted practice events for the 1996 Olympic Games. The Southeastern Conference 2002 male diver of the year and 2004 female diver of the year were alumni of the Moss Farms Diving Tigers, and the 2003 National Collegiate Athletic Association diver of the year is a Moss Farms–trained diver.
Moultrie is also home to a scenic and functional linear park that originated from the “Rails to Trails” project. Known simply as “The Trail,” the area is used by cyclists, walkers, joggers, and rollerbladers. The trail runs downtown beside South Main Street and is open to the public.
The Colquitt County Arts Center, formed in 1977, is located in the old Moultrie High School building. The center encourages citizen participation in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Classes are offered year-round in dance, music, theater, and art. Each year the city hosts the Calico Arts and Crafts shows, the Scottish Festival Weekend, and the Spring Fling and Backyard BBQ.
Notable Moultrie residents have included U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss, internationally known landscape painter Lynwood Hall, and prolific classical architect William Frank McCall.