Terrell County, located in southwest Georgia, was created from neighboring counties, Lee and Randolph, by an act of the state legislature approved February 16, 1856. By this same act it was named for the eminent Georgia physician and statesman William Terrell. The county has a land area consisting of 335.5 square miles and, according to the 2010 U.S. census, a population of 9,315, a decrease from the 2000 population of 10,970. It was once a thriving farming area, but agriculture has been replaced as the primary source of income by services, manufacturing, and retail trade. The nearest metropolitan shopping center is Albany, in neighboring Dougherty County.
Dawson, the county seat as well as the largest town in the county, was established on 100 acres of land purchased in 1856 from Moses Baldwin. It was named in honor of William Crosby Dawson, a U.S. senator from Georgia. The town was incorporated in 1857 and built on a square with the courthouse in the center. The Civil War (1861-65) interrupted the town’s early business growth, but after the war it quickly recovered, and by the turn of the century it had a telephone system, waterworks, and an electric plant. Dawson also developed culturally, having an early library, debating society, a local band, a public entertainment hall, and two newspapers.
Two sites in the county are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Terrell County Courthouse and the Garden Club House. The present courthouse is the second one to be built in the county; it was constructed in 1892 and renovated in 1936. Its architectural style is Late Victorian, and it was designed by William H. Parkins. Another interesting building in the county is the Chickasawhatchee Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1858 and the oldest church still standing on its original site in Terrell County.
During the past several years a concerted effort has been made by the Terrell County Historic Preservation Society and the Better Hometown Dawson Task Force to increase cultural awareness, improve the appearance of streets and buildings, and preserve places of historical importance. Renovations have recently been completed on the courthouse, the Carnegie Library building, and the Garden Club House. The old McDowell Building has been remodeled; it is now the headquarters for the Terrell County Chamber of Commerce. Work is scheduled to begin soon on the old cotton warehouse known as the Hill and Hill Building.
The Tour of Homes, which allows the public to view the inside of Dawson’s antebellum and Victorian houses, is held each year on the first Saturday in May.
Parrott, located about ten miles northwest of Dawson, is a picturesque little town that has been the setting for several Western movies, including The Long Riders (1980). In recent years its citizens have worked diligently to restore the historic downtown area in the hope of attracting antique-minded tourists traveling on Highway 520 en route to Columbus. Bronwood, originally called Brown’s Station, was incorporated in 1883 and is located six miles east of Dawson. Sasser, located in the southeastern section of the county, was incorporated in 1890 and named for pioneer citizen Abraham Sasser. The county also has several unincorporated communities, among them Chickasawhatchee, Dover, Graves, Herod, Pleasant Hill, and Yeomans.