Edward J. Cashin was one of the preeminent historians of colonial– and Revolutionary-era Georgia. His academic career was unique in that he spent the vast majority of it in his hometown of Augusta and made that city a focal point for much of his prolific scholarship. Cashin served on the faculty of Augusta State University (ASU) from 1969 (when it was Augusta College) until his retirement in 1996. He then founded the Center for the Study of Georgia History on the ASU campus and served as its director for more than a decade.
Family and Education
Cashin was born in Augusta on July 22, 1927, to Margaret O’Leary and Edward Cashin. He attended Boys Catholic High School there, graduating in 1945. In the fall of that year he entered the Marist Brothers’ Novitiate in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received the name Brother Edward Lawrence. He earned his B.A. degree from Marist College, also in Poughkeepsie, in 1952 and then attended Fordham University in New York City, where he earned an M.A. degree in history in 1956 and a Ph.D. in history in 1962, with a dissertation entitled “Thomas E. Watson and the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia.”
After further study in Fribourg, Switzerland, Cashin returned to Marist College, first as an assistant professor and then as academic vice president. After six years at Marist, he accepted a position as associate professor with Augusta College. Cashin married Mary Ann Klug on March 30, 1969, and they had two children, Edward Lawrence and Milette.
Much of Cashin’s early published work focused on Augusta. His first book, Augusta and the American Revolution: Events in the Georgia Back Country, 1773-1783 (1975), coauthored with fellow Augustan Heard Robertson, combines subjects that would remain central to Cashin’s subsequent research and writing. Other books on the city include a history of Augusta College; three general histories of the city; a study of colonial Augusta; a history of Old Springfield Baptist Church, which is among the earliest African American congregations in North America; and a history of the Augusta Canal, which was published in 2002, six years after the canal’s designation as a National Heritage Area.
In 1996 Cashin and Glenn T. Eskew, a historian at Georgia State University in Atlanta, organized a symposium of young historians whose work focused on some aspect of Augusta. The essay collection that emerged from the symposium, entitled Paternalism in a Southern City: Race, Religion, and Gender in Augusta (2001), demonstrates how cutting-edge scholarship on a variety of major issues in southern history can emerge from the study of a single city.
From the late 1980s through the 1990s, Cashin expanded his research to incorporate larger themes in Georgia’s early history, writing a series of well-received biographies on such key figures as Thomas Brown, who led a regiment of Georgia loyalists during the Revolutionary War (1775-83); Lachlan McGillivray, the Scottish-born Indian trader; and Henry Ellis, Georgia’s second royal governor. These studies, all published by the University of Georgia Press, offer far more than the life stories of these men. Cashin used his subjects’ experiences and writings to shed light on the turbulent and often uncertain nature of frontier life in the new colony and state, and demonstrated how those factors came to bear on Georgia’s role in the Revolutionary War.
Other books that reflect the range of Cashin’s interests include two documentary anthologies on Georgia’s colonial era and its wilderness frontier, both published in the Beehive Foundation’s Library of Georgia series; a history of the Bethesda orphanage in Savannah; a guide to sites associated with James Edward Oglethorpe in London, England, which was coauthored with Danny Amor, a London cab driver who initiated the project; biographies of botanist William Bartram and Confederate sharpshooter Berry Benson; and a history of aviation in the Augusta area. His study of the Chickasaws who helped to lay out Augusta in the mid-1730s was published posthumously in 2009.
Service and Honors
Cashin’s service to his state and community extended well beyond his scholarship. He played active leadership roles in the Georgia Historical Society; Georgia Humanities; the Georgia Association of Historians, for which he served as president from 1974 to 1976, and again from 2000 to 2001; and the Georgia Heritage Trust, which he chaired from 1978 to 1980. He was a member of the National Register Review Board from 1988 to 1991, and chairman from 1990 to 1991. He was also vice chair of the James Edward Oglethorpe Tercentenary Commission in 1996 and a member of the Governor’s Commission on Georgia History and Public Awareness in 2002-3.
Locally, Cashin was instrumental in much of the preservation and perpetuation of Augusta’s history. He served as president of both Historic Augusta (2001-3) and the Augusta–Richmond County Historical Society (1976-78), and he was an active supporter of the Augusta Museum of History.
Cashin lent his expertise to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, both as editor of the section on eighteenth-century history and as the author of numerous articles. In 1987 his many contributions were recognized when he received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.
Cashin was in Atlanta researching an official history of the Georgia Power Company when he died on September 8, 2007.