Sumter County, Georgia

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Sumter County, Georgia
Map of Georgia highlighting Sumter County
Location in the state of Georgia
Map of the United States highlighting Georgia
Georgia's location in the U.S.
Founded December 26, 1831
Named for Thomas Sumter
Seat Americus
Largest city Americus
Area
 • Total 493 sq mi (1,277 km2)
 • Land 483 sq mi (1,251 km2)
 • Water 10 sq mi (26 km2), 2.0%
Population
 • (2010) 32,819
 • Density 68/sq mi (26/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.sumtercountyga.us

Sumter County is a county located in the southwest portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,819.[1] The county seat is Americus.[2] The county was created on December 26, 1831.

Sumter County is part of the Americus, GA Micropolitan Statistical Area.

History[edit]

Foundation and antebellum years[edit]

Sumter County was established by an act of the state legislature on December 26, 1831, just four years after the Creek Indians vacated the region when the state acquired the territory from them in the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. Sumter, the state's eightieth county, was created entirely from Lee County, now situated to its south. The county was named for former General and United States senator Thomas Sumter (1734–1832) of South Carolina.[3] At the time of the county's creation, the general was ninety-seven years old and the last surviving general of the American Revolution (1775–83).

Shortly thereafter, a committee chose a central site for the county seat and laid out what would become the town of Americus. Many of the county's earliest white residents acquired their land through an 1827 state land lottery and, like many of those moving into southwest Georgia at the time, quickly turned their property into cotton farms and plantations. The rich black soil combined with ready market access via the Flint River (bordering the county on the east) or the Chattahoochee River (farther west) to make Sumter among the state's most prosperous Black Belt counties by the 1840s and 1850s. Slaves, of course, were integral to that formula for economic success, and Sumter residents owned nearly 4,000 of them by 1850.

Civil War years[edit]

The Civil War (1861–65) brought one of Georgia's most notable and notorious landmarks to the area, when a small village named Andersonville, nine miles (14 km) north of Americus on the county's northern edge, was selected by Confederate authorities as the site for a prisoner of war camp. The Andersonville prison was built in neighboring Macon County and became the largest such prison in the South. During the camp's fourteen-month existence, some 45,000 Union prisoners suffered some of the worst conditions and highest casualties of any of the camps. Today Andersonville National Historic Site serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout the nation's history. The 495-acre (2.00 km2) park lies in both Macon and Sumter counties and consists of the historic prison site and the National Cemetery.

Into modernity[edit]

Other areas of the county have attracted national attention in the twentieth century for very different reasons. In 1942 two Baptist ministers chose a farm in the western part of the county as the location for a Christian commune named Koinonia, where black and white workers lived and worked together for nearly fifty years, generating some hostility among local residents during its early years.

Sumter County counts a U.S. president among its native sons. Jimmy Carter was born and raised on a peanut farm in Plains, a small community on the county's western edge. His election to the presidency in 1976 brought the small town considerable attention from journalists and tourists, which it continues to receive as the former president and his wife, and much of their family, still make Plains their home. Carter's birthplace and childhood home has been designated a National Historic Site and is open for tours.

The headquarters of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate homelessness, is located in Americus, the home of its founder, Millard Fuller. In addition to Habitat's socially impactful activities, Koinonia Partners publishes a bimonthly newsletter for the Prison and Jail Project promoting prisoner reform and education. Americus is also home to two colleges: Georgia Southwestern State University, a public four-year institution established in 1906, is part of the University System of Georgia. South Georgia Technical College, which stands near Souther Field, was a training base for American and British aviators during World War I (1917–18). Charles Lindbergh learned to fly here and assembled a military surplus "Jenny" aircraft with the help of mechanics at Souther Field. Downtown Americus boasts two prominent examples of historic restoration: the Windsor Hotel, built in 1892, and the Rylander Theatre, which originally opened in 1921.

Geography[edit]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 493 square miles (1,280 km2), of which 483 square miles (1,250 km2) is land and 10 square miles (26 km2) (2.0%) is water.[4]

Muckalee Creek flows through Sumter County, which also contains Lake Blackshear and Kinchafoonee Creek.

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected areas[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 5,759
1850 10,322 79.2%
1860 9,428 −8.7%
1870 16,559 75.6%
1880 18,239 10.1%
1890 22,107 21.2%
1900 26,212 18.6%
1910 29,092 11.0%
1920 29,640 1.9%
1930 26,800 −9.6%
1940 24,502 −8.6%
1950 24,208 −1.2%
1960 24,652 1.8%
1970 26,931 9.2%
1980 29,360 9.0%
1990 30,228 3.0%
2000 33,200 9.8%
2010 32,819 −1.1%
Est. 2013 31,364 −4.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[5]
1790-1960[6] 1900-1990[7]
1990-2000[8] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 33,200 people, 12,025 households, and 8,501 families residing in the county. The population density was 68 people per square mile (26/km²). There were 13,700 housing units at an average density of 28 per square mile (11/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 48.22% White, 49.02% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.59% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.26% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. 2.68% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 12,025 households out of which 34.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.50% were married couples living together, 22.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.30% were non-families. 25.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.15.

In the county the population was spread out with 27.80% under the age of 18, 11.90% from 18 to 24, 27.40% from 25 to 44, 20.60% from 45 to 64, and 12.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 88.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,904, and the median income for a family was $35,379. Males had a median income of $27,828 versus $20,439 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,083. About 17.60% of families and 21.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.30% of those under age 18 and 16.80% of those age 65 or over.

Economy[edit]

Sumter remains largely a rural county. According to USDA/Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service 2001 figures, cotton remains its major crop, with up to 35,000 acres (140 km2) under cultivation, followed by wheat, peanuts, and corn, which combined approximately equal the county's acreage in cotton.

Major employers include Cooper Lighting, Georgia Southwestern State University, Magnolia Manor, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, and Wal-Mart.[10]

Communities[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

This article incorporates material written by John C. Inscoe of the University of Georgia for the New Georgia Encyclopedia ("NGE"), posted or last updated January 2, 2008. All derived works must credit the NGE and the original author.
  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Hellmann, Paul T. (May 13, 2013). "Historical Gazetteer of the United States". Routledge. p. 216. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  5. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ Sumter County at a Glance, The New Georgia Encyclopedia (citing the Georgia Department of Labor (2008)).

Further reading[edit]

  • Jimmy Carter, An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001).
  • Jack F. Cox, History of Sumter County, Georgia (Roswell, Ga.: W. H. Wolfe, 1983).
  • Freedomways: A Newsletter of the Prison and Jail Project (Americus, Ga.: Koinonia Partners, 1995– ).
  • William Marvel, Andersonville: The Last Depot (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).

Coordinates: 32°02′N 84°12′W / 32.04°N 84.20°W / 32.04; -84.20