Edward Telfair

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Edward Telfair (January 1, 1735 – September 17, 1807) was the Governor of the state of Georgia between 1786 and 1787, and again from 1790 through 1793. He was a member of the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Articles of Confederation.[1]

Early life[edit]

Telfair was born in 1735 on his family's ancestral estate in western Scotland.[2] He graduated from the Kirkcudbright Grammar School, before acquiring commercial training. He immigrated to America in 1758 as an agent of a commission house, settling in Virginia. Telfair subsequently moved to Halifax, North Carolina, and finally to Savannah, Georgia, where he established his own commission house in 1766.[3]

Slave owner[edit]

Telfair was a slave owner and a consultant on slavery issues.[4] His mercantile firm dealt in slaves, among other things, and contemporary correspondence of his included discussions of such topics as: the management of slaves; the purchase and sale of slaves; runaway slaves; the mortality rate of slaves born on plantations; the difficulty of selling closely related slaves; and the relations between whites and freedmen.[citation needed]

Revolutionary period[edit]

Telfair was a member of a Committee of Safety (1775–1776), and was a delegate to the Georgia Provincial Congress meeting at Savannah in 1776. He was also a member of the Georgia Committee of Intelligence in 1776.[citation needed]

Telfair was elected to the Continental Congress for 1778, 1780, 1781, and 1782. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation. In 1783, during the Cherokee–American wars, Telfair was commissioned to treat with the Chickamauga Cherokee Indians. Telfair was the designated agent (on behalf of Georgia) in talks aimed at settling the northern boundary dispute with North Carolina in February 1783. He served three terms as Governor of the state of Georgia.

Later life[edit]

Telfair was one of only 12 men who received electoral votes during the first election for President and Vice President of the United States,[5] receiving the vote of one unrecorded elector from his home state of Georgia.<--Reference link is broken, Aug. 2015.

Telfair died in Savannah in 1807, interred initially in the family vault at Sharon plantation. Later in the 19th century, his remains were moved to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah.[6]


One of Telfair's sons, Thomas Telfair, represented Georgia in the U.S. Congress.[7]

The eldest of the Telfair daughters, Mary Telfair, outlived her siblings and became the benefactor of the first public art museum in the American South, now a complex of three buildings called the Telfair Museums. After her death in 1875, her will also provided for the founding of the Telfair Hospital for Females. Today it is known as Mary Telfair Women's Hospital and is part of Savannah's St. Joseph's/Candler health system.[8][9]


Three months after Edward Telfair died, Georgia named Telfair County after the former governor.

Later in the 19th century, Savannah's St. James Square was renamed Telfair Square to honor the family.


  1. ^ "Georgia Governor Edward Telfair". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ Johnson, Charles J. "Edward Telfair (1735-1807)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 26 May 2015. Web. 30 August 2015.
  3. ^ "TELFAIR, Edward, (1735–1807)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ Edward Telfair Papers, 1764–1831; 906 Items & 5 Volumes; Savannah, Georgia; "Papers of a merchant, governor of Georgia, and delegate to the Continental Congress".
  5. ^ Journal of the Senate; Vol. 1; 1789; p8.
  6. ^ Johnson, Charles J. "Edward Telfair (1735-1807)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 26 May 2015. Web. 30 August 2015.
  7. ^ Johnson, Charles J. "Telfair Family." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 26 May 2015. Web. 30 August 2015.
  8. ^ Johnson, Charles J. "Mary Telfair (1791-1875)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 26 May 2015. Web. 30 August 2015.
  9. ^ History of St. Joseph's/Candler at hospital website.

External links[edit]