Wilkes County, Georgia

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Wilkes County, Georgia
Wilkes County Courthouse, Washington, Georgia.jpg
Map of Georgia highlighting Wilkes County
Location in the state of Georgia
Map of the United States highlighting Georgia
Georgia's location in the U.S.
Founded February 5, 1777
Named for John Wilkes
Seat Washington
Largest city Washington
 • Total 474 sq mi (1,228 km2)
 • Land 469 sq mi (1,215 km2)
 • Water 4.6 sq mi (12 km2), 1.0%
 • (2010) 10,593
 • Density 23/sq mi (9/km²)
Congressional district 10th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.washingtonwilkes.org

Wilkes County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 10,593.[1] The county seat is the city of Washington.[2]

Referred to as "Washington-Wilkes", the county seat and county are commonly treated as a single entity by locals, including the area's historical society[3] and the Chamber of Commerce.[4] This is part of the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA).


Wilkes County, named for British politician and supporter of American independence, John Wilkes, is considered Georgia's first county established by European Americans; it was the first of eight original counties created in the first state constitution on February 5, 1777. The other seven counties were organized from existing colonial parishes.

Wilkes was unique in being land ceded in 1773 by the Creek and Cherokee nations in their respective Treaties of Augusta.[5] It is located in the Piedmont above the fall line on the Savannah River.

Between 1790 and 1854, Wilkes County's area was reduced as it was divided to organize new counties as population increased in the area. The Georgia legislature formed the counties of Elbert, Oglethorpe, and Lincoln entirely from portions of Wilkes County. Wilkes also contributed part of the lands used in the creation of Madison, Warren and Taliaferro, Hart, McDuffie, and Greene counties.[6]

Wilkes County was the site of one of the most important battles of the American Revolutionary War to be fought in Georgia. During the Battle of Kettle Creek in 1779, the American Patriot forces were victorious over British Loyalists.[7]

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, colonists used enslaved African Americans to clear land, cultivate plantations and process the cotton in this area. Long-staple cotton would not grow in this area and short-staple cotton required much labor to process. In 1793, Mount Pleasant, a cotton plantation east of Washington, was the site where Eli Whitney first perfected his revolutionary invention, the cotton gin.

This allowed mechanization of processing of short-staple cotton, making its cultivation profitable in the upland areas. As a result, there was a dramatic increase in the development of new cotton plantations throughout the Deep South to cultivate short-staple cotton. Settlers increased pressure on the federal government to remove Native Americans, including the Five Civilized Tribes from the Southeast. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

Production of the commodity crop in the Deep South soon superseded that of long-staple cotton, grown primarily on the Sea Islands and in the Low Country.[8] Such expansion dramatically increased the demand for slave labor in the Deep South, resulting in a longstanding domestic slave trade that transported more than a million slaves in forced migrations from the Upper South. King Cotton brought great wealth to many planters in the decades before the Civil War.

None of the battles of the American Civil War was fought in or near Wilkes County. But it was here, on the site of the present Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, that President Jefferson Davis met for the final time with the Confederate Cabinet. They officially dissolved the government of the Confederate States of America.[9] Wilkes County was the last-known location of the gold rumored to have been lost from the Confederate Treasury.[10]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 474 square miles (1,230 km2), of which 469 square miles (1,210 km2) is land and 4.6 square miles (12 km2) (1.0%) is water.[11]

The northern quarter of Wilkes County, in a curved line from Rayle through Tignall to the northeastern corner of the county, is located in the Broad River sub-basin of the Savannah River basin. The eastern portion of the county, in a line from Washington east, and bordered to the north and west by the same line creating the boundary of the Broad River sub-basin, is located in the Upper Savannah River sub-basin of the larger Savannah River basin. The rest of the county, south of Washington, is located in the Little River sub-basin of the same Savannah River basin.[12]

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 31,500
1800 13,103 −58.4%
1810 14,887 13.6%
1820 17,607 18.3%
1830 14,237 −19.1%
1840 10,148 −28.7%
1850 12,107 19.3%
1860 11,420 −5.7%
1870 11,796 3.3%
1880 15,985 35.5%
1890 18,081 13.1%
1900 20,866 15.4%
1910 23,441 12.3%
1920 24,210 3.3%
1930 15,944 −34.1%
1940 15,084 −5.4%
1950 12,388 −17.9%
1960 10,961 −11.5%
1970 10,184 −7.1%
1980 10,951 7.5%
1990 10,597 −3.2%
2000 10,687 0.8%
2010 10,593 −0.9%
Est. 2014 9,940 [13] −6.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
1790-1960[15] 1900-1990[16]
1990-2000[17] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 10,687 people, 4,314 households, and 2,968 families residing in the county. The population density was 23 people per square mile (9/km²). There were 5,022 housing units at an average density of 11 per square mile (4/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 55.12% White, 43.05% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 0.85% from two or more races. 1.98% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 4,314 households out of which 29.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.10% were married couples living together, 17.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.20% were non-families. 28.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the county the population was spread out with 24.00% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 26.70% from 25 to 44, 24.10% from 45 to 64, and 17.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 91.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $27,644, and the median income for a family was $36,219. Males had a median income of $27,355 versus $21,298 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,020. About 13.00% of families and 17.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.20% of those under age 18 and 19.90% of those age 65 or over.


Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Washington Wilkes Historical Foundation
  4. ^ Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce
  5. ^ "Wilkes County Courthouse", GeorgiaInfo
  6. ^ "A Brief History, 1790: A booming area of the state", Washington, Georgia Virtual Tourist, accessed January 13, 2010
  7. ^ "A Brief History, 1779: The Decisive Revolutionary War Battle of Kettle Creek", Washington, Georgia Virtual Tourist, accessed January 13, 2010
  8. ^ Willingham, Robert. "AN OVERVIEW OF LOCAL HISTORY", Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, accessed January 13, 2010
  9. ^ "A Brief History, 1865: Last Meeting of the Confederate Cabinet", Washington, Georgia Virtual Tourist, accessed January 13, 2010
  10. ^ "Legend of the Lost Gold of the Confederacy", Washington, Georgia Virtual Tourist, accessed January 13, 2010
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  12. ^ "Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission Interactive Mapping Experience". Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Retrieved 2015-11-19. 
  13. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  14. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  18. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°47′N 82°44′W / 33.79°N 82.74°W / 33.79; -82.74