Colquitt County, in south Georgia, was established in 1856 on lands ceded between 1814 and 1818 by the Creek and Seminole Indians. The state's 115th county, it was created from parts of Thomas and Lowndes counties and named for Walter Terry Colquitt, an attorney, judge, circuit-riding Methodist preacher, and statesman who served Georgia in the state senate, U.S. Senate, and U.S. Congress.
Maps of Colquitt County drawn just seven years after its creation show only two communities, Greenfield (no longer extant) and Moultrie (formerly known as Ochlockney), today the county seat. A number of other communities have come and gone, leaving seven incorporated towns: Berlin, Doerun, Ellenton, Funston, Moultrie, Norman Park, and Riverside.
The region was uninviting at first for settlement. Early maps label it as "Piney Wastes" or "Pine Barrens," descriptive of the miles and miles of sandy soil then supporting only yellow long-needle pine forests used mainly as a buffer zone between the Creeks and the Seminoles.
Realizing that the soil would not support cotton, the first white settlers started making use of the forest. They cleared land, shipped out the lumber, and harvested pine gum for turpentine. Wood and turpentine were both used in shipbuilding, and thus the region became known as a rich source of naval stores. The arrival of a number of railroads after the Civil War (1861-65) provided both a demand for timber to use as crossties and a method to transport Colquitt's products
By 1910 it became apparent that the forests were disappearing into the sawmills and turpentine stills, leaving abundant tracts of "cut over" land. The county's first "farm agent" helped develop a farsighted crop-diversification system known as the "Colquitt County Plan." This five-year method served as a model for the U.S. Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, earning the county well-deserved national renown for its progressive planning. Colquitt is still known for its diversity of agricultural crops, among them cattle feed, cotton, peanuts, sugar cane, watermelon, corn, wheat, and other grains.
While the civil rights movement of the 1960s caused strife for some in Georgia (and elsewhere), Colquitt's schools were peacefully desegregated by local residents' careful planning. Among other accomplishments of the 1960s and 1970s were the founding of the Moultrie Area Vocational-Technical School (later Moultrie Technical College) and the consolidation of all high schools in the county. When Spence Field, a military airfield from the World War II (1941-45) era, closed in the 1960s, the city of Moultrie bought it and made the site and facilities available for
Brewton-Parker College extension at Norman Park offers a core curriculum associate degree and education-related bachelor's degrees. The extension is housed at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Norman Park, which is the former home of Norman College. Moultrie Technical College serves both traditional and nontraditional students and offers associate degrees in such applied sciences as accounting, early childhood care, and Internet programming. Of the college's five campuses, two are in Colquitt County (both in Moultrie).
Notable county residents include U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss and Charles M. Duke, a lunar-module pilot for the Apollo 16 space mission and the tenth man to walk on the moon. Duke received his first flight training at Spence Air Base.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Colquitt County is 45,498, an increase from the 2000 population of 42,053.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Colquitt County Heritage Book Committee, comp., The Heritage of Colquitt County, Georgia, 1856-2003 (Marceline, Mo.: Walsworth, 2003).
W. A. Covington, History of Colquitt County (Atlanta: Foote and Davies, 1937; reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1980).
Mattie Oglesby Coyle, History of Colquitt County, Georgia, and Her Builders (Moultrie, Ga.: [Observer Press], 1925).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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