Located near the geographic center of Georgia, Jones County possesses a rich historical and architectural heritage. Created in 1807, the state's thirty-second county ranks as the sixty-first in area (almost 400 square miles). Jones County's fertile soil made it prime cotton land in the nineteenth century, as well as a center for peach and pepper production for much of the twentieth century.
The county's position astride the fall line has determined much of its history. Several important Indian trails and trading paths crossed the area, following the flat shoals of the fall line and lower Piedmont. One of these trails, the Lower Creek Trading Path, formed the basis for the Garrison Road, which was completed across the southern part of Jones just before the county was organized. This military thoroughfare would become a segment of the Federal Road linking Washington, D.C., with New Orleans, Louisiana.
Between 1810 and 1830 Clinton's most impressive residences were built, many of which survive. The town, proud of its stature, was among those visited by the Marquis de Lafayette during his 1825 tour of Georgia. But Jones County's heyday was over. With the opening of Indian lands west of the Ocmulgee River, the flood of settlers rushed on, and Macon, in Bibb County, became the population center of central Georgia. Jones County's white population declined to 6,471 by 1830 and was only 3,084 in 1860.
Nonetheless, important gains had been made in the antebellum period, both educationally and industrially. The Clinton Female Seminary, founded in the early 1830s by Thomas Bog Slade, later provided the nucleus for what would become Macon's Wesleyan College. Samuel Griswold prospered as a cotton gin manufacturer and in 1849 created the industrial hamlet Griswoldville on the Central of Georgia Railway in southern Jones County.
As the nation began to break apart in the winter of 1860-61, Jones County elected to the Milledgeville Convention
By 1920 the vast majority of the county's acreage remained in farms. Farmland averaged a little over 110 acres, though half was
In the late 1950s the county's appreciation of its past increased with a Sesquicentennial Celebration and the publication of a county history. Over the next several decades historical interest increased with the opening of the Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site, which also supervises the Griswoldville Battlefield site. In the 1970s the Old Clinton Historical Society was founded, and soon thereafter Clinton was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Well-known residents of the county include Harrison Berry, a literate slave who published tracts about slavery and race; nineteenth-century state legislator James Blount; Confederate general Alfred Iverson Jr.; governor William J. Northen; baseball manager George Stallings; and twentieth-century state legislator Denmark Groover.
Central Georgia Technical College operates a learning center in Gray.
The 1980 U.S. census showed that Jones County had finally returned to its 1820 population size. But
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Jones County is 28,669, an increase from the 2000 population of 23,639.
William Harris Bragg, Griswoldville (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2000).
William Lamar Cawthon Jr., "Clinton: County Seat on the Georgia Frontier, 1808-1821" (master's thesis, University of Georgia, 1984).
Generations of History: Featuring the Historical Photography of Jones County Families and Descendants (Gray, Ga.: Jones County News, 2001).
Carolyn White Williams, History of Jones County, Georgia, for One Hundred Years, Specifically 1807-1907 (1957; reprint, with index, Fernandina Beach, Fla.: Wolfe, 2003).
William Harris Bragg, Georgia College and State University
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