Monroe County, located in west central Georgia about fifty miles south of Atlanta and twenty-five miles north of Macon, is the state's fiftieth county. It was named for James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. Creek Indians held the land until 1821, when they surrendered it in the treaty resulting from their defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Portions of Monroe County later went to the formation of Bibb, Butts, Lamar, and Pike counties.
Many of the first settlers were Scottish Highlanders who had lived previously in eastern Georgia. Others were of English and Irish descent, and many came from eastern Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. Their rural community dates back to 1739, but it was decades before the settlement became a town, first called Cullodenville to honor William Culloden, a merchant who settled there in 1780. The name was shortened to Culloden when the town was incorporated in 1887.
The Monroe Railroad, begun in 1838, was the first railroad in Georgia and connected Forsyth to Macon. A later depot for the Central of Georgia Railway in Forsyth has been restored and now serves as the county's historical museum.
Monroe County was an active site during the Civil War (1861-65). A skirmish was fought at a Towaliga River bridge on November 17, 1864. The Battle of Culloden on April 19, 1865, was fought ten days after the surrender of Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia, as the word about the war's end had not yet reached Monroe County. Confederate soldiers wounded in battles at Atlanta were brought to a special hospital camp in Forsyth—said to be the first such camp in Georgia—and 300 soldiers are buried in a Confederate cemetery in the town. Monroe County escaped much of the destruction associated with the Civil War, possibly because of its reputation as a center for healing and respite.
Noteworthy residents have included Alfred Blalock, an internationally renowned research scientist and surgeon whose work on surgical shock saved many lives during World War II (1941-45). His later contributions included solving the "blue baby syndrome." William Morrill Wadley, president of the Central of Georgia Railway, and Emory Speer, a federal jurist and late-nineteenth-century U.S. congressman, were also county residents.
According to the 2000 U.S. census, the population of Monroe County was 21,757, an increase of 27.1 percent since 1990. By 2010 the population had increased to 26,424.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Monroe County, Georgia: A History (Forsyth, Ga.: Monroe County Historical Society, 1979).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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