Quitman County, in southwest Georgia, was established by an act of the state legislature in 1858. It became Georgia's 128th county and was named for General John A. Quitman within five months of his death. Quitman never lived in Georgia, but as the governor of Mississippi in the mid-1800s, he spoke persuasively in defense of states' rights and was instrumental in shaping Georgia's decision to secede from the Union. The legislature acknowledged his popularity and named the new county in his honor.
Separated from Alabama by the Chattahoochee River, Quitman is bordered on the north by Stewart County, on the east by Randolph County, on the south by Clay County, and on the west by Barbour County, Alabama. It consists of 152 square miles, predominantly rural farms and timberland.
European explorers first entered the region in the seventeenth century. Towns began to emerge along the river, and the Creek population gradually disappeared from the area. The introduction of the steamboat in the mid-nineteenth century encouraged rapid growth along the Chattahoochee, including Quitman County, and the river became the major waterway for the cotton trade.
By 1900 the county population was 4,701 persons, despite Georgetown's unsavory reputation as a center for gambling and prostitution. The Cotton Exchange functioned as the sole mercantile facility for both the county and city, but around 1920 its owner absconded with an entire cotton crop and all of the cash on hand. He was later apprehended and prosecuted, but his crimes caused Georgetown to be without banking services for nearly eighty years. By 1970 the county population had dwindled to 2,180 persons, but by 2000 it had grown slowly to 2,598. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population decreased slightly to 2,513.
Lake Walter F. George, created from the Chattahoochee River in 1967 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, offers such recreational activities as camping, boating, and fishing. The county is also home to a portion of the Lake Walter F. George Wildlife Management Area. Another place of interest is the Old Quitman County Jail, which was built in Georgetown during the nineteenth century and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Henry deLeon Southerland Jr. and Jerry Elijah Brown, The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806-1836 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989).
Maxine Turner, Navy Gray: A Story of the Confederate Navy on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988).
Lynn Willoughby, Flowing through Time: A History of the Lower Chattahoochee River (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999).
Robert John White, Georgetown
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