New County Seat for Liberty County


John Graves and William Graves, brothers residing in Dor­chester, South Carolina, in 1752 received land grants of 500 acres each near the headwater of the North Newport River. They relocated to their property in 1756, established planta­tions, and after the Revolutionary War built a bridge across the river with a landing for shipping rice and cotton by sloops to other points. The area around the bridge was known as Gravesend, after the ancestral home of the Graves brothers in England.


By 1797 the middle part of Liberty County had the con­trolling vote in public matters. A referendum was held and a majority of the voters resolved that the county seat should be moved from Sunbury to Riceborough , or Riceboro, by now the new name of Gravesend, "a place more convenient to the greater population of the county."


Judge Matthew McAllister of the Eastern Judicial Circuit owned property adjacent to the bridge site. He offered to convey in fee simple, for public use, a piece of land 230 feet long and 150 feet wide, "without price or consideration other than a wish on my part to promote the growth of Rice­borough and benefit the inhabitants thereof."


Moving of the county seat from Sunbury to Riceboro caused angry words to be spoken by residents of both com­munities. Fiery letters were written to state officials by both factions. The whole affair became known as "The Bridge War."


Residents of Sunbury no longer had the political clout to prevent the move of the county seat. So, the state legislature in 1798 designated Riceboro as the new county seat. It ap­pointed Thomas Stevens, Colonel Daniel Stewart, Peter Winn, Joel Walker, and Henry Wood commissioners to survey the land offered by McAllister. and "receive the title therefor, and erect and keep in repair a courthouse and jail for the county."


Sunbury lost the county seat, but it still had Sunbury Academy, probably the best school in Georgia at that time. It was incorporated by the General Assembly in 1799.  


From "Sweet Land of Liberty, A History of Liberty County, Georgia" by Robert Long Groover; Page(s) 24; Used by the permission of the Liberty County Commissioners Office 



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