A Guide to Liberty County Just Before the Civil War


A guide book to Georgia published by a Northern firm not long before the Civil War, said that the eastern part of Liberty County was intersected by many large and dense swamps.


It still is.


"The soil is composed of sand and clay." the book said, "and in the vicinity of the swamps the clay is pure and tenacious. "


In many parts of the county,  the book pointed out, "the surface is covered over with a very coarse white sand and gravel."


Products of the county were listed as cotton, rice, corn, and oats. Wheat was said to be cultivated in the upper part of the county in small quantities.


"The planters make their own sugar and syrup, and a small quantity is exported," the book claimed. "Cotton may be said to average 100 pounds per acre, corn 15 bushels per acre, and 5,000 bushels of rice are exported annually."


The average price of land in Liberty County, the book said, was $2.50 an acre.


It said that post offices in Liberty County at that time were located at Hinesville, Riceboro, and Walthourville.


The book said that Hinesville had a population of 200, a courthouse, a jail, one church, one academy of learning, and three or four stores.


Dorchester, it said, had 12 families, one academy of learning, and a church.


Riceboro, the book said, had 25 white residents, and "a like number of blacks," three or four stores, and was the principal shipping port for Liberty County.


The book made these other claims:


"Liberty County is as healthy as any county in the state. "For many years after its first settlement, the culture of rice was the chief business of the inhabitants. At present the dry culture is everywhere and nothing but cotton and corn is raised as articles of export."


Rice was, in fact, raised in Liberty County until fairly recent times.


The black population of Liberty County, the book said, "is better fed and clothed than formerly, and the habitations of both whites and blacks are greatly improved."


The use of intoxicating drink was said by the book to have been "almost entirely given up, and less drastic and poisonous medicines are now employed."


The most common diseases among the residents of Liber­ty County were reported to be fevers, rheumatism, and bowel afflictions. "But one or two cases of goiter have oc­curred," the book said, adding that there were "many in­stances of longevity among the blacks."


"Liberty County had 12 churches, the book said, and listed such civic and religious organizations as The Midway and Newport Library Society, Auxiliary Bible Society, Female Education Society, Ladies Missionary Society, and the Association for Religious Instruction of Negroes.


An agricultural society, the book said, was organized in 1844 and "now holds an annual fair on the first day of each January."


Local planters, the book said, "paid little or no attention to the preservation of their lands; the practice heretofore being to wear out the virgin soils, and clear new lands."


But, the book added, the planters were beginning to find "the advantages of a system of manuring and other recently introduced improvements. On account of the low prices of sea island cotton, some of the planters are reclaiming the old rice fields and swamps."


A system of land preservations was, in fact, being practiced by Liberty County cultivators prior to 1800. Rice was always the predominant crop in Liberty County.


"In no other part of the state do the citizens pay so much attention to their roads as in Liberty County," the book said. "On account of the numerous swamps, there has always been an immense amount of labor expended in the construc­tion of bridges and causeways. The bridges are generally small."


The longest bridge in the county, the book said, was at Riceboro, "at the head of the tide navigation of the North Newport River."


Value of town lots in Liberty County, the book reported, was $2,838, stock in trade $3,850, and money at interest $56,573.


While the book did not mention it, by 1855 the Taylors Creek and Hinesville Methodist churches had commenced providing a home for their pastors and their families. Midway Church instituted that practice before the Revolutionary War.


The guide book also did not mention that an island near Dorchester was named Isle of Wight for an island by that name off Hampshire in southern England.


From "Sweet Land of Liberty, A History of Liberty County, Georgia" by Robert Long Groover; Page(s) 40-41 ; Used by the permission of the Liberty County Commissioners Office