Georgia Day and the Story of a Former State Capital

On February 12, 1733, the colony of Georgia was founded. Today, we usually celebrate Georgia Day on the 12th, but occasionally, it can be observed the weekend before. Whether on the 12th or around the 12th, this is a time when those of us in archives and special collections enjoy highlighting some of our Georgia history collections.

One cannot tell the story of the State of Georgia without including the City of Milledgeville. It became the state capital in 1807 when the legislature met for the first time in the incomplete and under construction Capital Building. Now part of Georgia Military College, it was once the center of political life for the state.

Jared Irwin was the first to serve as governor in the new state capital. Starting in 1806, he served until 1809 with three of his four-year term taking place in Milledgeville. Following Irwin was David Brydie Mitchell.  Mitchell would serve the first of his terms from 1809 to 1813. His second term would come only a few years later after defeating Peter Early, Governor of Georgia from 1813- 1815, in his re-election bid. Mitchell served from 1815 to 1817. From this decade, one of the artifacts here in Special Collections is the book, Laws of the State of Georgia, cataloging everything passed by the legislature during this time. Some the issues they dealt with consisted of appointing trustees to the private academies that existed in towns and counties around the state,  passing laws to help alleviate debt issues that faced many Georgians,  laws that either raised taxes or relieved citizens from having to pay certain taxes, and even addressed the penal code.20180212_110824

Following Mitchell, the state capital remained in Milledgeville until 1868. One of the most important events in the Antebellum Era for many people at the time in Georgia and in the South took place in Milledgeville.

On January 19, 1861, three days after the State legislature convened,  the assembly voted for the secession of Georgia from the Union of the United States. The future of Georgia was irretrievably changed. On February 4th, each state in what would become the Confederacy sent members to the “Congress of the Sovereign and Independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana” in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia elected two men, Alexander Stephens and Eugenius Nesbit, to represent them. At this gathering, they wrote the Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, which was officially adopted on February 8th.


This document was the precursor to what became the Confederate States Constitution. It would only be in place for year before the official Constitution was adopted. A copy of this provisional constitution resides in here in Special Collections.

The First Confederate States Congress took place from February 18, 1862 through to February 18, 1864. It was a bicameral legislature that lasted during the first two years of Jefferson Davis’ presidency and was seated in Richmond, Virginia. In Special Collections, we have a book of the statutes passed by the First Congress at their third session in 1863.  These are the laws, acts, and resolutions that were passed in an effort to both establish and run their government. They set up tax laws, government departments, and resolutions of thanks to officers and government officials. This congress was disbanded in 1864 and then re-seated in a second congress that lasted until 1865 when the Confederacy was falling apart and the Civil War was coming to a close.


A few years after the end of the Confederacy, the capital would leave Milledgeville and head to the growing city of Atlanta. Charles Johnson Jenkins was the last governor to take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville. When he was elected, Rufus Bullock became the first governor to take up residence in a large Victorian home in Atlanta, the same one where Governor Nathan Deal resides today. Milledgeville would no longer be at the center the political events and life in Georgia. However, this city played a pivotal role in events that forever changed the future of the state and continue to haunt us.

Happy belated Georgia Day, y’all!


The Exhibit for the First Annual African American Read-In

On Thursday, February 15th, Ina Dillard Russell Library held its first African American Read-In, an opportunity that invites students, faculty, and staff to read from the works of their favorite authors and some of the most remarkable African Americans in our history. It is meant to serve as a sort of “open mic” celebration, where participants are encouraged to recite and/or perform pieces of creative nonfiction, fiction, spoken word, poetry, etc. About 70 students, as well as numerous faculty and staff, participated in the event.

Special Collections was asked to create a small exhibit to supplement the read-in, to create a display for students to not only to consider, but interact with. We decided to set our focus on three local and influential African American individuals — Former Georgia State Senator Floyd L. Griffin Jr.; Reverend Wilkes B. Flagg, founder of Flagg Chapel Baptist Church; and well-renowned activist and author, Alice Walker. For each, we picked memorabilia, documents, and other artifacts from each respective collection that represented their greatest and most stirring accomplishments. Because the exhibit operates on a small scale, narrowing the materials proved difficult. Continue reading “The Exhibit for the First Annual African American Read-In”

Usery: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

You first heard of W.J. Usery, Jr. last spring when several of us in Special Collections drove out to the former Secretary of Labor’s estate to collect some of his materials. I wrote a blog post on what it means to do an “archival appraisal.” We spent a morning sorting through memorabilia, packaging picture frames, and cataloguing information we would need after acquiring his collection.

This semester we’ve cleared shelf space within the archive to make room for Usery’s dense and impressive collection. We joke that he is becoming this academic year’s James C. Bonner, meaning we expect Usery materials to pop up well after we’ve closed each box and considered the collection finished. Not unlike Floyd Griffin, a phrase Brendan and I have come to use quite frequently while cataloguing Usery’s materials is “this man did everything.” From being one of the greatest allies and progressive forces for labor union workers to mediating some of the United States’ biggest disputes, Usery’s positive influence has directly and indirectly touched the lives of many. From awards of high recognition and honor to framed photographs with Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and others, it’s easy to see from these materials that Usery had a hand in political change for decades. Continue reading “Usery: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

Josh’s Marvel Converts the Sounds of the Past

Back when Georgia College was called the Women’s College of Georgia in the 1960s, several of the groups recorded their performances. As you might guess, few folks today have record players, though they are making a comeback due to a niche market. However, most people can’t play records anymore.

Of course, when a group of alumnae are getting together for an informal reunion and they all participated in one or more of those performances during their time at the college, they want to hear themselves! This is where our audiovisual emulation and migration capabilities in Special Collections come into play. Thanks to my predecessor, Josh Kitchens, we have a setup of wires and tubes and contraptions that doesn’t look like it should work, yet always miraculously does. I rue the day that computer or those drives have to be replaced, as I’m fairly certain I cannot re-engineer Josh’s Marvel. Included are a record player, a reel-to-reel, a U-Matic player, and a VHS player. There are probably other pieces that I haven’t noticed yet because I haven’t needed them (yet).

Behold Josh’s Marvel

Continue reading “Josh’s Marvel Converts the Sounds of the Past”

Come On In, Y’all

It is officially October, and though pumpkin-flavored everything and sunset colored leaves are certainly indications, we know it is October for a more particular reason: October means Georgia Archives Month. Organized by the Society of Georgia Archivists in 1969, GAM represents 100 repositories that cherish historical records. Georgia College is one of those repositories.

This year, the theme is called “Come on in, Y’all! Accessible Archives in Georgia.” We’ve decided to focus on ways in which the Ina Dillard Russell Library has changed and developed over the years, how its resources have become more accessible to students, faculty, and visiting researchers and writers. Using information and materials located within our archive, we’ve designed a digital exhibit to display on a touch screen in the Atrium of the Library, found on the first floor near Books & Brew.


Continue reading “Come On In, Y’all”

Caro Lane Receives the Golden Deeds Award

Shayla Burnett is one of our two Student Service Opportunity Award Fellows in Special Collections this year. She is a freshman at Georgia College majoring in Exercise Science.

On my first day volunteering in Special Collections, I was shown the archive’s public and private spaces in the library, which consist of many boxes of manuscript collections, exhibits, and old books. After Holly gave me a tour, she gave me my first assignment — to rearrange the files and finding aid of a collection of my choosing. I chose the Caro Lane papers. The files of Caro Lane consist of personal correspondence, certificates of awards and appreciation, and her nomination for the Golden Deeds Award (along with Golden Deeds newspaper clippings, photographs, and other miscellaneous items). Continue reading “Caro Lane Receives the Golden Deeds Award”

Tales From the Back Stoop: 30 Fresh Perspectives on Milledgeville

Catherine James is one of our two Student Service Opportunity Award Fellows in Special Collections this year. She is a freshman at Georgia College majoring in Mass Communication.

Downtown Milledgeville, 1973
Downtown Milledgeville, as seen in 1973.

I am just about two months into my new life in Milledgeville and am almost entirely unaware of the stories, accounts, and histories that make up the quaint little town that I’m slowly learning to call home. Although, from what I’ve gathered in the bits and pieces of history that have been sprung on me through tours, classes, word of mouth, and even details as small as the names of certain campus buildings, Milledgeville has no shortage of rich history. I have only recently started assisting in Special Collections, and it has already taught me a tremendous amount about my new city that I would have otherwise most likely overlooked. Continue reading “Tales From the Back Stoop: 30 Fresh Perspectives on Milledgeville”