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Historical Facts about Abbeville and Wilcox County


Battle of Breakfast Branch

Near this spot on March 9, 1818, 34 men of the Telfair County Militia, commanded by Major Josiah D. Cawthon, engaged about 60 Creek Indians in combat. Four Indians and five whites, including Capt. Benjamin Mitchell Griffin were killed. Three whites, including Mark Willcox (later Major General), were wounded. Willcox was saved by Nat Statham and Wiley Ellison who carried him back to the Ocmulgee river while under fire. This was the last battle between Indians and whites in this vicinity.


DeSoto Trail

Hernando de Soto discovered Ocmulgee River at or near Abbeville on April 3, 1540. “Here,” says the chronicler Biedma, “we found a river that had a course not southwardly, like the rest we had passed, but eastward to the sea.” Next day the Altamaha Inidans “brought many canoes and the army crossed very comfrotably” to their principal town where they met its chief Camumo and the great chief of Ocute from the river above and here they erected a second wooden cross.


Jefferson Davis

On May 4, 1865, Jefferson Davis arrived in Washington, Georgia (152 miles NE), where he performed what proved to be his last duties as President of the Confederate States of America. Shortly thereafter, with a small staff and escort, he departed enroute to the trans-Mississippi Department, from which vantage point he hoped to negotiate a just peace. Traveling via Warthen and Sandersville, he reached Dublin (50 mile NE) about 11 o’clock May 7th, after being joined by his family early that morning. Leaving Dublin, he camped for a few hours near Alligator Creek (30 miles NE) and again four miles SE of Eastman (UDC marker at site); then he pushed on toward Abbeville, unaware that the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry (USA) had learned of his passage through Dublin and had begun a pursuit.

On the 8th, after a day of hard rains and boggy roads, his party crossed the Ocmulgee River at Poor Robin Ferry and camped in Abbeville. Next morning, they took the direct (old) road toward Irwinville (26 miles SW) and camped a mile N of the town in the present Jefferson Davis Memorial State Park. At dawn on May 10th, his camp was surrounded by men of the 1st Wisconsin and 4th Michigan cavalry regiments (USA) and he became a “state prisoner,” his hopes for a new nation, in which each state would exercise without interference its cherished “Constitutional Rights,” forever dead.

Late on May 8, 1865, Jefferson Davis, with his family and a small escort, camped in Abbeville, unaware that hostile pursuit was close behind. His pursuers, the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry [Federal], Lt. Col. Henry Harnden, arrived next morning, shortly after his departure. Stopping only to feed and water, Harnden’s men were moving out in pursuit when the 4th Michigan Cavalry [Federal], Lt. Col. B. D. Pritchard, arrived. Harnden confided to Pritchard both Mr. Davis’ proximity and probable route; then, after declining an offer to help, he rode on to overtake his command.

Pritchard, bound down-river to intercept other Confederate officials, rode on some 12 miles: then, abandoning his own mission, he made a forced march and, after finding the Davis camp late that night by posing as the escort, he surrounded it quietly and waited for dawn.
Harnden had camped a few miles away. Unaware of Pritchard’s presence, he moved up just before dawn to surround the camp. His advance was fired upon and, in the fight that followed, two Michigan soldiers were killed before a prisoner taken by Harnden’s men revealed the Identity of the “enemy.”

During this unfortunate collision, Pritchard closed in and captured Mr. Davis and his party, thereafter claiming for the 4th Michigan the fruits of the 1st Wisconsin’s labors.


New Hope Primitive Baptist Church

New Hope Primitive Baptist Church was constituted in July, 1830. The Presbytery officiating were: Wilson Conner, David Wood and Jordan Baker. Minutes of the church for the first 12 years were lost, and there is no record of charter members, but the church roll of March 5, 1842, lists 53, many of them pioneers of this section. It was in New Hope Church that the division in the Primitive Baptist denomination occurred, when some withdrew and formed a Missionary Baptist Church. The Rev. Richard M. Tucker was the first recorded pastor, in 1842. George R. Reid as clerk in 1842.


Wilcox County

This County was created by Act of the Legislature Dec. 22, 1857. Georgia Archives show that it was named for Capt. John Wilcox though some authorities believe it was named for his son Gen. Mark Wilcox, state legislator and one of the founders of the Georgia Supreme Court, who died in 1850. Among the first County Officers were: Sheriff Joseph S. Graham, Clerk of Superior & Inferior Courts Stephen Bowen, Ordinary James W. Washburn, Tax Receiver John McCall, Tax Collector Stephen Mitchell, Surveyor William A. Barker and Coroner Daniel M. Bruce.