Founded in 1733 by colonists led by James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and one of the outstanding examples of eighteenth-century town planning in North America.
Colonial and Revolutionary Eras
Savannah was, by
design, the first step in the creation of Georgia, which received its charter from King George II in April 1732, as the thirteenth and last of England's American colonies. In November 1732 Oglethorpe, with 114 colonists, sailed from England on the Anne. This first group of settlers landed at the site of the planned town, then known as Yamacraw Bluff, on the Savannah River approximately fifteen miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, on February 12, 1733.
After establishing cordial relations with Chief Tomochichi of the resident Yamacraw Indians, and Indian trader and liaison Mary Musgrove, Oglethorpe
Courtesy of Georgia Info, Digital Library of Georgia
began to carry out his concept for the layout of Savannah. Oglethorpe and Savannah's coplanner, William Bull of South Carolina, laid out a town loosely based on the London town model but featuring wards built around central squares, with trust lots on the east and west sides of the squares for public buildings and churches, and tything lots for the settlers' homes on the north and south sides of the squares.
Oglethorpe and the Georgia Trustees originally conceived Savannah, and the new colony, as a philanthropic endeavor. It was the Trustees' intention to provide a refuge for English debtors who could establish the basis for an agrarian class of small, yeoman farmers working in concert with a business and mercantile class in Savannah, thus providing a commercial outpost to the neighboring colony of South Carolina.
Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries
Savannah City Plan, 1734
In Savannah's formative years, and through most of Georgia's period as a proprietary colony, there was a ban on slavery. This was lifted in 1750. There were additional prohibitions in the new colony on "spirituous liquors" (until 1742), and Catholics were forbidden to live in the colony until the territorial and commercial disputes in the region between England and Spain were settled in 1748. There were no lawyers until 1755.
The early history of Savannah is remarkable for the sheer diversity of its people. Religious observance played an important role in the early life of Savannah. In addition to its founding English settlers, Jews arrived from London in the summer of 1733; they later founded the Congregation Mickve Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the South. In the spring of 1734 came Evangelical Lutherans from Salzburg, known as Salzburgers, who settled on the Savannah River at a town they named Ebenezer. Scottish Highlanders and German Moravians came in 1736, followed by Dutch, Welsh, and Irish settlers. John Wesley and Charles Wesley conducted Anglican services. In 1737 the Reverend George Whitefield arrived and soon after founded Bethesda, colonial America's first orphanage.
Savannah citizens played prominent roles in the cause of American independence, although Georgia, as a general rule,
was somewhat slower than the other British colonies to embrace the Revolutionary fervor sweeping the rest of the Atlantic seaboard. The Liberty Boys, a group of Savannah men prominent in the independence movement, met periodically at Peter Tondee's Tavern, at the corner of Broughton and Whitaker streets. Three men who lived or maintained professional connections in Savannah were Georgia's signers of the Declaration of Independence—Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton.
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Savannah is one of my favorite places, I can eat my way from one side to the other, that woman and I enjoyed Tybee Island too.