ilkes County, Georgia, was one of the seven original Georgia counties created in 1776. Inhabited by Cherokee and the fierce Creek Indian tribes, and coveted by the rising European population, the fertile lands between the Broad and Little Rivers (the present, vastly contracted boundaries of the County) were fiercely contested. Still, new residents flooded in, mostly from Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas.
During the American Revolution, things were mostly quiet in Wilkes County, except for British efforts to stir up the Indians of the frontier, and the reaction of the frontiersmen to counteract them. The one major exception resulted in the Battle of Kettle Creek, about 7 miles from Washington Plantation. On February 14, 1779, American militia forces under Colonels Andrew Pickens, John Dooly and Elijah Clark, about 400 troops, pursued, surprised and defeated a Tory force of more than 700 at Kettle Creek, effectively ending British influence in northeast Georgia. Anniversary and reenactment the 2nd Saturday in February. See our "Events" page for details.
The 1800's in Georgia
The advent of the cotton economy in succeeding years brought considerable prosperity to Washington and Wilkes County. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin (invented near the City of Washington) vastly accelerated the pace. Wilkes County quickly became one of the richest cotton counties in Georgia. As more Virginian and Carolinian planters continued to arrive, the plantation system became firmly entrenched in Wilkes County. Some of the largest expanded to nearly 5000 acres.
The Chandler-Irvin house (as Washington Plantation was then known) was the seat of a 3000-acre plantation, uniquely located a quarter-mile from Washington town square. Isaiah Tucker Irvin, Commander of the Wilkes Guards (a local militia company), bought the home in 1835. I. T. Irvin, like most Wilkes County pioneers, was a colorful character. Court-martialed in 1814 during the War of 1812 for insubordination and dismissed from the service, he nevertheless rose to be Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, and an important actor in the events leading to Secession. I. T. Irvin died in a steamboat explosion in New Orleans in 1860, on the eve of Secession. He was so admired that his old militia company, the Wilkes Guards, voted to become the Irvin Guards, and served with some distinction as an artillery company in the Confederate States Army.
With Charles E. Irvin becoming the owner, the Corinthian features were added about 1879, along with side porches that lead into cross hallways. High wainscoting, paneled doors, random width heart pine floors, 11.5 foot ceilings, original mantles and beautiful staircase are a few of the architectural features. The columns gracing the front of the house are the rarely-seen " Temple of-the Winds " Corinthian columns.
Today in Washington, Georgia
But Washington Plantation did not exist in a vacuum. Washington, Georgia boasts more antebellum homes and buildings than any other city in Georgia, including Savannah. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman bypassed Washington on his famous (or infamous, depending which side you were on) March to the Sea after the fall of Atlanta. A local Union supporter and friend of Sherman’s convinced the General to spare the town, and the result is the city you can visit today, a jewel of the Antebellum South.
Please visit the
Links Page for information on Washington’s fine museums and living history displays to learn more about our history.
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