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Savannah History, Georgia

Savannah has an impenetrable early history beginning with Native American cultures.  The first known residents of the area, the Yamacraws, were a Native American tribe and their leader, Tomochici, was among the first to meet the British settlers that arrived in February, 1733 - the year, when the history of Savannah as we know it, begins.  The ship “Anne” ported on Yamacraw Bluff and on the day of their arrival, General James Oglethorpe declared the land the thirteenth American colony.  He named it Georgia after King George II of England.  Savannah was named the new colony’s first city.

John and Mary Musgrove were dwelling with the Yamacraws and Mary served as a translator.  Easy communication helped to forge a friendship between the British settlers and the Yamacraw tribe which allowed Georgia to peacefully grow into a flourishing colony.

Savannah was the first planned city in the American colonies and the streets and parks were built on a grid system.  The purpose of the new colony was to offer opportunity for the working poor of England. 

Citizens of Savannah, mostly British Protestants at first, were given the opportunity to live diversely from the outset.  Along with their Yamacraw neighbors, they also welcomed a group of Sephardi Jewish immigrants only five months after Savannah was settled.  Over the next 150 years, Irish and French Catholics, French Huguenots, and Greek Orthodox settlers flocked to the new colony.

In 1751, Georgia became a Royal Colony.  The plans for opportunity for the working poor were thrown out and entrepreneurs and slaves were sent to plant rice and cotton fields and build up the colony.  Savannah was named Georgia’s capital.  Shortly thereafter, Savannah became a major commercial port due to trade routes to Europe.

In 1779, during the American Revolutionary War, a battle entitled the Siege of Savannah was fought in and around the city.  American troops were unsuccessful in taking the city from the British at that time.  After the war ended, though, Savannah grew rapidly, building large plantations and churches.  The cotton gin was invented at a plantation in the Savannah area. 

During the American Civil War, General Sherman captured the city of Savannah on December 22, 1864 but he could not destroy the city due to its beauty.  Instead, he offered it to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas present.

The Reconstruction Era, which was a time of great hardship and hunger, did offer opportunity to the newly freed slaves who built their own community in Savannah complete with churches and schools.  It was not long, though, before Savannah thrived once again and by 1900 it was among the queens of the cotton, resin, and lumber industries.

At the beginning of the Great Depression, though, boll weevils destroyed Georgia’s cotton crops and the state economy.  After World War II, Savannah was finally able to get back on its feet for good and the Historic Savannah Foundation worked to preserve many of the structures that symbolize the city’s vast historic culture.

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