The year 1750 marks the beginning of an era of growth and prosperity for Georgia. New settlers came into the colony, and lands were cleared and cultivated. A flourishing export trade began to grow up with England, and the articles exported were chiefly pitch, tar, staves, rice and deer-skins. The Trustees still insisted upon the cultivation of mulberry-trees and the production of silk, but this industry did not flourish. The Salzburgers at Ebenezer produced one-half of the silk of the colony. Many farmers were engaged in the cultivation of indigo, and European grape-vines were brought over and planted. The population of the colony at this time had increased to one thousand five hundred.
The Trustees saw that as the population of Georgia increased it would become more and more difficult to find out (46) what changes in the rules and regulations were necessary for the welfare of the colony. Therefore, in 1750 they adopted resolutions creating a Provincial Assembly, composed of delegates elected by the people, which should consider the interests of the colony and recommend to the Trustees such measures as those interests demanded. This assembly was to meet in Savannah once every year, and not to remain in session longer than one month. Every town, village, or district in the province containing a population of ten families was to send one deputy, and any settlement containing thirty families could appoint two deputies. Savannah had four deputies, Augusta and Ebenezer two each, and Frederica two, provided thirty families were living there. There were some very curious qualifications for future membership in this assembly. No man could serve as a deputy in the second assembly who had not one hundred mulberry-trees planted and fenced in upon every fifty acres of land that he owned; and after 1753 no one could be a delegate who had not in his family at least one female instructed in the art of reeling silk, and who did not annually produce fifteen pounds of silk for every fifty acres of land owned by him.
Writs of election were issued in 1750, and sixteen delegates were elected. On the 15th of January, 1751, the first General Assembly ever held in Georgia met at Savannah and elected Francis Harris speaker. This assembly had no power to make laws, but could only recommend to the Trustees such measures as were deemed of advantage to the colony. The session lasted twenty-two days, and a number of recommendations were made, all of which received proper consideration from the Trustees.
Henry Parker who had served as vice-president of the colony for the past eight years, was appointed president by the Trustees on the 8th of April, 1751, to succeed Colonel William Stephens, who had resigned his office on account of his age and infirmities. Colonel Stephens, during his service (47) as president, had won the love and confidence of the whole people, and the Trustees, as an evidence of their appreciation, voted him a pension for the remainder of his life. James Habersham was appointed secretary of the colony.
One of the recommendations of the first assembly was that the militia be organized, and President Parker, immediately after his appointment, proceeded to carry out this recommendation. General Oglethorpe's regiment had been disbanded, and the colony was left almost without protection against the Indians, whose friendship was uncertain. The militia was not regular soldiers, but citizens who were organized and drilled in the use of arms, so as to be ready when called upon to defend their homes and property. Those citizens who owned as much as three hundred acres of land were ordered to appear at Savannah at a certain time, on horseback, to be organized as cavalry, and all who owned less land were to be organized as infantry. The first general muster or gathering of the militia was held in Savannah in June, 1751, when about two hundred and twenty men, infantry and cavalry, paraded under the command of Captain Noble Jones. The records of the day say "they behaved well and made a pretty appearance."
In 1752 a most important addition was made to the colony of Georgia. A body of Congregationalists from Dorchester, S.C., secured from the authorities in Georgia the grant of a large body of land lying on the Medway River, half-way between Ogeechee and Altamaha, in what is now Liberty County; and in December of that year Benjamin Baker and Samuel Bacon arrived with their families and servants to take possession. Others soon joined them, and in a few years thirty-five families of these South Carolina rice planters settled on the lands. Their Puritan ancestors had settled at Dorchester in Massachusetts over one hundred years before this time, and fifty years before the removal to Georgia their fathers had moved to South Carolina, on the Ashley River, (48) eighteen miles above Charleston, where they founded a settlement called Dorchester, after the home they had left. The good reports of the lands in Georgia induced them to leave South Carolina for a new home. They were industrious, prudent, intelligent people, fearing God and hating tyranny. They were not wanderers, but men of wealth who brought their property with them and immediately became one of the strongest communities in Georgia. They were Congregationalists, and their minister came with them. The Midway Church, which they erected a few years later, still stands, not far from the town of Dorchester. Many of the most distinguished citizens of Georgia have been descendants of these settlers at Midway.
The charter of Georgia had been granted to the Trustees for twenty-one years, and the end of time was close at hand. The Trustees were weary of their charge and refused to have the charter renewed. They sent a memorial to the Lords of the Council proposing to surrender the control of the Province of Georgia, and to deed back to his Majesty the lands which had been conveyed to them in trust for the benefit of settlers in the province. The King accepted their proposal, and the last meeting of the Trustees was held on the 23rd of June, 1752. Every bill had been paid, every claim against them had been adjusted, and all the formalities involved in surrendering their trust had been complied with. The deed of surrender was read and approved, and the seal of the corporation was attached. Then the seal was defaced, the Trustees ceased to exist, and the colony of Georgia, which had been their generous and unselfish care for so many years, passed under the direct control of the King of England and under the special charge of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations.
The Trustees were seventy-two in number, many of them noblemen of rank and men of distinction. Only six of the original number survived when they surrendered their charter (49). During the twenty-one years they had received no pay for their services, but with the purest and most unselfish motives had given their time, their energies, and their money to building up in America a colony for the poor and worthy of England. Upon the surrender of their charter, their connection with the colony ceased, and a new epoch in Georgia history is reached.
[Henry Parker, the second president of the colony of Georgia, held the office of bailiff in Savannah as early as 1734. He acted as magistrate, and when on the bench wore a purple gown edged with fur. He made a settlement on the Isle of Hope, near Savannah. In 1741, when Georgia was divided into two counties, he was made one of the assistants of William Stephens. When Stephens retired on account of bad health and age, Parker became his successor and continued in the discharge of the duties of executive until his death.]
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