History Of Augusta GA
Augusta was first used by Native Americans as a place to cross the Savannah River, because of Augusta's location on the fall line.
In 1735, two years after James Oglethorpe founded Savannah, he sent a detachment of troops on a journey up the Savannah River. He gave them an order to build at the head of the navigable part of the river. The job fell into the hands of Nobel Jones, who created the settlement to provide a first line of defense against the Spanish and the French. Oglethorpe then named the town Augusta, in honor of Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
The town was laid out on the flat slopes of the Savannah River, just east of the sand hills that would come to be known as "Summerville". The townspeople got along peacefully most of the time with the surrounding tribes of Creek and Cherokee Indians.
In 1739, construction began on a road to connect Augusta to Savannah. This made it possible for people to reach Augusta by horse, rather than by boat, and more people began to migrate inland to Augusta. Later, in 1750, Augusta's first church, St. Paul's, was built near Fort Augusta. It became the leader of the local parish.
Under Georgia's new constitution, a new political structure was laid out in 1777, and Augusta's parish government would be replaced by a new county government, Richmond County, which was named after the Duke of Richmond.
American Revolution and the 1800s
During the American Revolution, Savannah fell to the British. This left Augusta as the new state capital and a new prime target of the British. By January 31, 1779, Augusta was captured by Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell. But Campbell soon withdrew, as American troops were gathering on the opposite shore of the Savannah River. Augusta again became the state capital, but not for long. Augusta fell into British hands once more before the end of the war.
From then until the American Civil War, with the establishment of the Augusta Canal, Augusta became a leader in the production of textiles, gunpowder, and paper. The Georgia Railroad was built by local contractors Fannin, Grant & Co in 1845 giving Augusta a rail link to Atlanta, which connected to the Tennessee River at Chattanooga, Tennessee, thus providing access to the Mississippi River. The cost-savings of this link from the middle of the country to the Atlantic Ocean via the Savannah River increased trade considerably. Augusta had a population of 12,493 by 1860, being one of 102 U.S. cities at the time to have a population of over 10,000, and making it the second largest city in Georgia.
Civil War to World War II
Originally, Augustans welcomed the idea of the Civil War. The new Confederate Powderworks were the only permanent structures constructed and completed by the Confederacy. Over 2000 Augustans went away to fight in the war, but war did not set into the minds of Augustans until the summer of 1863. It was in that year that thousands of refugees from areas threatened by invasion came crowding into Augusta, leading to shortages in housing and provisions. Next came the threatening nearness of General Sherman's advancing army, causing panic in the streets of the once-quiet town. However, the city was never burned to the ground.
In 1828, the Georgia General Assembly granted a formal charter for the Medical Academy of Georgia, and the school began training physicians in two borrowed rooms of the City Hospital. By 1873, an affiliation was made with the University of Georgia, and the school became the Medical Department of the University. The school would become the Medical College of Georgia in 1956. In 1914, University Hospital was founded near the Medical College, forming the anchor of a heavily developed medical sector in the city.
Unlike most Southern cities, Postbellum life for Augusta was very prosperous. By the beginning of the 20th century, Augusta had become one of the largest inland cotton markets in the world. A new military cantonment, named Camp Hancock, opened nearby during World War I. In 1916 a large fire destroyed over 700 buildings in the city including many of its finest residences.
In 1927, Owen Robertson Cheatham founded the lumber company Georgia Pacific in Augusta, before it moved to Portland, OR, and later to Atlanta.
Prior to World War II, the U.S. Army constructed a new fort near Richmond County, Camp Gordon, which was finished a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many new soldiers were brought to this camp to train to go off to war. Within the few months after WWII, many of the GIs at Camp Gordon had been sent back home, and the importance of the army in the community seemed to almost come to an end.
Augusta's Golden Age
The American Civil Rights Movement touched Augusta as it did the rest of the United States. In 1961, soul musician Ray Charles canceled a scheduled performance at the Bell Auditorium when he learned that the black attendees would be segregated from the whites and forced to sit in the balcony. A few days after the Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings in May 1970, six African-American students were shot in the back for looting by police for civil rights demonstrations. Racial tensions flared into a full blown riot with many buildings being set on fire.
Beginning in the late 1970s, businesses started leaving downtown Augusta for suburban shopping malls. That started a trend of urban abandonment and decay. To counter this trend, city politicians and business leaders promoted revitalizing Augusta's hidden riverfront (obscured by a levee) into a beautiful Riverwalk with parks, an amphitheater, hotels, museums, and art galleries. The first segment of The Riverwalk was opened in the late 1980s and later expanded in the early 1990s. However, the renaissance of the riverfront did not appear to be spilling over into Augusta's main street, Broad Street, as more businesses were leaving and more storefronts boarded up. Broad Street is the second widest Broad street in America.
In 1995, members of the art community and downtown boosters started a monthly event called First Friday. It was a night festival whose aim was to bring crowds back to downtown. It featured local bands, street performers, and art galleries with extended evening hours. Since 1995, more businesses have returned to downtown, including many new restaurants and bars. A block of upper Broad Street has been named Artists Row and is home to several locally owned art galleries. First Friday still continues today in addition to many revitalization efforts to downtown. Enterprise Mill was recently renovated to include business offices and apartments.
The Augusta Museum of History highlights Augusta's history and famous natives and Historic Augustan's helped preserve architecturally important sites throughout the city. Plans for redeveloping Downtown Augusta include a new arena, the TEE Center, which will seat 15,000 people, new hotels and condos next to the Augusta Riverwalk, and developments that include Telfair Station, a development that will hold a James Brown Cafe & Museum, houses and offices, and possibly an IMAX Theater.
In 1996, the City of Augusta and Richmond County consolidated to form one government - Augusta-Richmond County. The consolidated government consists of a mayor and 10 Augusta-Richmond County commissioners. Eight commissioners represent specific districts, while the other two represent super districts comprised of the other eight.
Politics in Augusta often tend to be racially based, and several former holders of office have been the centers of controversy. An Augusta State Senator, Charles Walker (D), was convicted on numerous federal felony charges in 2005 and was removed from his position. Around the same time, former Augusta State Representative Robin Williams (R) was also convicted on federal fraud charges. Linda Schrenko, a former Georgia State School Superintendent who is from nearby Columbia County, recently plead guilty to numerous federal corruption charges for embezzling state education money and funneling it to her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign and for plastic surgery. She received an eight-year prison sentence for her crimes. A former mayor, Ed McIntyre, was convicted of bribery and extortion charges in the mid 1980s regarding the sale of city-owned riverfront real estate. Augusta and Richmond County also have a long history of Democratic Party political machines such as The Crackers, which had a monopoly on local politics for much of the first half of the 20th century. The Southside Mafia was a political machine that dominated county government for much of the latter half of the 20th century prior to consolidation in 1996.
In early 2006 an organization founded by Woody Merry, CSRAHelp, filed suit against the consolidated government. The lawsuit, Merry v. Williams, was an attempt to force recalcitrant County Commissioners to perform the duties for which they had been elected.
Augusta is the largest city within a four-county metropolitan area that straddles the states of Georgia and South Carolina and is known as The Augusta-Aiken metropolitan statistical area. The metropolitan area includes Augusta-Richmond County and Columbia County in Georgia and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina. The US Census bureau estimates as of 2005 that the metropolitan area has 520,332 residents.
Augusta is also the primary city within the CSRA Regional Development Center. The CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) is composed of 14 counties and 41 cities all within East Central Georgia. The CSRA is not a metropolitan statistical area, but rather a state economic partnership entity that offers member counties and cities assistance in planning, economic development, business lending, information technology, and government services.