Stewart County was created by the state legislature in 1830 and named for Daniel Stewart, an Indian fighter, Revolutionary War (1775-83) veteran, and the great-grandfather of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt.
Rich in historic, natural, archaeological, architectural, and cultural resources, Stewart County is forging a new economy based on tourism. This effort is emerging today as a major alternative to the traditional economies of peanuts, cotton, and pine trees.
The first Europeans in present-day Stewart County were Spanish, who moved through the area about 1639. However, legal settlement began with Georgia’s fifth land lottery held in 1827. Lee County became one of five new west Georgia counties as a result. In 1828 the state sectioned off the western part of Lee to create Randolph County, which in turn was divided on December 23, 1830, to create Stewart.
Thousands of years ago Native Americans recognized the strategic advantage of the land known today as Stewart County. During the Mississippian Period, two major mound systems were built by a sophisticated Native American society in the area. Today they are known as the Rood Creek Mounds and Singer-Moye Mounds.
Located along the fall line, Stewart County’s entire western border is composed of the Chattahoochee River. Only about twenty miles downriver from Columbus (the northerly point of large-craft navigation), Stewart County traditionally provided a link between the Piedmont region of Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico. The river became a “highway” for cotton going to Gulf of Mexico ports in the 1800s.
Before the Civil War, Stewart County was one of the most prosperous cotton-producing areas in the state. A little more than twenty years earlier, it was a major exit point during the Creek removal in Georgia. Some of the final battles against the Creek nation were fought in Stewart County.
The largest employers in Stewart County are Five Star Credit Union, Four County Healthcare (senior retirement center), Stewart Co. School System, Stewart-Webster Rural Health Clinic (walk-incare) and Core Civic/Stewart Detention Center.
Transportation Is the Story of Stewart County. Transportation is a major theme in Stewart County’s history.
The Chattahoochee River. The Chattahoochee River is the ultimate transportation route in Stewart County, since it has provided transportation for humankind throughout history and pre-history. Native Americans occupied what we call Stewart County continuously for at least 120 centuries. These Indians used the river to carry trade between the Southeastern Piedmont and the Gulf Coast.
Indian Trails. The Spanish visited the area in 1639 by this river, the first Europeans in the area. British visits began in the 18th century, and the Indian trails here were the first “roads” they used. About a century later, American troops marched through eastern Stewart County (crossing modern-day Georgia 27 about half-way between Lumpkin and Richland). This so-called “Seminole War Path” was a former Indian trail on which troops under US General Andrew Jackson marched in 1817 towards Spanish-held north Florida. There, they engaged the Seminoles in the First Seminole War.
Horses, Coaches, and Carriages. When Lumpkin was founded in 1829, transportation depended on horses. Horse-drawn carriages and coaches demanded wider roads than the Indian trails. The Bedingfield Inn, a stagecoach hotel, documents that important transition. Lumpkin was a significant crossroads of Savannah-to-Eufaula stagecoach traffic and Columbus-to-Bainbridge traffic.
Rail. Western Stewart County’s formidable geography prevented the rail from following the paths of the stagecoach trails. The east-west rail diverted to the south, reaching Cuthbert in 1859. In fact, it took a private rail company, the Americus, Preston, and Lumpkin (AP&L), to bring trains to Stewart County in 1885. New communities erupted over the next ten years, such as Richland, Louvale, and Omaha as the AP&L expanded to become the Savannah, Americus, and Montgomery (SAM).
By 1890, the new City of Richland had burgeoned due to the rail’s influence on trade. Richland rivaled the size of the County Seat of Lumpkin by then. When Columbus businessman Gunby Jordan proclaimed that the new rail from Columbus to the south would not go to Bainbridge, but rather Albany, Richland became a railroad crossing. By 1891, Richland grew beyond Lumpkin’s size and has remained larger ever since.
Highways. With the advent of automobiles, Stewart County made another transition, motivated by the designation of state and federal highways in the 1920s. US Highways 27 and 280 were both created in 1926. US Highway 27 connects Miami and Lumpkin with Ft. Wayne, Indiana. US 280 connects Birmingham, Alabama with US 80 near Savannah. These highways broadened the local perspective of the people of Stewart County. Tourism from wealthier areas of the country became a possibility as a source of income for locals.
The existence of US 27 is a case in point in how transportation has affected the county. When US 27 received its designation, local leaders began to promote nearby Providence Canyons as the “Little Grand Canyons” to tourists as far away as Ohio and Michigan. Over time, the canyons actually became a state park as a result.
Rail began to decline in the 1960s, going the way of stagecoach traffic into complete disuse by today. By the 1980s, a new system of “developmental highways,” following other state and federal routes, transitioned them to four-lane corridors meant for economic development. Georgia 520, also known as the “South Georgia Parkway,” was the first in 1988. It runs from Columbus through Richland to the Georgia coast at Jekyll Island. Then, over the last twenty years, US Highway 27 was four-laned from Columbus through Lumpkin all the way to the Florida line. Stewart County is thus one of only two counties with two developmental highways.
Car Wheels on a Dirt Road. River, trails, roads, rail, and highways have been key in the history of the county. Local leaders are exploring ways to use the county’s 288 miles’ worth of excellent local, state, and federal paved roads. Savvy visitors also enjoy the wonders of exploring the county’s 564 miles’ of dirt roads. Just remember that some of these roads are not fit even for four-wheel drive in a torrent of rain!
European American settlers to the area incorporated Lumpkin on March 30, 1829. First named the seat of Randolph County, it became the seat of Stewart County when the latter was split from Randolph in 1830. Surveyors for Georgia’s fifth land lottery, in 1827, identified a hill rising on the northwest banks of Hodchodkee Creek as a likely site for a new city.
Within the year a Baptist congregation established a church there. In 1829 the Randolph County Commission selected land lot 82 on that hill as its seat of government. The following year the state legislature created Stewart County by sectioning the northern half of Randolph, and Lumpkin became the county’s seat of government.
The town was named for U.S. congressman Wilson Lumpkin, who championed a successful Indian Removal Bill in 1830, which earned him the gratitude of citizens in the new west Georgia community. Lumpkin’s residents built a blockhouse, a thirty-foot by twenty-four-foot log structure, in the designated courthouse square as protection against hostile Native Americans still in the area.
When, in the spring of 1836, Creek Indians attempted to reoccupy the county, many whites fled to the blockhouse for safety. The battles between May and July ultimately resulted in the infamous Creek Indian Removal. Feeling less threatened, residents tore down the blockhouse and erected a two-story wood-frame courthouse in 1837.
Lumpkin grew as a commercial center served by stagecoach. Its merchants traded with the planters in the area. The area was part of the Black Belt, named for the fertile land in the upland South that supported extensive cotton plantations in the 19th century.
Lumpkin was the first small town in Georgia to complete a successful historic preservation project to encourage what has become known as heritage tourism. It restored the Bedingfield Inn, built in 1836 and located on the central square. The Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Richland is a friendly small town with a proud history and an exciting future. Rich farmland, coupled with hardworking families, fostered a prosperous agrarian economy that has endured for nearly two centuries. As the harvests grew, so did the need for transportation.
As a result, the railroad came to town in 1885,and Richland began to grow. By 1890, the town had a population of 1,500. In 1901 a devastating fire destroyed many wood frame buildings downtown. After the fire, many of the existing Victorian storefronts were constructed by Americus Development Co. The company had constructed the first brick building, a hotel and bank, in Richland in 1889.
Until the late 1960s, Richland was a crossroads for a vast rail network that serviced all types of freight. Long trains often blocked one side of town from the other, causing local residents to rush to crossings before they were cut off from accomplishing their daily tasks.
Richland’s first railroad was the APL (Americus, Preston, and Lumpkin). It later became a part of a larger network known as the SAM (Savannah, Americus, Montgomery). At one time in the late 1800s, Richland was a stopping point for 6 passenger trains each day.
The town was established as a community in 1827 by Henry Audulf, and called Chisholm (we dodged that bullet). On September 28, 1889, Richland was incorporated by an act of the Georgia General Assembly. It grew rapidly and boasted many businesses, which served the region’s farmers and townspeople.
Today, Richland’s lifestyle is a blend of Southern charm and grace coupled with a new dynamic. A state parkway, Ga. 520, links Columbus (I-185), Tifton (I-75) and Brunswick (I-95). This parkway, along with U.S. 27, offers attractive (and safer) routes to Florida without the monotony of interstate travel. The development of Georgia 520 and U.S. 27 are increasing tourism, offering optional routes for motor transport companies and driving sales tax revenues forward in the county.
Richland is the birthplace and childhood home of Bessie Lillian Gordy Carter, mother of Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States. Miss Lillian’s father, James Gordy, was the Richland postmaster for many years. Miss Lillian’s first job was sorting letters at the post office. She left home in 1920 to study nursing at the Wise Sanitarium in Plains.
Omaha was founded in the 1891 when the railroad arrived.
Fitzgerald Cemetery is located about a mile outside of town
Louvale is an unincorporated community in Stewart County, Georgia, United States. The community is located along U.S. Route 27, 8.7 miles (14.0 km) north of Lumpkin. Louvale has a post office with ZIP code 31814
Originally named "Antioch", the town developing at the terminus of the Savannah, Americus, and Montgomery (Little SAM) Railroad was renamed "Louvale" in 1886.