Home / History

History of Emanuel County

From Emanuel Memories, 1776-1976. . .

Some 250 years ago the Lower Creek Indians lived in the territory of Georgia now known as Emanuel County. They hunted deer and other wild game for food and pelts; held their War and Green Corn dances: fished the Ohoopee and the Cannoochee rivers; roamed the forest; loved, hated and passed on, leaving evidence of their arrowheads and other relics still found today.

Located in the Northeast portion of Emanuel County, the oldest man-made structure in Emanuel County is believed to be the long, low dam at McKinney's Pond. There is no record of the erection of McKinney's Pond Dam. Tradition has it that the stream was dammed by beavers first and that the Indians hauled dirt to the site to strengthen and improve the structure. Later white men did the same.

When all this occurred no one knows, but specialists with the State of Georgia have estimated the ages of the trees now growing on the dam to be over 300 years old.

Eventually, white men arrived in the area seeking furs, gold, adventure or a place to settle. Drawn by the prospect of land of their own and beneficial fur trade, early settlers from Savannah and the Carolinas began to move westward and southward primarily along water routes.

By 1741 it was deemed in the interest of good government to divided the Georgia Colony at Savannah into two counties: Frederica and Savannah. The latter included all settlements on the Savannah River and on both banks of the Great Ogeechee River. This two counties were subdivided into districts. Still later these districts were divided into parishes for establishment of religious worship according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.

In 1777 the parishes were replaced by counties, this being ratified by the first State Constitutional Convention in Savannah. The section of Georgia now known as Emanuel County became a part of Washington County. From Washington County, at a later date, was formed Montgomery County with its county seat at one time located within five miles of Swainsboro.

Official creation of Emanuel County was in 1812, when the Georgia Legislature authorized it to be cut from territory that was part of Bulloch and Montgomery counties. The idea for forming the county is attributed to Stephen Swain, who had been elected in 1812 to represent Montgomery County in the Georgia Senate.

Swain was the youngest son of Stephen Swain Sr., a veteran of the Revolutionary War who had moved to Georgia in 1790. The elder Swain received a grant of 200 acres of land on the Ohoopee River in old Washington County.

In November 1812, Swain introduced a bill to create the new county. The bill passed with no opposition.

Emanuel County was named for one of Georgia's most obscure and least known Governors, David Emanuel. The son of John Emanuel, the family came to Georgia from Lunenburg County, Virginia around 1756.

The City of Swainsboro is the county seat and is named for Stephen Swain.