ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Historic Sites of Bainbridge, GA
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Historic Sites of Bainbridge, GA
Structures dating from the antebellum era,
including this one-time inn, ring the Willis Park, the
central square of Bainbridge.
The clock tower of the historic
Decatur County Courthouse
rises above the charming city
of Bainbridge, Georgia.
Willis Park in Bainbridge
Bainbridge boasts one of the
most beautiful squares in the
South. It features fountains,
statues, cannon and flowers.
Bainbridge, Georgia - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
History on Georgia's Flint River
|Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: July 6, 2012
Historic Sites in Southwest Georgia
Historic Home in Bainbridge
Bainbridge is noted for its
beautiful tree-lined streets
and large array of antebellum
and Victorian homes.
Fort Hughes Monument
A monument commemorates
Fort Hughes, built in 1817
and the scene of a battle of
the First Seminole War.
Oak City Cemetery
Confederate soldiers and
early settlers are among
those buried in historic Oak
Bainbridge is one of the most historic and
charming cities in the South. It is located on
the Flint River in Southwest Georgia.
Archaeological research has shown that
Bainbridge and the surrounding area has
been a focal point of human activity for
thousands of years. Some of the oldest
Native American artifacts found in Georgia
have come from nearby Spring Creek,
indicating the presence of early "Paleo Man"
in the vicinity long before the birth of Christ.
In 1948, archaeologists from the University of
Georgia excavated the Lake Douglas Mound
on the outskirts of Bainbridge. Their work
revealed a cache of restorable pottery
vessels, polished stone celts, conch shells
and 22 human burials. The mound was
found to date from the Weedon Island time
period (200 A.D. - 900 A.D.).
The first known visit to the area by Europeans
came in 1540 when the Spanish expedition
of Hernando de Soto left his winter campsite
at present-day Tallahassee and marched
north. While there is considerable dispute
over the exact route of his march, John R.
Swanton and the U.S. DeSoto Expedition
presented a convincing case in 1936 that the
conquistador passed through or near
Swanton reasoned, with considerable logic,
that the Spanish likely followed the oldest
known Indian path through the region. This
trail, called the "Pensacola to St. Augustine
Road" by the British who mapped it in 1778,
crossed the Flint River at Bainbridge. The
Flint at the city does closely resemble the
river described in the surviving accounts of
the DeSoto Expedition.
By the time of the American Revolution,
Bainbridge was the site of a Lower Creek
Indian village called Pucknawhitla. A white
trader named James Burges (or Burgess)
had established a trading post here and
married the daughter of the village chief.
When the British passed through in 1778,
they gave the name of the settlement as
The frontier trading post continued to operate
until the death of Burges, sometime in the
early 19th century. Its site was shown as an
"old settlement" on the original land lot
surveys, indicating that it had been long
abandoned by 1819-1820.
In the winter of 1813-1814, after a war party
from his village was defeated by William
McIntosh and U.S.-allied warriors from
Coweta at the Battle of Uchee, Alabama, the
Lower Creek chief Neamathla (Eneah
Emathla) relocated his village of Fowltown
from near Albany to a site south of what is
now Bainbridge. Neamathla was not a party
to the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which in 1814
ceded all of Southwest Georgia to the United
Because he had not signed the Fort Jackson
treaty, Neamathla did not consider himself
bound by it. By the late summer of 1817, U.S.
troops had begun building Fort Scott 18
miles down the Flint River from Bainbridge.
The chief warned their commander, Major
David E. Twiggs, not to cross to the south
side of the Flint River or to cut timber there.
The land was his, he told Twiggs, and he
was "directed by the Powers Above to defend
The U.S. Army decided to overcome
Neamathla's resistance by seizing him. On
November 21, 1817, Major Twiggs led 250
men across the Flint River at the Bainbridge
crossing and tried to surround Fowltown. The
Indian warriors resisted and a sharp
skirmish took place.
The army tried again on November 23, 1817,
when Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle led 300 men
to Fowltown. The soldiers found the village
abandoned and were loading Indian corn
into a wagon when Neamathla and his
warriors suddenly emerged from the swamp
that nearly surrounded the town and opened
fire. The battle that followed lasted nearly 20
minutes, only ending when the chief and his
men vanished back into the swamp.
The first U.S. casualty of the Seminole Wars
was a fifer from the 7th U.S. Infantry named
Aaron Hughes. He was killed at the Battle of
Fowltown and his body was brought away by
the soldiers when they left the village.
Arbuckle fell back to the high bluff overlooking
the Flint River crossing. There, on the site
where Bainbridge would later grow, he built a
small blockhouse that he named Fort
Hughes after the unfortunate army musician.
A garrison of 40 men was left behind under
Captain John N. McIntosh to hold the fort
when Arbuckle and the main body returned to
McIntosh and his men held Fort Hughes for
only three weeks, but during that time fended
off a major attack by Creek, Seminole and
African or "Black Seminole" warriors.
The site of Fort Hughes is marked by a
monument and preserved today at the J.D.
Chason Memorial Park in Bainbridge. Please
click here to learn more.
The first settlers began to drift into the area
not long after the First Seminole War ended
in 1818. The bluff where Fort Hughes stood
was an obvious site for a settlement and
when Daniel O. Neel arrived with his wife and
8 children in 1822, he was quick to grasp that
One of the few early settlers who could read
and write, Neel was elected the first clerk of
the Superior Court when Decatur County was
established by the Georgia Legislature in
1823. He learned that the lot containing the
high level land had been drawn in the
Georgia Land Lottery by William Harper.
Harper then lived in nearby Jackson County,
Florida, so Neel went to him and negotiated
the purchase of 250 acres for $20. He then
surveyed off 50 acres of this parcel as a town
site and sold it to the Inferior Court for $100.
The court then auctioned off the lots and the
City of Bainbridge came into being.
Much of Neel's early handiwork can still be
seen in Bainbridge. The beautiful central
square of the city - Willis Park - was part of
his original design.
When it was founded, Bainbridge was far off
in the wilderness, but in 1827 tthe arrival of
steamboats on the Flint, Chattahoochee and
Apalachicola Rivers changed everything and
fast. Bainbridge quickly emerged as a port for
farmers and plantation owners along the
Flint River and the town boomed.
By the time of the Civil War, Bainbridge was
one of the largest cities in Southwest
Georgia. The riverboats brought prosperity
and stores, banks, law offices and an
elaborate inn surrounded the central square.
After Georgia seceded in 1861, the boats
also carried the men and boys of the town off
to fight for the Confederacy. Monuments on
Willis Park memorialize their sacrifice, along
with the sacrifices of local soldiers who
served in other wars.
The steamboats gave life and prosperity to
Bainbridge, well into the 20th century. The
bell of the John W. Callahan, a boat owned
by a local businessman, can be seen at
Willis Park. A historical marker on the river
pays tribute to the days of the steamboats.
Bainbridge today is a beautiful and charming
community, known for its tree-lined streets
and elegant old antebellum and Victorian
homes. The town continues to revolve
around its central square (Willis Park), which
is beautifully maintained. The high clock
tower of the Victorian-era Decatur County
Courthouse rises above one corner and the
surrounding blocks are lined with historic
buildings, many of them over 100 years old.
Click here to visit the Chamber of Commerce
page for guides to shopping, historic homes
and more. Also be sure to follow the links
The Flint River
This historical marker on the
banks of the Flint River details
the role played by steamboats
in the development of the city.
Outdoor Train Museum
A steam locomotive is among
the large scale artifacts on
display at the outdoor Train
Museum in the Flint River