Thomas County History Timeline - Thomas County Museum of History


Thomas County History Timeline - Thomas County Museum of History
1540: Hernando De Soto marches north from San Luis (Tallahassee) into what will become Georgia,
crossing the “Ochlockny” River. It is believed this crossing was near Hadley’s Ferry in Grady County.
1700: The land that will become Thomas County is owned by Spain; the Spanish Trail or Camino Real
connects a series of Catholic missions stretching from St. Augustine to Pensacola.
1733: James Oglethorpe founds the settlement of Savannah and the colony of Georgia is granted a royal
charter. It is named in honor of King George II of Great Britain, the ruling monarch of the time.
1763: The Treaty of Paris ends the French-Indian War and cedes the land that includes the future
Thomas County to the British.
1787: Commissioners from Georgia and South Carolina meet in Beaufort, South Carolina, to settle
various boundary conflicts. The agreement finally placed the future Thomas County in the State of
1800: The Native American tribe of Lower Creeks control much of Spanish-owned North Florida; conflict
between European settlers and Lower Creeks along the Florida-Georgia border is common enough to
discourage mass settlement.
1814: American control of the region stretching from southwest Georgia into Alabama is settled at the
battle of Horseshoe Bend, commanded by Andrew Jackson. The Treaty of Fort Jackson forced the
Creeks to abandon most of their Alabama lands, but allowed them to keep some of their land in
1818-01-22: The United States Agency for Indian Affairs pays the Creek Nation $120,000 for the
remainder of land they occupied in southwest Georgia, including the future Thomas County.
1818-12-15: Early, Irwin, and Appling Counties are created by the Georgia legislature; the land therein
was subdivided into square land lots intended to be sold and settled.
1820: A land lottery to distribute lots of the newly acquired territory comprising southwest Georgia was
held in Georgia’s antebellum capital of Milledgeville.
1825: Thomas County is created from parts of Irwin and Decatur Counties by a bill introduced by Pebble
Hill Plantation founder Thomas Jefferson Johnson.
1826: The settlement of Thomasville is named the seat of Thomas County.
1827: The first Thomas County Courthouse is built out of logs.
1830: Population of Thomas County is 3,299 people, including 2,131 Whites, 1,168 enslaved Africans,
and 0 free Africans.
1831: The City of Thomasville is granted a governing charter by the state of Georgia.
1831: The settlement of Boston is founded nine miles east of Thomasville.
1833: Springhill Methodist Church is constructed, the first house of prayer built in Thomas County. The
original church building was on what is now Springhill Plantation.
1840: Population of Thomas County is 6,766 people, including 3,810 whites, 2,930 enslaved Africans,
and 26 free Africans.
1848: The Fletcher Institute, operated by the Methodist Church, opens in Thomasville.
1849: Baptists formally organize a religious organization in Thomasville, and make plans to build a
1850: Population of Thomas County is 10,103 people, including 4,943 whites, 5,156 enslaved Africans,
and 4 free Africans.
1853: Thomasville’s first newspaper, The Georgia Watchman, is published.
1853-04: Baptists open their new church on the corner of Smith Avenue and Dawson Street.
1854: The Thomasville Guards are formed as a local militia unit.
1857: Jerger Jewelers, believed to be the oldest jewelry store in Georgia in continuous operation, opens.
1858: The Thomas County Courthouse is completed by plantation architect John Wind.
1858: Colquitt County is created, mostly from land ceded from Thomas County.
1858: Brooks County is created from portions of Thomas and Lowndes Counties.
1859: The Thomasville town council creates additional restrictions against both enslaved and free
Africans, including a limit to three people at a gathering without a white chaperone, a five-minute limit
at any establishment where liquor is sold, and a 9PM curfew without detailed written permission from a
white person.
1860: Population of Thomas County is 10,766 people, including 4,488 whites, 6,244 enslaved Africans,
and 34 free Africans.
1860: The Thomasville Zouaves, later the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, form as a military company in
anticipation of future conflict.
1861: Passed by the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, the settlement of Boston moves a short distance to its
current location.
1861: Along with the Thomasville Guards and Ochlocknee Light Infantry, the Thomas County Volunteers,
Seventeenth Patriots, Dixie Boys, and Wiregrass Rifles form as military companies to fight in the Civil
1861: Thomas County representatives hesitantly vote in support of secession at a convention in
1861: The Atlantic & Gulf Railroad is completed, connecting Thomasville to Savannah.
1861: The Cotton Planters Bank of Georgia is incorporated in Thomasville.
1864-12: 5,000 Union prisoners of war are transported from Andersonville to Thomasville for a ten-day
1864-12: The railroad connecting Thomasville to Savannah is severed for a 35-mile stretch.
1865-05-09: Federal troops under the command of General Edward McCook, including the Second
Indiana Calvary and Seventh Kentucky Calvary, enter Thomasville and take control of government
1866: St. Luke A.M.E. Church is founded.
1866-03: Atlantic & Gulf Railroad service is restored, connecting Savannah to Thomasville.
1867: African Americans hold a mass political meeting in Thomasville, seeking a way to healthy race
relations with whites. The event included numerous leaders from the white and black communities.
1869: A railroad connecting Thomasville to Albany opens.
1870: Population of Thomas County is 14,523 people, including 6,160 whites and 8,363 African
1870-10-24: The settlement of Boston is granted a governing charter by the State of Georgia.
1874: The first Mitchell House, Thomasville’s first luxury hotel, opens on the 100 block of North Broad
1877: Henry O. Flipper of Thomasville becomes the first African American graduate of the United States
Military Academy at West Point.
1877: The Thomas County settlement of Ochlocknee, in existence since 1830, receives a governing
charter from the State of Georgia.
1879: The first telephone in Thomasville is installed, connecting the Mitchell House to H.B. Ainsworth’s
livery stable.
1879: The Confederate Monument is purchased and installed at the intersection of Broad Street and
Remington Avenue.
1880: The population of Thomas County is 20, 597.
1882: Pinetree Boulevard, a perimeter road circling Thomasville, is graded as a pleasure course for
winter visitors.
1886: The current Mitchell House Hotel building is opened, replacing an earlier structure.
1886: The Allen Normal & Industrial School opens on Lester Street for African American students,
funded as a mission of the American Missionary Association.
1889: St. Thomas Church and First Presbyterian Church are built; electricity is introduced to Thomasville.
1889: The settlement of Meigs in the far north of Thomas County, in existence since 1875, is granted a
governing charter from the State of Georgia.
1889: The Southern Enterprise and the Thomasville Times newspapers merge to create the Thomasville
1889-10: The settlement of Metcalfe is granted a governing charter from the State of Georgia.
1890: The population of Thomas County is 26,154.
1890: Glen Arven opens as a nature park.
1892: Thomasville’s Charity Hospital opens, the work of Dr. J.G. Hopkins and the Benevolent Association.
1893: La Cubana Cigar Factory is built on Clay Street as Thomasville experiences a minor cigar-rolling
boom period.
1895: Winter resident Marcus Alonzo Hanna, the senior United States Senator from Ohio, invites Ohio
Governor and presidential candidate William McKinley to his Thomasville residence on Dawson Street to
discuss campaign strategy with other southern Republicans. A year later, McKinley is elected President
of the United States.
1898-11: The settlement of McDonald on the border of Brooks County changes its name to Pavo and
receives a governing charter from the State of Georgia. It is half in Thomas County, half in Brooks.
1899: McKinley returns to Thomasville as President, fulfilling a promise he made during his 1895 visit.
1900: The population of Thomas County is 31,076.
1900: The settlement of Barwick, also half in Thomas County and half in Brooks, receives a governing
charter from the State of Georgia.
1901: The Thomasville Public School system is formed and Thomasville High School opens on the
Fletcherville site of South Georgia Agricultural College, which was on the same site as the Fletcher
1901: The settlement of Coolidge, in existence since 1874, receives a governing charter from the State of
1901-12: The first “moving picture” show in Thomasville is projected at the house at 128 Washington
Street, unofficially known as “Mr. Hortman’s Magical Theatre.”
1901: Clay Street School, Thomasville’s first public education institution for African Americans, opens at
the corner of Clay and Pine Streets.
1903: Millpond Plantation is constructed for Jeptha Wade III, owner of Western Union. It is one of the
first modern, twentieth century plantations.
1905: Thomas County attains its current boundaries with the creation of Grady County from the western
portion of Thomas County and the eastern portion of Decatur County.
1906: The “Sandy Bottom” neighborhood on West Jackson Street becomes a thriving African American
business district.
1907: Broad Street is paved with bricks between Remington and Jefferson, as are Jefferson and Jackson
between Crawford and Madison.
1907: The United Methodist Church purchases the old La Cubana Cigar Factory and moves the Vashti
School to the Clay Street property.
1910: The population of Thomas County is 29,071.
1910: Land to the northwest of Thomasville is purchased by John F. Archbold of New York, son of
Standard Oil executive John D. Archbold. He names it Chinquapin Plantation.
1910: The Broad Street Theatre opens, Thomasville’s first modern movie house.
1912: Aviation pioneer Robert Fowler lands the first airplane in Thomasville in a field off of Clay Street
while on a Los Angeles – Jacksonville flight.
1912-10-15: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show performs in Thomasville in Mallette Heights. The show is
billed as Bill Cody’s “farewell to Thomasville.” A performer died while here, spurring an investigation.
1915: A new East Side School building is built in MacIntyre Park, currently home to the Thomasville
Center for the Arts.
1917: The five-story Upchurch Building opens as the “Masonic Building” on the 100 block of North Broad
Street. Dedication festivities were extended through March, and included the outside of the building
being scaled by a daredevil known as “the Human Fly.”
1919: Flowers Baking Company is founded and a new factory is built on Madison.
1920: The population of Thomas County is 33,044.
1920: In advance of the influenza epidemic, Thomasville closes public schools and other government
buildings as a preventative measure.
1921: The Women’s Study Class of Thomasville successfully lobbies the city council to plant camphor
trees and kudzu vines along Broad Street, along the Dixie Highway, and around the Old Cemetery
between Broad and Madison.
1921-05-01: The Rotary Club officially charters a chapter in Thomasville.
1922-04: The first Rose Show is held at Neel Brothers Department Store on the Mitchell House block.
1922: Concrete is used to pave Remington Avenue, and North Broad Street from Jefferson to Calhoun.
1922-12-25: WPAX Radio Station makes its first broadcast, becoming the 3rd radio station in Georgia.
1924: Three Tom’s Inn, Thomasville’s first luxury hotel built since the Masury in 1889, opens on Gordon
1925: John D. Archbold Memorial Hospital opens, a gift of Chinquapin Plantation owner John F. Archbold
in honor of his deceased father.
1925: Thomasville High School opens a new building in MacIntyre Park for white students, fronting
Glenwood Drive.
1925: Douglass High School opens between Alexander and Forrest Street for African-American students;
it was originally known as Dewey City Public School. At the same time, Normal Park Elementary School
opens for grades 1-6.
1930: The population of Thomas County is 32,612.
1930: Academy Award winning actress Joanne Woodward is born in Thomasville. Her father, Wade
Woodward, Jr., is the principal of Eastside School.
1933: The Allen Normal & Industrial School closes after a sharp cut in funding from the American
Missionary Association.
1933-10-03: Highly ranked professional boxer W.L. “Young” Stribling of Ochlocknee dies in a motorcycle
1939: Thomasville Municipal Building constructed as a project of the W.P.A., replacing City Hall at the
corner of Jackson and Crawford.
1940: The population of Thomas County is 31,289.
1941: Thomasville’s Bi-Racial Committee forms as an effort to improve education and relations amongst
all members of the community. Early members included Will Watt and Mel Goodwin from the white
community, and Forest Monroe and C.W. McIver from the black community.
1942: The Thomasville Army Airbase opens, eventually becoming Thomasville Municipal Airport.
1943: Finney General Hospital opens on Pinetree Boulevard, one of sixty Army hospitals built to care for
sick and injured World War II soldiers, and eventually came to house German prisoners of war.
1946: Finney General Hospital becomes a Veterans Administration hospital for infirmed soldiers.
1947-03-28: The Confederate Monument is moved from the intersection of Broad and Remington to the
grounds of the Thomas County Courthouse.
1948: The Veterans Administration Hospital becomes a domiciliary for retired soldiers.
1948-04-02: Torrential downpours bring record flooding to Thomas County. The Confederate Bridge
over the Ochlocknee River is washed out, leaving thousands without access to markets. Flowers Baking
Company and others fly and ship bread and other commodities over the flooded river.
1949: The Hotel Tosco, formerly the Masury Hotel on the southeast corner of Jefferson and Broad
Street, and the neighboring Brighton Hotel, are razed and replaced with the Hotel Scott and J.C. Penny’s.
1950: The population of Thomas County is 33,932.
1952: The Thomas County Historical Society is formed at a public meeting at the Thomas County
1954: Birdwood Junior College, the first Primitive Baptist College, opens at the former plantation of
Cameron Forbes on Pinetree Boulevard.
1954: President Dwight D. Eisenhower makes his first of six visits to Thomasville
1957: Douglass High School seniors vote Andrew Young, Reverend of Bethany Congregational Church
and future mayor of Atlanta, as their favorite Community Advisor.
1958: The Thomas County school system consolidates into Central High School for white students and
Magnolia High School for black students.
1960: The population of Thomas County is 34,319.
1961: Between Remington Avenue and Jefferson Street, Broad Street is widened by nine feet and
modern, tall-mounted, long-arm mercury vapor lights replace the “white way” lights.
1961: Fletcherville School is dismantled.
1962: Acclaimed pianist Van Cliburn performs at the Municipal Auditorium.
1963: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People charters a chapter in
1964: Ladybird Johnson stops by the Jackson Street depot on a whistle-stop campaign tour.
1964: Jacqueline Kennedy stays with her friends Jock & Betty Whitney at Whitney’s Greenwood
Plantation following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
1965: Vice-President Hubert Humphrey visits Thomasville, signs autographs, then goes quail hunting at
Mardreland Plantation.
1965: Veterans Administration Domiciliary at former Finney General Hospital closes.
1965-06: 88 African-American students apply for admission to white-only schools in Thomasville.
1966: The Veterans Administration Domiciliary becomes Southwestern State Hospital, a rehabilitation
institute for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
1966-06: Thomasville Landmarks, Inc., is officially chartered as a preservation organization. Carol Driver
is credited with conceiving the organization in 1964. Charter members include Emily Jerger, Josephine
Craig, Michael Herndon, Robert Jinright, Shirley Altman, Fran Helm, and Ben Grace. Their first office is
established at the Emily Joyner House at the corner of Jerger and Crawford Streets, on the property of
Mildred Roberts.
1967: Thomasville and Thomas County pass rule to only select juries from people who own property in
Thomas County.
1968: Jacqueline Kennedy returns to Thomasville for another visit to Greenwood Plantation. On this
trip, there were rumors she would marry a British nobleman; the rumors proved to be mere gossip.
1968: The Thomasville-Thomas County Vietnam Memorial Board is unveiled on the grounds of the
Chamber of Commerce listing deaths and casualties of Thomas County soldiers in the Vietnam War,
which was still being fought at the time.
1968: The T.C. Mitchell House, a.k.a. the “Youth Center” on the southeast corner of Remington and
Dawson is demolished along with several other houses to make way for Clark’s Department Store on the
east side of the 200 block of South Dawson.
1968: Thomasville Landmarks places its first historic plaque on a restored house, the Hardy Bryan House
at 312 North Broad Street. The 1833 home eventually becomes headquarters for the preservation
1970: The population of Thomas County is 34,515.
1970: The Thomas County and Thomasville school systems open for their first year of fully integrated
1970: Brookwood School, Rose City Christian School in Thomasville, and Ravenwood Academy in Meigs
open for their first year of private education.
1971: The Thomas County Board of Commissioners rejects allowing a community college to be built on
County Line Road, creating a major conflict between those who supported and opposed the project.
1971: The State of Georgia budgets $50,000 to restore the Lapham-Patterson House and convert it into
a museum, and $150,000 to restore Thomasville’s “Tockwotten” district.
1972: The Thomas County Museum of History opens at 725 N. Dawson Street.
1973: The Rose Theater is demolished.
1974: The Thomasville High School Bulldogs football team, led by future NFL running back William
Andrews, wins the national championship.
1975: Thomasville High School opens a new building across Jackson Street, bounded by Remington on
the South and Hansell on the west. The old high school building becomes MacIntyre Park Middle School.
1975: The Lapham-Patterson House officially opens as a museum.
1978: First Lady Rosalyn Carter is the Grand Marshall of the annual Rose Parade down Broad Street,
accompanied by her husband, President Jimmy Carter.
1980: The population of Thomas County is 38,098.
1980: Julie Bryan of Thomasville wins the Junior Miss USA Pageant.
1980: Thomasville Landmarks publishes Landmarks: The Architecture of Thomasville and Thomas
County, Georgia by William R. Mitchell, Jr.
1982: Thomasville becomes an early Georgia Main Street community.
1985: The Thomas County Historical Society publishes A Place Apart, a pictorial history of Thomas
1986: Earl Williams, Sr., becomes Thomasville’s first elected African-American mayor.
1987: Thomasville holds its first annual Victorian Christmas celebration downtown.
1988: Future Heisman Trophy winner and New York Knicks point guard Charlie Ward, Jr. graduates from
Central High School.
1990: The population of Thomas County is 38,986.
1993: The Thomas County Central High School Yellow Jackets defeat the Thomasville High School
Bulldogs with a goal line stand in the final minutes to win the Georgia state championship, a game
covered by ESPN and other national media.
1994: Camille Payne becomes Thomasville’s first female mayor.
1996: Longtime Harper Elementary School principal Mary Grubbs carries the Olympic Torch down the
Courthouse steps as it passes through Thomasville on the way to Atlanta.
1998: Downtown Thomasville wins a Great American Main Street award for the restoration of the
commercial district to its original beauty.
2000: The population of Thomas County is 42,737.
2006: Scholars Academy, a college preparatory division of Thomasville High School, opens for its first
school year.
2006: Jack Hadley’s Black History Museum opens to the public at the former Douglass High School.
2009: CoCroft’s Music Store on the 100 block of South Broad Street closes after 105 years of business.
2010: The population of Thomas County is 44,720.
2010: Mary Jo Beverly becomes Thomas County’s first female commission chairman.
2010: The Thomas County Judicial Center opens, replacing the 1858 Courthouse as a place for legal
2010: Following state budget cuts, the Thomas County Historical Society agrees to save Thomasville’s
only National Historic Landmark, the Lapham-Patterson House.
2010-10-01: 20,000 people silently line the sidewalks from Thomas County Central High School, down
Pinetree Boulevard to Smith Avenue for the funeral procession for C.P.O. Blake McLendon, a
Thomasville native who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
2012: Archbold Memorial Hospital opens a new 7-story wing, making it the tallest building in Thomas
2013: The 1858 Thomas County Courthouse re-opens fully restored, operating as a center for county
government business.

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