Goose Pond – Encyclopedia of New Georgia

The Goose Pond community in Oglethorpe County was named for a pond of at least fifty acres located near a small creek that connects to Georgia’s Broad River. Tradition has it that the pond takes its name from the wild geese that used to gather there during the winter. Goose Pond always retained occupants, but its peak as a prosperous plantation and political community began to decline during the 19th century.

The site was originally part of the 1773 “new purchase” or “surrender lands” obtained from the Creek and Cherokee Indians. It became part of Wilkes County when the legislature created this political division in 1777. An early reference to the area mentions a William Candler, Whig supporter and future representative for Richmond County, who in October 1773 was to receive 100 acres at from an abandoned field. over Goose Pond Creek if he brought settlers to the land within nine months. Records do not indicate that Candler occupied his properties.

Goose Pond Community

A few immigrants settled in the Goose Pond area before 1780, including North Carolinian patriot and revolutionary Elijah Clarke, and Holman and John Freeman from Virginia. But the American Revolution (1775-1783) disrupted the settlement of Goose Pond, as of all of Wilkes County. A later arrival, George Mathews of Augusta County, Virginia, spearheaded colonization immediately after this conflict. Mathews became familiar with Wilkes County when he served in Georgia during the final years of the Revolution. He petitioned the General Assembly for numerous grants of land, and in 1783 purchased a disputed title to an 800-acre parcel south of the Broad River and west of Long Creek, known as Goose Pond. Its original site later became known as Mattox Farm.

Mathews shared news of the rich soil and economic opportunities on the Georgia border with friends and neighbors in Virginia. Many decided to move their families to Goose Pond as part of the migration from Virginia to the Wilkes frontier during the 1780s and 1790s. Among the emigrants from Virginia were the families Taliaferro, McGeehee, Harvie, Johnson, Marks, Meriwether and Lewis. They formed a cohesive community based on Virginian cultural practices as well as marital, kinship, and business ties that extended to Petersburg, Georgia, and the Edgefield district of South Carolina.

McGeehee House, ca.  1967

In 1793 the community of Goose Pond became part of the newly formed county of Oglethorpe. Its inhabitants actively influenced the economic, religious and political developments of the state. Most Virginia settlers established an economy of tobacco plantations and grain production. They helped introduce a wider practice of slavery to the Georgian frontier and intensified this practice as cotton production grew in popularity in the early 1800s. Residents grew these crops so vigorously that in 1827 most of the original pond had been drained for agriculture. Planters and farmers in the Goose Pond community created a large market for their crops, making contacts in Augusta and Charleston, South Carolina.

The area was the site of a Methodist revival in the early 1800s when itinerant preachers such as Bishop Francis Asbury spoke in the community and stayed as guests of the James Marks family. The first camp meeting in the area was held in 1801 or 1802. Goose Pond also produced prominent state and national leaders. Some of the most influential residents or individuals closely associated with this community included Meriwether Lewis, who lived there as a teenager, George Mathews, Benjamin Taliaferro, George R. Gilmer, General David Meriwether, William Wyatt Bibb, and William Harris Crawford.

Gilmer Childhood Home

Gilmer Childhood Home
Photograph by Carol Ebel

Goose Pond gradually experienced economic and population decline in the late 19th century due to soil depletion caused by tobacco and cotton production; the opening of the territories of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas; distance from railways; and the Civil War (1861-1865).

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