Long before the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his company first set foot on Decatur County soil in 1540, the Seminole Indians occupied the bluffs along the Flint River. DeSoto's expedition traversed the area in search of gold and crossed the Flint River at or near the present city of Bainbridge.|
In the early 1700's, several battles occurred between the Creek Indians and the Spanish; later between the Indians and the English. Both the Spanish and the English laid claim to the territory which eventually resulted in armed clashes between the two nations. This section of Georgia was labeled as "debatable land" since it was claimed by both nations. In 1765, the present site of Bainbridge was an Indian village known as Pucknawhitla. As early as 1778, it became known as Burgess Town when a trader named James Burgess established a trading post there.
The next notable occurrence took place after the War of 1812. Southwest Georgia was ceded to the United States by the Creek Indians in a treaty dictated by Andrew Jackson. The treaty met with opposition when presented to the neighboring Seminole Indians and hostilities broke out in 1818 at Fort Hughes (in Bainbridge) and at Fort Scott (15 miles south of Bainbridge). General Jackson and troops from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia came to their relief to defeat the Seminole tribe. Another Fort known to the area was Camp Recovery. This fort was built when a fever was spreading through the troops at Fort Scott and served as a temporary base for the Army until the fever was brought under control.
In 1823, the area was cut off from Early County and stretched from the Chattahoochee River to within three miles of the present Thomasville, Georgia. The county was formed by the Georgia Legislature and named for Commodore Stephen Decatur, who was born in 1779 in Sinnepuxent, Maryland and became a naval hero during the War of 1812 when he captured the British chip Macedonian, one of the enemy's best vessels. In 1824, Bainbridge, first known as Fort Hughes, was named for Commodore William Bainbridge, Commander of "Old Ironsides" during the War 1812. Land for a county seat was purchased in 1826 and the city itself was incorporated in 1829 and soon became one of the river towns of Georgia. A great deal of port activity was developed whereby farm and forest products were shipped down the Flint and Apalachicola Rivers to the bay. Two locally owned steamship companies involved in the early river traffic were Thronateeska Navagation and the Callahan Lines. Thronateeska operated along the Flint and Chattahoochee, while the Callahan Lines route ran from the Flint to the Gulf. The heyday of river trade was just before the Civil War, when Decatur County had two cotton factories and was trying desperately to get a railroad.
After the turn of the century, Bainbridge and Decatur County increased its agricultural production and was able to get additional support from the government in the development of a pilot training center. The present day air-strip was constructed to train pilots on the newly developed jet fighters. This air base provided a boost to the local economy which was declining in the 1940's and 50's.
The Southwest Georgia area is recognized as the State's most prolific producer of agricultural and forestry products. Earnings derived from agricultural and forestry production form a significant portion of the income of most area counties, as a high percentage of the area land consists of prime farm land. Peanuts are the mainstay of agriculture, followed by other crops such as tobacco, cotton, corn, soybeans, vegetables, small grain, livestock and pecans.
The next major industrial turn came with the addition of Amoco Fabrics and Fibers Company in 1973. This national organization built a 1,800,000 square foot facility that employed over 1,000 people. While Amoco has continued to grow, the city's port, retail trade and other industrial facilities have also flourished to provide stready growth to the area during the last ten years.
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