Churches of Jones County
Jones County, created in 1807 as the 32nd county in the state, has a rich history. The fertility of the land made it prime land for cotton in the early 19th century and has continued its agricultural prosperity until the present day. Several important Indian trails and trading paths came through the area. One of these (the Lower Creek Trading Path) evolved into a major segment of the Federal Road linking Washington DC with New Orleans. The territory was distributed to early settlers in 202.5 acre increments, with preference given to Revolutionary War veterans. The county is named for James Jones, a protege of Georgia Governor, James Jackson. Clinton was the fist county seat and has been linked to two early prominent personages, DeWitt Clinton and his uncle George Clinton.
Following the war of 1812, a great influx of settlers poured into Jones County and by 1820 Jones was the most densely populated county in Georgia with approximately 16,000 people of which 7,000 were slaves. Clinton had a population of 850 people making it the fourth largest town in Georgia. The prosperity of Clinton between 1810 and 1830 gave rise to many impressive residences, many of which still survive. In 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Clinton during his 1825 tour of Georgia. However, the opening of more Indian lands west of the Ocmulgee River led to an exodus of land hungry settlers and Macon became the population of Central Georgia. By 1860, Jones County’s white population had declined to just over three thousand.
Nonetheless, important gains had been made in the antebellum period, both educationally and industrially. The Clinton Female Seminary, founded in the early 1830s by Thomas Bog Slade, later provided the nucleus for what would become Macon’s Wesleyan College. Samuel Griswold prospered as a cotton gin manufacturer and in 1849 created the industrial hamlet Griswoldville on the Central of Georgia Railway in southern Jones County. During the Civil War (1861-65), Samuel Griswold’s pistol works supplied the Confederacy with more sidearms than any other private firm. In November of 1864, the only major engagement of the Savannah Campaign was fought at Griswoldville, as Jones County was devastated by Major General William T. Sherman’s march to the sea.
The aftermath of the war brought political turmoil, continued population decline, and plummeting land prices. The concentration of population shifted to those along the new rail lines. Gray(named for the secessionist planter-politician) became the largest of these villages, and in 1905 it became the county seat. Over the next several decades historical interest increased with the opening of the Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site, which also supervises the Griswoldville Battlefield site. In the 1970s the Old Clinton Historical Society was founded, and soon thereafter Clinton was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.