1. Georgia has 159 counties, more than any other state east of the Mississippi River.
The only state in the country with more counties is Texas, which has 254. Some of Georgia's counties were created early in the state's history and were intended to be small enough that travelers could reach the county courthouse and back within a day on horseback. In modern times, the number of counties has become cumbersome. Rural counties with low population are required to have expensive county services on hand, causing inefficiencies and waste. Over the last few years, Georgia lawmakers have begun to discuss consolidating some of these smaller counties.
2. Georgia is (arguably) home to the nation's oldest state park.
This one's a bit of a historical debate. Indian Springs State Park in Butts County was not officially designated as a state park until 1931. However, the park was acquired from the local Creek tribe in 1825 and operated as a public park ever since. New York's Niagara Falls State Park was technically designated as a state park in 1885, so really, it depends on your definition of the term.
3. Approximately 350 species of birds live in Georgia at some point during their lifespan.
4. Macon's Wesleyan College was the first university in the world to award degrees to women.
Wesleyan College was founded as a women's college in 1836, under the name Georgia Female College.
5. The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest swamp in North America.
The Okefenokee Swamp spans 438,000 acres of south Georgia and northern Florida. Due to its immense size and array of natural diversity, it's considered one of
Georgia's natural wonders
. It's also the largest blackwater swamp in North America. Florida's Everglades are larger, but they're technically a river and not considered a swamp.
6. Georgia once simultaneously had three governors.
We may think today's elections are wild, but they're nothing compared to the Georgia gubernatorial race of 1946. The race was won by controversial three-term governor Eugene Talmadge (pictured on right), but he passed away from liver sclerosis prior to being sworn in. Lieutenant governor-elect Melvin Thompson believed that thanks to the order of succession, he should be sworn in as governor.
A clause in the state constitution stated that in the event of the death of a governor prior to being sworn in, the state's general assembly would choose from the first two runners-up.
Thanks to this clause, the Georgia General Assembly named Herman Talmadge, Eugene Talmadge's son, as governor, claiming he had more than the minimum of 1,000 votes required to be considered a third runner-up. However, sitting governor Ellis Arnall claimed that he was governor until a successor was named, and he intended to fight against Herman Talmadge.
After a myriad of lawsuits, it was discovered by a journalist that some of Herman Talmadge's votes were fraudulent and he had not actually received 1,000 write-in votes, thus deeming him ineligible for the title of governor. The Supreme Court declared that Thompson was the true governor, but called for a special election in 1948. Thompson ruled as governor for that brief time period, but suffered a devastating defeat in the special election, which was won by Herman Talmadge with over 97% of the vote.
7. Georgia was home to the nation's first gold rush.
The California gold rush of 1848 was one of the most famous events in history, but the first major gold rush in American history actually took place about 20 years prior. The
Dahlonega gold rush of 1829
was the nation's first major gold rush, attracting thousands of fortune-seekers to the North Georgia area.
8. The famous Forsyth Park fountain in Savannah was ordered from a catalog.
fountain in Forsyth Park
is one of the most famous symbols of this historic city. Those who love Savannah tend to think of it as a unique part of the city's culture and imagery, but it was actually ordered from a catalog! Several others like it survive all over the world.
9. Savannah was given as a Christmas gift to President Lincoln in 1864.
Speaking of Savannah, the city was captured by General Sherman in his infamous March to the Sea during the Civil War. Much of the South was destroyed during the campaign, but the final destination, Savannah, was spared. Sherman famously wired President Lincoln a message on December 22, 1864 offering him the city as a Christmas gift (along with guns, ammunition, and 25,000 bales of cotton).
10. Georgia could fit into the state of Alaska 10 times.
We all know Alaska is the largest state, but because it's close to the North Pole, the size is distorted on maps. It often appears much smaller than it actually is. Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River, but even so, it would still be able to fit into Alaska nearly 11 times!
11. Hart County is the only county in Georgia named after a woman.
Nearly all of Georgia's 159 counties are named after people. Namesakes run the gauntlet from Robert Fulton (inventor of the steamship) to Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederacy) to Archibald Bulloch (provincial governor of Georgia). However, only Hart County is named for a woman: Nancy Hart. This rebel frontierswoman was a hero during the Revolutionary War. So many legends surround her heroics that it's impossible to tell fact from fiction, but what's known for sure is that Lake Hartwell and Hart County are both named for her.
12. All the major lakes in Georgia were man-made.
We have no shortage of great
lakes in Georgia
, so many people are surprised to learn that nearly all of them are man-made. We do have some smaller natural lakes, but most of the lakes that are popular for recreation, like Lake Allatoona, Lake Lanier, and Lake Rabun were reservoirs formed by humans. Most natural lakes are the result of glacier movement thousands of years ago, so they are rarer to find in the south than they are in the northern areas of the country.
13. Georgia was not actually founded as a penal colony.
This persistent myth has lived on through the years. In truth, founder James Oglethorpe did intend for Georgia to be a debtors' colony where those who were imprisoned for debt could work off their debts. However, King George II demanded that the colony make money for Britain, so Oglethorpe's dreams fell by the wayside and Georgia was established as a traditional royal colony.
How many of these weird facts about Georgia did you already know? Do you have any other Georgia facts to share?