Formally established in 1733, Savannah was Georgia's first settlement. Founded by James Oglethorpe and 20 of his associates, Savannah became the center for commerce, culture and economic activity in the region. When the first settlers landed, they built tents and promptly erected a stockade type wall around settlement for safety from the unknown elements of the new world. Within 10 years, Savannah's powerful economics influenced colonial development throughout the South.
The First Colonial Settlement in Georgia
James Oglethorpe and his associates received a charter from King George to establish the Royal Colony of Savannah. Together with 116 settlers, Oglethorpe built Savannah, and named the territory Georgia in honor of Britain's monarch. Oglethorpe and his 20 associates created a profitable settlement, and returned much of those profits to the British throne. His personal desires included creating economic opportunity for the English poor who traveled with him to the new world,
Cooperative Relationships between Indians and Settlers
Throughout Savannah's first decade, a friendly trading relationship developed between the British settlers and the Cherokee and Creek, (Yamacraw) Indian tribes. The Savannah settlement looked down on the local Creek Indian village, and was physically located between two rivers which lead deep into the Georgian territory. Agricultural crops such as cotton and corn became commodities for the settlement, while trappers and hunters enjoyed easy river access to the inland countryside.
Although Oglethorpe's desires centered around establishing a highly moral community, some of Savannah's first commercial commodities included the pursuit of land, rum and slavery. To the north, Carolinian plantations prospered due to slave labor. Savannah was not able to compete economically until they adopted a position favorable to slavery. To the south the Spanish Florida settlements and the Spanish sailors sold rum to the Georgian merchants. Within a decade Oglethorpe's moral high ground was washed away by the economic realities of this thriving settlement.
The Scottish Contribution to Georgia
Inland and 50 miles to the south of Savannah, Scottish settlers founded Darien. Because of it's location, this village did not receive the acclaim given Savannah. Nevertheless their walled fort-style city soon became a second center of commerce. During the first winter of 1736, the Scots' crops performed miserably. Consequently, in the following years they turned to cattle and timber as a source of economic activity and prosperity.
An Evolving Community
In 1739, the desire for commerce and territory fueled skirmishes between Oglethorpe's Savannah and the Spanish held Florida settlements to the south. These skirmishes smoldered as an outgrowth of the economic and political tensions between Britain and Spain back on the European continent. Yet these battles did not harm the evolving economy in Savannah and Darien. Both settlements continued to expand, thriving on agricultural, commodity, alcohol and slave trades.
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