Fitzgerald Facts and Firsts

Fitzgerald is indeed one of the few truly planned cities in America. The layout is a logical progression. The core of the city, some 1,000 acres, was laid out in a perfect square. Intersecting avenues (Central and Main) divide the city into four wards, and wards are subdivided into four blocks. Each block had sixteen squares, making a total of 256 identical parcels.

Of the 256 parcels, four were set aside for schools, 12 for parks, 36 for business lots, and the remainder as residential lots. Each lot faces on a street and an alley, and each street and alley terminate at one of the four drives bounding the city. The streets are sixty feet wide, and the alleys are twenty feet wide in business zones and fifteen feet in residential areas.

On the original role of settlers, the following occupations were represented: butchers, bricklayers, teachers, bankers, restaurateurs, blacksmiths, retail merchants, carpenters, ministers, doctors, lawyers, and newspapermen.

Within one year, the community had been surveyed and laid out, with streets named and utility systems begun. At the end of 1896, the new city had two railroads, 25 miles of open streets, a bank, three newspapers, 250 businesses, and eleven churches.

The Lee-Grant Hotel was the largest
wooden hotel to be erected, and the
first work relief program in America.


The Civil War roots of its pioneers were manifested in the design of the city. Streets are named for fourteen Generals:

Robert E Lee

Confederates are:
Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, James "Old Pete" Longstreet, Braxton Bragg, A.P.Hill and John P. Gordon.

Ulysses S Grant

Union leaders are:
Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, George H. "Pap" Thomas, John A. Logan, and Joseph Hooker.

The surrounding drives are named for Civil War ships, two from each side: the U.S.S. Monitor and Roanoke and the C.S.S. Merrimac and Sultana. Today, citizens carry on that tradition as new streets are being named for battles and important figures in the war: Jeff Davis Highway, Lincoln Avenue, Shenandoah Drive, Bull Run Road, etc.

Ben Hill County was created in 1906 from parts of Irwin and Wilcox Counties. It was named for Benjamin Harvey Hill, U.S. Senator from Georgia, a Whig leader, and a staunch opponent of Reconstruction.

Fitzgerald, now a Georgia Main Street City, had the distinction and honor to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The area includes all buildings, plaza parks and the historic brick streets in the downtown area.

Read more: Fitzgerald Facts and Firsts

Fitzgerald's Civil War Streets - Ships and Generals

Civil War"I used to think that the Civil War was our country's greatest tragedy, but I do remember that there were some redeeming features in the Civil War in that there was some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed on both sides."  -Sam Ervin.

Read more: Fitzgerald's Civil War Streets - Ships and Generals


"100 Years. . . A Legacy of Unity and Diversity" ....

Fitzgerald, by nature of her founding, appeals to people from every state. At a time when the fires of hatred against Yankees still burned passionately in the hearts of most Georgians, a Union Soldiers' Colony sprang up almost overnight in a pine forest only ten miles from the scene of the capture of the President of the Confederacy. That Colony, which became the City of Fitzgerald, made history peculiar unto itself--history unparalleled in our nation.

alt In the early 1890s, a paralyzing depression crept across the United States. Simultaneously, a terrible drought ravaged the farmlands of the great Midwest, rendering once fertile farms mere cauldrons of dust. The people knew hunger, fear, and despair.

A call went out for help and Georgia, the state so systematically devastated during the War Between the States, was the first and most generous to respond, sending trainloads of food and feed to their fellow Americans.

A Drummer Boy's Dream

In Indianapolis, Indiana, P.H. Fitzgerald, a newspaper editor and veterans' pension attorney, saw in this act of mercy seed for the fruition of his dream. He envisioned a Southern colony for aging Union soldiers victimized by the bitter winters and oppressive and unrelenting droughts. Through editorials in his newspaper, Mr. Fitzgerald detailed his desire to veterans.

In further pursuit, he petitioned to Governor William J. Northen of Georgia (himself a Confederate veteran) for assistance in locating a site. As inquiries mounted from veterans, Governor Northen responded with a promise to help. Mr. Fitzgerald soon organized the American Tribune Soldiers' Colony Company, selling sufficient stock throughout the Union to enable a 50,000-acre purchase (later doubled) of virgin pine forest in the heart of south Georgia.

Southward, Ho!

By the summer of 1895, before the surveys could even be completed, people started filing into this area--by wagon, horseback, steamboat, train, and even hack--thereby beginning one of the greatest colonization movements our country had experienced since Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims. In fact, so many stamps were sold at the Swan (the turpentine village serving as the colony hub) Post Office, that a special investigator was sent to determine the cause.

While the colony was open to "all good people," Union veterans were in the majority, numbering some 2,700. Among them were survivors of every major battle, Sherman's March to the Sea, Andersonville Prison, and even one member of the contingent that captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

As surveyors struggled with recalcitrant Southern landowners to locate a center stake allowing for the desired four-square city, colonists set up housekeeping in shacks, tents, and covered wagons. Thus, Fitzgerald earned its initial working name, "Shacktown."

Roll Call of the States

Determined to honor their wartime leaders, seven streets of the new colony were named for Union generals, and, as a practical concession to their neighbors, seven streets were named for Confederate generals. A wooden bandstand soon became the social focus of the community. The music ranged from Yankee Doodle to Dixie, and a roll call often yielded responses from Maine to California and from Washington state to Florida.

alt Seeking to provide local employment and attract tourists, the Colony Company instituted one of the first Public Works projects in America, a mammoth wood-framed hotel. Grant-Lee was to be its name, but the long faces of the Southerners soon argued for its eventual christening as the Lee-Grant.

Schools opened in the fall of 1896; children from thirty-eight states and two territories arrived with twelve teachers, only one of which (the superintendent) hailed from below the Mason-Dixon Line. The Colony Company also provided the first free textbooks in the state of Georgia.

With the first year's hardships behind them and with thankful hearts, the colonists erected a Corn and Cotton Palace, planning a great Thanksgiving harvest. Invitations blanketed the surrounding area. Most natives were skeptical of the Yankees, but many decided to see for themselves. The Festival Committee had planned separate Union and Confederate parades. . . no use in asking for trouble. But as often happens, their plan did not work. When the band struck up a march, veterans in gray, recognizing the accomplishments of the colonists, stepped into formation with veterans in blue, and all marched as one beneath the Stars and Stripes. The stage was set for the future of Fitzgerald by men who, having met once on the field of battle, determined on that day to meet again on the field of life and forge a unique and enduring city where North and South reunited: Fitzgerald.

Read more: History

Historian: Beth Davis

Beth DavisMrs. Martin J. (Beth Malcolm) Davis was born near Athens, Georgia, in 1909. Before Beth was a year old, her mother passed away, leaving the young baby to be raised by her maternal grandfather and aunt in Statham, Georgia, a community founded by her great-grandfather

Read more: Historian: Beth Davis

Book: Fitzgerald (Images of America)

 Fitzgerald (Images of America)

Fitzgerald (Images of America)About The Book

Founded in 1896 by pension attorney P. H. Fitzgerald as a colony for Union veterans escaping the drought-stricken Midwest, Fitzgerald has built on the spirit of unity exhibited by its early Union and Confederate founders. The town produced such notable citizens as Gen. Ray Davis, assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; U.N. ambassador Morris Abram; author Frances Mayes; Chief Justice Norman Fletcher; and folk artist Ulysses Davis. The inherent sense of citizen investment in the community led Fitzgerald to be dubbed "the Recruiting Colossus from Nowhere" by the Wall Street Journal after some 40 industries choose Fitzgerald as home. This is a story of pioneer vision and migration, of hewing a town from pine barrens, and of the reuniting of America.

 About the Author

The Blue and Gray Museum chronicles the story of these entrepreneurial veterans and the town they established. Photographs from its collection and those of private citizens are paired with passages from the archives of the Herald-Leader, the museum, and the local library to give the pioneers a voice once more. Authors Cam M. Jordan and Sherri K. Butler are Blue and Gray board members. Jordan is the community development director for the city. Butler is a feature writer for the Herald-Leader.

Buy this book at


Read more: Book: Fitzgerald (Images of America)