Georgia’s Lake Country consists of four counties with rich history and charming downtowns.
Milledgeville, Baldwin County
Milledgeville’s proud history began in 1803, when the state of Georgia searched for a site for its new capital. Because the area offered a central location and ample springs, it was the perfect spot to relocate the capital. The planned capital city took shape and was given the name Milledgeville in honor of John Milledge, governor of Georgia from 1802 to 1806 and donor of the land for the University of Georgia. For more than 60 years, Milledgeville remained the capital during a period of state history that witnessed appearances by many notable figures. Many area homes and structures survived the periodic fires and willful destruction of the War Between the States. Although Milledgeville is no longer the state capital, it continues to stand with great historical value. Walk beneath the shadows of the towering oaks though wrought iron gates that lead to magnificently preserved mansions, haunted historic sites and fascinating museums. Become a part of history in Milledgeville.
Madison, Morgan County
Madison, Ga., was incorporated in 1809 and quickly became a thriving and elegant community. When the Georgia Railroad pushed east from Augusta along the old stagecoach route in 1841, concerned citizens fought to preserve the town’s business and residential areas. They deeded the land to the railroad and arranged for the tracks to skirt the town, marking a major turning point in the city’s development. When the Civil War erupted and the fighting grew fierce, Madison became threatened by Northern troops. In 1864, Madison lay directly in the path of one wing of General Sherman’s army. Joshua Hill, a staunch Unionist, was given permission to travel through Federal lines and meet with Gen. Sherman at his headquarters. After an agreement was reached, Union forces spared Madison, leaving its expansive homes and architecture virtually untouched by the ravages of the Civil War. In 1970, after years of a declining population and a devastating boll weevil outbreak destroyed the cotton crop, a new interest in the preservation of Madison emerged. Businesses and homes were returned to their former glory and the homes of Madison are now a widely enjoyed attraction.
Eatonton, Putnam County
A vital history distinguishes Eatonton-Putnam County from other areas of the state of Georgia. Celebrating over 200 years of historic acclaim, the first inhabitants about 5,000 years ago are widely recognized as being Archaic Indians. It was during this time that another culture was also settling down in Putnam, the Woodland Indians. The Woodland Indians are believed to have built the Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk effigies.
Putnam was originally part of Baldwin County - ceded by the Creek Nation in 1805 – and was incorporated on December 10, 1807. Putnam County was named for General Israel Putnam, the Revolutionary War hero of Bunker's Hill. Eatonton was named for William Eaton, the diplomat and adventurer who, during the Tripolitan War, marched 600 miles through the Libyan Desert with six U.S. Marines and a raised army of Arabs, Greeks and some Americans. Eatonton was not spared Sherman’s destruction, as all buildings of a productive nature were burned; the cotton mill, the tannery and shoe factory, gins, flour mills, grain filled barns and other outbuildings. There were no able bodied men left to resist Sherman’s army. No dwelling houses were burned in the town or the country and many of the private residences in town pre-date the Civil War. By 1901 Putnam had become the third-leading dairy county in Georgia, shipping cream to Athens and butter to Atlanta. The Eatonton Creamery, a cooperative created by fifty-eight local farmers in 1909, made various dairy products including "Sweet Clover" butter, which was enjoyed by U.S. president Howard Taft on a visit to Georgia. The creation of Lake Sinclair in 1953 and Lake Oconee in 1979 helped give birth to the tourism and recreation industry in Putnam County. The lakes provide opportunities to fish, hike and camp. Several world renowned golf courses have been created in the area bolstering the tourism industry in Putnam County.
Greensboro, Greene County
In 1786, an act of the state legislature set aside the western lands of Washington County to create Greene County and its seat, Greenesborough (later Greenesboro, then Greensboro), which was incorporated in 1803. Taking its name from Nathanael Greene, a general in the Revolutionary War, Greensboro served as the commercial center of one of Georgia's most important cotton-producing counties. The city's history illustrates the struggle, common to many small towns in the rural South, to emerge from the shadow of a cash-crop monoculture. In 1838, responding to the need to transport the region's ever-growing crop, the Georgia Railroad reached Greensboro, cementing the city's status as the county's commercial center. By 1854 the town had its own cotton mill, the Greenesboro Manufacturing Company. The merchant class that profited from this commerce became the town's elite. Despite the social and economic system that kept a majority of the county's citizens enslaved and impoverished, there was little question of which side county leaders would support in the secession crisis leading to the Civil War. All three of Greene County's representatives to the Georgia Secession Convention voted to secede, and Greensboro men organized the Greene Rifles to fight for the South. Of the men that Greene County sent to war, one-third would not return and another third would come back maimed or wounded.
In 1974 the town could claim some 918 manufacturing jobs (most of these in the garment industry) at a time when its population was 2,583 and that of the county as a whole stood at roughly 10,000. According to the 2010 U.S. census, Greensboro's population was 3,359. Its lively and historic downtown area offers a variety of shops and services, as well as historic tours. Several museums, including the Greene County Historic Museum and the Calvin Barber Museum and African-American Resource Center, are also located in Greensboro.