Wilkinson County History

Wilkinson County, in central Georgia east of Macon was one of the original counties, the twenty-ninth created. Its territory was acquired by cessions from the Creek Indians in 1802 and 1805. The county was created in 1803 and names for General James Wilkinson, an officer of the Revolutionary War and native of Maryland. He had been a party to the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson, which ceded part of the territory for this county. The county seat, Irwinton, was named for Governor Jared Irwin. The town was built on the same site of an English trading post dating to 1715.

Allentown in the southern most tip of the county is on the site of an Indian village, which was abandoned about 1600, according to tribal lore, after being destroyed by a terrible storm.

In the northern part of the county was once Fort Advance, a place of refuge for settlers during the Indian troubles of 1814.

A wing of union General Sherman’s army, advancing through Georgia toward Savannah, passed through Wilkinson County in 1864. At the little town of Gordon in the northwestern portion of Wilkinson County they encountered one of the Confederacy’s most stubborn fighters, eighteen year old Rufus Kelly. Kelly was home convalescing from the amputation of a leg, the result of a wound sustained in a Virginia battle. When he learned that the Home Guard (consisting of about seven hundred boys and some paroled convicts) was retreating from the Union advance and leaving the town undefended, he vowed “I will defend the women and children of Gordon alone,” One man stayed to help him.

Kelly charged out to meet the union army and killed one man. The advance halted and troops were deployed around the town anticipating a fight. There was only Kelly by then, who was captured when his horse fell. He later escaped from a prison wagon while crossing the Ogeechee Swamp and reportedly lived for many years after the Civil War and is buried in Twiggs County near Myrick’s Mill, the Liberty Hill Church Cemetery.

Kaolin mining and processing is the principal industry in Wilkinson County. The valuable white clay is used in many manufacturing products including paper, paint, rubber, make-up and medicines.



The Wilkinson County Historical Society has completed a new book entitled The Cemeteries of Wilkinson County, Georgia.  Copies are available in the office of the Wilkinson County Clerk of Superior Court or from the Historical Society.  The book contains 678 pages of history of Wilkinson County!