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Liberty Countian signed Declaration of Independence
Liberty history
Button Gwinnett
Button Gwinnett
Button Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was from St. Catherine’s Island in Liberty County. He came to Georgia from England passing through Charleston, S.C. (a means repeatedly traveled in the 1760’s).
Gwinnett tried his luck at operating a Savannah store, but having little success he moved on and settled at St. Catherine’s where he purchased the island (essentially a 36-square-mile tract of land, including St. Catherine’s.
He tried to raise cattle and farm, and had some degree of success. But he began to analyze his life and decided to turn to politics in 1767, serving as justice of the peace and later in the Lower Assembly.
Gwinnett, not having much success farming, was forced to quit politics as he struggled to pay off his debt. St. Catherine’s was sold to the highest bidder along with other personal property.
Still an active member in both the community of Sunbury and St. John’s Parish (now Liberty County), Gwinnett came in contact with Lyman Hall, the Midway-based physician who would profoundly persuade Gwinnett’s fundamental mindset.
At first, Gwinnett was apathetic to the cause of the Patriots. But in 1774, he joined the movement. He was present at a meeting in Savannah in 1774 that disputed the right of England to impose the “Intolerable Acts” (a response to the Boston Tea Party, a major factor contributing to the outbreak of the American Revolution).
 A few years later, Gwinnett was elected speaker and played a fundamental role in the creation of the State Constitution of 1777.
He had hopes of becoming a military commander, a position given to Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett swore to gain control of the legislature during the next session, a feat he surprisingly accomplished.
Gwinnett desperately wanted to command the army on the Second Florida Expedition and tried to raise this army, but failed inconsolably. Turning to McIntosh, whom Gwinnett had managed to alienate by attacking his brother, the commander of the Continental forces in Georgia insisted he, alone, lead his troops to Florida. Gwinnett and McIntosh battled each other from Savannah to Sunbury, where they both were recalled.
In 1777, they fought a duel in Thunderbolt, both were injured but only Gwinnett’s wound was fatal. He died three days later.
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