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Liberty's economy tanked in late 1880s
History of Liberty
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In the late 1880s, Liberty County stood in a dramatic contrast to the plantation economy that residents had hoped to replace one day.  Before the Civil War, Liberty County had little need for stores since they had an inwardly turned economy of rice, Sea Island cotton, and indigo.

In 1857-1858, the Albany, Savannah and Gulf Railroad scribed its sweeping arc through some of the poorest country in Georgia on its way to Albany.  And that included Liberty County, even though it had more than 100 plantations that covered more than 1,000 acres and had more than 100 slaves.  As we so often find in the Old South, things were not as they seemed.

Liberty Countians pride themselves on having two signers of the Declaration of Independence, and being home to enough Revolutionary War heroes to supply names for five Georgia counties.  But although rich in colonial and Revolutionary history and despite her huge slave population and large plantations, the county had a surprisingly low agricultural output. County history shows rice and Sea Island cotton as the staple crops, to support the usual legend of Old South opulence.

In 1850, Liberty County reported only 1.8 million pounds of rice, which was significantly lower, then Chatham County's 18 million pounds and the statewide amount of 38 million pounds.  County cotton was even less significant, besides, the Pine Barrens cotton was not the ultimate.

Predictably after the war, things were in ruin in Liberty County.  The only wealth had been in slaves. In 1850 the entire county counted 1,854 whites and 5,517 slaves.

In the wake of war, county-wide cotton production fell from around 2,400 bales to only 600 bales in 1880, and while cotton production soared out of control in the rest of the state in the last decades of the century, Liberty would report only 330 bales in 1900.  Likewise rice growing washed out in the turmoil following slavery's end.

What started to bring Liberty out of deep poverty was the railroad.  I will continue this article next week with more on the railroad.     

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