Nestled between the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers, the area that is now Screven County originally formed a part of the territory belonging to the Yuchi Indians. The first European residents arrived here in the early 1750s, when a small group of German settlers moved up the Savannah River from the Bethel Colony to establish New Goettingen at what is now Burton’s Ferry in eastern Screven County. By 1753, settlers of English and Scotch-Irish descent had begun arriving from other colonies, and the European population grew apace throughout the following decades. The territory was officially ceded to Georgia by the Yuchis at the Southern Indian District Congress in November of 1763.
By 1778, the war in the northern colonies had reached a stalemate, leading the British to turn their attention to the southern colonies. They began their invasion of Georgia with the capture of Savannah in December of 1778, and soon Colonel Archibald Campbell was marching up the Savannah River to attack Augusta. Unable to hold his position at Augusta, Campbell fell back toward the important Savannah River crossing at Hudson's Ferry, pursued by American forces. On March 3, 1779, the British crossed Brier Creek to attack the encamped Americans from the rear. The British achieved total surprise and the Battle of Brier Creek was an American defeat. Afterward, the southern portion of Georgia was left largely to British control until 1782, when they were finally driven out by colonial forces.
In 1758, colonial Georgia had been divided into eight parishes. After the Revolution began, those eight colonial parishes were replaced by eight counties, with what is now Screven County divided between Burke and Effingham Counties. When the war ended, the original eight counties were broken up to form new counties as the state’s population grew. Screven County, named for Revolutionary War hero General James Screven, was created by an act of the legislature on December 14, 1793. Portions of the original territory of Screven County were later ceded to create Bulloch County in 1796 and Jenkins County in 1905.
The County Seat
The home of Benjamin Lanier, near Rocky Ford, served as the county seat from 1793 until the courthouse was moved to the newly established town of Jacksonboro in 1799. Jacksonboro, largely a frontier community, was apparently a very rough town. Itinerant preacher Lorenzo Dow was so incensed by his treatment at the hands of Jacksonboro’s citizens, that upon leaving town in 1820 he asked God to curse the entire community – excepting only the home of Seaborn Goodall, who had given Dow shelter. Jacksonboro later burned, except for the Goodall home which still stands, and was never rebuilt, a fate some attribute to Dow’s curse. Whatever the case, in 1847, the seat of government was moved to a new site six miles southwest of Jacksonboro. The new town that emerged was given the name Sylvania, from the Latin for forest, and was incorporated as a town by the legislature in 1854. Sylvania continues to serve as the seat of county government today.
For more information on the history of Screven County, Georgia, please use this link: New Georgia Encyclopedia - Screven County