Townsfolk of Fort Frederica, Georgia

Image of Frederica from the NPS unigrid

On March 16, 1736, 116 people began building the town of Frederica.  What kind of people were these townsfolk?  What did they do and how did they get along with each other?  These are some of the questions I will be answering today.

As I mentioned previously, James Oglethorpe recruited the people who settled Savannah and Frederica.  When he recruited the people for Savannah, they were mostly farmers and he felt there was a lack of tradespeople.  When Oglethorpe recruited townsfolk for Frederica, he recruited mostly tradespeople.  And, while the people knew their trades, they were didn’t know how to grow crops to sustain the colony and relied on food imports from England, South Carolina, and Savannah.

Among the first 40 families in Frederica were many different kinds of tradesmen.  Two men were tavern keepers, two were merchants.  There was a butcher, a baker, and – yes – a candle maker.  There were carpenters, a bricklayer, a postman, a surveyor, and a blacksmith.  Some trades didn’t do very well in Frederica.  A carriage maker won’t have much business if there aren’t any roads.  On the other hand, a shipwright was very important because a boat was the best way to move around the area.

The most important people in town (in their own minds) were Dr. Hawkins and his wife Beatre.  We don’t know why they agreed to leave England but it probably had something to do with them being in debt and being unhappy with their circumstances.  In Frederica, Dr. Hawkins concerned himself with making money more than with doctoring.  His wife Beatre thrived on stirring up trouble.  Very few people in town got along with Dr. and Mrs. Hawkins and they went back to England in 1743.

The first thing the townsfolk of Frederica did when they reached the town site was make palmetto huts to protect them from the rain.  Then they planted gardens so they would have some food.

Once the gardens were established, they began building their homes. Most of the house foundations were made from tabby, which is a kind of concrete made from lime, shells, and sand.  Some of the homes were made out of wood, which was plentiful and free.  Some of the homes were made entirely from blocks of tabby, which was labor intensive but cheap.  A few of the homes were made from bricks imported from England.  Some of the townsfolk never got beyond the palmetto huts.  John Welch was a carpenter but he never built a home for his family and was known as “a worthless wretch.”

With shelter, gardens, and a trade to practice, the townsfolk were busy and industrious.  Bailiffs, constables, and tythingmen kept order and there was very little crime.  Of course, Frederica was also a military outpost, so military discipline was imposed on the townsfolk as well as the soldiers.