Habersham: The Man Behind the Name
Colonel Joseph Habersham was born in Savannah, Ga., on July 28, 1751, before there ever was a country called the "United States." His father, James Habersham, had moved to Savannah from England in 1738, when Georgia was one of England's 13 American colonies.
While still young, Joseph, the second son in the family, lost his mother (Mary Bolton). At the age of eight-and-a-half he was sent to Princeton, New Jersey to receive an education. When he returned six and a half years later, his father was disappointed with the results. For the sake of his son's education and health (he wasn't very strong physically), James decided England was the place Joseph needed to be. In May 1768, the 16-year-old found himself shipping out to his father's old country. On November 17, 1771, he returned to Savannah with improved health and increased business knowledge.
Back in Georgia, Joseph quickly became caught up in the spirit of liberty. At the age of 23 he, along with Dr. Noble W. Jones, Edward Telfair, William Gibbons, Joseph Clay, John Milledge and others, took part in a raid on the powder magazine in Savannah. Six hundred pounds of powder were taken, to be used by the revolutionaries.
On June 21, 1775, Joseph became a member of a committee whose objective was cooperation with the other colonies in their fight for freedom. He also was a leading member of the Provincial Congress held in Savannah on July 4, 1775. However, he was not all talk and no action, as can be seen when later that same month he, Captain Bowen, and a select group of men captured an English vessel filled with gunpowder and military supplies. Five thousand pounds of the seized powder were sent to Philadelphia to aid the war effort.
On January 7, 1776, he became Major of a battalion under the command of Colonel Lachlan McIntosh and Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Elbert. Eleven days later (January 18th), as a member of the Council of Safety, he volunteered to arrest Governor Sir James Wright and his Council. With a hand-picked group of men, he placed Sir James under guard while the governor was in consultation with the Council. Upon hearing the words, "Sir James, you are my prisoner", the Council fled. Wright was held under house arrest until his escape on February 11.
Habersham (later made a colonel) also helped direct the military operations during the siege of Savannah. He was always ready to do his part in fighting for the American colonies' freedom.
Towards the end of the Revolutionary War, in May of 1776, Joseph, who had fought so long for liberty, voluntarily gave up his personal freedom -- he became a married man. He and his wife, Isabella Rae, would eventually have 10 children.
After the Revolution, he continued to serve prominently in politics in the following positions:
At left is Joseph Habersham's summer home, which is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, home in the county. It can still be seen on Highway 441 north of Clarkesville. A historic marker indicates which house was his. (Note: This is the private residence of W. H. (Henry) and Joy Lovell, who will be happy to give a tour of the house by appointment. To make an appointment, call 706-754-3314.)
At right, Historical marker reads: "This was the summer home of Joseph Habersham of Savannah (1751-1815), Georgia patriot, Revolutionary War hero, and political leader. He was a Colonel in the Continental Army, a member of Continental Congress, and of the Georgia Convention that ratified the Constitution in 1788. Educated at Princeton, he returned to Georgia to aid in organizing the "Liberty Boys" as the Revolution approached. With other patriots, he organized the Council of Safety at Tondee's Tavern, June 22, 1775. On January 17, 1776, leading a small group, he captured and placed under guard Sir James Wright, British Colonial Governor. With Captain Bowen, he commanded the first commissioned vessel of the Revolution. Twice Speaker of the General Assembly, in Georgia's first legislative body, in 1785, Joseph Habersham signed the first charter granted to a state university in America--that of the University of Georgia. He served as Postmaster General under Presidents Washington, Adams and Jefferson. From 1802 until his death he was president of the Georgia branch of the Bank of the United States. Habersham County, created December 19, 1818, was named for Joseph Habersham."
The information above was taken from The Hills of Habersham by Mary L. Church, and Men of Mark in Georgia by William J. Northen.