A Historical Look at Augusta, GA
Augusta, GA, was established in 1735, bearing the name of Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, mother of the British King George III. James Oglethorpe founded both Augusta and Savannah (in 1733). In 1828, Augusta became home to the Medical Academy of Georgia. In present day, the Medical College of Georgia, the college remains one of the few public medical universities in the US.
In 1845, the construction of the Augusta Canal began; it was completed in 1847. Because the Augusta Canal provided water, transportation and power, it provided a viable location for a number of industries and businesses, in part because it was a much less expensive area to operate a business than similar northern counterparts. Textiles grew to be the most prominent industry during the canal’s heyday. Currently, the Augusta Canal continues to provide water, transportation and power. Though to local residents, the Canal is now more so known for the recreational activities it provides, both on the water itself and on the extensive trail system developed alongside it. You can visit the Augusta Canal Discovery Center at Enterprise Mill for an in-depth look at the history and workings of the Canal, including boat tours on the Canal. Although the Canal was never abandoned, many of the industrial buildings fell into disrepair when business climates changed through the years. Recent years have seen multiple buildings revitalized and repurposed for other organizations and businesses in the area. Augusta also plays a unique role in southern religious history. In 1845, Augusta was the founding location of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Fort Gordon is a US military installation located in Augusta, GA. Fort Gordon was founded as Camp Gordon during World War II. Though initially a temporary location to train soldiers, the installation was revived in 1948 when the Signal Training Center and Military Police School came to Camp Gordon. In 1956, the camp formally became Fort Gordon. Today, this area is officially known as the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence & Fort Gordon.
A former president – and a modern celebrity – both spent significant time in Augusta. The 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, lived in Augusta from early childhood until he turned 14. While his family lived in Augusta, his father served as a minister at First Presbyterian Church, located in the growing downtown area. Today, the church is still located on Telfair Street, surrounded by a number of area local businesses, in its original building. First Pres, as many locals refer to it, celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2004, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you want to learn more about Wilson’s early upbringing, the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson is now open for guided tours Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of each week.
Are you familiar with the musician known to many as the Godfather of Soul? James Brown, associated with the creation of funk music, spent part of his childhood and early adult years in Augusta. While relatively young, he showed a love for performing, performing in local talent shows, starting with one at Augusta’s Lenox Theater, which was one of Augusta’s four African American theaters during segregation. When Brown reached his teenage years, he often performed for soldiers at Camp Gordon. Though his childhood was burdened with little money and significant family instability, he persevered and began his music career in 1953, and he continued to perform in various capacities for the next 50 years. When visiting the Augusta downtown, many people stop to take their picture with a statute of James Brown on Broad Street, given to him in his honor on his 72th birthday. Augusta hosted a public funeral for Brown at James Brown Arena, named in his honor, on December 30, 2006.
Though Augusta is often overshadowed by the larger Atlanta and the coastal city of Savannah, Augusta is a thriving city that provided a significant historical contribution to the state of Georgia.