The History of Augusta
Augusta, GA, was established in 1735, resulting in almost 300 years of history running through its veins. During the American Revolution, Augusta even spent a brief period as the capital of Georgia (at the time, Savannah). In 1828, Augusta became home to the Medical Academy of Georgia. Now 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 and was completed in 1847. The Augusta Canal provided water, transportation and power, and drew industry – namely textiles – to the area, much in part to being a much less expensive area to operate a business than similar northern counterparts. Even today, the Augusta Canal provides all three of these elements, though it is more so known for the recreational activities it provides, both on the water itself and on the extensive trail system developed alongside it. The Augusta Canal Discovery Center at Enterprise Mill offers 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. Also in 1845, Augusta was the founding location of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Fort Gordon was founded as Camp Gordon during World War II. Though initially a temporary location to train soldiers, it was revitalized in 1948 when the Signal Training Center and Military Police School came to Camp Gordon. In 1956, the camp formally became Fort Gordon. Today is is officially known as the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence & Fort Gordon.
Augusta also claims multiple famous historical figures – and modern celebrities – as local to the area. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, lived in Augusta from young boyhood until age 14. During his family’s time in Augusta, his father was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church downtown. The church itself is still located in its original structure on Telfair Street, also home to many area local businesses, and celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2004. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more about Wilson’s early childhood, you can visit the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, which is open for guided tours Thursday – Saturday.
James Brown, known in modern history as the Godfather of Soul, also spent part of his childhood and early adult years in Augusta. He began performing in talent shows, the first of which was at Augusta’s Lenox Theater. During his teen years, he often performed for soldiers at Camp Gordon. Despite a rough childhood, with little money and family instability, he began his music career in 1953, and the career went one to span more than 50 years. You can visit a statue in homage to James Brown on Broad Street, given to him in his honor on his 72th birthday in 2005. One of two public funerals for Brown was held at James Brown Arena in Augusta on December 30, 2006.
Despite its current reputation as “the third largest city in Georgia,” Augusta has a vital history worth exploring.