Introduction to Georgia Land Grants

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Introduction to Georgia Land Grants
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Most of the fifteen Georgia Land Grants in this collection were purchased by Mr. Adams separately over an approximate thirty year period. They came from various sources, with no attendant information on the properties.

Original Land grants, whether from the east granted by specific states (such as Georgia, which sold land lots illegally in the face of the US Supreme Court), or correctly by the US Government, are wonderful documents. These often have a map of the property, description, and signature of the President of the United States (or a secretary) or the Governor, in the case of Georgia. The Georgia land grants are unique because they each contain a special seal 2.5” in diameter of the state of Georgia bearing the date 1799 at the bottom in the fashion of a coin. These are weighted in the center somehow, though I have not dismantled one to fully understand the construction. These medallions are die struck, with raised letters and a rim, in the exact format of a metal medallion, though appear to be made of early paper, texturally consistent with Continental currency. The surface appears to have been strengthened by the addition of wax, small particles of which can be seen along the edges under magnification using a binocular microscope. This may explain the darkening of the edges, where handling or compression would likely absorb coloration from human hands or dirt from a document. The paper wraps around the edge toward the center paper wafer from each side. The medallions would easily be collected as numismatic items if separated from the land grants, but they are so rare as is, I have not, nor has Mr. Adams, ever seen one offered separately.

Each land grant has two pages: a top page which is the survey itself signed by both the actual lot surveyor, sometimes noted as “D.S.”, or district surveyor, and the state surveyor general. The second page is the deed itself, generated anywhere from the same year as the survey to a decade or more later. The Georgia governor signed the deed on the face of the document as well as on the top fold covering the survey.

Georgia Land Grants are notable because they contain the original signatures of the Georgia Governor on a folded edge, folded up from the bottom, where a ¼” ribbon is tied through the folded paper (as an enforcement mechanism) and attached to the medallion. Many of the Georgia gubernatorial signatures on these land grants contain the names of important governors whose names now appear engraved in history as the names of several of the counties in the gold region: Lumpkin, Forsythe, Gilmer, etc. Documents bearing their names and original signatures are extremely rare.

The existence of the land grants comes from the original property files of a property owner. These grants are exceptionally rare today, just as are any original land grants from anywhere in the USA. Through time, these are lost to environmental conditions, lost in the transference of files, or thrown out. In comparison, land grants from the California Gold Rush region are exceptionally rare. In the same manner, original land grants from the Georgia land lotteries are perhaps even rarer, particularly because they are twenty or more years older and from a damp climate that has a habit of destroying paper items in short order. The little paper that survived the years was further subjected to the massive fires of the Civil War, where most southern records were lost forever.

The medallions were probably made from dies made by a private die sinker in Milledgeville or perhaps even Philadelphia. There is no published record that they were made by the US Mint, though it is certainly possible. There are no medals known from Georgia listed in R. W. Julian’s book on US Medals struck by the US Mint c1792-1892.

The medallions are usually difficult to read because they are die struck on a waxed parchment(?) with an unknown material for a core. Their construction is with two outer layers of waxed parchment and a thicker center wafer or layer. This center wafer has an unknown material between the outside surface and the center wafer in a sandwich effect rendering the medallion sturdy and durable. Some were handled extensively, retaining significant oils from decades of human touch. Others are much more pristine. The medals have an obverse with “State of Georgia” along the top rim with a vignette of a state building at center, an artist’s concept of the Georgia capital, though not an exact likeness. The words Constitution form an arch above the building, and “wisdom, justice, moderation are formed in ribboned patterns through the center of the building. The date 1799 is centered below the building exactly in the fashion as a coin. A raised rim outlines the piece. The reverse reads: “Agriculture and commerce"" along the top edge and the date 1799 at bottom center. The building vignette in the center is generally weakly struck on all the medallions.

The state seal forming the obverse, was designed by Daniel Sturges, the State Surveyor. It resulted from a public competition that was advertised by Georgia Governor James Jackson on February 26, 1799, generally authorized by the State Constitutional Convention of 1798. Sturges won a prize of $30 for his work, which has remained the general format of the seal since that time, though the date was later changed to 1776 to reflect the state’s status as one of the original 13 colonies in the year of independence. When the seal was designed, the state Capital was in Louisville, Georgia. In 1803, after a serious malaria epidemic, the people looked elsewhere for a new site, and in 1804 chose Milledgeville, though the actual movement of records was not made until 1807. The capital remained there through the Civil War, when the capital moved to Atlanta. [Georgia; Bernice McCullar, 1968, pp 53, 312.]