1807 Georgia Land Lottery
Fortunate Drawers and Grantees

by Paul K. Graham

 

On 14 November 1805, in Washington, D.C., the Creek Indians ceded the remaining land between the line of the 1803 Fort Wilkinson treaty and the Ocmulgee River, excepting a reserve three miles by five miles where Fort Hawkins was built and that encompasses east Macon. Today, this tract includes all or part of Morgan, Jasper, Putnam, Jones, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Pulaski, Laurens, Dodge, Telfair, and Wheeler Counties. The treaty was ratified by the United States on 2 June 1806.

The Act of 9 June 1806 established the general process by which the land lottery would operate. The law specified the continuation of the dividing line between Baldwin and Wilkinson Counties to the Ocmulgee River, adding the land north of the line to Baldwin County and adding the land south of the line to Wilkinson County. The law called for the creation of thirty-eight districts: fifteen additional districts to be added to Baldwin County and twenty-three additional districts to be added to Wilkinson County. The land districts were numbered sequentially, continuing the numbering started for the 1805 Land Lottery, so that the additional districts in Baldwin County were numbered from 6 to 20 and the districts in Wilkinson County were numbered from 6 to 28. Each district was to be surveyed into lots containing 202 1/2 acres each. In the end, 11,411 land lots were surveyed. All square (or whole) lots were included in the land lottery drawing. All fractions were held out and sold at public auction in 1808.

One surveyor was hired to map each district. Each surveyor was paid $2.75 per mile surveyed, which was used to pay salaries; create maps, plats, and field note books; and defray other incidental costs. Upon completion, survey records were forwarded to the Georgia Surveyor General. District maps, field books (when extant), and plat books for the land lotteries are available at the Georgia Archives. Because districts and land lots, as numbered by the surveyors, serve as the organizational foundation of the survey system in land lottery areas of Georgia, they can be used to compile each lot's complete chain of title from the grant to the current day.

The task of registering eligible participants for the land lottery fell upon the justices of the inferior courts of the counties. They were charged with compiling a list of participants in their respective counties from June 1806 to September 1806, along with the number of draws to which each person was entitled. Each list was sent to the Executive Department and a copy was deposited in the Superior Court of the county. Those entering the land lottery were required to pay 12.5 cents per draw to the justices for the privilege of being registered.

The eligibility requirements for the 1807 Land Lottery were very similar to the 1805 Land Lottery. Free white males over 21 years of age who were citizens of the United States, residents of Georgia at least three years prior to June 1806, and who "paid a tax towards the support of Government" were eligible for one draw. Free white males of the preceding description who also had a wife or legitimate children under age twenty one were eligible for two draws. All widows with three years residence in Georgia were eligible for one draw. Orphan families whose members were all under 21 years old and whose father was dead received one draw together. If both parents were dead, orphan families consisting of more than one orphan received two draws. Individual orphans received one draw. In addition to these eligible citizens, free white unmarried females who were 21 years old received one draw. The 1807 Land Lottery is the only land lottery in which single females were a special class of eligible drawers.

The majority of eligible citizens registered for the land lottery. However, many people did not participate. Unlike the 1805 Land Lottery, no comprehensive list of participants in the 1807 Land Lottery exists. Some county copies of the registration lists are extant and most are available on microfilm at the Georgia Archives. Many have been transcribed and published in various genealogy quarterlies and magazines.

When the lists of participants were received from the counties, the names were transferred to tickets and placed in a large drum. One ticket was created for each draw and included the name of the participant, their residence, and any identifying remarks that were entered by the county clerks. For the land lottery, the number of each whole lot survey was placed on a ticket. A number of tickets labeled "blank" were then added to equal the total number of name tickets. The prize tickets were placed into another large drum. Beginning on 10 August 1807 and concluding on 24 September 1807, the land lottery drawing moved quickly. Name tickets and prize tickets were drawn simultaneously from the two drums. If a name matched a prize, the tickets were glued together and held out. Name tickets drawn against blanks were destroyed.

The first grants were issued on 30 September 1807. In order to obtain their grant, fortunate drawers were required to pay six dollars per hundred acres, or $12.15. Large numbers of grants were issued on a regular basis until the end of 1808. The time limit for fortunate drawers to take out a grant was extended yearly by the Legislature until 1815, at which time any ungranted land lot was subject to being sold by the state.

Fractional lots were held out of the land lottery and sold at public auction in Milledgeville in November and December 1808. Grants for fractions were filled out in 1807, except the name of the grantee, which was filled in upon payment of a grant fee following the auction. Many small lots received no bids and were not granted until many years later. The original grants for all fractional lots surveyed for the 1807 Land Lottery process are dated from 20 June 1807 to 28 November 1807, despite the fact that they were sold in late 1808. Except for a few exceptions, grants for 1807 Land Lottery fractional lots were recorded in Fractional Lots Grant Books B and C. Grants issued for those fractions that did not receive bids at the auction and were issued in later years are recorded in Fractional Lots Grant Books A, M, and N, as well as Miscellaneous Lots Grant Book A and Reverted Lots Grant Book B.