Map of Washington County, Georgia

Washington County, Georgia

General History Notes

Washington County was established February 25, 1784 from the Creek Indian Cession of November 1, 1783. The county originally included all the territory “from the Cherokee Corner, north extending from the Ogeechee River to the Oconee River, south to Liberty County.” 

A part of Washington County was set off to Greene County, 1786; a part to Hancock County, 1793; a part to Montgomery County, 1793; a part to Laurens County, 1811; a part to Baldwin County, 1807, 1812, and 1826; and a part to Johnson County, 1858. The county seat is Sandersville, Georgia. 

Washington County and Franklin County, which was erected the same year as Washington County, were the two counties where bounty grants were made to soldiers of the Revolutionary War. These soldiers were eligible for bounty grants upon proof of their service no matter what state they served, and soldiers from every state applied for and received bounty grants—many of them settling on their land. 

There was a fire in the Washington County courthouse in 1855 which destroyed many of the early records of the county, and the courthouse was burned by General Sherman on his march to the sea. A few records of the 1840s survive, but generally the extant court records begin after the Civil War. Therefore, the majority of the records given here are from sources other than the courthouse. 

Head-Rights and Bounty Grants

While the Revolutionary War vas still in progress, The General Assembly of Georgia passed two Acts relating to the granting of land but until 1782 the State was overrun and occupied by the British and the government was so disorganized that the necessary official machinery for surveying and granting land was never perfected. As a result both of these Acts became ineffectual, and are referred to here only as a matter of historical interest. The first of these was the Act of June 7, 1777 (as amended by the Act of September 16, 1777) entitled “An Act for opening a land office and for the better settling and strengthening this State”; the second was the Act of January 23, 1780, entitled “An Act for the more speedy and effectual settling and strengthening this State”, Actually only a very few surveys were ever made under these Acts and the first grant of land based on any of such surveys was not signed and issued until October 22, 1783. Neither Act provided for a fee-simple grant, but both followed the Colonial requirement for the annual payment of rent of two Shillings on each hundred acres in the grant, in addition to settlement and cultivation within nine months. However, both Acts recognized the fact that many Colonial and State records had been lost or destroyed during the war and stipulated that despite their loss there persons who could produce some proof of an application for survey or an agreement to purchase or settlement under any Colonial law or grant would be entitled to confirming grants. One feature of both acts which was followed in every subsequent Act was that a man would be entitled to 209 acres as his own head-right plus an additional 50 acres for his wife, each child and each slave but that in no event could the total grant exceed 1000 acres. 

The first effective land Act was the Act of February 17, 1783 (as amended by the Act of August 1, 1783) entitled “An Act for opening the Land office and for other purposes therein mentioned”. This Act allowed a man to take up 200 acres upon his own head-right free of any charge excent office fees for survey and grant, plus an additional 50 acres upon the head of each member of his family at sales prices ranging from one to four shillings per acre, and it limited any grant to a maximum of 1000 acres, The rights of persons who had previously receive Warrants of survey were ratified and they were declared to fe entitled to grants of land then occupied by them, Those per– sons who, under legislation passed during the War, had become entitled to bounty lands, such as citizens who had not molested their neighbors! families or property, refugees who had served in militia companies outside of the state, militiamen of the State and men who had served in the minute battalions were declared entitled to grants without charge except for office fees. The machinery for granting land, as set up by this act, was as follows. The applicant for land would appear before the land court of the county in which he desired land, composed of five Justices,and after making oath as to the size of his family including slaves, would obtain a warrant of survey. The county surveyor would then lay out his land, keep a copy of the plat of survey in his office and forward a copy to the Surveyor-General. After living on the land a year and cultivating at least three per cent of the acreage, the settler would then apply to the Governor’s office for his grant and pay all purchase price due and all office fees, The grant would then be issued and recorded. 

The Act of February 25, 1784 which was passed primarily to create and open up Franklin and Washington Counties, made some revisions in the grant laws theretofore enacted, The sales price of land in those two counties was fixed at three shillings per acre and the maximum grant was again limited to 1000 acres. Bounty grants could be located in the new counties and all bounty grants in all counties were no longer to be tax free for ten years but were to be increased by fifteen per cent in acreage. A large section in what later became Greene County was reserved exclusively for bounty grants to men who had served refugees or militiamen. For the first year members of the Ex~ ecutive Council were to act as the land courts for the new counties, prior to their organization. Under the Act of February 22, 1785 the provisions for payment of a purchase price or consideration for granted land, other than office fees, were removed and thereafter all land was granted free. Cultivation was no longer a requisite. However, the restrictions as to the amount of land to which a man was entitled upon his own and his family’s head-rights and the restriction as to the 1000 acre maximum grant remained unchanged. No surveys for bounty grants were to be made after February 22, 1786 but as to bounty land surveyed prior to that date a grant could be made upon the warrant at any time thereafter. 

No information whatsoever as to the State or County of a man’s former residence, or as to names of his wife or members of his family appear upon either the warrant for survey, the recorded plat of survey or the recorded grant. Only the grantee’s name is shown on those records in the Surveyor-General’s office. 

Lingos receiving Land Grant

Washington County Land Lottery

From Georgia Genealogy Trails


Persons entitled to draw

  • Bachelor 21 years or over, one year residence in Georgia, citizen of U.S. 1 Draw
  • Married man, with wife and/or child, one year residence in Georgia and citizen of U.S. – 2 Draws
  • Widow with minor child, one year residence in Georgia – 2 Draws
  • Minor orphan, or family of minor orphans, with father dead and mother dead or re-married. – 1 Draws

Land distributed in this lottery was the Districts 1 through 5 of Baldwin County; 1 through 3 of Wayne County; and one through five of Wilkinson County.   When the drawer received land, the listing is “P”; when no land was received, the listing is “B”.

This list of those who registered to draw land for the 1805 Lottery has added significance because of the loss of the 1790, 1800, and 1810 census records of Georgia.

Lingos in the lottery list:


Marie De Lamar, and Elisabeth Rothstein, eds. Records of Washington County, Georgia. Ancestry.Com, 1975.

Frances Wynd. “Washington County, Georgia Records.” Text, 1967.

“Washington County, Georgia Genealogy and History – Presented by Genealogy Trails History Group.” Accessed March 30, 2020.