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126th county, Wilcox County comprises 380 square miles and was created
in 1857 in the central part of the state from Dooly, Irwin, and Pulaski
counties. Later, parts of Wilcox County were used to create Turner
(1905) and Ben Hill (1906) counties. Historians disagree about the
origin of Wilcox County's name, some claiming that it is named after
General Mark Willcox, a soldier in the Indian Wars who later served in
the Georgia General Assembly, and others believing that it is named for
his father, Captain John Willcox. Hernando de Soto is believed to have
discovered the Ocmulgee River, in the area that became Wilcox County, in
1540. The area's first inhabitants were Creek Indians who signed
treaties in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, forfeiting
their land. The first settlers came from neighboring counties and
states during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Much
of the land was virgin pine forest. Many settlers lived first by
subsistence farming and hunting and moved later into cattle ranching
after establishing their homesteads. Eventually, settlers produced
cotton and fruit, as well as cattle, for the market.
The county seat is Abbeville,
established in 1858 but not incorporated until 1883. Its location, near
the eastern boundary of Wilcox County, was reportedly chosen because
David Fitzgerald donated sixty acres there for use as a county seat. A
courthouse was built in 1858, and the town subsequently developed around
it. In response to complaints that the seat of government was not
centrally located, county taxpayers were invited by the state assembly
to challenge the eastern location, but no one came forth. The old
courthouse remained in use until 1903, when the brick structure that
still serves today was completed. A large wild hog population in
Abbeville led to its nickname, the "Wild Hog Capital of Georgia," and
the town hosts an annual
Ocmulgee Wild Hog Festival.
Wilcox County was relatively young
when the Civil War (1861-65) began, but its citizens supported the war
effort by sending their sons and husbands to fight. Confederate
president Jefferson Davis camped on May 8, 1865, at Abbeville during his
flight through Wilcox County at the end of the war, two nights before
his capture by Union forces in Irwinville.