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Setting the Stage

Today's state of Georgia was the last American colony established by the English crown, and the city of Savannah was its first town. The seeds for both were planted in 1732, when a group of Englishmen came together and formed The Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America. Their leader was General James Oglethorpe, a member of the House of Commons since 1722. While in the House, one of Oglethorpe's friends was jailed for debt and died of smallpox. Oglethorpe asked Parliament to appoint a committee which investigated the suffering of debtors in London jails. They formed the committee in 1728, naming Oglethorpe as chairman. This experience persuaded Oglethorpe and his fellow committee members that an American colony should be established for relief of the needy and those of modest means.

In 1733, Oglethorpe and his original band of 114 settlers arrived on the southeast Atlantic coast. He selected a site on a high bluff overlooking the Savannah River for the site of his new town. Oglethorpe directed the design and construction of the settlement, basing it on English city planning principles. The grid pattern of streets, wards, and "trustee lots" was interspersed regularly with park-like squares. As the city grew, the plan was repeated. Although architectural styles and building materials changed over the 18th and 19th centuries, the Oglethorpe plan continued to be the city's framework.



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