Saturday, July 18, 2009

Who Murdered Georgia's First Governor

John Adam Treutlen was the first man elected as governor in Georgia after the state declared its independence. He came to Georgia with his family in 1743 from southern Germany at the age of ten. While en route to Georgia, his father died, leaving only him, his brother, and his mother to make the voyage. They arrived in Georgia and became indentured servants to Michael Burckhalter not far from Savannah.

Treutlen and his family were Salzburgers, and it is quite possible that they endured some persecution in Germany, which explains their flight to the New World. After 1756, Treutlen married and became prosperous. He served as a justice of the peace in Ebenezer, as well as road commissioner and surveyor there, and even represented Ebenezer in the Commons House of Assembly in Savannah, Georgia's first colonial legislature. He was also elected to Georgia's Provisional Congress during the American Revolution. He, Button Gwinnett, and George Wells (I have no clue if I am related to this man or not) helped draft the state's first constitution, and he would become so popular as a result that he was elected the first governor of Georgia under that constitution.

His time as governor was marked with controversy, as many of the conservative elements in Georgia killed the radicals who had helped put the new government in place. Lachlan McIntosh killed Button Gwinnett in a duel, and the other radical who helped draft the new state constitution, George Wells, was killed by James Jackson. So the conservatives, also called Tories, were on the prowl against many of the radical elements in the state. For the time being, Treutlen was spared.

In 1778, Treutlen dropped out of politics and returned to Ebenezer. John Houston became governor after Treutlen. However, in 1782, Treutlen returned to state politics and was elected as Ebenezer's representative to the state legislature. That year was very tumultuous in the legislature. There were only a few radicals in the state legislature that session, Treutlen being one. Conservatives continued their assault on the radicals and the political climate was very nasty. As a result, Treutlen left Georgia and moved his family to safety in the Orangeburg District of South Carolina. He was murdered in the night in South Carolina, in front of his family, in the spring of 1782. But the question remains, by whom???

One theory is that five tories lured him outside his home and shot him. Another theory is that an angry suitor may have killed him, for a few days earlier, he married again for the third time. Perhaps one of his new wife's old boyfriends came to do him in. Also, noone knows where he is buried.

This is a tragic story, especially given the fact that Treutlen was our first elected governor. Who killed him, and where did he end up??? Perhaps we will never know.


scooter said...

Nice local history story Prof!

When you read about politics back then, it's amazing how violent/brutal they were with each other.

I imagine some politicians would like to be that way these days. :)

Didn't vote for my bill, eh?'s duel time!


The Professor said...

Going back to the Gwinnett/McIntosh duel, there is a mystery that surrounds the burial of Button Gwinnett. I may post a small blurb about it on the site.