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Intern’s Corner: A brief history of Richmond Hill
Jeffrey Burton
Jeffrey Burton

Jeffrey Burton

BCN Intern, Senior at Richmond Hill High School.

Editor’s Note: This column was an assignment from the editor in order for the intern to practice his writing skills for the paper.

The History of Richmond Hill can be traced back all the way to 1733 when James Oglethorpe and 114 British settlers colonized an area of modern-day Savannah.

They named the colony Georgia after the King George II.

In 1793, Bryan County was established. The county was named after the patriot Jonathan Bryan. Jonathan was one of the original settlers who supported the Revolutionary War and helped fund the Continental Army.

Before Richmond Hill was established, the area was a small rural town named Ways Station in eastern Bryan County. The town was built as a settlement in 1856 during the agricultural boom. The town had a railway that helped deliver sugar cane and southern cotton. During the Civil War, a Confederate Fort named Fort McAllister was built in 1861 after threats of attack from the Union. The town was later destroyed during Gen. Sherman’s March to the Sea. In 1925, the founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, bought 85,000 acres of land near Ways Station to construct a plantation near the Ogeechee River. Ford often stayed at the plantation on vacations during the winter.

While staying there, he was interested in the Ways Station. He saw how impoverished the town was so with his enormous fortune from his motor company, he helped the town develop by producing homes, schools, modern infrastructure, and St Anne’s Catholic Church which is still being used to this day. This development helped modernize the town into the 20th century.

In 1940, the U.S. Government needed a new camp to train Army soldiers, so they took 105,000 acres in the center of Bryan County. It was later named Camp Stewart. Unfortunately, a lot of residents in that area lost their homes. This caused a major increase in the population of Ways Station.

After the death of Henry Ford in 1947, the people of the town wanted to change the town name to “Ford” but later named the town Richmond Hill after the plantation that Ford owned. The plantation was purchased by the International Paper Company in 1951. The plantation is now used as a large gated community that has a golf course, a marina, and luxury houses. One of the owners of Ford Plantation, J.F Gregory, had a park named after him in 1998.

On March 3, 1962, the population of Richmond Hill was registered as an official city by the state of Georgia. The town later held its first election in 1963. L.C. Gill won the election and was elected Mayor. The town later grew in the 1980s from the city of Savannah. The city also grew thanks to the U.S. Route 17 and Interstate 95 which pass through Richmond Hill.

Nowadays, the city of Richmond Hill has been growing fast. According to the U.S. Census, the city had a total population of 16,663 in 2020 which is a huge increase compared to 2010 which only had a population of 9,281. The town continues to grow with its great schools, scenery, and how it is located close to Savannah and Fort Stewart. The city is also about an hour away from Tybee Island, Hilton Head, Pembroke, Statesboro, Jekyll Island, and Brunswick.

The current mayor is Russ Carpenter who is also a teacher at Richmond Hill High School.

Jeffrey Burton, also known as J.J., is a senior at Richmond Hill High School. Born in Bloomington, Illinois to a military family, he has been a resident of Richmond Hill for four years.

He is a cadet in his school’s JROTC program, and is also on the color guard team.  Outside of school, Burton enjoys music. He plays the drums, and enjoys singing in his church choir. On the weekends, he enjoys surfing on Tybee Island.

Burton credits his interest in journalism to watching the evening news with his grandfather. After high school, Burton plans to attend Georgia Southern University and major in Broadcast Journalism.

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