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Jefferson Davis Memorial State Historic Site

Irwin County

Date Established: 1997

Original Acreage: 4 Acres

Current Acreage: 12.7 Acres

Reuben W. Clements purchased the land in 1865. In 1915, his son, Honorable J.B. Clements, and the Georgia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy introduced a resolution tendering four acres of land to the state of Georgia for the purpose of creating a state park. The resolution passed, and in July 1920, the original four acres were officially deeded to the state. On July 3, 1933, Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company deeded to the Governor of Georgia an additional four acres for Jefferson Davis Park, bringing the size to eight acres. On March 8, 1938, the United States of America deeded to the state of Georgia an adjacent tract of land containing 3.66 acres. In 1952, Jack Eli and Doris R. Vickers donated 1.008 acres as a gift to the park, bringing it up to today?s total of 12.668 acres.
On May 10, 1865, Union Troops ended the four-year War Between the States by capturing Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States. The capture marked a new page in America History by ending a war the cost this country more than 600,000 lives. Jefferson Davis was heading west into Texas to meet another Confederate army which might have made the Civil War last another two years with even more dead Americans. Many people believe that the Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia, but the official ending of the war happen here in Irwinville, Georgia, which is now called Jefferson Davis Memorial State Historic Site.
In 1939, on Jefferson Davis's birthday, a monument was erected to mark the exact spot where he and his party were captured. In 1939, a museum was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The site offers a nature trail for teaching about Georgia wildlife and shows the original highway in which Jefferson Davis and his party traveled. It also provides a group shelter for family reunions and other gatherings, a picnic area to enjoy Georgia's beautiful weather, and a playground for children.

History of Irwin County - Chapter 7 1932

 [J. B. Clements]

My father, Mr. R. W. Clements, after viewing the spot where they captured his chieftain only a few days after it happened, made a vow that if God would endow him with strength and health to rebuild his fortunes, the war leaving him only about twenty head of piney-woods cattle and 245 acres of land in the woods in Worth County, worth about $100.00, that so soon as he was able he would buy lot of land number fifty-one, in third district, Irwin , County, upon which the capture was made and that no Yankee should ever own it. God prospered him and he soon bought it, and kept it until his death. In his later years Fitzgerald sprang up as a colony town with numbers of ex-Union soldiers as its inhabitants. He had many friends among them, all of whom, if they came to him in the proper spirit, expressing a desire to see the spot upon which Davis was captured, he would stop his work and go with them to the spot and permit them to secure canes or souvenirs to carry home. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald, like other boom towns had some who were not as desirable citizens as they should have been. One Sunday after dinner a neighbor Dr. W. L. Julian, sent word to my father that a crowd of those old Yankees were at the Jeff Davis camp ground cutting down the light-wood stump which stood nearest to Mr. Davis' camp and had wagons there to carry it away. Never have I seen my father as angry as he was at that time. He called to me to get my gun and go with him. He secured a double-barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot and his pistol and went to the spot as quickly as possible. Upon our arrival, we found everything as the neighbor had communicated it to us. My father, after calling them all kinds of thieves and everything he could think of in the category of mean men, in-formed them that he had shot at you, the infernal Yankees, four years during the war and that he had not forgotten how it was done and that he would delight in doing the same thing in Georgia in protecting his property from such as they were but that he would allow them three minutes to hitch their team to the wagon and get off his land and stay off. Should he ever catch them there again on a similar errand, he would shoot first and ask questions afterward. To my delight they gave my father no back talk, but long before the time he gave them expired, they had their mules hitched to the wagon and drove off and never to our knowledge returned again. They had cut the light-wood stump down and had cut it up into about four foot lengths to carry away, but my father's appearance on the scene prevented them from doing so.
On numerous occasions my father made the remark that no Yankee should ever own this spot of land as long as he lived. On his death bed he told me he wanted my mother and me, we being his only heirs, to fix it so that it would always remain in the possession of Southern people and could never belong, as he expressed it, to a Yankee. After consulting with many able lawyers as how to carry out the wishes of this loyal Con-federate, my father, in the year 1915, during my term of office as member of General Assembly of Georgia, I introduced a resolution tendering it to the State of Georgia in conjunction with the Daughters of Confederacy in fee simple four acres of land with the spot upon which Davis' camp was located about the center. My father would never allow the pine timber turpentined or sawmilled. and the original timber is there today as it was on the tenth day of May, 1865, when the President of the Confederacy was captured, only it has grown much larger. To the shame of my native state, it has never spent one dime towards marking this spot or beautifying it in any particular. A spot holy in the eyes of all Confederate Soldiers. We trust some day our state will wake up and do the proper, the nice and appropriate thing and mark and beautify it as it should be.

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