Why Does Georgia Have So Many Counties?

Iowahawk is mocking Georgia for having a vast, vast number of counties compared to many states. It's true: we've got a lot of them.

What I was taught about this in history class here in Georgia was this is a product of the Jeffersonian political ideals that ruled in the early history of the state, when the counties were being drawn up. The idea was that every citizen should be able to get to the county seat to participate in self-government without it being an undue burden on them. Since this was the late 1700s and early 1800s, there were no railroads (first Southern railroad was chartered in 1827; the Cherokee were removed and a land lottery was distributing their land by 1832). There were no cars, of course. There were no major highways (two Federal roads). Transport was by horse, mule, buggy, or foot.

As a result, the counties were set with a very small size to make sure that citizens could make it to the county seat. Wikipedia calls this a "traditional explanation" without sourcing, but it was taught to me in formal classes in state history. Whether that makes it more or less than folklore is up to the reader to decide.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Federalism suggests that states can have lots of counties if they like that. Or not.

Christopher B said...

As a former Iowan, I can tell you Iowahawk is pitching those rocks from a pretty transparent abode. The only reason Iowa doesn't have an even hundred counties is half of the one I grew up in was unfarmable swamp in the mid-1800s.

Anonymous said...

Because I've lived in two of the larger counties in the country, Harris Cty, Texas and San Diego Cty, CA, I can appreciate the considerable advantages and disadvantages of each approach. Georgia has a lot of counties, but it does not look chaotic, to me.

The Iowa map suggests flat farmland, with very little topography.