Governor Wilson Lumpkin
WILSON LUMPKIN (1783-1870),
Governor of Georgia, Congressman and U.S. Senator,
was the son of John Lumpkin, who was the son of George
Lumpkin and Mary Cody. Apparently his first name was after John Wilson,
a colonel in Virginia during the Revolutionary War who was married
to Mary Lumpkin, his father's sister. Gov. Lumpkin apparently took great
pride in his family heritage, for he left several writings on the subject.
Gov. Lumpkin's monument, in Athens, Georgia, reads:
Born Jan. 14, 1783 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Came to Georgia, 1784
Died at Athens December 18, 1870
He served his State as
Legislator, Congressman, Governor
Commissioner to Cherokee Indians
State Agent W&A RR, U.S. Senator
Trustee of the University of Georgia
And died full of years and honor.
Wilson Lumpkin (Gov. of Georgia from 1831-35, and U.S. Senator),
had the dubious distinction of advocating and planning for the "removal"
of the Cherokee Indians to the Indian Territory in the west. The
book THE GOVERNORS OF GEORGIA, which gives short biographies of each
governor, under Wilson Lumpkin's name states "He removed the Cherokees",
and says that he took greater pride in this accomplishment than
anything else he did in public service.
The forced removal of the
Cherokee and the four other "civilized tribes" (Chickasaw, Choctaw,
Creek, and Seminole) from Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama,
Mississippi and other southern states, to the west of the Mississippi
River in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) on the "Trail of Tears," was a
very tragic and shameful episode in our nation's history. The Cherokee
removal took place during the winter of 1838-39, at the same time
that the Mormons were being driven from Missouri by the citizens and
governor of that state. The Cherokee suffered even worse abuses and
injustices, and a much higher percentage of deaths, than the Mormons
did. They were a very educated and civilized people, had adopted the
whites' ways, and were peaceful and prosperous farmers. They had a
republican form of government, schools, a written alphabet, and a newspaper.
Representatives from their tribe had appealed for years to Congress
for fair treatment under the law, and for the government to abide by
its treaties to them, which recognized them as a sovereign and independent
nation. Most of Congress supported their position, and the Supreme
Court ruled in their favor, but even though their cause was just and
the Cherokee were clearly in the right, in those days state and local
governments had more power than the federal, and often "took the law
into their own hands".
Since the federal government was comparatively
weak, and the Supreme Court had no way to enforce their decisions,
local citizens frequently banded together to act according to what they
felt were their own "best interests". That often meant violation of
the rights of individuals and minorities, oppression, greediness,
land-grabbing, and destruction of resources. This basically amounts to
mob rule -- because of ignorance, suspicion, fear, misinformation, rumors,
and prejudice. This happened against both the Mormons and the Cherokees.
What to do about the "Mormon problem" and the "Indian problem" were similar
issues to those in the majority and in power at that time. They tended
to treat these oppressed minorities as "scapegoats," saying that it
was their own fault that their neighbors perpetrated acts of violence and
lawlessness against them, and violated their rights. They were
"different" and couldn't live peacefully with their neighbors (because
of the NEIGHBORS' prejudice and aggression, which they were blamed for).
Stories and rumors of the minorities "wrongs" or aggressive acts were
exaggerated or else completely fabricated, stirring their neighbors up
to violence and retaliation in which they felt justified. The governor
and other public officials believed that "the voice of the people is
the voice of God", and Governor Lumpkin, apparently, sincerely believed
that it would be in the best interest of both the whites and the Indians
for them to move beyond the Mississippi. He was very persuasive
in arguing his firm stand on this issue. He ignored the U.S. Supreme
Court decision, and had the Cherokee land surveyed and distributed
out to whites in a "land lottery" even before the forced removal.
The great majority of the Cherokee were peaceable and
co-operative, adopted the whites' ways, attended schools and churches,
wanted to stay and co-exist peaceably with their white neighbors and
have their rights and boundaries respected. They were not the aggressors
or perpetrators in any of the conflicts or "problems" which arose
(because of whites encroaching on their lands). The Cherokees' rights were
completely disregarded and trampled on, and all of the problems were
unjustly blamed on them, as was the case with the Mormons. The Cherokees
were rounded up by the Army, put into enclosures like cattle, and
then had to go on a forced march of a thousand miles in the dead of winter,
driven out or "removed" for no other reasons than that they were
"different". The whites looked down on, disliked, and feared them, and
coveted their lands, particularly the gold which had been discovered
there. The first gold rush in U.S. history was in northern Georgia, on
former Cherokee lands. The gold soon ran out, and most of the men who
had flocked there seeking a quick fortune, left for California in 1849.
Governor Lumpkin alone cannot be held personally responsible for
the removal of the Cherokees, for he was only one of many who were
"ganging up" against them. He was trying to do according to what the
majority of the citizens of his state wanted, and to preserve the peace
and the rule of law, in the way he thought was best. In a book or article
entitled "Removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia," Governor Lumpkin
wrote of his family background:
"I am a native of Virginia, and was born in Pittsylvania County,
January 14, 1783. When I was one year old my father removed to
Georgia and settled in that part of the state then known as Wilkes
County, now Oglethorpe County. My parents were of English descent
on both sides, and (Virginia was) the birthplace of them and their
ancestors for several generations past.
"My father and his father, George Lumpkin, settled on Long Creek
(Georgia) in the year 1784.
"Blessed by nature with a fine commanding person, upwards of six
feet high and perfectly erect in his carriage; naturally fluent in
speech, polite, courteous, and exceedingly popular in his deportment,
yet he had sufficient command of his feelings to control his
temper when his judgment deemed it proper and expedient to forbear.
"He was a man of affairs, a strong character, courageous,
thoroughly honest, a good conversationalist, a man of sound judgment
with a pleasing personality.
"During a long public life in various County Offices, few men
ever maintained a more uniform popularity; although sometimes
censured and blamed as a Public Officer, yet upon due investigation he
never failed to rise higher in the public esteem.
"He was for many years acting Magistrate, or Justice of the
Peace, in Wilkes County. After the creation of Oglethorpe County,
1794, he was for many years, Judge of the Inferior Court; was a
member of the Legislature which passed the Rescinding Act of the
Yazoo Fraud; a member of the Convention which framed the present
Constitution of Georgia; was elected a Jeffersonian Elector of
President and Vice-President; was many years Clerk of the Superior
Court of Oglethorpe County, besides in many trusts too tedious to
"These different positions always brought within reach of the
family, a knowledge of many local public matters which were not
accessible to many of the rising generation of that day.
"In his home were found more newspapers, books, and reading
matter, than was common to families of that period in similar
circumstances; in other respects few men retained so large a share of
popularity through life in their respective spheres than he did.
From the first settlement of the county to this day, he and his
immediate descendants have maintained as much character and influence
in the County of Oglethorpe as has fallen to the lot of any
"My mother was a woman of great strength of mind, deeply imbued
with the religion of the Bible, with which Book she was so familiar as
to need no Concordance to find any passage of Scripture she desired."
Letter of Governor Wilson Lumpkin to his daughter, Mrs. Ann Alden:
Athens, Ga., Oct. 20, 1852
My dear daughter,
After I shall have seen the last of earth, some of my descendants
may feel some interest in knowing some of the genealogy of
our family; such things as I have not recorded; a few of which I
will now append, in the form of a letter addressed to you.
Unimportant and commonplace as these things may appear to others;
there may be one yet unborn, who, like myself, would willingly dwell
on the pages of the past.
In the History of England I find the name of Lumpkin, and though
not conspicuously enrolled upon the pages of fame, I find nothing
of reproach. Indications of mind utility and industry, may be
described from the little I have seen of the name "Lumpkin" as an
Among the early settlers of Virginia, I find the name of Col.
(Jacob) Lumpkin, who settled in King & Queen County in the old
Dominion, in the Sixteenth Century. He brought with him from England
a small marble tablet, or tombstone, to be placed on his grave
(more likely it was actually brought over later), and there it
stood a few years ago, unimpaired by time. I had a copy of the
inscription taken from this stone, but it is now mislaid or lost, and
I cannot now be accurate as to dates, etc.
From this individual as far as I have been able to ascertain,
have descended all the Lumpkin family of the United States, some of
whom are to be found in many of the States of our great and widely
My father was probably a great-grandson of Col. (Jacob) Lumpkin.
My father in his youth on a visit to the coast of Virginia, visited
the tomb of this, our first American ancestor. One motive of his
visit was to settle a disputed issue between my grandfather and his
brother, Joseph (my old schoolmaster) in regard to spelling the
name "Lumpkin." My grandfather left out the "p". My father's visit
to the grave settled the controversy, the "p" was in it, and so
we have all spelled the name ever since (excepting my grandfather,
who continued to leave the "p" out to the day of his death, in
writing his name).
My grandfather gave me many interest details concerning our
ancestry, which I deem it unnecessary to reiterate here; suffice it
to say while we have no royal blood, or aristocratic blood to boast
of, I am content to know that we have no reproach or taint from our
progenitors. If there be anything to produce a blush, it must be
sought for in the present generation, of which I leave others to
make up the record.
The Lumpkins, like all other families, have doubtless peculiar
traits of character, but it would not become me to dwell upon these
distinguishing traits, whether to our credit or discredit as a family.
I feel that I may be allowed to say, industry and honesty are
common traits in the Lumpkin family. The reason why few of them
have become wealthy, is neither for want of industry, talent, or
vigilant care; it is because they are not disposed to hoard; but
rather to enjoy the fruits of their industry.
Allow me to state; many of my father's family in early times,
were remarkable for their gigantic proportions and physical power.
My grandfather had a brother by the name of Anthony, who had twelve
sons, all born of one mother. None of them were under six feet in
height; their average weight being over two hundred pounds, yet
none of them carried any surplus flesh. I have seen four of these
giant sons of old Uncle Anthony, and truly they were most extraordinary
men in physical appearance and power.
The Lumpkins have been a most prolific race of people. My
grandfather, however, lost most of his children in infancy. He
reared but three sons and one daughter who reared families of
children, all of whom, except my father, continued to reside in
Virginia to the close of their lives, except one of my father's
brothers who came to Georgia at a later period of life, and died
The maiden name of my grandmother Lumpkin was Cody; and she,
like all the rest of those days, was a most excellent woman; just
what the best of women should be. The Cody family of Warren County
were her near relations; and upon investigation you will find them
to be a highly respectable and meritorious family of people.
My grandfather's three sons were named Robert, George, and John,
and his daughter, Mary, after her mother.
(Signed) WILSON LUMPKIN
In the state of Georgia there is a county and also a town named for
Governor Lumpkin: Lumpkin County is in northern Georgia, where the old
Cherokee town of Dahlonega and the Dahlonega Gold Museum is located. In
another part of the state is a town called Lumpkin -- along the western
border of Georgia towards the south, in Stewart County. Within the
town of Lumpkin is a reconstructed farming village called Westville, a
living historical village which shows the handicrafts and culture of
Georgia during the 1850's. Also it is said that "the Georgia Railroad
and Banking Company was chartered in 1833, with Lumpkin as a director.
When the railroad finally was completed in 1851, the route closely
followed the one he had selected in 1825. The southern terminus of the
railroad, in DeKalb County, has had several names. Originally White
Hall, it was changed to Terminus, then Marthasville, in honor of Governor
Lumpkin's daughter. This town finally became the city of Atlanta, Georgia."
Joseph Henry Lumpkin, a brother of Wilson Lumpkin, became Georgia's
first Chief Justice, and two other brothers became ministers. The law
school of the University of Georgia is named the Lumpkin Law School,
after Joseph Henry Lumpkin, and Wilson Lumpkin's former home is located
on the University campus, on land which he gave to the University when
he helped to found it.
John Henry Lumpkin, a nephew, was a lawyer, solicitor general of Georgia,
and U.S. Representative to Congress from Georgia. He was defeated
by a small margin in his run for governor of Georgia.
a great-nephew of Wilson Lumpkin, was a lawyer, member of the state
legislature and senate, and at the time of his death was presiding justice
of the supreme court of Georgia. In a tribute to him presented
before the supreme court, it was said that
"Samuel Lumpkin was one in
whose mortal tenement burned the flame of loftiest manhood. He was ...
a member of a family whose name has been one of prominence in the annals
of American history ... The name of Lumpkin adds luster to the political
annals of the state of Georgia, and to the records of the bench
and bar of this commonwealth ... John Lumpkin, great-grandfather of Samual
Lumpkin ... was a man of force and ability such as one would expect
to find as the progenitor of men like the Lumpkins ... he had nine sons,
four of whom achieved marked distinction ...
Samuel's father Joseph
Lumpkin, though he died at the early age of 26 years, had already won an
enviable position at the bar of this state. The untimely death of this
gifted man left young Samuel, then of tender years, to care for his
widowed mother and his sister ... Those of us who knew him intimately knew
of the tender affection and anxious solicitude which he ever manifested
for both of them. We might pause here and profitably point out a moral
of well-nigh universal observation, that responsibilities are essential
to the development of true manhood; and when to other responsibilities
are added the care and support of mother and sister, how immeasurably
potent in that development are such influences. Truly no man was ever
completely great, nor can be, who did not love his mother ... At the time
of his graduation in the state university he was 17 and one-half years
old, and graduated with first honor ...
The friends he made in college he
retained through life, and it may be said no man ever valued friendship
more or surpassed him in loyalty to that pure and precious relation ...
After graduating, he taught school for a few years and applied himself
outside of school hours to the study of law, and in 1868 he was admitted
to the bar ... He was vigorous, strong intellectually, persistent in
purpose, steadfast in moral integrity, and untiring in the performance
of duty. He possessed in a remarkable degree the power of statement,
and that gift, coupled with his wonderful power of discrimination,
analysis, and condensation, made him truly a great judge in his day. He
was also a most devoted husband ... (his wife) was his constant inspiration
and he had the greatest admiration for her judgment and high sense
of justice. He has been heard to say that he frequently discussed with
her questions of abstract right and justice and was much aided in the
solution of such questions as a result of these discussions ... as a
husband he showed his brightest and most attractive side. In the language
of his broken hearted widow, in a letter written to a member of this
committee, 'He was always so cheerful, never despondent or discouraged;
even during his last illness, through the long months of pain and
suffering, he saw only the brightness ahead; his face always turned toward
the sunshine.' And the committee may add, she has spoken truly, for he
loved the light. This was characteristic of the man -- to look always
toward the sunshine, ever and always in search of light, and those of
us who knew him best, hopefully believe, as the shadow of death's wing
shut all the sunlight of this life from his mortal eyes, on the 18th
day of July 1903, a new 'light' opened up to his immortal vision, eternal
light which bringeth in and sustaineth the life everlasting."
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra Shuler Bray