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Oglethorpe Day

Oglethorpe Day, also known as Georgia Day, honors General James Edward Oglethorpe and commemorates the founding of Georgia. On today's date in 1733, Oglethorpe and approximately 100 other Englishmen sailed up the Savannah River and docked at the bottom of Yamacraw Bluff. Oglethorpe organized the colony of Georgia—which became the thirteenth British colony—and became its first governor. He also founded Savannah, which became Georgia's first capital.

The colonists had left Gravesend, England, in November 1732, sailing on Anne. Before reaching Georgia, the boat stopped on Port Royal Island in South Carolina, where some travelers disembarked. Oglethorpe took an advance team to Georgia to find a location for settlement, so, in reality, Oglethorpe first stepped on Georgia ground on February 2, not February 12. Oglethorpe got permission from the Creek chief Tomochichi to settle. The colonists named Georgia after King George II, who had given them a charter the prior year. Their motto was Non Sibi Sed Aliis, meaning "not for self but others," and they prohibited slavery and large landholdings.

In 1909, the Georgia General Assembly officially created Georgia Day, marking "the anniversary of the landing of the first colonists in Georgia under Oglethorpe." According to the law, the holiday was to be celebrated in schools. Georgia and Oglethorpe had been celebrated unofficially on February 12 on years prior to this. Presently, the official legal status of the holiday is not clear: the law was never repealed, but it is not currently included in Georgia code. Currently, the holiday is mainly celebrated by schools and civic groups. On the day in 1933, a bicentennial stamp was issued. For the sestercentennial in 1983, a postcard was issued.

How to Observe Oglethorpe Day

Perhaps the best way to celebrate the day is to go to Yamacraw Bluff in Savannah, to be at the spot where Oglethorpe and the colonists landed in 1733. Oglethorpe Square and the Oglethorpe Monument are also nearby and could be visited. While you are in Georgia, you could check for civic groups holding events on the day. Schools also often participate in the day, and Oglethorpe University has an event each year. You could also look for things to do in Georgia in general. If you can't make it to Georgia, celebrate the day by learning more about Oglethorpe or Georgia by picking up a book about them.

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