Oldest Jail in Georgia, Circa 1783, Warthen

Aaron Burr Apocraphyl Presumed Oldest Jail in Georgia Warthen GA Washington County Political Prisoner Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Located today on private property, this structure is nonetheless accessible and widely visited. Thought to be the oldest standing jail in Georgia, it’s better known as the Aaron Burr Jail. The former Vice-president is said to have been held here overnight during transport to Richmond for his 1807 trial for treason. A granite-and-bronze marker was placed at the site by the Governor Jared Irwin Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. However, research and evidence suggests that this story is apocryphal. A 1906 newspaper article by Col. Macon Warthen, Sr., gave a very detailed account of Burr’s movements from Fort Wilkinson (Milledgeville) to Shoals of Ogeechee in Hancock County. According to Col. Warthen’s research, Burr spent the night in Shoals of the Ogeechee, not in Warthen (then known as Wicker).

Aaron Burr Jail Warthen GA Washington County Political Prisoner DAR Bronze Marker Plaque Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

It reads: “Site of First Washington County Jail – Erected 1783 of Logs – Aaron Burr Incarcerated Here 1807, En Route to Trial for Treason“. I believe this claim is possible, but I wish there were further documentation.

Aaron Burr Oldest Jail in Georgia Warthen GA Washington County Political Prisoner Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Different sources list different years for the date of construction, generally ranging from 1783 – 1793. Since there’s no way of specifically dating it, my source is John Linley’s Architecture of Middle Georgia: The Oconee Area (UGA Press, 1972).

Warthen Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

5 Comments

Filed under --WASHINGTON COUNTY GA--, Warthen GA

5 responses to “Oldest Jail in Georgia, Circa 1783, Warthen

  1. There is tintyupe of the jail c1870 along with my 2nd Great Grandfather (Milton Elijah Warthen) and 2GGmother (Mary Elizabeth (Molly) Curry) in the Geogia Archives at: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/vanga/id:was308
    http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/cgi-bin/vanga.cgi?query=id%3Awas308&_cc=1&Welcome

  2. Scott Rogerd

    I love learning about Georgia History. Especially the Revolutionary War period. Speaking of Govenor Irwin, The cemetery plot where he and his son and I’m assuming his other family members is sadly in shambles. There is a beautiful wrought iron fence around the property but it is all overgrown and in a serious state of neglect. The property surrounding it was clear cut recently and I find it sad for someone who figures so prominently in our state and national history does not have the place where he is buried cared for at all. There are markers in a couple of places nearby but I think it is past time that his resting place be given to the care and attention it deserves. I would even be willing to volunteer my own time to help get this place cleaned up if I had someone interested in getting involved in such a project.

  3. Randal Eulas Johnson

    Warthen, Washington County is the birthplace of my Mothers faimly. We would visit my Great Aunt & Uncle who remained there throughout the 60’s. Their home was just across the way from the old jail. Our families old homeplace still stands and is currently owned by my last remaining Aunt.
    All the family are buried at Union Baptist Church Washington County.

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