Passersby often mistake this for the Confederate Monument, but instead it honors Jared Irwin, one of Washington County’s best-known politicians of his time. The monument was moved from the earlier courthouse square to its present location some time after the Civil War. Today, Irwin is barely known, but he lives on as the namesake of Irwin County, Irwinville, and Irwinton. It’s a sad fact today that he isn’t considered one of Georgia’s greatest heroes; his rescinding of the Yazoo frauds alone should place him high above most any Georgia politician of any time. Other than the namesake places, this is, to my knowledge, the only monument honoring this great Georgian. Governor Irwin is who brought me to Washington County on this trip; I was determined to find his grave and pay my quiet respects. The monument’s base, heavy with text on all four sides, describes the varied career of Irwin, albeit in the flowery, adjective-laden style of the mid-19th century.
South Side: Erected by the State of Georgia to the memory of Governor Jared Irwin, who died at his residence, Union Hill, Washington Co., on the first day of March 1818 in the 68th year of his age.
East Side: A true patriot. He entered the service of his country as Captain and soon rose to the rank of colonel in the Revolutionary War. As a soldier, he was brave and gallant. He distinguished himself a the sieges of Savannah and Augusta and in the battles of Camden, Brier Creek, Black Swamp, and several other engagements, he was at all times foremost leading his gallant band to victory. And not with his sword, and in his person only did he do service for his country. From his private means he erected a fortress in Burke County for protection of the people of the surrounding districts.His pure devotion to the cause of liberty marked him in the eyes of the enemy, and on more than one occasion was he plundered of his property, and his premises reduced to ashes. At the close of the War of the Revolution, with the rank of General, he was actively engaged in the service of the state, in repelling the attacks and invasions of the hostile Indians; and here, again, was his liberality called into activity. He, at his own expense, built a fort at White Bluff, for the security and protection of the frontier inhabitants against the savage attacks of the merciless foes.
A band bearing Irwin’s initials, surrounds the obelisk.
North Side: General Irwin was one of the convention which met at Augusta in 1788, and ratified the constitution of the United States. He was a member of the convention in 1789, which formed the constitution of the State of Georgia. In 1798, he was president of the convention which revised the constitution of the State of Georgia. He rendered distinguished to his country as commissioner, in concluding several treaties with the Indians. At the close of the war of Independence he was a member of the first legislature under our present form of government; a position which occupied for several years. He was elected president of the senate frequently, at various periods from 1790 to the time of his death. He was governor of Georgia from January 17, 1796, to the 11th of January, 1798, and again from the 23rd of September, 1806, to the 7th of November, 1809. His administration was distinguished for his justice and impartiality; and his was the honor, after several years’ labor in the behalf, of signing the act rescinding the Yazoo Act.
West Side: In his private relations Governor Irwin was beloved by all who knew him. The spotless purity of his character, his benign and affable disposition, his widespread benevolence and hospitality, made him the object of general affection. To the poor and distressed he was ever a benefactor and friend. In every position of public life, as a soldier, a statesman, and a patriot, the public good was the object and the end of his ambition; and his death was lamented as a national calamity. But his memory will ever be embalmed in the hearts of his countrymen; and the historian will award him a brilliant page in the records of the country. Peace to his ashes! Honor to his name.
The monument is quite difficult to photograph. I’ll work on a better image next time I’m in Sandersville. I’m grateful to Ray South Irwin for historical background.