Baker County (file photo)
Baker County, Georgia’s 61st county, which was formed in 1825 from part of Early County and named for Col. John Baker, encompasses 343 square miles of land area and another six square miles of water area.
The county has only one incorporated city, the county seat, Newton, and five unincorporated communities: Milford, Elmodel, Crestview, Bethany and Hoggard Mill.
Until the 1850s, Baker County encompassed all of Dougherty and Mitchell counties, a third of Miller County and two-thirds of Calhoun County, each of the areas splitting from Baker one at a time from 1854-1857.
The primary industry in Baker County is agriculture, with county farmers producing peanuts, cotton, corn, canola, poultry and beef. The three largest employers, in terms of number of employees, are the Baker County School System, the Joseph Jones Research Center and Pineland Plantation.
A historic marker on State Highway 37 south of Leary marks the site of the final battle of the Creek Indian War in 1836, where several Southwest Georgia militias chased a band of Creeks that had destroyed a settlement in the area into a nearby swamp. Only a few militiamen were injured, and many of the Indians were killed.
The county has only one school, housed in two buildings, which comprises grades pre-K through 12th grade. Eleventh- and 12th-grade students formerly attended Mitchell-Baker High School, but at the beginning of the 2007/2008 school year they were brought back into the Baker County School System.
In 2012, Baker County’s population was estimated at 3,366, up from 3,085 recorded in the 2011 census.
The county houses several plantations, which range in size from 5,000 to 28,000 acres. The largest was Ichauway Plantation, once owned by Coca-Cola magnate Robert Woodruff and now home to the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center.
The research center is one of the largest outdoor research centers in the world, where scientists study local vegetation, water systems and wildlife.
The town of Newton is the county seat and the only incorporated city in Baker County. Founded in 1831, the city was named for Sgt. John Newton, who like Baker County’s founder, served in the Revolutionary War.
The city was created to be the county seat and was located in the center of the county before large portions of the county split in the 1850s to form other counties. During its early years, several area residents attempted to get a railroad through the city, but city leaders opposed the location of a railroad and the railroad was eventually located in Albany.
The Baker County Courthouse in Newton is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but because of the city’s location on the Flint River, it has been flooded three times over the last century.