Lee County sign. (file photo)
Lee County is known throughout the state as one of the fastest-growing regions over the past couple of decades — partially because it’s a bedroom community for Albany.
But to label it strictly a bedroom community is a disservice to the growth experienced both in retail and industrial areas in recent years.
The county has come a long way since being acquired from Creek Indians and mainly populated by farmers who farmed the county, which was much larger than it is today.
Representatives of the of the Lee County Library provided a brief history of the county based on documents available at the library. Her account includes:
“Named for Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), a Virginia congressman, Lee County was acquired Dec. 11, 1826, from the Creek Indians and included land in what is now Quitman, Randolph, Stewart, Sumter, Terrell and Webster counties and parts of Schley, Chattahoochee, Macon, Clay and Marion counties.
In 1826 the first county seat was located in what is now Webster County. On Dec. 20, 1832, Starkville became the county seat, half a mile west of the Muckalee Creek and seven miles east of the Kinchafoonee Creek.
In 1872, the county seat was moved to Wooten Station on the Southwestern Railroad and became known as Leesburg in 1874. In 1920, the population was 1,920. At this time Leesburg, with a population of 413, was abounding in the cotton trade and had a gin company that handled two to three thousand bales of cotton annually. Smithville, at the junction of the Central and Georgia Railway, shipped thousands of barrels of pears each year.
In 1922 the Leesburg High School was completed, and the county had a total enrollment of 2,988 in grades 1-11. Total school enrollment increased almost 100 students per year for approximately 15 years.
In the 1930s and ‘40s, Spanish peanuts were cultivated, and in the 1940s farming started to become mechanized. During World War II, German prisoners of war were used to harvest peanuts.
Currently, some of the oldest improved pecans were planted in Lee County around 1916.”
According to 2011 census figures, the most recent available, Lee County now has 28,575 residents, a 1 percent growth rate at a time when many counties in Southwest Georgia are reporting population decreases.
Lee County has 10,176 housing units with a home ownership rate of 77.7 percent. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is $149,700.
Lee has a median household income of $58,252. Census figures also show Lee has 2.83 persons per household.
Persons living below the poverty level are 10.3 percent, compared with the statewide average of 16.5 percent.
The land area of Lee County is 355.78 square miles, with 79.5 persons per square mile.
Leesburg is the county seat of Lee County. Smithville is the only other incorporated community in the county.