During the 40 years of the pioneer
era, the original settlers cleared 104,000 acres of farmland, built churches
with a seating capacity of 15,100. the settlers also, constructed 4 merchant
mills, a cotton factory, 8 saw mills, 14 grist mills and 6 distilleries. The
County Seat of McDonough was prospering as one of the leading commercial centers
in Upper Georgia and then a new factor appeared on the scene. The Monroe Railroad
and the Georgia Railroad brought much prosperity to the Henry County. The old
Indian Trail based roads where replaced and towns along the railroads boomed.
Merchants and lawyers deserted McDonough for the new boomtowns.
During the periods of 1860's and
1870'5 the county faced two decades of tumult, upheaval, disruption and destruction.
The Yankees invaded the towns and blame the settlers for prolonging the War.
The Yankees vandalized and burned churches, schools, and homes. With the War
Between the States over two extraordinarily profound changes occurred in Henry
County: First, the sad and peculiar institution of human slavery ended; Second,
the people of Henry County, Black and White, found themselves in a state of
near total poverty and destitution. With the war over and the men home the population
resumed to its natural increase. Settler’s concentrated on tenant farming
and share-cropping during the reconstruction period.
For a 40 year period from 1880 to
1920 Henry County acquired much wealth from its Cotton Kingdom. The construction
of the Georgia Midland and Gulf Railroad in 1886 brought McDonough back to life.
Attorneys and newspapers moved their offices from Hampton back to McDonough.
Increased cotton production and higher cotton prices led to an unprecedented
prosperity. Cotton acreage in Henry County reached its historic peak in 1919
with a total acreage of 66,238 acres. The progress and prosperity of Henry County
did not last long when the cotton boll weevil brought the cotton crop to a total
loss in 1920.
“The Boll Weevil Depression"
lasted from 1920 to 1940. The population of Henry County topped out at over
20,000 in 1920 and by 1940 had declined by 25% to about 15,000. Most of the
banks closed, thousands lost their homes, farms and businesses because they
couldn't pay their creditors. For two decades everything in Henry County was
in decline. Many present day residents recall this period with stories of getting
by, of cars on blocks in the barn because they couldn't afford a gallon of gas
and of general hard times. The economy of Henry County did not turn up again
until World War II. The biggest trend, which developed during this period, was
living in the country and working in Atlanta.
During the first part of this era
Henry County was still very rural and relatively isolated from Atlanta. This
was to be changed forever by the construction of l-75 through the heart of Henry
County. Work began on the Interstate in 1966 and the Interstate was open to
traffic all the way through the County in the fall of 1969. This brings us to
our sixth and present era, "1-75 and Beyond".
During the twenty year period from
1970 to 1990 the population of Henry County exploded. In 1970 thepopulation
finally regained its 1920 level of 20,000; up from the 1940 low of 15,000. It
took 50 years for the population to recover from the Boll Weevil Depression.
Between 1970 and 1990 the population almost tripled. Henry Cunty population
has almost doubled again since 1990. Projections for the Henry County population
will top 200,000 by 2010.