While Macon has been an incorporated city only since 1832, its history stretches back thousands of years. Macon lies on the site of the Ocmulgee Old Fields, home to the Creek Indians and their predecessors for as long as 12,000 years before the white man arrived. Funeral mounds and temple mounds still stand in Macon, left by the earliest known Paleo-Indian cultures, through the Woodland, the Early Mississippian, and the Late Mississippian cultures. Today you can walk in the footsteps of the ancients at the Ocmulgee National Monument, run by the National Park Service, and get a fascinating look into the lives of the original caretakers of our area.
Not far from the Ocmulgee Mounds, you can see a replica of the trading post President Thomas Jefferson established in 1806 as a peacekeeper and trading site after the Creeks ceded their lands east of the Ocmulgee River. The trading post was named for the Indian agent and statesman Benjamin Hawkins.
Beginnings of a City
The Georgia legislature created Bibb County In 1822 and named it for William Wyatt Bibb, a U.S. Senator. Macon, named in honor of Nathaniel Macon, a North Carolina patriot and statesman, was designated the county seat.
As Macon grew, city leaders recognized the need for planning. Ancient Babylon inspired Macon’s appointed surveyor, James Webb, in 1832 to lay out a city with multitudes of parks and spacious avenues. City planners designated 250 acres for Central City Park and required citizens to plant shade trees in their front yards. Macon is beautiful and shady still today.
Cotton became the mainstay of Macon's early economy, and the city thrived due to its location on the Ocmulgee River. Cotton boats, stage coaches, and later, in 1843, a railroad all brought prosperity to Macon. During the Civil War, in his haste to reach the sea, Sherman bypassed Macon, although in the same war, a cannonball shot by Federal troops flew across the Ocmulgee River, careened off a porch column and landed at the foot of a flight of stairs in a newly built Greek Revival mansion. The cannonball still sits at the landing, and the house, the Cannonball House, is now a museum open to the public.
Everywhere you go in downtown Macon, the city's history is captured in its names, its architecture and its adornments.
The 20th Century
Throughout the Reconstruction era and into the 20th Century, Macon grew into a town built on an agricultural base. After World War I, Macon experienced a burst in development fueled by the boll weevil, a drought, and the land’s consequential crop failure.
From 1924 to 1926, the Huff Daland Dusters – to become Delta Air Lines in 1941 – operated in Macon, blanketing area cotton crops with pesticides to combat the boll weevil. Meanwhile, the federal government encouraged the city to build a local airport. In September 1926, as the airport was being completed, the first airmail flight was scheduled to land but was unable to touch ground because of a dispute between county and city officials. A crowd gathered to watch as the pilot flew his plane as low as he possibly could, dropping a bag full of mail into the postmaster’s arms.
Macon began to serve as a transportation hub for the entire state in the early 20th Century, but especially so after the construction in the 1960s of Interstates 75 and 16, which connect in Macon. Today these arteries carry an average annual daily traffic count of between 100,000 and 200,000 vehicles.
In 1994, the brunt of Tropical Storm Alberto hit Middle Georgia. The Ocmulgee River crested at 35.4 feet, setting a record for the river’s water level. Macon’s water treatment plant on the banks of the river was flooded and more than 160,000 citizens went without treated water for up to 19 days. The Macon Water Authority received more than $95 million in federal and state disaster aid and the new, award-winning Amerson Water Treatment Plant opened in 2000, replacing the flood-damaged Riverside plant.
Early on, Macon became known as an educational stronghold. The first college in the world for women, Georgia Female College – now Wesleyan College – was chartered in Macon in 1836. In 1990 Wesleyan celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first baccalaureate degree awarded to a woman. Mercer University, established at Penfield, Georgia in 1833, came to Macon in 1871 to continue the legacy of high academic excellence.
Macon Area Vocational-Technical School was established in 1962. The first students were accepted in 1966 with the first classes graduating in August 1967. In July 6, 2000, Macon Technical Institute’s name was changed to Central Georgia Technical College to more accurately identify the college’s quality education and the vast region its campuses cover.
Macon Junior College opened in 1968 with 1,110 students, the largest charter class for an institution of higher education in the state's history. The college formally became Macon State College in 1997, and in 2013 merged with Middle Georgia College to become Middle Georgia State College, now serving more than 8,000 students in 18 Middle Georgia counties.
Wesleyan College produced the first woman to receive a Doctor of Medicine degree and the first woman to argue a case before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Macon is known as a major music city, having nurtured the musical careers of several artists and musical acts since the 1950s. In the early years, black musicians came to Macon to showcase their original musical talents. Among these were great performers such as Otis Redding, Lena Horne, James Brown, and “Little Richard” Penniman.
In the 1970s, Capricorn Records began attracting soul and Southern rock bands to Macon, including the Allman Brothers Band. You can visit the “Big House” today, where the Allman Brothers Band lived while in Macon.
Two members of the band R.E.M., Mike Mills and Bill Berry, met and played music together as Macon high school students before going to Athens where they met Peter Buck and Michael Stipe, and together they pioneered the indie-rock movement of the 1980s. Macon had a profound effect on music throughout the entire nation and continues to do so.
Members of the Allman Brothers Band, their roadies, friends and families lived in the "Big House" in Macon between 1969 and 1973.
Information Brought To You By
Chamber of Commerce
305 Coliseum Drive
Macon, GA 31217
P.O. Box 169
Macon, GA 31202