Edward Telfair served as Georgia’s first governor under the New State Constitution after the Revolutionary War.
Edward Telfair was a prominent founding father and leader for the colony and state of Georgia. Telfair was born in Scotland in 1735 and received a modest education as a child. In his early twenties he set sail for the colonies with his brother and a cousin. He would first settle in Virginia before making his way to Savannah in the 1760s. Telfair and his brother, William, would become very successful merchants and planters in Georgia. They owned land in Chatham and Burke County where they owned a large number of slaves and made a fortune in cotton production. They also owned a tremendously successful sawmill and profited from unlimited resources of timber in the area.
Telfair married Sarah Gibbons in 1774, and they would have six children, three boys and three girls. One of their daughters, Mary, would donate the family home in downtown Savannah as well as all of her wealth to found the Telfair Art Museum. It was the first public art museum in the South and is still in existence today.
Telfair was very involved in the Revolutionary movement in Savannah. He opposed King George III and was one of the loudest voices against the Stamp Act. He was also a leader of the Sons of Liberty in Savannah. Upon hearing the news of Lexington and Concord, Telfair and some other members of the Sons of Liberty broke into the British store house and stole several hundred pounds of gunpowder that was sent to Boston to aid the rebels. Telfair also donated a large amount of his fortune to support “the cause.” From 1778-1783, Telfair represented Georgia in the Continental Congress becoming close friends with Ben Franklin. Telfair was a signer of the Articles of Confederation, the United States’ first constitution.
As governor of the state, Telfair performed brilliantly. His major work involved paying off state debts, fair taxation, establishing the judicial rights of states against the federal government, supporting the Constitutional Convention, and settling a border dispute with South Carolina. He also put down a Creek Indian rebellion and entertained President George Washington during his visit to Georgia.
Edward Telfair died in 1807 in his downtown Savannah home. A service was held at Colonial Cemetery, and he was buried at Sharon Plantation. In 1860, his remains were moved to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. Telfair County in Georgia was named after him in the year of his death.
Edward Telfair’s final resting place in Bonaventure Cemetery