Generations have made their homes along the Great Ogeechee River and surrounding waterways in Richmond Hill. Our first residents, the Guale Indians, created villages along its sandy shoreline. General James Oglethorpe built defenses on it during the earliest days of the Georgia colony. The proximity of the Ogeechee was the salient factor in rice evolving as the primary cash crop here in the 19th century. African slaves worked in the rice fields and helped build Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee, known as the “Guardian of Savannah” during the Civil War. After the war and a series of hurricanes in the late 1800s, Richmond Hill fell into a state of economic decline.
In 1925, our most famous resident, automobile industrialist Henry Ford and his wife Clara began purchasing upwards of 85,000 acres of land here. They built a winter home and began extensive agricultural research with rubber plants, soybeans, goldenrod and more. In the process, they provided much needed employment, housing, medical care and education for local residents. Over the next 25 years, they restored Fort McAllister, dozens of antebellum plantations, and were successful in turning Richmond Hill into a thriving community—their impact is still evident today.