LAGRANGE, Ga. Early in the 19th century the land known today as Troup County was ceded by the Creek Indians. The county bears the name of former Governor George Michael Troup, a popular governor who served from 1823-1827.
The city of LaGrange was incorporated in 1828. It is named for the French country estate of the Marquis de Lafayette. He came to this country to support the colonies in the Revolutionary War, serving as a major-general in George Washington's Continental Army.
During the Civil War LaGrange was defended by a female militia. Kay Minchew, director of the Legacy Museum in LaGrange, says, “Early in the war the women realized all the able-bodied men are off fighting the war. So they decide that they need to protect their home front and they organize a militia and named themselves the Nancy Harts.”
The original Nancy Hart was a hero during the Revolutionary War, known for her single-handed efforts to rid Georgia of British sympathizers.
As the Civil War ended, the Nancy Harts found themselves defending their town against a Union colonel named Oscar LaGrange, ironically.
Minchew says, “Colonel LaGrange and his men meet the women. The women don't fire any shots at the men. They give up their guns.” The Nancy Harts negotiated a peaceful surrender. Neither side knew at the time that the war had actually ended.
The beautiful town square in LaGrange was once home to the county courthouse. Three of them, in fact, stood on the current town square site. The last one was built in 1904. On November 5, 1936 a fire destroyed the courthouse. Fire trucks came from as far away as Columbus and Atlanta.
Minchew recalls, “The good thing for us as far as historical records, very few were lost in the fire. The people formed bucket brigades and passed the records out. But the courthouse was pretty much a total loss.”
The town square was then transformed into a park with a spectacular fountain. Eventually a magnificent statue of the Marquis de Lafayette was added. “In 1976 the LaGrange College president thought we should remember Lafayette more in our town and so we got permission to actually make a copy of the statue that's in France and put an exact replica here in town,” according to Minchew.
“Lafayette has graced our square since 1976 and it really does make for a beautiful square. You see Lafayette standing there and you know all is well with the town.”