May 11

Georgia’s First Land Lottery

May 11, 1803 - statewide

Georgia’s lottery is nothing new. Between 1805 and 1833, the state held eight land lotteries. Seventy-five percent of Georgia was sold to roughly 100,000 people for bargain prices. As land-hungry Georgians began migrating westward after the American Revolution, the state negotiated treaties with the Creek and Cherokee tribes—or simply took their land—and then distributed the acreage.

Georgia turned to the lottery system because of the corrupt Yazoo Land Fraud, when the legislature sold thousands of acres to speculators. Names were put in one drum, lot numbers in another. Names could be entered multiple times based on age, marital status, military service, years of residence, and success in previous lotteries. Selling the land for an average of 7 cents an acre, the lotteries had far-reaching consequences: more widespread landownership shifted political power away from aristocratic planters but increased slave-owning as well as cotton cultivation spread across the state.

Georgia’s first land lottery act was signed by Governor John Milledge on May 11, 1803, Today in Georgia History.