15 things you might not know about the Peach State
Georgia is well known for its rocky attractions, Southern hospitality and being the birthplace of Coca-Cola. To celebrate National Trivia Day on Jan. 4, Walton Gas has compiled these fun facts to help you learn what else our state is famous for.
- Georgia is the largest state in land area east of the Mississippi River.
Although it’s only the 21st-largest state in the U.S. by land area, Georgia’s 57,919 square miles are good enough for the title of largest state east of the Mississippi River by land area. When considering total area (not just land area), however, Michigan would outrank Georgia. But most of the state’s area is water (about 40,000 of its 96,810 square miles). Georgia, on the other hand, has only 1,522 square miles of water.
- The Peach State is NOT the nation’s leading producer of peaches.
Despite its nickname, Georgia is not the nation’s leading producer of peaches. South Carolina and California grow more. According to the University of Georgia’s Ag Snapshots 2022, the state does lead the country in production of poultry, peanuts and pecans.
- Indian Springs State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S.
Indian Springs State Park, near Flovilla in Butts County, is considered the oldest state park in the United States. It was established in 1826, 90 years before the country’s first national park. For centuries, Creek Indians collected the spring water for its healing qualities, and during the 1800s, the area was a bustling resort town. Today, visitors can still sample the spring water.
- Every April 15, Major League Baseball honors Georgia native Jackie Robinson.
Jackie Robinson, a baseball infielder, became the first African-American to play in the major leagues, breaking the color barrier when he started a game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. In 1997, major league baseball retired his uniform number (#42) across all teams. Since 2004, every player on all 30 teams wears #42 during games played on April 15, declared Jackie Robinson Day.
- Claxton, Ga., claims to be the fruitcake capital of the world.
Tiny Claxton in southeast Georgia is one of the first towns to become home to a commercial fruitcake bakery. Today, two bakeries — the Georgia Fruit Cake Company and Claxton Bakery — produce more than four million pounds of fruitcake each year. Both bakeries say Claxton is the fruitcake capital of the world, despite a similar claim made by a company in Corsicana, Texas.
- Wesleyan College in Macon was the first college in the world that was permitted to grant women college degrees.
Chartered as the Georgia Female College in 1836, Wesleyan was founded by a group of Macon citizens and the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The college opened its doors on Jan. 7, 1839. Ninety young women were enrolled in the first session. On July 16, 1840, student Catherine Brewer graduated as the first U.S. woman with a bachelor’s degree.
- Georgia has 159 counties.
Georgia has the second most counties of any state in the country. Texas has 254. By geographic area, Ware County at the north entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp in the state’s southeastern territory is the largest county. At just over 1 million residents, Fulton County (followed closely by Gwinnett County) has the greatest population.
- “Gone With the Wind” won eight Academy Awards.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Gone with the Wind,” set in Atlanta and Clayton County, was written by Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell. After premiering in 1939, the movie version received eight Academy Awards, including wins for best picture, best director, best actress and best supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel, becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award). It was the first color movie to win the best picture award.
- Vidalia onions are grown exclusively in a 20-county region in Georgia.
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, sweet Vidalia onions (Georgia’s state vegetable) were first cultivated in Toombs County. The onion’s distinctive taste is derived from the combination of weather, water and soil uniquely found within 20 South Georgia counties.
- The world’s largest college campus is at Berry College near Rome.
The private liberal arts school in northwestern Georgia consists of more than 27,000 acres of land — including fields, forests, and Lavender Mountain — making it the largest contiguous college campus in the world. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources oversees about 16,000 acres of the campus. Designated portions are open to the public for hiking, cycling, horseback riding and other outdoor activities.
- The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater swamp in North America.
At 438,000 acres, this ecologically intact wetland in south Georgia is the continent’s largest of its kind. The bog shelters a vast mosaic of pine islands, cypress forests and blackwater channels. According to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, there are 21 habitat types within the swamp, with over 850 plant species, over 200 bird species and more than 400 vertebrate animal species.
- The University of Georgia is the oldest public university in America.
Chartered by the state of Georgia in 1785, the University of Georgia in Athens was the first university in America to be created by state government. The university is credited as being the birthplace of the American system of public higher education. Though a site was selected for the university, it did not begin admitting students until 1801. The first graduation was held in 1804. The first building was completed in 1805.
- Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia
Surrounded by the Chattahoochee -Oconee National Forest in the southern Appalachian mountains, Georgia’s highest peak looms half a mile (4,784 feet above sea level) above the surrounding valleys. The U.S. Forest Service maintains live video streams from an observation deck, giving views of the mountains and valleys on a clear day. Take a look.
- “Designing Women” featured “Georgia on my Mind” as its theme song for the show’s seven-season run.
Before television and movie productions became a Georgia staple, this CBS TV comedy, airing from 1986 to 1993, followed the working and personal lives of four women and a man running an interior design firm in Atlanta (but actually taped in California). For the first five seasons, the theme song was an instrumental. The final two seasons featured Georgia native Ray Charles singing his signature song. Watch it.