Evans County is a county located in the southeastern portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,000. The county seat is Claxton. A bill creating the county was passed in the Georgia General Assembly on August 11, 1914, and later, on November 3, 1914, an amendment was ratified by a vote of the people which formally created the county.
Evans County is located in an area known as the Magnolia Midlands within the Historic South region. The current Evans County Courthouse was created in 1923 and, in 1940, the people of Evans County elected their first female sheriff. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, new growth came to the county with the building of Evans Memorial Hospital and the Claxton-Evans County Airport. In 2010, the population was 11,000; however, the 2012 Census Estimate showed a population of 10,689.
The county sits firmly within Georgia's coastal plain region and has predominantly sedimentary rock and red and yellow clays. The Canoochee River is the major body of water flowing through the county.
Manufacturing, educational, health and social services make up much of Evans County's diverse economy. Major employers in the county include Camellia Health and Rehabilitation, Claxton Poultry Company, Georgia Department of Corrections, Nesmith Chevrolet Company, Pinewood Christian Academy, and Valmont Newmark. The county is ranked 64 out of 71 Tier 1 counties with a 7% sales tax. Businesses in the county are 100% exempt on all classes of certain business inventory from property taxes.
On August 11, 1914, the Georgia General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment to create Evans County from Bulloch and Tattnall counties. Georgia voters ratified the proposed amendment by a vote of 36,689 to 9,789 on November 3, 1914, which marks the official date of Evans County's creation. The county was named in honor of Clement A. Evans. Evans was a state senator from Stewart County, Georgia, a Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army, a Methodist minister, an historian and an author.
The push to create Evans County came about for various reasons, most notably the desire to not have to travel so far to the court house; more office jobs; increase in businesses coming to the area, especially in regard to hotels and eating establishments and a belief that there was a minority in Reidsville, Georgia - the county seat in Tattnall County - which controlled the county. Moreover, the entrance of the Savannah and Western Railroad into Tattnall County created a desire by landowners to have stations on their property; ultimately, these new stations led to the founding of the cities which would become part of Evans County: Bellville, Claxton, Daisy and Hagan.
However, not everyone was for the creation of a new county. Some of the arguments against the creation of a new county included: the idea that the difficulties with distance to the courthouse were being overcome; also, the tax burden would override any benefits from new jobs. Evans County was approved through the constitutional amendment process because of an earlier amendment from 1904 which limited the number of counties to 145. In order to get around this amendment, a new amendment was passed which allowed for the creation of Evans County.
The current Evans County courthouse was completed in 1923. The courthouse is in Claxton and was designed in the neoclassical revival tradition by architect J.J. Baldwin. Prior to the building of the current courthouse, all of the county's business was held in the White Building, a three-story edifice built by Mr. R. King White and later bought by Mrs. Ben Daniel. Mrs. Daniel's husband, Dr. Ben Daniel, used the building as his office.
The first female elected sheriff in Evans County, and in Georgia, was Mrs. Josie Mae Rogers, who was appointed after the death of the late sheriff, her father Jesse C. Durrence on June 24, 1940. Later, she was elected sheriff by the people of the county. Not long after, in July 1940, Camp Stewart - which would eventually become Fort Stewart - was created after the United States government bought up several tracts of land in various counties, including Evans County. In all, it is estimated that approximately 1,500 people were displaced by the creation of the camp.
The late 1950s and the 1960s were a time of growth in Evans County, especially in regards to health care and transportation. Beginning in 1958, Dr. Curtis Gordon Hames began research on the Evans County Heart Study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health; this study would continue until 1995 and resulted in 560 published papers on heart disease, genetics, cancer and other areas. In 1964, the FAA approved a site for the construction of an airport in the county, just three miles (5 km) northeast of Claxton. On December 7, 1967, after two decades of effort, Evans Memorial Hospital was opened.
From 1980 to 1983 several buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the courthouse and three homes.
On October 16, 2006, the Evans County Sheriff's Department was presented with seven bullet-proof vests by the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police.
On June 3, 2008 Evans County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to mark August 11 as Evans County Day. Since that day there have been annual celebrations of the county's founding and preparations for the 2014 centennial celebration.