The area around Washington (pop. 4,295) was settled in the 1770s, with early forts established near the confluence of the Broad and Savannah rivers just north of the present town of Washington.
Formerly "ceded lands" of the Creek and Cherokee Nations, Wilkes County (of which Washington is the county seat) was one of the eight original counties of the new State of Georgia. Wilkes County saw bitter fighting between colonial patriots and Tories in 1779-1780, during the American Revolution.
It was during this period that the town was laid out and named in honor of General George Washington, who confirmed Washington as the first town chartered in his name when he visited Georgia in 1791. It was incorporated in 1804.
The first United States Census in 1790 showed that more than one-third of the people living in Georgia resided in Wilkes County, the majority of them recent settlers from Virginia and North Carolina. From the original Wilkes, nine other counties were created. Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, perfected his invention at a plantation in the vicinity of Washington in 1795.
In April, 1865, at the end of the Civil War, what was left of the Confederate treasury, estimated at over half a million dollars in gold, left Richmond, Virginia under heavy guard. For more than a month the boxes and chests were moved from one southern town to another to protect it from seizure by the North.
Twice the treasure was taken to Washington-Wilkes before it came back for a final visit, as Washington was the last town to shelter the fortune. As the Confederacy fell apart, some of the fortune was captured with Davis in Irwinville, and northern troops seized $100,000 of the original amount stored in a Washington bank. To this day, legend persists that the balance of the Confederate gold is buried somewhere in Wilkes County.
President Jefferson Davis met with his Confederate Cabinet for the last time on May 5, 1865, in Washington, Georgia, and the Confederate government was officially dissolved.
Washington is rich in historical, architectural and cultural resources. Within the city limits are four National Register Districts, 14 properties individually listed, and two National Historic Landmarks.
Washington is the site of the Cooper-Sanders-Wickersham House, where Jefferson Davis formally dissolved the Confederacy on May 5, 1865, and the town has more antebellum homes than any other city of its size in the state. Records at the Courthouse and the Mary Willis Library provide extensive opportunities for historical and genealogical research.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2004.