Biography of Governor John Treutlen

John Adam Treutlen

January 16, 1734 - March 1, 1782

The Governor Treutlen Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named after the first elected Governor of Georgia. John Adam Treutlen arrived in colonial America from Kurnbach, Germany as an indentured servant and rose to become a wealthy merchant and landowner. In February 1777, Treutlen, Button Gwinnett, and George Wells were on the drafting committee of Georgia's first Constitution. His life has always been surrounded by mystery and controversy.

When the Georgia Provincial Congress assembled in Savannah on July 4, 1775, Treutlen was a representative. He took an active role in the American Revolution, quickly becoming a leader. While at Savannah, he became a Freemason by joining the first Masonic Lodge established in Georgia. He was extremely popular with the people and, under the new Constitution adopted in 1776, was elected the first Governor on May 8, 1777.

Image of a painting of Governor Treutlen, and his signature
John Adam Treutlen and Signature
First Colonial Governor of Georgia

During his governorship, he dealt with hostile Indian attacks, incursions of Tories and Indians from Florida and in 1779 the British invasion of Georgia and occupation Savannah. When British General, Maitland, offered protection to those who would take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, Treutlen was very conspicuous with his refusal. He was later described to parliament as the "Rebel Governor of Georgia."

He served in the January 1782 session of the Georgia Assembly. There were violent political conflicts over the issues of civil control of the military, the conduct of the war, and the conservatives’ initiative to merge Georgia with South Carolina. Treutlen had opposed the conservatives who controlled the Georgia government, having become what was considered to be one of the few radical democrats in the government. Tempers flared over the imbalance in power leading conservatives wanting revenge for old scores.

One night in March 1782, John Adam Treutlen was murdered. Some say five men rode up to the Treutlen home demanding that Treutlen come outside. When he refused, the home was set on fire, forcing Treutlen, his wife and children to come outside. Treutlen was killed in full view of his family. Others say he was attempting to visit relatives in St. Matthews, South Carolina, and was attacked by a band of Tories and murdered. There are other accounts of his death, all very different, except for the fact that all agree that he died by violence.