Port Bainbridge is a seaport on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system. Port Bainbridge is located on the Flint River about 134 kilometers (83 miles) northeast of Panama City, Florida, and some 294 kilometers (183 miles) west-southwest of Brunswick Georgia. Port Bainbridge is the seat of Decatur County, Georgia. Port Bainbridge is linked to the Gulf of Mexico first by the Flint River flowing to Lake Seminole and then to the Apalachicola via the Chattahoochee River. In 2000, almost 12 thousand people called Port Bainbridge home.
The area around the future Port Bainbridge was inhabited by Seminole peoples before Hernando de Soto arrived there in 1540. Indigenous peoples who lived at the site called their village Pucknawhitla. In the early 1800s, the federal government established Fort Hughes on the site. The Seminoles were defeated in a battle in 1824. Most of these people were forced to move to Oklahoma during the 19th Century.
Other federal forts were constructed on the Flint River to support the Seminole Indian Wars. Camp Recovery and Fort Scott were used as hospitals. Surrounded by swamp, Fort Scott cared for many soldiers who became ill with malaria, dysentery, and yellow fever. A malaria epidemic forced the abandonment of Fort Scott in 1821.
By 1778, Port Bainbridge was called Burgess Town by European settlers after the trading post that James Burgess had established. After the Seminoles were defeated, the old Fort Hughes was renamed Bainbridge after Commodore who commanded the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") during the War of 1812.
The Georgia Legislature formed Decatur County in 1823, naming it for Commodore Stephen Decatur, a hero in the War of 1812. The land for Port Bainbridge was bought in 1826, and the town was incorporated in 1829.
Decatur County's waterways were important to the area's early growth. Port Bainbridge benefitted from its location and its access to the Gulf of Mexico. Archaeologists have found prehistoric fossils as well as artifacts from the American Civil War and from late 19th Century riverboats near the Port Bainbridge.
Port Bainbridge was a river town in the 19th Century, boasting two steamship companies that transported goods, including cotton, down the Flint River eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. For a time, John W. Callahan owned and operated the world's biggest individual naval store in Port Bainbridge.
During the Second World War, the government built an airport at Port Bainbridge to train pilots. Near the end of the war, the airport was converted to hold German prisoners of war. The facility became the Bainbridge State Hospital in the early 1960s to house the developmentally challenged. Today, it is a drug treatment facility.
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