The area along the river was long inhabited by varying cultures of indigenous peoples, who relied on the river for fish, water and transportation. The site of Augusta was used by Native Americans as a place to cross the Savannah River, because of its location on the fall line.
In 1735, two years after James Oglethorpe founded Savannah, he sent a detachment of troops to explore up the Savannah River. He gave them an order to build at the head of the navigable part of the river. The expedition was led by Noble Jones, who created the settlement to provide a first line of defense for coastal areas against potential Spanish or French invasion from the interior. Oglethorpe named the town Augusta, in honor of Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales and mother of the future King George III of the United Kingdom. Augusta was the second state capital of Georgia from 1785 until 1795 (alternating for a period with Savannah, the first).
It was in the area of Georgia developed as the Black Belt, for large cotton plantations, after the invention of the cotton gin made use of short-staple cotton more profitable. The commodity crops were worked by enslaved Africans, many brought from the Low Country, where the Gullah culture had developed on its large Sea Island cotton and rice plantations.