Philomath was established around 1829, and quickly became noted for its beauty, hospitality and culture. By the 1830s a number of large cotton plantations had been laid out in and around Philomath.
Much of the early history of Philomath centered around Reid Academy, a boarding school for young men organized in the mid 1840s. Students were housed in small cottages located in the back yards of some of the homes. The school was known throughout the state as one of the finest educational institutions of its time. Georgia Congressmen Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens were frequent visitors to the school.
The community was originally called Woodstock but the name was changed to avoid confusion with another Woodstock, Ga. Recognizing the residents' high regard for education, Alexander Stephens suggested the name Philomath, meaning "love of knowledge."
After the final break-up of the Confederate Government took place in 1865 at Washington, Ga., President Davis and his Cabinet separated to avoid capture. General John C. Breckenridge, Secretary of War, traveled with a body of cavalry to Philomath. Stopping at "The Globe," Breckenridge and his officers dined with the owner and met one last time in the parlour, deciding it was futile to continue the struggle. Parting addresses were delivered from the porch after which the soldiers received their small wages and were released from service in the Confederate Army, to return to their homes.
Woodrow Wilson was a frequent visitor to Philomath. His father, a Presbyterian minister, was often a guest preacher at the Philomath Presbyterian Church. When in town, the Wilson family stayed at "The Globe." Woodrow Wilson was said to have loved the town so much that he and his mother often returned to spend vacations there as well.
At the edge of Philomath are The Great Buffalo Lick and The Bartram Trail. The Great Buffalo Lick is a natural expanse of mineral rich clay that was once kept bare from the licking of buffalo and deer. Indians frequented the area because the hunting was good. Buffalo Lick was so well-known as a meeting place for the Indians, that it was designated as one of the key points along the boundary line established between the Indians and the State of Georgia in the Treaty of Augusta in 1773.
The Bartram Trail is the route followed by William Bartram, the famous naturalist, who accompanied the team surveying the new Georgia boundary of 1773, as part of his exploration and documentation of natural resources in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. The Bartram Trail route runs northwest from the Lick to Cherokee Corner; and southeast from the Lick through Wrightsboro and on to Augusta.