Button Gwinnett, for whom this county was named, was born in Gloucestershire, England, in 1735, the son of a Church of England minister. He worked in the store of his father-in-law in Dexter for two years, then as an importer and exporter for three years. In 1765 he came to Georgia, opening a store in Savannah. The same year he sold his store, bought St. Catherines Island and moved onto it, becoming a familiar figure at Sunbury and Midway Church.
Button Gwinnett was elected Justice of the Peace in 1767; Commissioner of Pilotage in 1768; member of the Georgia Assembly (legislature) in 1769. He was sent to the Continental Congress early in 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence Aug. 2, 1776. He later served as Speaker of the Assembly and was one of the chief drafters of the first State Constitution.
Mr. Gwinnett was chosen to fill the unexpired term of Archibald Bulloch as President of the Executive Council, or Provisional Governor of Georgia, on March 4, 1777. He served only a few months before being defeated for re-election by Governor John A. Treutlen. Politics resulted in a duel in which Gov. Gwinnett was killed by Gen. Lachlan McIntosh on May 16, 1777, and buried in an unknown, unmarked grave. He left so few signatures that one autograph sold for $51,000.