Chartered in 1856, the Macon & Brunswick was unable to make much progress on constructing its new line before the Civil War intervened. Not until 1867, when fifty miles of trackage from Macon to Hawkinsville was completed, was a substantial segment put into operation.
After the state endorsed $2.5 million worth of the railroad's bonds and new investors were found in New York, the 174-mile road between Macon and Brunswick was finally completed. It opened in its entirety on January 1, 1870.
Part of the rail bed was constructed using forced labor under Georgia's then-new convict leasing system. In his book One Dies, Get Another; Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928, Matthew Mancini notes that the M&B was provided with 109 state prisoners in 1868. As one of the first Georgia railroads to use convict labor for construction, it lead the way in a brutal practice that would last for decades.