Richmond Hill has a historical connection to industrialist Henry Ford. Ford used the town, formerly known as Ways Station, as a winter home and philanthropic social experiment, building the complex known as the Ford Farms along the Ogeechee River in the 1930s. After just one visit he chose this area as his winter home. Ford's dwelling was built on the site of Richmond Plantation, which was burned by elements of General William T. Sherman's army at the conclusion of the "March to the Sea". Ford's holdings eventually totaled 85,000 acres (340 km2) of agricultural and timber lands, most of which is now owned by the State of Georgia or ITT Rayonier, a timber company. Ford was also responsible for the construction of a number of public buildings, including a kindergarten, which now houses the museum of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, and a chapel which now houses St. Anne's Catholic Church. Both are located on Georgia S.R. 144, also known as Ford Avenue within the Richmond Hill city limits. The Ford Plantation has now been redeveloped as a luxury resort, with vacation cottages, a clubhouse, tennis, and golf. When it was suggested that the town be renamed "Ford", Mr. Ford declined, and instead Ways Station was renamed "Richmond Hill" after the site of Ford's home on the banks of the Ogeechee River.
Richmond Hill was incorporated as a city in 1962. The current mayor pro temp is Russ Carpenter, whose term expires in 2017. Previously, Richard Davis served in that capacity since 1989. The city is governed by a mayor and a four-member city council.
Richmond Hill was the location of the discovery in 2004 of Benjaman Kyle, a man who suffers from retrograde amnesia as a result of a severe beating. In 2015, he was identified as William Burgess Powell.
Real estate development in Richmond Hill has generally followed trends represented in the United States as a whole. Post-Civil War populations remained relatively stable until the arrival of industrialist Henry Ford in the 1930s. In the early 1970s, subdivisions began to spring up, and the "white flight" from nearby Savannah began a settlement trend that has continued steadily until the present. Subdivisions of varying quality, ranging from starter homes to exclusive, gated golf communities, have emerged. Locals attribute population growth to the nearest base, Fort Stewart.