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Gilmer County Georgia Historical Society

1854courthouse.jpg
1854 Courthouse located on the square in the city of Ellijay

A short history of Gilmer County

Gilmer Formed from the Old Cherokee Nation in 1832 Georgia

By 1830, the Cherokee Nation consisted of most of northwest, plus adjoining areas in Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Even while Cherokee Indians remained on their homeland in Georgia, the General Assembly on Dec. 21, 1830 enacted legislation claiming "all the Territory within the limits of Georgia, and now in the occupancy of the Cherokee tribe of Indians; and all other unlocated lands within the limits of this State, claimed as Creek land" (Ga. Laws 1830, p. 127). The act also provided for surveying the Cherokee lands in Georgia; dividing them into sections, districts, and land lots; and authorizing a lottery to distribute the land. On Dec. 26, 1831, the legislature designated all land in Georgia that lay west of the Chattahoochee River and north of Carroll County as "Cherokee County and provided for its organization (Ga. Laws 1831, p. 74). However, the new county was not able to function as a county because of its size and the fact that Cherokee Indians still occupied portions of the land. On Dec. 3, 1832, the legislature added areas of Habersham and Hall counties to Cherokee County, and then divided the entire area into nine new counties -- Cass (later renamed Bartow), Cobb, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Murray, Paulding, and Union -- plus a reconstituted and much smaller Cherokee County. Cherokee lands were distributed to whites in a land lottery, but the legislature temporarily prohibited whites from taking possession of lots on which Cherokees still lived. By 1833, however, whites began occupying areas of Gilmer County.

Cherokee lands were distributed to whites in a land lottery, but the legislature temporarily prohibited whites from taking possession of lots on which Cherokees still lived. By 1833, however, whites began occupying areas of Gilmer County.  (From the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.) Act of December 3, 1832 divided the original Cherokee County – Georgia Laws 1832 page 56 - Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth and such parts of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth districts as lie east of a line commencing at the centre of the south line of the twenty-fourth, and running due north to the north line of the twenty-fifth, and so much of the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh districts of said second section, as lies east of a range of mountains running north and south through said district, shall form and become one county, to be called Gilmer.

Gilmer County was formed December 3,1832, from Cherokee County. Several divisions occurred over the years, leading to current boundaries.

Georgia's 85th county was named for George R. Gilmer, who served two terms as Georgia governor (1829-1831, 1837-1839), as state legislator, and as U.S. congressman. Gilmer -- a strong proponent of state sovereignty over Cherokee lands in Georgia -- was governor at the time of the Cherokee's forced removal to the west, a Congressional representative from Georgia. Ellijay was selected as the county seat in 1834; it is located on the west bank of the Ellijay River, where this river joins the Cartecay River to form the Coosawattee River.

Early settlements included Mountaintown, Boardtown, Cartecay, Cherry Log, and Talking Rock. As originally constituted, Gilmer County extended to the Tennessee border (see map). Later created in part or whole from its original boundaries were Pickens (1853), Fannin (1854), and Dawson (1857) counties.

Nearly half the territory of Gilmer County is within the Chattahoochee National Forest and is protected from development by the Federal Government.