Historical Sketch of Pickens County




(It is reproduced here with the spelling and grammatical errors of the unstable original photocopied onto alkaline paper by the Georgia Department of Archives and History in 1993.)
Thanks to Michael Conti for submitting this record!

Made from Cherokee and Gilmer, 1853.

Pickens county began existence with the signature of Governor Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia on December 5, 1853, of the legislature act creating it out of the southern part of Gilmer and the northern part of Cherokee. Pickens lies in the central northern portion of the state, bounded north by Gilmer, east by Dawson; south by Cherokee, and west by Gordon. Its area is 241 square miles.

The territory forming Pickens was a part of the “land of the Cherokees,” over which spread wooded hills and a network of picturesque streams. Coming east from Gordon county’s hard limerock, transition is noted to a broken country of shale which soon merges into a plateau of choice agricultural area, with a variety of fertile soils. Many small streams cross this area, Talking Rock Creek and its tributaries on the north and south, Sharp mountain creek and the small streams flowing into it, as well as tributaries of Salacca creek in Cherokee county, water its surface.

Jasper, the county seat, is located on the eastern edge of this table-land. In the northern part of the county other creeks flow into the Cartecay valley of Gilmer County, and in the southern section flow the tributaries of Long Swamp creek. In Long Swamp valley are located great marble deposits and the prosperous villages of Marble Hill, Tate and Nelson.

The chain of mountains which rises in the northeastern part of this county is a part of the Georgia Blue Ridge, which itself forms the southernmost range of the Appalachian system. Several magnificent peaks rise within the of Pickens. These include the two high points of the southern end of the Appalachian, Mount Oglethorpe (formerly called Grassy Knob) and Burrel Top, or Burnt Mountain, each about 3,300 feet above sea level. In the vicinity is Sharp Top Mountain, with an elevation of 2,650 feet.

In northeast Pickens is located State Mountain Estates, a summer colony of note. Two interesting features of this development are Lake Sequoyah and an eighteen hole golf c6urse. Connahaynee Lodge, center of the summer colony, is situated on Burrel Top. On Mount Oglethorpe stands one of the most interesting historical mountains in the state, dedicated to the memory of James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony.

Marble is the mineral for which this county is chiefly noted the Long Swamp area containing a great ridge of the pure stone five miles in length, Other minerals of commercial value found here are gold, mica, flagstone, iron, copper, graphite, kaolin, pyrites, silica sericite, and others. Two mineral springs of local fame are in this county, near Jasper. One is Simmons Mineral Spring and the other is Tate Mineral Spring. The water of both these springs are said to have been valued for their health giving properties by the Indians and by later residents.

“Near the end of the Revolution”, according to the history of Prof. E. Merton Coulter, “a group of dangerous outlaws and adventurers led by Thomas Waters, settled among the Cherokees on the Etowah river at the mouth of Long Swamp Camp, and carried out a reign of terror on the frontier of Wilkes county (the nearest settled region) until the combination of Clarke and Pickens went against them in the latter part of 1782, broke up the settlement and forced, without right, upon the Cherokees a treaty ceding lands reaching from the tugaloo to the Chattahoochee.”

Elijah Clarke and Andrew Pickens were both revolutionary heroes, this county being named for the latter. The actual place of signing the treaty was either in the present Cherokee or the present Pickens and doubtless somewhere along Long Swamp. Apparently this was the first treaty between the whites and the Indians. The federal government was not a party thereto.

Andrew Pickens was born at Paxton, Pennsylvania, September 19,1739, and died at Tomassee, South Carolina, August 17,1817. He was engaged in the Cherokee War of 1761, and at the outbreak of the American Revolution was appointed a captain of militia, from which he rose to be a brigadier-general. He defeated General Boyd at Kettle Creek in 1779, was engaged in the battle of Stone’s Ferry in the same year, routed the Cherokees at Tomassee, and in 1781 so distinguished himself at the Battle of Cowpens that Congress voted him a sword. He compelled the surrender of the British Forts at Augusta, fought under General Greene in the Campaign of Ninety-six, and by a successful expedition against the Cherokees in 1782 gained from them a large strip of territory, which later became part of Georgia. In 1783-94 he was a member of the South Carolina legislature and in 1793-95 served in Congress. He was a member of the state Constitutional Convention a Commissioner in many important treaties with the Indians and again was a member of the legislature in 1801 and 1812. There are two other counties in the United States named for General Pickens: one in Alabama and one in South Carolina.

When this county was laid out in 1853, almost the entire distance of the Old Federal Road, which had been in Gilmer and Cherokee counties, a distance of more than thirty miles, was found to be in Pickens. The great importance of this early thoroughfare in the building of the territory it traversed gives it prominent place in our history. At the time it was built, somewhere between 1812 and 1820, it was the only direct route between Cherokee county and the nearest trading point, Augusta. It connected Tennessee, to the north, with the centers of East and South Georgia, and made Pickens county the gateway. The credit for building this road belongs to General Andrew Jackson, who passed through the region early in 1815 on his way to punish the Seminoles of Florida depresations following their uprisings. Along the highway were built the first houses and settlements in what is now Pickens county as well as practical all of northwestern Georgia. As the country opened up and agriculture and industry became active, towns and settlements grew along the road and it became in reality an artery of commerce. Spring Place was an important point on this road in early days, and to this place traveled the Indians and the United States agents to attend the last council of the Cherokees in 1837. In Pickens county the first settlement on the road were Carmel Station, Love’s Harmage’s, and Daniel’s. Early families to settle on this road were the Si1vers, Chadwicks, Athertons, Bryants, Colemans, Stephens, Morrisons, Glenns, Prices, Mullinaxs, Taylors, and Simmons. On account of the accessibility of this road as well as for its central location, the house of that early settler, Ambrose Harmage, located on the present site of Tate, in Pickens county, was selected as the place for holding in 1832 the first election and the first court in the newly organized Cherokee county, which then included all of the Cherokee territory. This property was purchased in 1834 by Samuel Tate, who settled there and opened an inn for the accommodation of travelers.

During the quarter century between the dates of the first settlements along the Old Federal Road and the creation in 1855 of Pickens county, occurred many events which had their influence on the subsequent history of the region. These included the gold rush of 1829-31, the ensuing immigration of settlers, the land lottery in 1832, the formation of the original Cherokee county in 1831 and the division of this territory into ten counties in 1852, the first courts and county elections of northwest Georgia, the final removal of Cherokee Indians in 1838, and the land lottery of that year, and the subsequent development of the region.

The organization of Pickens county began January 2, 1854, with the election of its first officers as follows: William Tate, Clerk of Superior Court; John C. Wofford, clerk of the inferior court; William Sasebee Sheriff; Charles Marshall McClure, ordinary; Derrick S. McClardy, tax receiver; Elias W. Allred, tax collector; John A. Lyons, Coroner; Benjamin M. Stephens, Surveyor; and John H. Ammons, Jesse Padgett, Stephen Griffith, Willis West, and James Talley, justices of the inferior court. The selection of the county seat brought on a hard-fought contest, one faction wishing the location placed at the western end of the county, while a second group contended that the capital should be located in the eastern section. The justices of the inferior court called an election to settle the question and by a close margin the second faction won. A group was appointed to select the site and Jasper, named for another Revolutionary War hero, was determined upon as the county seat.

The first term of the Pickens county superior court began on May 15, l854, at Jasper, with Judge David Irwih of the Blue Ridge Circuit presiding, and Edward D. Chisholm the solicitor general. George R. Edwards was foreman of the grand jury. There was no courthouse, and the court’s proceedings were conducted under a giant oak. Construction of a county building begun in 1853, was not completed until about l86O. The fourth term of court, in November, 1655, was presided over by Judge Joseph E. Brown, a Canton Lawyer, who had been commissioned to fill out the unexpired term of Judge Irwin when the latter had resigned. Judge Brown continued to preside in the circuit until his election as governor of the state in 1857.

The War Between the States came on before Pickens county development had proceeded very far. Several companies of troops were organized and outfitted in the county and many of the individuals forming them did valiant service in the Confederate armies. This county was out of the main path of destruction when Sherman’s army passed through Georgia in the spring of 1864, nor were any military operations of consequence in Pickens at any other time during the war. There were occasional guerrilla fighting, and raiding parties from the Union army were sent hero at various times, as well as scouting troups of Confederates. A detachment of Wheeler’s Calvery camped near Hinton for a portion of one winter, and a part of Wilder’s brigade spent a short period in Long Swamp valley, now the Tate homestead.

Pickens county’s chief industrial and commercial activities are carried on in her three incorporated towns – Jasper, Talking Rock, and Nelson – and two towns that are unincorporated – Tate and Marble Hill. In the three last named towns are centered the operations of the Georgia Marble Company, one of the state’s outstanding concerns.

Jasper, the county seat, looking out upon the mountains, is one of the most favorably located towns in the state. It was incorporated in 1857. It is the principal trading center of the county, besides serving as a center for legal and official matters. Two industrial enterprises – a lumber mill and a marble finishing plant – stimulate local commercial channels.

A subsidiary finishing plant of the Georgia Marble Company is located at Nelson, near the Cherokee county line. Stone for many important buildings has been finished here. Among the skilled workmen are several from Italy and Scotland, who have become citizens of the county.

Tate is an unincorporated town of about 2,000 people, is the location of the main quarries of the Georgia Marble Company. This is one of the oldest settlements in the county.

The coming of the railroad in 1893 was an event of major importance for Pickens county. This railroad was known for many years as the Atlanta, Knoxville and Northern, and it is now a part of the Louisville and Nashville system; but it began its existence as the “Marietta and North Georgia Railroad” because it started at Marietta and was designed to help exploit the great natural resources of the more northerly counties of the state. The railroad was organized and financed by citizens along its proposed route, those of Pickens county taking an active part in its construction. Work on the line began in 1878, and in September it had reached Jasper. The line was gradually extended through North Georgia and finally to Knoxville, Tenn. With the advent of the railway, plans wore made immediately to develop on a large scale the marble deposits of the county, and in 1884 the present Georgia Marble Company was organized. The development of the marble industry has been largely due to the efforts of the Tate family, and the consolidation of the interests and management of several firms and plants – into one large and efficient unit is the work of Colonel Sam Tate, whose ancestor, Samuel Tate, first purchased the marble lands in this county nearly a hundred years ago.

Georgia marble has become the material of sane of the world’s leading sculptors, architects and builders. Out of it have been fashioned the figure of Lincoln in the memorial at Washington, D. C.; Lorado Taft’s -” Co1umbus Memorial” fountain at Washington; the Maine Monument at Havana, Cuba; the Piave World War Memorial at Rome, Italy; The McKinley Memorial at Niles, Ohio; the Harding Monument at Marion, Ohio; the Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Chicago (largest fountain in the world); numerous public buildings, including the New York Stock Exchange, the Royal Bank of Canada at Montreal, the Carearan Art Gallery at Washington, the House office building and part of the Supreme Court building at Washington, the state capitols of Rhode Island and Minnesota, the capitol of Porte Rico, The Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum in Chicago, the Bok Tower in Florida, and many others.

Geologists give the assurance that, notwithstanding removal of material for the foregoing purposes, the immense deposit of Long Swamp valley, in Pickens county, has scarcely been scratched. This deposit is a solid mass, from five to seven miles long, one-half mile wide, and in some places estimated to be two thousand feet deep. It has been quarried to a depth of two hundred and twenty-five feet. One expert has estimated that if marble were removed from Long Swamp quarries at the rate of two hundred thousand cubic feet a year, it would require more than a million years to exhaust the store.

The growth and development of Pickens county has been in no small measure the reflection of the expansion and success of the Georgia Marble Company, whose employees here number more than a thousand, and whose homes and surroundings educational and other advantages are equal to if not better than those of workers elsewhere in the state.

While general education in the south was neglected prior to the Civil War, there were in every settled portion of the state “uition schools” and “academies”, where good educational opportunities were provided at moderate cost. There were also “poor schools”, supported by a state fund which was inadequate and its fruits disappointing. In 1858 the legislature enacted a law providing that education be made free to all white children between the ages of eight and eighteen, and an annual appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars was added to the meagre poor school fund, together with “whatever surplus funds” the treasury might contain from time to time. These funds were to be prorated among the counties according to the number of children of school age, along with such county tax money as local officials deemed available for this purpose. The Constitution of 1868, which is generally accepted as the date of establishment of the state’s public school system, merely confirmed the act of 1858 and made the law operative on a statewide basis rather than an option of counties. In the presentments of the grand jury of Pickens county for March, 1859, notice is taken of the act of 1858 and recommendation made for carrying it into effect.

The Ludville High School, established in 1877, was the first school for advanced grades in the county. It was promoted and built by Hiram Mills, Gravison Moss, Sylvanus Hasrick, Jim Killian, Sant Tolbert, Hurd Tolbert, James Eaton, John Johnson, Dave Hightower, John Guerin, Booker Graveley, and Dave Anderson. Colonel Sam Tate built a school house at Tate in 1866, and this institution was important in the life and progress of its community. The present system of county 8chools includes, in addition to adequate rural and grammar schools, good High schools at Tate, Nelson, Marble Hill, Ludville, and Jasper, and a new high school has been built at Talking Rock to replace the old academy building which was moved there from Ludville during the eighties. There are schools for colored children at Jasper, Tate, and Nelson, the one at Tate carrying some of the high school grades.

The history of churches in Pickens county includes the contributions made by several denominations. Although the Methodists and Baptists have always predominated here and today have only regular churches in the county, there have been in the past several other churches represented here, including Presbyterians, Campbellites, Catholics, and Universalists – all but the latter having had churches in the county at once time or another. The earliest Methodist church in the county was established at Hinton, some years before the Civil War. A log house was built for the purpose by Banjamin Murphy and a Mr. Hinton.

The first Baptist church, and probably the first church of any denomination in what is now Pickens county, was the one at Talking Rook. A log building was erected and services first held here about 1859. Land for this church was deeded by James Morrison soon after the Indians were removed in 1838. The first pastor of this church was Rev. Robert Jordan.

Pickens County has a population of 9,686; Jasper, county seat 563; area, 231 square miles; taxable property, $1,830,147; Congress, Ninth district; Blue Ridge judicial circuit. Farm products such as corn, some cotton, apples, and other fruits and vegetables thrive in the county. At Tate is located Georgia Marble Company, which produces marble and granite used in constructing buildings and memorials all over the United States and in other countries. Vermont is the only state that exceeds Georgia in annual output of marble, a large percentage of which comes from Pickens county. The quarries here furnish employment to several thousand persons. There are 1,247 farms in the county.


Adapted from: History of Pickens county, by Luke E. Tate. 1935.