editors of Roadside
Created in 1857,
County. Named in honor of David T. White.
earliest settlements in the area known today as White County,
Georgia were of the
Culture known as "Moundbuilders". The prominent mound at
Sautee-Nacoochee is just one of many that exist in the state.
Spanish miners visited the area from the late 1500's until the
1730's. During this time control of the land passed from
The travels of
Bartram brought him to the area during the
and he was impressed by the work of these earliest inhabitants.
By this time the Cherokee were so abundant in the area that he
would frequently refer to the southern Appalachians as the
Cherokee Mountains. The road that became the Unicoi Turnpike was
used by the British during the Revolution to move men between
Augusta and Fort Loudon, near Knoxville, Tennessee. Heading
south from Hiawassee(Towns
County) across Unicoi Gap in the eastern face of the
Appalachian Mountains it passed in the vicinity of Helen,
Georgia and turned almost due east through the Sautee-Nachoochee
Valley ending near
expanded their control of the coast pressure was put on the
Cherokee to move. Prior to 1820 there were many violent
encounters with these Native Americans as settlers encroached on
their land. With the Treaty of 1819, which
area to the state, Native Americans moved further west,
mostly to Arkansas. Many of the earliest settlers of
Habersham County west of the Chattahoochee were from
North Carolina. They purchased the land from Georgia residents
who had won it in the fourth Land Lottery.
developed rapidly in the early 1830's thanks to the
North Georgia Gold Rush. In
one of those quirks of history, Lumpkin County in general, and
Benjamin Parks in particular, is given credit for the first
"discovery" of gold. Although gold had been mined in the area
around Duke's Creek in White County as early as 1560, the modern
discovery of gold should be credited to Maj. Frank Logan, whose
black slave found a nugget near Loudsville. In George White's
1849 book Statistics of the State of Georgia, he states
"The first discovery of gold in this state was made at Duke's
Creek, Habersham (now White) County," and the first contemporary
documentary reference of gold in North Georgia appears in the
Georgia Journal, a Milledgeville newspaper in 1829.
A gentleman in
... Habersham (now White) County writes us..."2 gold mines in
Along the Unicoi
Road, the Old Sautee Store has been a friend to travelers
for more than 150 years. At the junction of State Roads 17
and 255 Old Sautee Store still attracts visitors from nearby
Helen, Georgia. Today the country store atmosphere is dotted
with beautiful pieces from the owner's home country, Norway.
By the 1840's
numerous communities and churches, predominately Baptist, dotted
the landscape. Demands on the county government grew, creating a
problem. Some local residents had to travel more than two days
to get to the Habersham County seat. In the mid 1850's the
reduction of travel time to Clarkesville became a campaign
issue. William Shelton, a representative from Mount
Yonah(Cleveland) proposed the creation of Wofford County. The
bill was defeated in the General Assembly. David T. White(some
sources list George or John) rose and addressed the assembly.
After a brief but eloquent plea from the senator, the assembly
reconsidered the vote and passed the resolution. So grateful
were the citizens of the new county they named it White in honor
of their benefactor.
The area was
relatively untouched by the Civil War. During early
reconstruction the area suffered as did most of Georgia, but in
the early 1870's a railroad boom had a positive effect on the
county, especially in the south. Poet Sidney Lanier was staying
in the county when he penned "The Song of the Chattahoochee."
In 1899 Cleveland got its first telephone line. The Gainesville
Telephone Company ran a single line to the city, and all who
wanted service participated in what must have been a rather
large party line. In a short time Cleveland had it's own
had been expanding since the war did an abrupt about face at the
turn of the century when nearby employment attracted many
locals. About the same time Henry C. Bagley, a railroad magnate
from Cincinnati, discovered the forests of White County. The
virgin trees were ripe for harvest. Bagley built a railroad to
transport the trees to markets and created camps for the "wood
hicks" at Helen and Robertson. Here the trees were turned into
board lumber and shipped to the northeast and mid-west. The land
was clearcut and abandoned as worthless.
With the advent
of the automobile the state began a series of road projects.
Included in these projects were roads from Cleveland to Clayton
and to Blairsville begun in 1922 and completed in 1926. During
this time the Federal Government began to purchase large amounts
of land in the area devastated by the lumber and mining
industries and consolidated it into the Georgia(later
Chattahoochee) National Forest.
was it's first Forest Ranger.
No history of
White County would be complete without mention of Xavier
Roberts, one of North Georgia's favorites. He turned an idea,
Cabbage Patch Dolls, into a national craze.
General, the place where the dolls were "born," became
an overnight tourist attraction and for a while, one of the most
popular stops in the mountains. While other fads had swept the
nation, this is generally considered to be the first in a series
of toy crazes that feature adults lining up in front of stores
and going to battle over a child's toy.
Today tourism is
a major industry in the county. The Bavarian town of Helen has
Tallulah Falls as the most popular destination in the
northeast Georgia mountains. The
Appalachian Trail runs along much of the northern border
of the county. And the great outdoors calls people from across
the nation to White County.
History from the
White County Chamber of
- No history of White County could
be written without making mention of the Cherokee Indians. They
lived here contented and happy before Oglethorpe ever came to
Georgia. These Indians were a fine race physically and of good
mental ability. Their number was small and they had no idea of the
value of their land. This cheap land was the attraction for the
first white settlers who came to this section of the state. This
area, part of the fourth lottery, was originally opened to white
settlement as part of Habersham County. The treaty with the
Cherokee officially established the settlement. The treaty was
signed by John C. Calhoun who years later became interested in our
- Two parties of sixty-one families
came to Nacoochee Valley in the early part of 1822. These two
parties came from Burke County, North Carolina, and rapidly spread
over the entire county. Among them were carpenters, blacksmiths,
masons and farmers. There were also three Methodist ministers in
the group. One of these ministers built the first known
schoolhouse in the White County area. These two parties were led
by Daniel Brown, Edward Williams, Reverend Jesse Richardson,
Abraham Littlejohn and Adam Pitner. Other settlers, even earlier
than these, were the Oxfords and Owensbys, who settled in the Town
Creek section of the county. This section was named Tesnatee by
- Habersham County, of which White
and the present county of Stephens were a part, became the
fifty-eighth county to be organized in Georgia. This was done in
the year 1818. White County remained part of Habersham for
thirty-nine years until it was officially organized in 1857.
- It was during the year of 1857,
while White County was still a part of Habersham, that Mr. William
B. Shelton, a resident of Mt. Yonah, as Cleveland was then called,
was elected to the legislature on the issue that he would
introduce a bill creating a new county. He was elected and
introduced his bill in the General Assembly, then in session at
Milledgeville, the Capital of the state at the time. On the last
night of the session, December 22, 1857, his bill having failed to
pass, Mr. Shelton felt so keenly disappointed at having failed to
carry out his promise, he sat down and wept in the representative
hall. Col. White, a member of the General Assembly, arose and
moved that the bill passed. Mr. Shelton then proposed to have the
new county named "White" in honor of Col. White, and its county
seat named "Cleveland" in honor of "Wofford" for the county and "Woffordville"
for the county seat had been named in the original bill.
- Later on in 1863, a small part of
the western side of White County was added from Lumpkin County.
This was done When Dr. A. F. Underwood was a member of the
- Isaac Brown was the first sheriff
of the new county, and Micajah McCrary was the first postmaster.
- December 11, 1858, a tri-weekly,
two horse hack line between Clarkesville and Dahlonega was
established. This road passed through Cleveland along the road now
known as Underwood Street. The Post Office was kept in part of a
building which stood on the present county lot.
- The county was established and
laid out in 1858 and the contract for the building the courthouse
and jail was awarded to Mr. Edwin P. Williams of Nacoochee. The
buildings were completed in the latter part of 1859 or the early
part of 1860. Mr. Williams was paid $10,000 in Confederate money
for his work.
- White County either outgrew or
wore out their jail, because the old one was torn down and a new
one built about 1900. The only Baptist church in the town stood
where the Baptist Church is now and was named Mt. Yonah Baptist.
In it school was taught and Court was held while the courthouse
was being built.
- In 1860 the first Census was taken
of White County. The population was 3,315. 263 of these slaves and
eleven of these were freed colored. The population of White County
today is estimated at 13,120. In 1820 when White County was still
a part of Habersham, the population more than tripled. In the
census of 1830, the records list 10,671 residents of Habersham
- Small deposits of several minerals
were found in White County near Dukes Creek in the 1828 or 1829.
For over a century gold was mined in White County, and one-third
of Georgia's gold came from this county. This news reached the
mother country of England, and some of the people came to America
for the definite purpose of coming to these sections to mine gold.
Some who came were well educated; others had very little
education. Some were very rich and with many slaves, while still
others hoped to make themselves rich. Preachers and educators came
also for they realized that the field was ripe for their type of
- The gold mines began to be worked
out and the gold rush for the county subsided. There was still
more excitement to come, but now it was in the form of a war
instead of a gold rush.
- The war had its effects on the
newly formed county, and many of the men lost their lives. Mr.
Riley Kenimer was one of the ninety men and boys who met and
organized a company of soldiers at Denton Spring in August, 1861.
They marched from Mossy Creek campground on the third Monday in
August. It was during this period that the small amount of iron
was mined in White County for the purpose of making Joe Brown
bayonets. These were also made in the county.
- While the war was going on the
county must survive. Some gold mining was still being carried on.
Stores had gold scales and weighed gold dust. The people of the
county made there living by farming, cattle raising, spinning,
weaving, corn mills, leather tanneries, and other similar
occupations. About this time there were eight distilleries three
jug factories, thirty grist mills, one flour mill, twenty sawmills
and three gold mines. Women wove jeans, blankets and saddle
cloths. These met with ready sales. Most of the people were
willing to work and toiled many hours at these trades. When the
Pacolet Mills came to New Holland, White County in 1890 was 6,151
and in 1910 it was 5,110. In a span of twenty years the county
lost over 1,000 people.
- By the end of the century, summer
boarders were coming into the county staying at Cleveland,
Nacoochee, and in various homes throughout the county. This meant
that our livery stables were especially busy during the vacation
months. These visitors also created a more active social life for
the county's younger set. Many years later White County again
thrived on summer visitors. The Mitchell Mountain Ranch Hotel in
Helen was for years one of Georgia's best known resorts.
- The county took on new life when
lumber mill were erected in the northern part of the county and
lumbering began in earnest. Banks and other new businesses were
established. The Byrd-Matthews lumber mills were responsible for
bringing the railroad to White County. Helen and Robertstown grew
into good sized towns almost overnight. For a few years the county
enjoyed a season of prosperity.
- World War I started in Europe in
1914. We didn't enter until 1917, yet the demands for food and
goods brought an increase in business. The formal entrance of the
United States into the war brought bleak years to White County.
She furnished her full quota of solder in this and all other wars.
The first Georgia boy to be killed in action in World War I was a
White County boy, Roy Head. The bridge located one mile north of
Cleveland on Highway 129 is named in his honor.
- White County enjoyed the
prosperity of the roaring twenties and survived the depression of
the thirties. Most of us who read this history are of an age to
remember the haunting days of World War II and the Korean War. We
also remember the good days when the surviving lads came marching
home to join the oldster in helping bring White County into the
front as it is today.
- To conclude this brief history,
let us note some interesting facts concerning White County's past
- The late Andrew Cain, Historian
for Lumpkin County, says that the Indian Sequoyah, who devised the
Cherokee alphabet, was born in White County.
- Daniel Brown, one of the first
white men to enter this section of Georgia, is credited with
having bought 2000 acres of land from the Indians in the Nacoochee
Valley area. He paid $200.00 for the entire acreage. He was buried
in Nacoochee in 1852.
- The largest single gold nugget
ever found in the United states east of the Mississippi River, was
found in the Hamby mines in White County. It was found by Mr. John
Thurmond, who lived to be over ninety years of age and who was
married three times. The gold nugget weighed 504 pennyweights and
four grams. This would be about 25 1/2 ounces and at $35.00 per
ounce it would be worth approximately $882.00.
- Sidney Lanier was in White County
when he wrote "The song of the Chattahoochee".
- Lundy Harris , whose wife Cora
wrote "The Circuit Rider's Wife ", was visiting the preacher for
Loudsville campmeeting about sixty years ago. This book was the
theme for the motion picture, "I'd climb the Highest Mountain"
which was filmed in this county.
- A baby boy, son of Mr. and Mrs.
William B. Bell, was born in the Courthouse.
- George Truett spent the night in
Cleveland with Judge J.J. Kinsey and accompanied him to Marietta
to a Convention. It was at this meeting where attracted the
attention of Baptist leaders.
- In 1830 there were only 75
itinerant preachers in all of Georgia and Florida. Nine-tenths of
the were in Georgia. One of the these seventy-five preachers was
James Quillian, who is buried at Mossy Creek. He was the father of
William F. Quillian, one time president of Wesleyan College.
- One June 16, 1838, some of the
Cherokee Indians of this section camped at Camp Hazel near
Cleveland just prior to their removal to the west.
- The first Sheriff was Isaac Bowen
- 2 years 1857 - 9.
- Mr. Bill Allison was Sheriff in
the early part of 1955 when an addition was added to the back of
the Jail. This addition was used as a kitchen , bedroom and the
first indoor bathroom.
- At this time the prisoners were
fed from tin pie pans. These pans were filled from the family
breakfast. A typical breakfast when Mollie Anderson was in charge
was "Country ham, grits, gravy, eggs, and three biscuits".
White County is a part
of the GaGenWeb
Linda Blum-Barton, State Coordinator
Liz Nash, Regional
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