Gilmer County courthouse in Ellijay
|Location: Ellijay |
The Dec. 1832 act creating Gilmer County provided that "the place where Ned Tucker recently lived" would serve as the county's initial courthouse and place for holding elections. The law also authorized an election of county officials in March 1833 and provided that the first justices of inferior court select the county seat of Gilmer County and provide for erection of a courthouse and other county buildings. That year, the inferior court chose Ellijay as county seat and had a wooden courthouse built here. In 1854, a new courthouse was built, which would serve the county for the next 80 years.
In 1898, the Hyatt Hotel was constructed facing the downtown square in Ellijay. The two-story brick building was converted for use as the Gilmer County courthouse in 1934 (see photo
). Later, a private brick home across the street from the courthouse was purchased and converted into a courthouse annex and home for the Gilmer County Commission (see photo
In March 2003, the county fire marshall condemned the Gilmer County courthouse because of extensive code violatiions. The building was closed on March 27, forcing the county to find alternative facilities for courts and county officials who had been housed in the courthouse.
County Courthouse Historical Marker: Click here
Gilmer County was created from Cherokee County on Dec. 3, 1832 by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws 1832, p. 56). [Click here
for complete text of legislation.] According to that act:
. . . 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.
In way of background, by 1830, the Cherokee Nation consisted of most of northwest Georgia (see map
), 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" (see map
) 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.
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.
As originally constituted, Gilmer County extended to the Tennessee border (see map
). Later created in part or whole from its original boundaries were Pickens, Fannin, and Dawson counties.
The Dec. 1832 act creating Gilmer County authorized election of county officials in March 1833 and provided that the first justices of inferior court select a location to serve as county seat. Subsequently, the inferior court chose Ellijay as county seat. On Dec. 20, 1834, the state legislature designated Ellijay as permanent county seat of Gilmer County. That legislation also named town commissioners for Ellijay and gave them the "power and authority to make all such by-laws for the government and good order of the said town of Ellijay as may be necessary . . . ." In effect, the Dec. 20, 1834 act incorporated Ellijay as an official town, although not using the terms "incorporate" or "incorporation." On Dec. 19, 1840, the legislature passed new legislation for Ellijay, this time specifically incorporating the town.
Ellijay originally was a Cherokee town named Ellija, a name believed to have been a Cherokee reference to a green place -- perhaps because the town was settled on a river. The town was located on the Ellijay Road, which branched off the Cherokee Federal Road just west of Talking Rock and traveled northeastward into North Carolina. By 1833, whites had settled the site of Ellija, calling it Ellijay.