Forsyth County - Metro Atlanta Guidebook

A Look At The History Of Forsyth County Georgia

Forsyth County is rich in history. Forsyth County was created on December 3, 1832 by a legislative act. Forsyth County was named in honor of John Forsyth, a Virginia born attorney who served Georgia as its Attorney General, Governor, Congressman, and Senator. John Forsyth also served as U.S. Secretary of State under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.
Prior to settlement by the Europeans, the area now known as Forsyth County was part of a large territory belonging to the Cherokee Indian Nation. The Cherokees had a distinct spoken and written language. Only a few hunters and hunters of European descent moved to the area during the period before the Revolutionary War, but the Federal Road built after the turn of the Nineteenth Century brought many more European-American settlers. The Treaties of Tellico in 1805 opened a thoroughfare for emigrants moving to west Tennessee and northern Alabama. President James Monroe traveled the Federal Road in 1818 and Andrew Jackson used this road to march his troops to fight the Seminole Indians in Florida. The Federal Road also served as a postal road, a stage route, and was routinely used by herdsman and farmers to transport their goods to market. The early history of European Americans Forsyth County is closely related to the history of the Federal Road.
In 1828, the state of Georgia refused to recognize the Cherokee government and that same year gold was discovered in North Georgia. By 1829, the counties surrounding the Cherokee nation were defined and by 1830 the Georgia General Assembly authorized the governor to take possession of the gold and silver found in the Cherokee country. During 1831 and 1832 was surveyed and on December 3, 1832 the Cherokee country was divided into ten counties one of which was Forsyth County. "Forsyth constituted four sections split into 93 districts, each nine miles square. These districts were further divided into 60 land lots containing 160 acres and 33 gold lots containing 40 acres" (Malone and Deviney).
After a bitter debate among the Cherokee leaders, around 100 Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota, (the Cherokee capitol), in 1835. The Cherokees accepted five million dollars for their land. In the months that followed, the Cherokee either moved voluntarily or they were removed by force on "The Trail of Tears." The removal of the Cherokees in the 1830s figures very prominently in Forsyth County history.
Toll roads, ferries on the Chattahoochee, and Taverns developed with the Federal Road to transport people across the Cherokee lands including Forsyth County. "By 1832 there were ten ferries in operation along the Chattahoochee, the Etowah, and Chestatee." "All the ferry roads in the northern part of the county led to the Federal Road, converging near the current intersection of State Routes 9 and 141 in the southern portion. In the central section of the county they led to Cumming." (Malone and Deviney)
"Although there was a concentration of white settlers at Hightower, an area situated along a ridge between the Indian Sawnee Settlement at Sawnee at Sawnee Mountain and the headwaters of Baldridge Creek was designated the county seat. Cumming, incorporated by an act of legislation on December 22, 1834 remains the seat of government and only incorporated town in Forsyth County. The town was named in honor of Colonel William Cumming, a distinguished Georgian. Cumming gained military distinction in the War of 1812, attaining the rank of Colonel in 1814; however, it was through a series of duels over states rights in 1822 that he gained national attention. He became a rich powerful attorney and editor in Augusta, Georgia where he died in February 1863" ( Malone and Deviney).
"As settlers migrated from the Carolinas and Virginia many got as far as Forsyth County and decided to stay. New schools, churches, and post offices sprang up around the county, and the area soon became well known for its production of high-quality tobacco and wagons."
"Forestry became a thriving industry, and within a few years, Forsyth County boasted several sawmills, gristmills, distilleries and factories for jugs and clothing."
‘Following the Civil War, Forsyth County residents were left with little in the way of household goods, food or work equipment and had to barter eggs and chickens for daily necessities. "The cotton crash of the 1920s was responsible for a decrease in population and a shift to livestock production. During the 1930s the Depression boosted the county’s numbers again somewhat as people fled from the cities and moved to communities such as Shakerag, Midway, and Matt in search of a rural lifestyle. In 1940s there was a slight drain in the county’s population due to World War II, and after the war Forsyth County experienced a general population decrease, common to rural counties in the state, due to the rapid urbanization of Atlanta and other cities. In fact, the population in 1950 was actually less than in 1920." (Malone and Deviney)
Over the years, Forsyth County’s growth has been greatly affected by several factors that brought waves of new settlers into the county. The county’s first wave of newcomers came when the North Georgia region became known for its suitability for the poultry industry that developed here during the 1940s and 1950s. Wilson Foods, later bought out by Tyson Foods, located in Cumming, and chicken houses began springing up around the county."
"In 1957, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the construction of Lake Lanier. Although it was built primarily as a water basin for nearby Atlanta and as a way to control flooding downstream, the lake is now the most visited Corps lake in the country. The surrounding counties bring in more than $200 million in recreation revenues each year."
"In the 1970s the Hwy. 400 corridor reached its thin gray arm through Forsyth County, making the county’s scenic beauty more accessible to people migrating from more urban settings. In the 1980s the county’s consistently low tax rate, high educational standards furthered the county’s appeal to new settlers. The 1990s are bringing continued growth and progress. The county now has exceptional opportunities for advanced education through the Lanier Technical Institute’s Forsyth County campus on Majors Road."
Forsyth County has had five courthouses; all five were erected in succession on the Court House Square in Cumming. The first was a log building erected in August 1833. A large frame courthouse was built in 1839. A brick courthouse was built around 1854 probably by slave labor. It was used until 1906 when a new two-story courthouse was built. This third courthouse was used until 1973 when it was burned by an arsonist. The current courthouse was completed in 1978. Three trailers and an old gymnasium were used to conduct county business during the five-year interim period between the fire and the completion of the new courthouse. The new Forsyth County Administration Building was completed in 1996.
(Taken and edited from Gladyse K. Barrett’s Stroll Around the Square in Cumming, 1989).

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