Established 1857. Named in honor of William Crosby Dawson. Representative, compiler of laws of Georgia, 1820-30, fought in Creek War, 1836, U.S. representative, 1836-41, Superior Court judge, Ocmulgee Circuit, 1845, U.S senator, 1849-55.
|Old Dawson County Courthouse|
Built in square in the center of Dawsonville, as was the custom, the vintage courthouse is now home to the Dawson County Historical Society
Before the creation of the county from portions of Lumpkin and Gilmer Counties, the battle of Leather's Ford pitted area miners against local militia. Actually little more than a skirmish, it foreshadowed the future of the county that would routinely see wide-ranging "battles" between locals and law enforcement agents.
Although Dawson county was created nearly twenty years after the Trail of Tears, the rugged northwestern portion of the area was still home to Cherokee Indians when the county was created.
Racial tensions in the county exploded in 1912, when many blacks living within the county's borders were involuntarily expelled from both Dawson and Forsyth counties. The majority of these Americans ended up living in Gainesville. These incidents, and the murder of Marietta native Mary Phagan, purportedly by her Jewish boss, Leo Frank (later exonerated), led to the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan by Alabama native William Simmons on Thanksgiving night, 1915, in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
For more than the first hundred years of its existence Dawson County remained an agricultural area, perhaps most noted for the moonshine it produced for the thirsty mouths of prohibition Atlanta. Bypassed by major railroad lines and through highways, the economic development of the area rested on the shoulders of these bootleggers.
|Dawsonville, Georgia, home to racing legend Bill Elliot, whose sport drew its start from a mainstay of the Dawson County economy, moonshine.|
Unlike their competitors to the west, the moonshiners of Dawson developed an intricate delivery system for this illegal liquid that featured young men in fast cars. The legacy that was built would form one of the most popular sports of this century, stock car racing, and would give birth to the sport's most enduring figure, Bill Elliot ("Awesome Bill from Dawsonville").
21 year old Lloyd Seay is probably the most famous of these early bootlegging racers. A day after winning the Lakewood 100 in Atlanta, Seay laid dead from a single gunshot to the head, in an argument over sugar, an essential ingredient in the distilling process.
Federal agents like Charlie Weems would do battle with the bootleggers across the county. Weems, a published author whose books include the autobiographical tales A Breed Apart and Agents That Fly wrote extensively about bringing Dawson County bootleggers to justice. (Read an excerpt from A Breed Apart)
With the re-routing of the Appalachian Trail to end at a point about 8 miles north of Amicalola Falls State Park in 1957, the county became a major attractions to hikers. At the same time the flooding of the Chattahoochee River plain to form Lake Lanier was completed. The Lake forms the southern end of Dawson County.
|Highest named peaks in Dawson County|
Today's Dawson County has shed its intolerant past, and moonshiners are no longer in the county. With the coming of Georgia 400 (a state highway, not a race) in the 1980's, the county got the major road that it had lacked for a hundred and twenty years. This transportation route, combined with Lake Lanier, Amicalola Falls and a major outlet mall have helped the county grow at a tremendous rate over the last five years.