Archives of Elbert County

Archives of Elbert County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
Established 1790. Named in honor of Samuel Elbert, Governor of Georgia and Revolutionary War hero who defended Savannah and was wounded at Briar Creek. On April 18, 1778, captured three British vessels that had been anchored in the Fredrica River.

The land that today is Elbert County was ceded by the Cherokee and Creek Indians in 1773, in part to repay loans made by white traders. The treaty, signed on July 1, 1773, referred to the land simply as "Ceded Lands." In 1777, in the midst of the American Revolution, the state of Georgia consolidated it as Wilkes County, named for an Englishman who had opposed the measures that led Britain into war with her Colonies.

During the American Revolution Georgia's favorite heroine lived in Elbert County, near the Broad River. Wauhatchee Creek is said to bear the Indian name of Georgia's War Woman, Nancy Hart. Here she and her husband Benjamin lived in the county for some 20 years before returning to coastal Georgia where Benjamin died. She would later move to Clarke County before moving north to Kentucky where she died in 1830.

The first permanent settlements appeared in the last two decades of the 18th century. Although early manufacturing census records are incomplete, by 1810 the county had a wagon works, two gunpowder mills and three bark mills in addition to the normal blacksmith shops, distilleries, and grist mills. In the eastern part of the county William Allen began a prosperous life growing cotton, tobacco, corn and wheat. In 1811 he added a grist mill on his property.

Georgia-South Carolina Memorial Bridge
Built on the site of Burton's Ferry, this reinforced concrete truss bridge was completed on October 27, 1927 and dedicated on Armistice Day, 1927 by Miss Ida Calhoun, a direct descendant of former vice-president John C. Calhoun. American Legion posts in the area suggested the bridge be dedicated to the American soldiers who died during "The Great War". The current bridge on GA 72 is being built to the left.
Photo courtesy Historic American Engineering Record, Dennis O'Kain, Photograher
Elbert was spared from the swathe cut by General Sherman across the middle section of the state, called the "March to the Sea"

After the Civil War a group of men was sent to establish a Freedman's Bureau to assist former slaves. A group of Elbert County men surrounded the encampment, firing pistols, rifles and making noise, scaring off the men sent to build the Bureau. Threatening to return with federal troops, they never did.

Reconstruction led to a rail boom, and Elbert County saw the Elberton Air Line, completed in November, 1878. Originally a narrow gauge road, the railroad traversed the land to Toccoa, Georgia, where it ended at the Richmond and Danville Railroad, now known as Southern Railways. On June 28, 1913 another line, the Elberton and Eastern, was completed to Tignall.

With the turn of the century Elberton introduced the first public school system in the county. On February 9, 1902, a major portion of the city of Elberton was destroyed by fire. In 1921 the dreaded boll weevil advanced to the perimeter of the county, which fell fully under its control in 1922. Thankfully, the earlier development of the granite industry sustained the county so well that in the midst of the Depression, in 1933, the county was debt free, unusual in the state. In fact, the county had begun an aggressive work program, administered by the local sheriff. Able bodied men were put to work and local organizations combined to feed the needy.

The Pearle Cotton Mill (pictured, right) was the focus of a small mill village about 6 miles east of Elberton known as Beverly. Located on Beaverdam Creek, the town at one point had 38 company houses and five warehouses.

In March, 1890, the Heardmont Cotton Mills began producing yarn at this location, at the site of the grist mill build by William Allen. Then, during a violent thunderstorm on June 16, 1890 the mills were destroyed. In 1893 the Swift Cotton Mill began operation in downtown Elberton. By 1895 the mill had enough business to expand and T. H. Swift selected a spot about half-a-mile from the old Heardmont Mill. By 1908 Pearle Mill was in bankruptcy. It reopened in 1916, only to be destroyed by fire in 1928. The mill was covered by Russell Lake in 1981.

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