Archives of Forsyth County

Archives of Forsyth County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
Established in 1832. Named in honor of John Forsyth, Attorney General of Georgia, 1808; U. S. representative; U.S. senator; U.S. minister to Spain, 1819-1823; thirty-first governor of Georgia, 1827-29; U.S. secretary of state under presidents Jackson and Van Buren, 1834-41.

Forsyth County was the first stop on an adventure that drew literally thousands of men and women into the wilds of North Georgia. It was such a major entry point that historian and Forsyth County resident Donald Shadburn calls it the "Gateway to the Cherokee Nation." A trading path to the Cherokee Nation ran through the present physical boundaries of the county as early as 1731.

James Vann's Tavern

This tavern now sits at the former capital of the Cherokee Nation, New Echota, but in the early 1800's it was on the Old Federal Highway in present day Forsyth County
By 1797 settlers and traders wanted this path upgraded to a road. The United States government began to negotiate the creation of the Georgia Road around this time. In 1803 the improvements were agreed to in the Treaty of Tellico and a building project begun. James Vann, the mixed blood Cherokee who handled the negotiations won the rights to a lucrative ferry where the road crossed the Chattahoochee River. Nearby was his tavern (which still exists in New Echota State Park).

Vann had a lot of competition in the area, including Bonds Ferry near Baldridge Creek, Gilbert's Ferry on the road to Lawrenceville, McGinnis Ferry, Orr's Ferry, Warsaw Ferry, and, of course, Roger's Bridge.

Among the earliest whites were the Buffingtons and Blackburns, and their names are present on various creeks, towns and parks from Dahlonega to Canton. A large number of Cherokee also lived in the relatively fertile farmlands.

As whites would pass along the Georgia Road (called The Federal Road after General Andrew Jackson's men improved it in 1819) they would sometimes find a nice place, stop and build a home and farm the land. Since the Cherokee did not understand owning land, they often would permit this.

In 1830 Georgia decided to take all remaining Cherokee land in the state. They divided it up into 160 acre lots (40 acres in the gold belt) and distributed by lot in the fifth and sixth Georgia Land Lottery in 1832. For the next six years Cherokee in North Georgia attempted to fight the settlers in court and the press and lost the battle.

In the Spring of 1838 the Cherokee were herded into the infamous Cherokee Removal Forts, two of which (Fort Scudder and Fort Campbell) were in Forsyth. They were then moved west, against their will, on The Trail of Tears.

The Federal Road continued as a major route until the late 1840's. At that time new roads developed to move residents to the nearest depot. Tolls were no longer gathered and the road, where it was no longer used regularly, fell into disrepair. Most of the roadside inns and taverns were used as barns and stables by local farmers or abandoned altogether. Forsyth County was extremely hard hit by this change.

The county lost much of it's established businesses and reverted to an almost entirely agricultural economy. Entirely bypassed by The Civil War, the county suffered through Reconstruction.

In September, 1912, a 16 year-old Black male was accused of the rape of an 18 year-old White female. The accused male was quickly lynched by a mob of "white caps." As a result race riots erupted in both Forsyth and neighboring Dawson County. About 2,000 (est.) Blacks fled to Gainesville, a few miles to the east in Hall County. Governor Brown called out the national guard to stop the riots

For 75 years the county was characterized as being only White, however U.S. Census records dispute this claim, although the figure of Black Americans were unusually low. Twice in January, 1987, interracial groups, led by the Rev. Hosea Williams protested the county's attitude towards Blacks. The first protest met stiff resistance by militant white racists, many of whom were from outside the county. The small group of protesters were turned back. The following week Rev. Williams returned, this time with nearly 20,000 protesters of various races. This march ended peacefully.

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