Archives of Gwinnett County

Archives of Gwinnett County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
Established in 1818. Named in honor of Button Gwinnett, Second President of Georgia Provisional Council; signer of the Declaration of Independence, 1776; Georgia constitutional convention, 1777;acting president and commander-in-chief of Georgia, 1777; Gwinnett was killed in a duel with General Lachlan McIntosh.

With the Chattahoochee River forming its northwest boundary, Gwinnett County was home to both Cherokee and Creek Indians. From the Chattahoochee, which forms a portion of Gwinnett's northern county line, the land rises to a ridge line about two or three miles south of the river. This ridge was the dividing line between the Creek and Cherokee Nations. Unlike further west, where a "green zone" existed, neither the Creek or the Cherokee were permitted to cross this boundary without the threat of a full-scale war.

1883 Gwinnett County map
Courtesy Library of Congress
The earliest settlements started in the vicinity of Hog Mountain, toward the northern end of the county. It was here, during the War of 1812, that Major Tandy Key built Fort Daniel to protect the frontier residents from unwanted Indian intrusions. Following the ridge that divided the two Indian Nations future governor George Gilmer built a road from the fort to Standing Peachtree the same year.

The state house and senate in 1818 opted to create three counties in Georgia to honor of the three men from the state who signed the Declaration of Independence. Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton had counties named after them. (It was Walton's second county). By the time the state formally recognized the county significant commercial development had begun, including a store own by William Maltbie. Andy Jackson, preparing for his upcoming presidential bid four years later visited Gwinnett County in 1820.

As with most rural communities agriculture was the major business. When the county was organized, the first court was held in Elisha Winn's home. Winn would later purchase 250 acres in what shortly would be the city of Lawrenceville, Georgia, for the purpose of establishing a county government. A temporary courthouse and jail were quickly constructed, with permanent buildings to be completed two years later. By the end of the 1820's population had increased to more than 13,000, a level it would not see again for 50 years.

In 1831 these buildings played host to the most famous trial in Georgia to that time. Reverend Samuel Worcester, a Cherokee missionary was brought to the county, tried and convicted for illegally working in Indian country without a permit, along with 11 other men of the cloth. The law requiring a permit had been passed by the state legislature to force Georgia law on the Cherokee. This landmark case was eventually heard the Supreme Court and led to the recognition of the Cherokee Nation as sovereign.

Built in 1885 after the old courthouse burned
Historic Courthouse
Built in 1885
Relatively untouched by the Civil War, the county prospered in the early 1870's with the building of a railroad from Atlanta to Gainesville and further north. In 1885 the county built a new courthouse in the city of Lawrenceville, the county seat, to replace the courthouse that had been burned in 1871 by a faction of a secret society seeking to destroy papers that were actually housed elsewhere.

When cotton was no longer a viable crop because of falling prices and the boll weevil Gwinnett turned to dairy farming. While dairy cattle had been raised in the area for a number of years, the dramatic growth of Atlanta and the cotton bust combined to make the area one of the largest and fastest growing dairy regions in the United States. Farmers in the area formed a co-op called Atlanta Dairies, selling their goods throughout the northern tier of counties. An expanding poultry market also helped to offset the losses of the cotton bust, although Hall and Cherokee counties were larger producers.

With the creation of Lake Lanier in 1957, recreational tourism became a major industry in the region, and two years later Interstate 85 was completed to Pleasant Hill Road, bisecting the county. The 1960's brought Gwinnett in the national spotlight again with another dark incident. Millionaire heiress Barbara Mackle was buried alive in box not much bigger than a coffin in the county. Federal and state agents, working closely with local authorities, found the grave before the heiress perished. She had been there for 83 hours, waiting for her family to pay a $500,000 ransom. Ruth Eiseman-Schier, one of Barbara Mackle's kidnappers (the other was Gary Steven Krist), was the first woman to appear on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. She was captured on December 17, 1968.

On March 6, 1978, Larry Flynt was shot by Joseph Paul Franklin on his way back to the Lawrenceville Courthouse from a nearby cafeteria.

During the 1980s the county wrested the title of "Fastest Growing County in the United States" from Orange County, Florida. With the advent of Gwinnett Place Mall in 1984, the county had shifted from the rural, agricultural area to a booming metropolis in its own right with major manufacturing and service employers.

In 2002, Former Olympic gymnist Olga Korbut, who won three gold medals at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany and shared one at the 1976 games in Montreal, paid a fine at the county courthouse instead of going to trial for stealing $19.00 of groceries.

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Gwinnett County links


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