Archives of White County

Archives of White County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
Created in 1857, from Habersham County. Named in honor of David T. White.

Mound at Sautee-NacoocheeThe earliest settlements in the area known today as White County, Georgia were of the Mississipian Culture known as "Moundbuilders". The prominent mound at Sautee-Nacoochee is just one of many that exist in the state. Spanish miners visited the area from the late 1500's until the 1730's. During this time control of the land passed from Creek Indians to the Cherokee.

The travels of William Bartram brought him to the area during the Revolutionary War and he was impressed by the work of these earliest inhabitants. By this time the Cherokee were so abundant in the area that he would frequently refer to the southern Appalachians as the Cherokee Mountains. The road that became the Unicoi Turnpike was used by the British during the Revolution to move men between Augusta and Fort Loudon, near Knoxville, Tennessee. Heading south from Hiawassee(Towns County) across Unicoi Gap in the eastern face of the Appalachian Mountains it passed in the vicinity of Helen, Georgia and turned almost due east through the Sautee-Nachoochee Valley ending near Traveler's Rest in Stephens County.

As whites expanded their control of the coast pressure was put on the Cherokee to move. Prior to 1820 there were many violent encounters with these Native Americans as settlers encroached on their land. With the Treaty of 1819, which ceded the area to the state, Native Americans moved further west, mostly to Arkansas. Many of the earliest settlers of Habersham County west of the Chattahoochee were from North Carolina. They purchased the land from Georgia residents who had won it in the fourth Land Lottery.

The county developed rapidly in the early 1830's thanks to the North Georgia Gold Rush. In one of those quirks of history, Lumpkin County in general, and Benjamin Parks in particular, is given credit for the first "discovery" of gold. Although gold had been mined in the area around Duke's Creek in White County as early as 1560, the modern discovery of gold should be credited to Maj. Frank Logan, whose black slave found a nugget near Loudsville. In George White's 1849 book Statistics of the State of Georgia, he states "The first discovery of gold in this state was made at Duke's Creek, Habersham(now White) County," and the first contemporary documentary reference of gold in North Georgia appears in the Georgia Journal, a Milledgeville newspaper in 1829.

A gentleman in ... Habersham(now White) County writes us..."2 gold mines in this area"

Old Sautee Store
Along the Unicoi Road, the Old Sautee Store has been a friend to travelers for more than 150 years. At the junction of State Roads 17 and 255 Old Sautee Store still attracts visitors from nearby Helen, Georgia. Today the country store atmosphere is dotted with beautiful pieces from the owner's home country, Norway.
By the 1840's numerous communities and churches, predominately Baptist, dotted the landscape. Demands on the county government grew, creating a problem. Some local residents had to travel more than two days to get to the Habersham County seat. In the mid 1850's the reduction of travel time to Clarkesville became a campaign issue. William Shelton, a representative from Mount Yonah(Cleveland) proposed the creation of Wofford County. The bill was defeated in the General Assembly. David T. White(some sources list George or John) rose and addressed the assembly. After a brief but eloquent plea from the senator, the assembly reconsidered the vote and passed the resolution. So grateful were the citizens of the new county they named it White in honor of their benefactor.

The area was relatively untouched by the Civil War. During early reconstruction the area suffered as did most of Georgia, but in the early 1870's a railroad boom had a positive effect on the county, especially in the south. Poet Sidney Lanier was staying in the county when he penned "The Song of the Chattahoochee." In 1899 Cleveland got its first telephone line. The Gainesville Telephone Company ran a single line to the city, and all who wanted service participated in what must have been a rather large party line. In a short time Cleveland had it's own switchboard.

Population that had been expanding since the war did an abrupt about face at the turn of the century when nearby employment attracted many locals. About the same time Henry C. Bagley, a railroad magnate from Cincinnati, discovered the forests of White County. The virgin trees were ripe for harvest. Bagley built a railroad to transport the trees to markets and created camps for the "wood hicks" at Helen and Robertson. Here the trees were turned into board lumber and shipped to the northeast and mid-west. The land was clearcut and abandoned as worthless.

With the advent of the automobile the state began a series of road projects. Included in these projects were roads from Cleveland to Clayton and to Blairsville begun in 1922 and completed in 1926. During this time the Federal Government began to purchase large amounts of land in the area devastated by the lumber and mining industries and consolidated it into the Georgia(later Chattahoochee) National Forest. Arthur Woody was it's first Forest Ranger.

No history of White County would be complete without mention of Xavier Roberts, one of North Georgia's favorites. He turned an idea, Cabbage Patch Dolls, into a national craze. Babyland General, the place where the dolls were "born," became an overnight tourist attraction and for a while, one of the most popular stops in the mountains. While other fads had swept the nation, this is generally considered to be the first in a series of toy crazes that feature adults lining up in front of stores and going to battle over a child's toy.

Today tourism is a major industry in the county. The Bavarian town of Helen has replaced Tallulah Falls as the most popular destination in the northeast Georgia mountains. The Appalachian Trail runs along much of the northern border of the county. And the great outdoors calls people from across the nation to White County.

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