Stephens County, located in the northeast Georgia foothills, is known for its scenic beauty. Places of interest include 900-foot-high Currahee Mountain, the last mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountain chain, and 186-foot-high Toccoa Falls.
Originally inhabited by Mississippian Indians known as "Mound Builders" and then by Cherokees, the first non-Indians in the area were Revolutionary War (1775-83) veterans who settled there just after that war. On August 18, 1905, the state legislature established the 179-square-mile Stephens County, Georgia's 143rd, from parts of Franklin and Habersham counties. It is named for the statesman Alexander Stephens, who served in the state legislature and the U.S. Congress, as vice president of the Confederacy, and as the state's governor in the two years preceding his death.
Avalon (named for the Arthurian island of paradise) was founded in 1882 by Richard Dempsey Yow and incorporated in 1909. Yow and two brothers started a successful mercantile business there. Although it was at one time a self-contained village with a railway station, post office, school, and church, Avalon's tiny population now shares these functions with those dwelling in nearby towns.
Martin was incorporated in 1891. Its first settler, Henry C. Black, was the Air Line Railroad agent at its station (set up in 1877) at the junction of Red Hollow Road and the railroad. Henry Black built houses and established stores around the junction, which attracted other settlers. The Red Hollow Road was an important conduit for farm products from the mountain areas to Augusta and Savannah. The town was named for John Martin, a Rhode Island man who became governor of Georgia in 1782.
Stephens County is home to two institutions of higher learning, Toccoa Falls College and the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College.
Along with natural beauty, the county is known for its historic sites and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the county population was 26,175, an increase from the 2000 population of 25,435. Notable residents of Stephens County include Paul Anderson, an Olympic gold medalist in weight lifting.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Robert Eldridge Bouwman, Traveler's Rest and the Tugaloo Crossroads (Atlanta: State of Georgia, Department of Natural Resources, 1980).
Stephens County Historical Society, Stephens County, Georgia, and its People (Waynesville, N.C.: Don Mills, 1996).
Kathryn Curtis Trogdon, The History of Stephens County, Georgia (Toccoa, Ga.: Toccoa Woman's Club, 1973).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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