Habersham County, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia, is the state's forty-sixth county. Created in 1818 from land formerly held by Cherokee Indians, it was named after Joseph Habersham, an army officer during the Revolutionary War (1775-83) and a U.S. postmaster general.
Habersham County was enlarged in 1828 and 1829 when more Cherokee lands were added to it. At one time it encompassed 713 square miles, but through the years parts of it were taken to help form Banks, Cherokee, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, and White counties, decreasing Habersham County to 278 square miles.
Early industries included leather tanning, iron mining, and the processing and mining of such other minerals as asbestos, cynanite, and tourmaline. During the Civil War (1861-65) the Habersham Iron Works and Manufacturing Company produced arms for the Confederacy.
Nearly 1,000 men from Habersham fought for the Confederacy. On October 12, 1864, Confederate troops defeated Union troops at the Battle of Narrows (also called the Battle of Currahee), which was fought at a mountain pass in the county. The Confederate victory is said to have saved Habersham County from pillage by the Union troops.
Clarkesville was incorporated as a village and designated the county seat in 1823. The current courthouse, the fourth, was built in 1963. During the nineteenth century Clarkesville, with its temperate summers, attracted well-to-do families hoping to escape the heat of south Georgia. For a time there were county residents who strongly wished to relocate the county seat to Toccoa (then in Habersham County), leading to such a feud that when the Clarkesville courthouse was blown
Other incorporated communities in the county are Alto, Baldwin, Cornelia, Demorest, Mount Airy, and Tallulah Falls. In the 1870s the high point (the "altus") of the railroad line through the area was located at Alto, and the town took its name from this railroad term. There the Northeastern Railroad connected the Richmond-Danville Air Line Railroad. Baldwin was incorporated in 1896, taking its name from Joseph A. Baldwin, an Atlanta-Charlotte Air Line Railroad official. Demorest was founded in 1889 as a planned community advocating temperance. Its original settlers were from the Midwest and New England, and the town's architecture reflects their influence.
Notable agricultural products from this county are apples and poultry. The county has capitalized on the market for retirement and summer/weekend homes by encouraging such development. Homesites along the shores of Lake Russell and many other smaller lakes have increased the property tax base, resulting in a solid financial status for the county.
The county is home to two institutions of higher learning. Piedmont College is located in Demorest, and North Georgia Technical College is located in Clarkesville.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Habersham County is 43,041, an increase from the 2000 population of 35,902.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
The Heritage of Habersham County, Georgia, 1817-2000 ([Marceline, Mo.]: Walsworth Publishing, 2001).
Herbert B. Kimzey, Early Genealogical and Historical Records: Habersham County, Georgia, comp. Nancy Kimzey Dempsey ([Athens, Ga.?]: privately printed, 1988).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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