Pickens County, located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains in north central Georgia, was formally created on December 5, 1853, from Gilmer and Cherokee counties. The county was named for Andrew Pickens, a South Carolinian who served as a general during the American Revolution (1775-83). In the first decades following its creation, the county gained small tracts from Gilmer County and Cherokee County, while giving land to Dawson, Gordon, and Cherokee counties.
The history of modern settlement in the area began when Georgia created the Federal Road, its first state highway, across the Cherokee Nation in 1805. (More of the remains of this unpaved route lie in Pickens than in any other county.) Native Americans, whites, and interracial families, some with slaves, maintained taverns for travelers along this route, which was traveled by U.S. presidents Andrew Jackson and James Monroe.
The Civil War (1861-65) divided the county's population for generations; Pickens County contributed men to both the Confederacy and the Union. A local committee protested the state's secession from the Union and raised a U.S. flag at the courthouse in Jasper.
The county's first great era of progress, which began with the railroad, ended with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. Marble, cotton, and tourism rose and fell as profitable industries. Between 1930 and 1940 the population in the area declined from 9,687 to 9,136. By 1950 Pickens experienced a further decline to 8,855. The county did not grow appreciably until the 1960s, and its fragile economy suffered once again as a result of national recessions in the 1980s. The completion of Georgia 515/Interstate 575 caused a rapid expansion in the county's population and business after 1990, making Pickens County one of the fastest-growing areas in Georgia.
The population of Pickens County, according to the 2010 census, was 29,431, an increase from the 2000 population of 22,983. The county has one of Georgia's few remaining administrator governments. Jasper, the county seat, has seen three courthouses; one was destroyed by fire in 1947 (although no significant loss of records occurred). Besides Jasper, the county's other incorporated cities are Nelson and Talking Rock. The county is home to the regional Chattahoochee Technical College and Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation.
Keith S. Bohannon, "The Northeast Georgia Mountains during the Secession Crisis and Civil War" (Ph. D. diss., Pennsylvania State University, 2001).
Robert S. Davis, "'The Business of Life': A Case Study of Using Credit Reports in a Community History in Pickens County, North Georgia," Chattanooga Regional Historical Journal 5 (2002): 55-82.
[Pickens County Heritage Book Committee], Pickens County, Georgia Heritage, 1853-1998 (Waynesville, N.C.: Don Mills, 1998).
Charles O. Walker, Cherokee Footprints, 2 vols. (Jasper, Ga.: privately printed, 1988-89).
Robert Scott Davis Jr., Wallace State College, Hanceville, Alabama
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