Banks County, in northeast Georgia, is the state’s 129th county, comprising 233 square miles. The county was created from portions of Franklin and Habersham counties in 1858 and was named for Richard E. Banks (1794-1856), a circuit-riding surgeon who treated white settlers and Indians in the area, developing a good reputation among the Cherokees for treating smallpox. The land that became Banks County was originally held by the Cherokees, forming a border territory between the Cherokee Indian Nation and the newly formed United States of America. The western border of Georgia (from the top of Currahee Mountain to the southernmost branch of the Oconee River) was marked by a strip of felled trees, twenty feet wide, established with the Cherokees by the Treaty of Augusta in 1783. The northern boundary was the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The county seat is Homer.  Its first courthouse was built in 1863, reportedly with $6,600 in Confederate currency; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Saved from destruction by a campaign to restore the old building initiated by a Banks County High School student, it now serves as a museum and community meeting hall, after a new courthouse was built in 1987. Homer, which replaced New Lebanon as the county seat, was incorporated in 1859, and is reported to have been named after Homer Jackson, an early settler.

Banks County Courthouse
Banks County Courthouse

Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Parts of other incorporated towns lie in the county: Alto (once known as Lulah), Baldwin, Gillsville, Lula, and Maysville. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Banks County is 18,395, an increase from the 2000 population of 14,422.

Covered Bridge in Banks County
Covered Bridge in Banks County

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Transportation

Commercial forestry has given way to small poultry farms in recent decades, although much of the workforce is employed in the manufacturing sector, mostly in textiles and apparel production.

Well-known former residents include Georgia governor Allen D. Candler, major-league baseball champion Ty Cobb, and Zach S. Henderson, former president of Georgia Teachers College (later, Georgia Southern University).

Places of interest include Nails Creek Baptist Church, the Old Banks County Jail, Fort Hollingsworth, and the Atlanta Dragway. Annual events include the Banks County Festival in the fall, the Annual North Georgia Folk Potters Festival in June, and in Homer the “World’s Largest Easter Egg Hunt.”

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Covered Bridge in Banks County

Covered Bridge in Banks County

Located on private property south of Lula in Banks County, this covered bridge is the smallest in Georgia and one of the smallest in the United States. Originally built in 1915, the bridge was in service until 1969 and renovated in 1975.

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Transportation

Banks County Courthouse

Banks County Courthouse

The Banks County courthouse in Homer was built in 1987 to replace the county's original courthouse, which was constructed during the Civil War. The new courthouse stands on the block directly behind the site of the original courthouse.

Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Gristmill in Banks County

Gristmill in Banks County

This gristmill, located along the Grove River in Banks County, was built in 1910 and operated until the 1950s. Today the primary industries in the county are the poultry and textile industries.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
ban010.

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Tuberculosis Sanatorium

Tuberculosis Sanatorium

In 1911 the state of Georgia opened a public sanatorium in Banks County for the treatment of tuberculosis. The sanatorium was the state's most ambitious health project up to that time, and marked a new interest in public health, a product of the Progressive era.

From History of Public Health in Georgia, 1733-1950, by T. F. Abercrombie

Ty Cobb Statue

Ty Cobb Statue

A bronze statue of Ty Cobb, created by Felix de Weldon in 1977, stands at the north entrance of Turner Field in Atlanta and depicts the baseball legend sliding into a base. Nicknamed the "Georgia Peach," Cobb, a native of Banks County, played for the Detroit Tigers from 1905 until 1926.

Image from David

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