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 enslaved laborers, maintained taverns for travelers along this route, which was traveled by U.S. presidents Andrew Jackson and James Monroe.

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions established the Taloney mission (later Carmel mission) for Cherokee children in the community of Taloney in 1819, and the missionary Isaac Proctor was later arrested there by the state of Georgia. (Historians differ on whether Taloney was in what would become Pickens County or Gilmer County.) Fort Newman, a stockade used during the removal of the Cherokees in 1838, also stood at the same site as Taloney.

Taloney Mission

Although  in 1832 new settlers obtained, through the Cherokee land lottery, lands in the area, it remained sparsely settled due to speculation schemes by distant property owners. The region did become a cultural intersection, however, as a place where natives of the Tennessee and North Carolina mountains lived in proximity with hill-country families from Georgia’s Hall County. John M. Bozeman, the founder of a gold-rush trail in Montana called the Bozeman Trail, was born in 1835 in what would become Pickens County.

Pickens County Courthouse
Pickens County Courthouse
Courtesy of Don Bowman

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 marble industry, which had begun in the late 1830s through the efforts of Henry Fitzsimmons, was modernized by the arrival of the railroad in 1883. Marble from Pickens County went into major public buildings across the country and, reportedly, in 60 percent of the monuments in Washington, D.C. Mica was quarried for electric switchboards during the early 1900s, and copper, graphite, gold, iron, silver, slate, and talc mines have also operated in Pickens County.

Blue Ridge Marble Company
Blue Ridge Marble Company
Courtesy of Georgia Archives.

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.

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Taloney Mission

Taloney Mission

The Taloney Mission (later Carmel Mission) was founded by the Georgia Presbyterians in Pickens County along Talking Rock Creek. The Presbyterians established and ran a number of mission schools throughout Georgia from 1817 to 1833. The remains of the Taloney Mission were photographed between 1930 and 1960.

Pickens County Courthouse

Pickens County Courthouse

The Pickens County Courthouse in Jasper was constructed in 1949 with marble quarried in nearby Tate. This courthouse, designed in a stripped classical style, is the third in the county's history.

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Blue Ridge Marble Company

Blue Ridge Marble Company

A train arrives at the Blue Ridge Marble Company about 1910. Later renamed Georgia Marble, the company was active in Cherokee and Pickens counties during the growth of the marble industry between the arrival of the railroads in the 1880s and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
pck077-82a.

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Marblehill Quarry

Marblehill Quarry

Workers for the Georgia Marble Company sit for a portrait during the 1920s at the Marblehill Quarry in Pickens County. Marble from Pickens County is reported to have been used in around 60 percent of the monuments in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
pck018-82.

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Old Pickens County Courthouse

Old Pickens County Courthouse

The second Pickens County Courthouse, pictured circa 1890, was built in 1888. Located in Jasper, the courthouse was in use until 1947, when it was destroyed by a fire.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
pck130-82.

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