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Monday, August 19, 2013

Pickens County In Georgia

"Pickens County lies at the southern end of the Appalachians in North Georgia. The Cherokee Indians called this area home after they were forced from the Carolinas in the 1770's. In 1805, the Federal Government forced the Cherokees to accept a road through their lands to Nashville. Portions of the Old Federal Road are still visible in the County today. The Cherokee lands were distributed to white men by Georgia in 1832 Land Lottery. The thirst for gold discovered in these lands forced the Cherokees to move westward in the now infamous Cherokee Removal or Trail Of Tears of 1838.

The County was formed from portions of Cherokee and Gilmer Counties in 1853. During the Civil War, some Pickens Countians were pro-Union. For almost a month after Georgia seceded, the Union flag flew from the Court House, but Pickens County sent six companies to the Confederate Army. There were no major battles fought in the County, though some guerilla warfare did occur here.

Pickens County is renowned for its exceptionally pure marble. The deposit is five to seven miles long, one/half wide and as deep as 2,000 feet. This marble was known as used by the Indians as early as 800 AD. Henry Fitzsimmons established the first marble quarries and the first marble mill in the 1830's.

The Georgia Marble Company was organized in 1884 and leased all of the Tate Marble lands. The coming of Marietta & North Georgia Railroad into Pickens County in 1883 opened outside markets for Georgia marble. Col Sam Tate became President and General Manager of Georgia Marble Company in 1905. The firm grew rapidly until concrete replaced stone as building material. Georgia marble was used in the construction of many notable buildings, including the Lincoln Memorial, House Office Building, East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, National Air and Space Museum, New York Stock Exchange Annex, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, Chicago's Buckingham Fountain, and Bok Sing Tower in Florida.

The corn whiskey stills that provided a cash crop for citizens of Pickens County are now gone. Legal before the end of the Civil War, stills were then made illegal unless a Federal Tax was paid. There were eight or ten legal stills during the 1880's, but these provided their owners with little more than repayment for the costs of corn, sugar and taxes. Some of the more independent mountaineers 'skirted' the taxes, risking imprisonment and the distruction of their stills at the hands of "Revenuers".

Tales are still told of local drivers who risked life and limb to transport their goods to Atlanta by automobile in later years."

... from historical information printed in the 1997 Marble Valley Historical Society's calendar of recent years.

From the editors of
Roadside Georgia

 Established in 1853, Pickens County was named for South Carolina military leader and politician Andrew Pickens, who fought the Cherokee in 1760 and 1782. During the Revolution he was awarded a sword for the victory at Cowpens. He also served in the state house. Some locals claim that the name is something of a joke and was actually taken because the county got the "pickin's", a Georgia term implying the best, of Cherokee and Gilmer Counties
 Cemetery at Tate, Georgia
Tate Cemetery
Tate, Georgia

The Tate Family controlled Pickens county in the early 1900's. Located just past the Tate train depot on Highway 53
At the beginning of the Appalachian Mountains, the story of present-day Pickens County begins with the Cherokee Indians, who had a major settlement here (The Long Swamp Branch). These American Indians were forced to cede land further east as punishment for siding with the British during the Revolutionary War. In 1782, Col. Pickens hung 6 loyalists near present-day Nelson.

Pickens was one of the earliest counties with white encroachers (probably pre-Revolution) near Talking Rock. These early settlers later ran inns and taverns to accommodate the travelers on the Old Federal Highway which bisected the county.

In an area known as Taloney to the Cherokee and Talona Station to early whites, missionaries, most notably Dr. Elizur Butler, constructed an elaborate development which they used to educate the Cherokee with the blessing of Cherokee Nation. The original deed for the land, one of the first issued by the Cherokee bears the signature of Return J. Meigs, local Cherokee agent. James Monroe, President of the United States, spent the night of May 19, 1819 in the Harnage House, at the site of the present-day Tate House. On his journey through Cherokee Country he was accompanied by 3 other men.

External events began to shape the history of the county starting with the North Georgia Gold Rush. Although the area today known as Pickens did not share directly in the event, miners would use the Federal Highway to get to Lumpkin County and the area grew. When the State of Georgia created the original Cherokee County, encompassing 6900 square miles of land formerly controlled by Native Americans, the first courthouse was in the Harnage House. The spring house on the grounds of the Tate House is the only remaining building from this time. 

In 1830 Corn "George" Tassel allegedly murdered another Cherokee near Talking Rock. Tassel was tried in Hall County and murdered by the state in Gainesville.

Among the missionaries who taught with Dr. Butler at Carmel was the Rev. Issac Procter. 

Samuel Austin Worcester, Rev. Proctor and Doctor Butler were arrested by the Georgia Guard in March, 1831 and charged with disobeying a law that required all whites working on Cherokee land to have a license. The law, passed the previous year, had been specifically designed to eliminate the missionaries who were friendly to the Cherokee. If the state could extend its laws over the Cherokee, their Nation would no longer be sovereign and would not be protected by the federal government. Tried and convicted in Gwinnett County, the men sat in jail while the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the state could not extend it's laws onto the Cherokee Nation. The ruling was unenforced by President Andrew Jackson.

In the spring of 1838 the tribe was rounded up, along with other Cherokee and herded into Talking Rock Fort (also known as Fort Newnan) and Fort Buffington(near Canton, Ga.), Removal Forts until they moved north to Rattlesnake Springs (now Tennessee) and began a journey to Oklahoma on The Trail of Tears.

Sam Tate, a settler from Gainesville, won parcels of land in Pickens County during the Land Lottery of 1832. Packing twelve children and his wife in a wagon, Tate moved to the county and built a home.

As early as 1836 marble was being quarried in Jasper. Over the next 25 years this area changed little. In 1861, to protest the secession of the state, residents here flew the Union flag for nearly a month. During the Civil War Pickens County remained strongly pro-Union, even after the initial Confederate victories. Only minor engagements occurred in the county.

After the war the county returned to its agrarian roots. The North Georgia railroad reached Jasper in 1883. Although this gave local farmers an additional outlet for the agricultural products raised in the area, moonshine would be economically important well into the 20th century. About this time Stephen Tate, son of Sam Tate, began to mine significant amounts of marble, although by 1890 less than $150,000.00 worth was being removed each year.

In 1906, the old Pickens County jail was torn down and replaced with the Jail to the right. Inside is a gallows that was never used. The building was used as a house for local sheriffs and prisoners until the federal government ordered it closed in 1981.

Col. Sam Tate, named for his grandfather, inherited his father's marble quarry upon his death. He began to combine local quarries into a company he called Georgia Marble. By 1917 the consolidation was complete and in 1923 he began work on his palatial estate known as the "Pink Palace" on the site of the Harnage House. He personally selecting the marble used to build the home from a streak of rare pink marble from local quarry over a 4-year period. A rural aristocracy began to form with Tate and Cherokee County's R. T. Jones at the core.

In 1930 a monument to James Oglethorpe was built on Grassy Knob. Renamed to Mount Oglethorpe in his honor, the peak served as the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

Tate Mineral Springs and Simmons Mineral Springs were popular stops in Pickens at this time.

Today Pickens is enjoying a new boom. Jasper has become a popular retirement community, serviced by I-575. Marble production continues to this day, and the western part of the county supports significant agriculture. 


The Georgia General Assembly passed an act on December 5, 1853 to create Pickens County from portions of Cherokee and Gilmer counties. Pickens received several more land additions from Cherokee (1869) and Gilmer Counties (1858 and 1863); however several sections of Pickens County have also been transferred to other counties: Dawson County (1857), Gordon County (1860), and Cherokee County (1870).

Pickens County is named for American Revolutionary War General Andrew Pickens.
Most of Pickens County's early industry revolved around the marble industry. Georgia Marble Company is located in Marble Hill near Tate. The Tate Elementary school is built out of marble. The marble was also used to make the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. Most of the marble is white, but there is also very rare pink marble. It is one of the few places in the world where pink marble is found. The marble is also used for tombstones for the United States Military.
Pickens County has seen very rapid growth with the building of Georgia State Route 515, locally referred to as the '4 lane'. Many new businesses and residents continue to move to Pickens County.
Pickens County is home the Georgia Marble Festival.

Notable residents

 Major Communities And Links:
Source:  pickenscountyga