See Rock City

See Rock City

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nelson, Georgia

Nelson is a city partly (0.631 sq mi) in Pickens and mostly (0.792 sq mi) in Cherokee counties in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 1314. It appears in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Pickens County was created in 1853 from parts of Cherokee and Gilmer counties. Georgia's 100th county was named for General Andrew Pickens, a Revolutionary War soldier.

According to the USGS GNIS, it is named for John Nelson, early landowner, farmer, and rifle maker. It is served through its downtown by the Georgia Northeastern Railroad, and by the former route of state route 5 along its main street. South on old 5 is Ball Ground, north is Tate. The north end of Interstate 575 and south end of state route 515 is at the county line just to the southwest of Nelson.

A railroad line built in 1883 from Atlanta, through the valleys and mountain passes of Pickens County to Tate and Nelson, made possible the development of large marble quarries. One of the largest marble veins in the world is in Pickens County, running at least four miles long. It is a half-mile deep and almost that wide in places. Over 60 percent of the monuments in Washington, D.C. are made from Pickens County marble.

Marble Museum: Located in the Nelson City Hall, the museum includes a year-round exhibit that includes “examples of fine marble and shows the history of marble mining in Pickens County. Many stone cutters and other workers who migrated from either Italy or Scotland in the early years of the industry settled in Nelson to work in the area’s marble industry. Today the Great Northern Railroad operates between Tate, Georgia, and the CSX interchange at Elizabeth (Marietta) five days a week. The Georgia Marble rail lines at Tate and Marble Hill, and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad at Blue Ridge, Georgia are also operated by GNRR. Their web site also states the “GNRR runs through a Georgia Marble facility that no is no longer served by rail” at Nelson.

On April 1, 2013 the city council voted unanimously to approved the Family Protection Ordinance. Every head of household must own a gun and ammunition to "provide for the emergency management of the city" and to "provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants." No one is required to buy one if they don't have one and the ordinance doesn't penalize anyone who does not comply. Convicted felons are exempt.

Notable people

"As the marble industry developed in the County, the need for another finishing plant caused The Georgia Marble Company to purchase the property of John Nelson, located on the railroad near the Cherokee County line, for this purpose; and the town that sprang up there logically took the former owner's name. Mr. Nelson was a farmer and also a gunsmith of considerable note, and today there are many Nelson rifles throughout this [area] which are highly prized by their owners.

Since the beginning of the marble industry at Nelson, the stone for many important buildings throughout the country, and many beautiful works of art in marble, have been finished here. Among the skilled workmen at Nelson have been a considerable number from Italy and Scotland, where they were also workers in stone, and some remained to become citizens."

...from the History of Pickens County by Luke E. Tate -- 1935

The angel at Bethesda Church Cemetery
The Italian angel of Bethesda Cemetery
About forty Italian workers came with their families to live in Nelson in the early nineteen hundreds. They were employed to carve, sculpt and finish Georgia marble from the quarries nearby, and for the most part, they remained in the area until the 1940's. This Carrara marble angel in Bethesda Church Cemetery sits on a base of carved Georgia marble in the midst of Italian family graves -- a beautiful testament to the marriage of cultures and talents in this small Georgia town so long ago.

Source:  History of Pickens County