Archives of Union County

Archives of Union County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
This page is sponsored by the Union County Historical Society.

Otis Collins One of the first gas stations in Union County
Founded in 1832. John Thomas, a prominent Union County resident and politician suggested "Name it Union, for none but union-like men reside in it." During the Nullification Crisis many southerners divided along lines that were pro-union or pro-State's Rights.

Carved from Cherokee County during the Georgia Land Lottery of 1832 Union was uniquely remote, even by standards of the day. The land that had been won in the county was considered worthless by many. Only the Scotch-Irish mountain people of the Appalachians had an interest, and many were poor. Since access from the affluent coastal areas was difficult the land was sold to the only available buyers for what little they could pay. In the census of 1850, 18 years after the land lottery, only 42% of the residents were Georgia natives.

The county seat of Blairsville is named for Frank (Francis Preston) Blair, a Washington, D. C. newspaper editor. It was incorporated in 1835. The first county courthouse was constructed in the center of town that year.

A brief history of Logan's Turnpike
The Union Turnpike company received a state charter to build a toll road across Tesnatee Gap to connect two existing roads. The road was completed in 1840, connecting Blairville with Gainesville, Ga., by way of Cleveland. In 1841 Major Francis Logan bought the rights to run the toll road from the company and built a home, a lodge, and the tollgate. In 1871 he purchased additional land in Union County and it was at this time the road became known as the Logan Turnpike. The tollgate was operated by his family until 1922 when work was completed across Neel's Gap on a paved road and the tollgate was abandoned.
For years development in the county was slow, although the county did share to a small extent in the Gold Rush during that time. Gold was mined in Gum Log, Ivy Log, High Tower, Brasstown, and Coosa. After the Panic of 1837 and the ensuing depression, Union began grow. Starting in the early 1840's roads and bridges were built and improved. Major Logan's Turnpike provided access to the markets in Gainesville through Tesnatee Gap. Union County's strong agricultural ties were reflected in the businesses that were established. By 1849 there were blacksmiths, wheelwrights, millwrights, gunsmiths, tanners, and carpenters along with 11 saw mills, 25 grist mills, 7 distilleries and an iron foundry. The census of 1850 reported that there were 1,141 families in the county, with 3,356 males and 3,419 females. 278 slaves lived in the county (at this time the western half of Towns County was still part of Union County).

In 1859 the original courthouse burned. It was replace by a new structure that would last until 1898.

As the Civil War loomed the county remained pro-Union. The mountain people, in general, were strongly against slavery. At the convention in January, 1861, both delegates from Union voted against secession. Joseph Emerson Brown, governor of Georgia during the Civil War and an avid secessionist, grew up in the county and had a deep understanding of these people. He said

I would call upon the mountain boys as well as the people of the lowlands, and they would come down like an avalanche and swarm around the flag of Georgia with a resolution that would strike terror into the ranks of the abolition cohorts of the North."

Governor Brown was correct. The mountain folk joined in the tide of nationalism that swept the southern states and after the early victories in the war Unionists were difficult to find. Towards the end of the conflict conditions of near-anarchy in the area proved to be a problem. Occasional attempts by Brown to control the situation with state militia were fruitless.

John Muir, a famous explorer, conservationist and writer spent the evening of September 21, 1867 in the city of Blairsville, which he mentions in his book A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf and then headed south, possibly across Major Logan's Turnpike, to Gainesville.

Rail service was established in Gainesville in 1874 and in 1890 in Culbertson, North Carolina, 15 miles from Blairsville, the county seat. This made new markets readily available for the products of the county. Availability of these markets immediately reduced the amount of "moonshine" the county produced. Around 1900, gold production was no longer profitable and significant mining operations ended.

After the county courthouse burned in 1898 a new courthouse, now the home of the Union County Historical Society was built. This courthouse would serve the county until 1976 when a new structure was built nearby and the old courthouse was donated to the Society.

Churches were used as the first schools in the county. Prior to 1920, throughout north Georgia, public schools were not common. In 1884 the county constructed a secondary school in Blairsville and in 1906 built a high school.

Union County road crew
Road crew at work in Union County
Photo courtesy Union County Historical Society
In Union County men could work on road crews instead of paying county taxes.
In 1922 construction began on a road to run from Cleveland, Ga. to the North Carolina border. The road was completed in 1926, the county's first paved road. During this time the United States purchased large amounts of land in the county and consolidated the land into the Georgia National Forest. Arthur Woody, a Union County resident, became the forest's first ranger. In 1937 the holdings were renamed to the Chattahoochee National Forest. Today tourism is a major industry in the county, in part due to the National Forest and the creation of Lake Nottely in the late 1940's.

In 1995 the county dedicated a monument to those who died during the Civil War. Made of black granite the monument is inscribed with the names of 158 Union County residents.

The Union County Historical Society

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Union County links


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