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  Early Gwinnett County History

     Gwinnett County was named after Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence,  who was a state legislator and served as Georgia's Governor for a few months in 1777 (and who never lived in Gwinnett County).   He was wounded in a duel and died three days later, on May 19, 1777.  He is buried in Savannah, Georgia.

     For hundreds of years preceding the permanent white settlements in what is now Gwinnett County, the Creek and Cherokee Indians occupied the land.  In 1789 and 1790 the Cherokee Indians ceded to the United States Government all lands north and east of a line running through Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolinas and north Georgia, including portions of Gwinnett. 

     Two of the earliest white settlements were on the Apalachee River near Hog Mountain, and Old Town Suwanee, once a thriving Indian village on the Chattachoochee River, just north of the mouth of Suwanee Creek.  Most early families located in the area between Hog Mountain and Jug Tavern (now Winder), between the Mulberry and Apalachee Rivers.   

    The Indians aided the enemy, and in the beginning of the War of 1812 it was decided a fort was needed to protect the settlers of this far western frontier.  Fort Daniel was located  on a hill near the crossroads of the Hog Mountain Community, and  brought even more trade and commerce to this early Gwinnett settlement.  Early stores were Maltbie's and Bogan's stores.  Isham Williams, a prominent citizen of the community, raised stock and provided beef to the soldiers.

     A second fort  was erected at Standing Peachtree, thirty miles into Indian territory.  A road was constructed connecting the two forts at Hog Mountain and Standing Peachtree, known even then as Peachtree Road.  More about
Standing Peachtree (use BACK button to return).

     The county of Gwinnett was created in 1818, with it's eastern boundary being the Apalachee River.  Four days after the formation of Gwinnett from Indian lands, the western portion of Jackson was added, extending the Gwinnett/Walton line from the Apalacee to Jug Tavern (Winder).  With the creation of Barrow County in 1914 the line went back to the Apalacee.  Until a courthouse could be erected, it was decided that all courts and elections would be held at the house of Elisha Winn, who lived one mile east of the Apalachee River.   

      The Indians aided the enemy, and in the beginning of the War of 1812 it was decided a fort was needed to protect the settlers of this far western frontier.  Fort Daniel was located  on a hill near the crossroads of the Hog Mountain Community, and  brought even more trade and commerce to this early Gwinnett settlement.  Early stores were Maltbie's and Bogan's stores.  Isham Williams, a prominent citizen of the community, raised stock and provided beef to the soldiers.

     The following were the first officers elected in Gwinnett County:

William Blake Sheriff March 25, 1819
James Wardlaw Clerk, Superior Court March 25, 1819
Thomas A, Dobbs Clerk, Inferior Court March 15, 1819
James Loughridge Tax Collector March 30, 1819
John W. Beauchamp Tax Receiver March 30, 1819
John Wynn Coroner March 25, 1819
James C. Reed Surveyor March 25, 1819
      The first judges of the Inferior Court were George Reid, Samuel Reid, John Cupp, William Towers, and Joseph Morgan, all commissioned February 2, 1819.  Elisha Winn was commissioned July 21, 1820.

     In December, 1819 the Inferior Court was given the authority to erect a temporary courthouse.  Until the Indian land was distributed by lottery, no permanent site could be selected for the courthouse.  After the lottery,  Lot 146 was purchased from John Breedlove of Hancock County  by Inferior Court justice, Elisha Winn.  The lot consisted of 250 acres, and the five justices inspected the entire property before deciding on the location of the future county seat.

     William Towers was employed to survey the property and lay out the four streets bordering the courthouse square.   The lots surrounding the square were sold at public auction, and Gwinnett citizens began buying lots for homes and businesses which were erected of logs.  The first jail was built by John Cupp on the lot immediately south of the courthouse square.  It was a two story log house which burned in 1830.  The permanent courthouse was constructed by Major Grace in 1823-24 in the town of Lawrenceville.


         Elisha Winn was among the first Inferior Court Justices and was instrumental in early Gwinnett County government and the establishment of the county seat in Lawrenceville.

         William Maltbie, a native of Connecticut, was the second Inferior Court clerk and served in that capacity for many years.  He married Philadelphia Winn, daughter of Elisha Winn. 

         Asahel R. Smith, a native of Vermont, had been a school teacher and
was now a successful merchant and post master.  He also served as justice of the Inferior Court.

        Philip Alston was the first lawyer to locate in Lawrenceville.  He was soon followed by N.L. Hutchins who became one of the leading lawyers in the state.

        Dr. Philo Hall, from Connecticut,  was an early settler and physician in Lawrenceville.  He married a sister of Wm. Maltbie.

        The Reverend Dr. John S. Wilson took charge of the Lawrenceville Academy in 1826 and was its superintendent for 12 years.  He was the pastor of Fairview Presbyterian Church and Goshen Church.

        James Wardlaw was the first clerk of the Superior Court;  Thomas A. Dobbs was the first clerk of the Inferior Court.  Other early settlers are as follows:

        Edward Featherstone, John Brewster, John Appling, Benjamin Ivey, William Towers, H.B. Greenwood, Edmond Strange, Joseph Morgan, Thomas Monk, William Nesbit, Isham Williams, and William Green.

        Jesse Osborn, Hosea Camp, Ansalem Anthony, John Flanigan, John P. Elder, Bolin Blakey, Manin Cain and Billy Morgan were early settlers of the eastern part of the county.

        The Dunlaps, the Pools, the Shadrack Bogan, the Berry family, the Cupps, Mathias Bates, and the Burels settled along the Peachtree Ridge, west of the Mulberry River as far as Bogan Road.

        Along Peachtee Road and the Chattachoochee River settled the Stricklands, Silas King, George Brogdon, Wylie Wilson, Joseph E. Teague, William Sudderth, John Rogers, the Brandons, George M. Waters, Evan Howell, James Wheeler, Thomas Lenoir, Samuel Knox, John Pittman, Adam Hoyle, John F. Martin  and Thomas H. Jones.

        To the western part of the county came Samuel Hopkins, John Beasley, the Montgomerys, the Borings, Moses Liddell, William McDaniel, Richard Holt, Lazarus Minor, Jackey Pounds, William Jordan, Amos Kelley, David Phillips, James Garner and others.


        The Creek Indians who had once occupied much of Gwinnett County had been pushed across the Chattahoochee River in 1826.  In 1836 the Creeks began to make forays into Georgia near Columbus.  They burned a village in Stewart County called Roanoke.  The situation became so serious that Governor William Schley called for volunteers.  Three companies were organized, two of which were ordered to report for service immediately: Captain Hammond Garmany's  Mounted Volunteers, and Captain George Reed's regiment.   Thus began the Creek Indian War.

        Captain Garmany and his mounted volunteers left Lawrenceville on May 26, 1836, and arrived in Columbus on June 3rd.  His company was mustered into service of the United States Army and then continued down the river, arriving at Shepherd's Plantation, about forty miles south of Columbus, on the afternoon of June 6th.  Twenty five of the men were sent to guard a fort situated on the river, not far away.

        On June 9th shots were heard approximately a half mile away.  The men were dispatched to that location, finding Indians preparing for battle.   Battle ensued, and Captain Garman was seriously wounded.   Major Jernigan, in charge of the local militia at Fort Stewart, arrived with his men and charged the enemy.

        It was judged that thirty or more Indians were killed.  In Captain Garman's company eight were killed and four wounded.  Of Major Jernigan's company four were killed and three wounded.    Gwinnett County volunteers who were killed were Ensign J. S. Lacy, Orderly-Sergeant James C. Martin, James H. Holland, Robert T. Holland, James M. Allen, William M. Sims, J. A. V. Tate, and Henry W. Paden.  The wounded were Captain Hammond Garmany, John R. Alexander, Thomas W. Hunt and William Stapp.

        In 1837  a meeting was held in Lawrenceville to decide to have the bodies of the eight young men who had died at Shepherd's Plantation brought back to Gwinnett County.  They were buried with military honors in a common grave on Friday, February 17th, 1837,  in the northwest corner of the courthouse yard .   In 1840 a marble monument was erected on the site by Henry Fitzsimmons.

        Disclaimer:  The only source used for this account of the Creek Indian War is the book written by Mr. Flanigan in the 1940's.  Please keep in mind that this, like most histories, reflects the attitudes of the time it was written.


        The next thirty years were prosperous ones for Gwinnett.  Farming was the principal industry and farmers were well to do.  Each community had at least one church, school and store.   Much of the prosperity of the county during this time was due to the institution of slavery.  Although less than twenty-five percent of the farmers owned slaves, the ones who did were wealthy.

        It was against the law for anyone, white or black, to teach  a free person of color or a slave how to read or write, the punishment being a fine or a whipping, at the discretion of the court.  No slave or free person of color was allowed to preach to or join with others in religious activities in a group which included more than seven persons of color, without obtaining a written certificate from three ordained ministers of his own order.

        Peddlers were not allowed to trade with slaves unless with he permission and supervision of the owner or overseer.

        Although there were no altercations in Gwinnett during the Civil War,  Gwinnett was overrun by Union soldiers during 1864 when Sherman captured Atlanta.    There were skirmishes at Jug Tavern (Winder).

        Throughout the county, farms were stripped and homes looted, and an occasional enemy killed.   Five Union soldiers were killed along Rockbridge Road at Trickum.  Another skirmish took place around Holt's Mill, where three of the foragers were killed and buried on the Jordan farm.

        Half of the wealth of the county was lost by the Civil War.  The day of the great plantations was over, and farming was left to the small farms.  Federal soldiers and the Freedmen's Bureau were involved in the daily activities of the people of Gwinnett.  Finally the Federal soldiers were removed  from Georgia and Gwinnett began to recover from the war.

        The Inferior Court was abolished in 1868, and the Court of Ordinary handled all matters of estates and the county commissioners.  On September 10, 1871 the courthouse burned, destroying most of the court records.

        To rebuild the courthouse bonds were issued which were purchased by the  citizens of the county.  The following payments were collected on March 25, 1872:

        Mary E. Moore.............6 bonds at $92     $  552.00
        John R. Moore..............4 bonds at   92         368.00
        W. L. Vaughan.............11 bonds at   95      1,045.00
        M. W. Armstrong.........12 bonds at   90      1,080.00
        W. T. Scales...................5 bonds at   90         450.00
        G. & J. Hillyer.............. 9 bonds at   90         810.00
        George Hillyer.............10 bonds at   90         900.00
        J. W. Baxter.................10 bonds at   90         900.00
        W. T. Scales.................  2 bonds at   90         180.00
        Joseph H. Williams.....   2 bonds at   90         180.00
        John A. Born...............   2 bonds at   90         180.00

        The completion of the Southern Railroad through the county in 1871 was an event of major importance.    Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee and Buford were founded and became commercial centers.  In 1881 a branch was constructed, linking Lawrenceville and Suwanee.

        The Seaboard Air Line Railroad was completed in 1891, with a branch added to Loganville in 1898.  Along this railroad the towns of Carol , Auburn, Dacula, Gloster, Luxomni, Lilburn, Grayson , and Lawrenceville were located.


Source:  History of Gwinnett County, Georgia 1818-1943, Volume 1, by J.C. Flanigan, Copyright 1943.

               James J. D'Angelo, PhD, Archaeologist

For more HISTORY be sure to visit the TOWN sites where you'll find individual town histories!


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