Other Information: The Dec. 3, 1832 act recreating Cherokee
County directed that county elections and court sessions be held
at the house of John Lay (Ga. Laws 1832, p. 56). The law also
authorized the county's inferior court to select a site for the
county seat and to provide for erection of a courthouse and other
public buildings. Reportedly, Cherokee County's first courthouse
was a log cabin at a site known as "Jack Wright's old place"
(subsequently named "Etowa" and then "Etowah" by the
legislature, and then renamed "Canton" in 1834). At some date,
a second courthouse was built in Canton -- but this structure
was burned by Union troops in 1865.
In an act of Dec. 15, 1871,
the legislature authorized Cherokee County to borrow up to $10,000
to build a new courthouse (Ga. Laws 1871-72, p. 215). Construction
of a new courthouse began in 1873, but it became apparent that
the courthouse could not be completed for $10,000. On March 2,
1874, the legislature authorized Cherokee County to borrow an
extra $5,000 to finance completion of the courthouse (Ga. Laws
1874, p. 323). The new brick courthouse was constructed in 1874 on Main St. opposite S. Church St.
Eventually, this building proved insufficient, for on Aug. 2,
1921, the legislature created a commission to construct a new
courthouse, including authority to borrow the necessary funds
(Ga. Laws 1921, p. 424).
For whatever reason, the commission
failed to approve construction of a new courthouse until 1927. A new site–one block north on North St.–was selected for the new courthouse. In 1928, while construction of the new courthouse was underway, the old courthouse burned. The new courthouse was completed in 1929 (see
In the 1970s, Cherokee County began experiencing rapid population
growth -- particularly in the southern end of the county, which
became home to many residents who commuted to jobs in Atlanta.
As a result, Cherokee County opened a government annex in Woodstock.
By the late 1980s, the county's courthouse in Canton was so overcrowded
that many county offices were moved to the nearby Jones Mercantile
Building. This structure was subsequently remodeled and became
the Cherokee County Administrative Offices Building (see
photo). In the early 1990s, Cherokee County voters approved
a special-purpose local option sales tax that included $16 million
for building a new courthouse complex in Canton, plus $3 million
for building a new county government annex near Woodstock.
Construction of Cherokee County's current courthouse began
in 1993 and was completed the following year. At that time, all
courts moved into the new building, although a few administrative
departments remained in the old courthouse. Officially known
as the Cherokee County Justice Center, the building houses eight
courtrooms and all judicial offices. The Justice Center, Administrative
Offices Building, and old courthouse now form a county government
complex facing the downtown Canton public square (see
County Courthouse Historical
By 1830, the Cherokee Nation consisted of most of northwest Georgia
map), plus adjoining areas in Alabama, Tennessee, and North
Carolina. Even while Cherokee Indians remained on their homeland
in Georgia, the General Assembly on Dec. 21, 1830 enacted legislation
claiming "all the Territory within the limits of Georgia,
and now in the occupancy of the Cherokee tribe of Indians; and
all other unlocated lands within the limits of this State, claimed
as Creek land" (Ga. Laws 1830, p. 127). The act also provided
for surveying the Cherokee lands in Georgia; dividing them into
sections, districts, and land lots; and authorizing a lottery
to distribute the land. On Dec. 26, 1831, the legislature designated
all land in Georgia that lay west of the Chattahoochee River
and north of Carroll county as "Cherokee County" (see
map) and provided for its organization (Ga. Laws 1831, p.
74). Named for the Cherokee Indians, the large county was not
able to function as a county because of its size and the fact
that Cherokee Indians still occupied portions of the land. Beginning
in the fall of 1832, Cherokee lands were distributed to whites
in two lotteries -- one for land lots and one for gold lots --
but the legislature temporarily prohibited whites from taking
possession of lots on which Cherokees still lived.
On Dec. 3, 1832, the legislature added areas of Habersham
and Hall counties to Cherokee County, and then divided the entire
area into nine new counties -- Cass (later renamed Bartow), Cobb,
Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Murray, Paulding, and Union
-- plus a reconstituted and much smaller Cherokee County (Ga.
Laws 1832, p. 56). [Click here
to see full text of act.] The new Cherokee County was formed
from the second section of the former Cherokee County and consisted
of districts two, three, four, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen,
plus the eastern half of districts twenty-one, twenty-two, and
Despite the 1830, 1831, and 1832 acts of the General Assembly,
the state of Georgia still did not have clear title to Cherokee
lands in Georgia. The official basis for Georgia claiming these
lands did not come until the Treaty of New Echota of Dec. 29, 1835. In this treaty, a faction
of the Cherokees agreed to give up all Cherokee claims to land
in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina and move west
in return for $5 million. Though a majority of Cherokees opposed
the treaty and refused to leave, the U.S. and Georgia considered
it binding. In 1838, U.S. Army troops rounded up the last of
15,000 Cherokees in Georgia and forced them to march west in
what came to be known as the "Trail of Tears."
The actual date of Cherokee County's creation is a matter
of debate. A 1983 publication of the State Archives -- Georgia
Counties: Their Changing Boundaries -- cites Dec. 21, 1830 .
This is the date of the act in which the General Assembly claimed
all Cherokee lands in Georgia. However, that legislation created
no county nor attempted to set up any form of territorial government.
A better case for the date of Cherokee County's establishment
is Dec. 26, 1831 -- the date the legislature created and provided
for the organization of Cherokee County. Of course, this new
county was a huge area consisting of all Cherokee lands in Georgia
-- but it was officially designated as a county. Finally, some
sources -- including the state historical marker near the county
courthouse in Canton -- cite Dec. 3, 1832 . This was the date
that the Cherokee County created in 1831 was divided into ten
new counties -- including a new and much smaller Cherokee County
defined by boundaries associated with those of present-day Cherokee
County. However, since the second Cherokee County fell within
the original Cherokee County, Dec. 26, 1831 probably should be
considered the date Cherokee County was first created -- which
would make it Georgia's 79th county.
Later, portions of Cherokee County were used to create Pickens
County (1853) and Milton County (1857). Between 1847 and 1869
-- but especially during the 1850s -- the General Assembly transferred
land from Cherokee County to neighboring Cass (Bartow), Cobb,
Forsyth, and Pickens counties.
The 1831 act creating Cherokee County made no provision for
a county seat. The 1832 legislation dividing Cherokee County
into ten smaller counties directed the justices of each county's
inferior court to select a site to serve as county seat. In 1833,
Cherokee County's inferior court designated "Jack Wright's
old place" as county seat. In an act of Dec. 24, 1833, the
legislature incorporated this site and named it "Etowa"
(Ga. Laws 1833, p. 331). Etowa, more commonly spelled "Etowah,"
was named for the Etowah River, which flowed through the settlement.
On Dec. 18, 1834, the legislature changed the name of Etowah
to Canton (Ga. Laws 1834, p. 263). The town's new name is believed
to be based on the Chinese city of the same name in recognition
of early efforts to raise silk worms in the hopes of developing
a silk industry in Cherokee County.
Size of County (Total
Area): 434.0 square miles
County Rank in Total
Area: 51st out of 159
City of Canton