There were two courthouses in Watkinsville, built in 1806 and
1849, when it served as seat of government for Clarke County.
When Oconee County was created in 1875, Watkinsville was designated
county seat. A new courthouse was built that same year [see
photo]. The current brick courthouse, built by the Project
Works Administration, was completed in 1939 and has undergone
several renovations since, the latest being in 1998, when a courthouse
addition also was constructed at the rear of the 1939 structure (see photo). Also in the 1990s, a county government
annex was built on Ga. 15 just south of Watkinsville.
County History: Oconee County was created from Clarke County
on Feb. 25, 1875 by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws
1875, p. 109). In that legislation, the county's boundaries were
Beginning at a point immediately opposite the mills of James
H. Thompson, on the Jackson line, and leaving said mills in
said new county, thence a straight line to the old saw mill
site of Nathaniel L. Barnard, on McNutt's Creek, thence down
said McNutts' Creek to its junction with Barber's Creek, thence
down said Barber's Creek to its junction with the Oconee River,
commonly called Middle River, thence down said river to the
junction of the two Oconee rivers, thence down the Oconee River
to Barnett's or Neal's Bridge, on said river, thence with the
public road to Big Creek Church to the Oglethorpe county line,
thence with the lines of the counties of Oglethorpe, Greene,
Morgan, Walton and Jackson to the starting point . . . .
Created entirely from Clarke County, Georgia's 137th county
was named for the Oconee River, which forms part of the county's
eastern boundary with Clarke County. The new county was created
in response to petitions from residents of the western half of
Clarke County after the legislature moved the county seat of
Clarke County from Watkinsville to Athens in 1871.
County Seat: The legislation creating Oconee County
designated Watkinsville as county seat (Ga. Laws 1875, p. 109).
Settled around 1800, Watkinsville was named for Augusta lawyer
Robert Watkins, who compiled Georgia's first collection of statutory
laws. It was designated county seat of Clarke County in 1802
(Ga. Laws 1802, p. 57). An act of Nov. 24, 1806 provided for
three town commissioners with governmental powers (Ga. Laws 1806,
p. 5). Though making no specific reference to incorporation,
this act was the first to provide for a Watkinsville town government
-- and for reasons cited below probably should be considered
as the basis for de facto incorporation. Acts of 1815 and 1816
(Ga. Laws 1815, p. 76 and 1816, p. 52) extended the authority
of town commissioners, but again made no reference to the corporate
status of Watkinsville. On Dec. 6, 1822, the legislature passed
an act "to extend the corporate limits of the Town of Watkinsville
to one half mile in every direction from the court-house"
and to extend the powers of the town commissioners (Ga. Laws
1822, p. 129). This would suggest that Watkinsville was considered
incorporated (even though no prior legislation had ever defined
the town limits or boundaries). Further evidence of Watkinsville's
corporate status can be seen in legislation approved on Dec.
18, 1884, entitled "An Act to consolidate, amend and supersede
the Acts incorporating the town of Watkinsville" (Ga. Laws
1884-85, p. 308). Additionally, an Aug. 29, 1891 act to "reincorporate"
Watkinsville specifically cited previous acts back to the act
of Nov. 24, 1806 (Ga. Laws 1890-91, Vol. II, p. 720).
Watkinsville had served as county seat of Clarke County since
1802, but an act of Nov. 24, 1871 made Athens county seat effective
Jan. 1, 1872 (Ga. Laws 1871-72, p. 244). Afterwards, residents
of western Clarke County pushed for the General Assembly to divide
Clarke into two counties. When Oconee County was created in 1875,
Watkinsville was designated county seat.
Size of County (Total
Area): 186.2 square miles
County Rank in Total
Area: 146th out of 159
City of Watkinsville