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Cherokee County

County Courthouse View large image

Source: David Seibert

Date Built1994
Architecture Style
DesignerMayes, Sudderth, and Etheridge
Seat InformationThe 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.
Courthouse DetailsThe 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.. 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. 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.
County Data
Population 2000141,903
Population Growth51.1
County SeatCanton
County Area434.0 Square Miles
Location MapCherokee County Location Map

By 1830, the Cherokee Nation consisted of most of northwest Georgia, 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” 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). 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 twenty-three.

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.

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Legal OrganCherokee Tribune
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Historical Population
2010 26,015
2000 25,470
1990 22,242
1980 21,856
1970 20,541
1960 19,954
1950 21,197
1940 18,532
1930 15,407
1920 14,312
1910 13,608
1900 12,952
1890 11,202
1880 10,021
1870 6,902
1860 7,165
1850 6,815
1840 3,438