History

Settlement in Jackson County began in 1784 with a small group of Revolutionary War Veterans and other pioneers.  The first permanent communities were on Sandy Creek at Graoning Rock, Yamacutah (Commerce), Hurricane Shoals, and in 1786 on the Middle Oconee River near the Tallassee Shoals. The population had swelled to 350 by the time the county was formed by legislative act in February 1796.

Jackson County was named for James Jackson, Revolutionary Patriot and statesman. The county originally covered 1800 square miles. From 1801 until 1914 portions were taken to form parts of the present day Clarke, Oconee, Madison, Gwinnett, Hall, Walton, Banks, and Barrow counties. Jackson County today contains only 337 square miles.

The county experienced steady growth throughout the 19th century, largely due to the railroads that intersected the area. Of the 10 municipalities incorporated by 1920, seven defined their boundaries from the depot. Of these, Harmony Grove became one of the leading distribution centers of northeast Georgia due to the railroad. The town was prospering so well that in 1904, the citizens changed the name to Commerce, "to better reflect the commercial air of a city."

Rail service began for Jackson County in the 1870s with the construction of the Northeast Railroad through Commerce, Nicholson, and Center. By 1883 the forerunner of the Gainesville Midland line was moving passengers and freight from Jefferson to Gainesville, Georgia. These steam-driven locomotives, and passenger services in the county were phased out by 1960. Within a decade, the opening of Interstate 85 signaled an accessiblity for new industry and homes.

By 1801, the settlement at Hurricane Shoals included homes, a church, a grist mill, a small iron foundry, and the first school in Jackson County. Records exist for as many as 247 schools in the county's history. Perhaps the most well-known was Jefferson's Martin Institute, begun in 1818 as Jackson County Academy. Renowned for the quality education it provided. Martin Institute was possibly the nation's first privately endowed school, having received a legacy from William Duncan Martin in 1854.

Jackson County can boast of being the home of the University of Georgia, as the site chosen was on county land and classes began before Clarke County was officially created in 1801. Another notable education first was Harmony Grove Female Academy, the first school for girls chartered in the state in 1824.

Poultry production in Georgia began in 1924 when M. E. Murphy of Talmo, in Jackson County, started growing broilers on a large scale basis. Jackson Countians have moved to the forefront in this enterprise, continually ranking in the top five counties in broiler and egg production. The county also ranks near the top in beef cattle numbers and livestock income in the State. Georgia's oldest registered Angus cattle herd was begun in the 1930's by Jackson Countian Jimmy Johnson.

Among the many county residents who have made a substantial contribution to the state government, 3 names stand out:
1. Dr. Lamartine C. Hardman of Commerce, began the areas first clinic in 1899, served as Governor for 2 terms from 1927-1931.
2. John N. Holder of Jefferson was Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives twice and for many years chairman of the State Highway Board. Holder was also editor and publisher of The Jackson Herald for almost seventy years.
3. Lauren "Bubba" McDonald a graduate of Commerce High School and the University of Georgia, he served 20 years in the Georgia legislature representing parts of Barrow and Banks counties and all of Jackson County.

One of the most notable people for the County is Crawford W. Long. He is the first doctor that used ether as an anesthetic. He was studying medicine in Jefferson when this discovery of anesthesia was discovered. Today, off the sqaure in Jefferson, is the Crawford W. Long Museum which personal artificats and documents highlighting the life of Dr. Long, as well as early anesthesia equipment are displayed. The museum is housed in the building known as the Pendergrass Store Building. At the museum you will see a recreated 1840s doctor's office and apothecary shop. Exhibits on making medcine focus on the obstacles the early country doctor was forced to overcome. A statue of Crawford Long can be found in the nation's capitol in Washington, D.C.

The Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm is another historical museum that serves as an educational and interpretative facility in Jackson County. The Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm Foundation, Inc. was created in 1994 as a non-profit organization established to preserve the existing buildings on the 152 acres. THe Foundation's Board of Directors is represented by members of the Ethridge family. It is unusual to find such a collection of intact historic buildings that exist in their original location. The mission of the Shields-Ethridge farm is: "To provide and operate an educational and interpretative outdoor museum that uses historic preservation to increase awareness and understanding of Georgia's agriculture and natural history."

Hurricane Shoals is now a county park with a heritage village maintained by the non-profit Tumbling Waters Society, Sells Mill Park has a beautiful grist mill that provides visitors with another glimpse of the past.

So come visit us in Jackson County - spacious, gracious, vibrant!

Sources:
Commerce Downtown Development Authority (www.commercega.org)
Jackson County Historical Society - Commerce Library 706-335-5946
Jefferson Better Hometown (www.cityofjeffersonga.com)
Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm (www.shieldsethridgefarm.org)

 


 

Historical Places to Visit in Jackson County:

Historic Jackson County Courthouse (Jefferson Square):

Public debate over a courthouse began in 1877. Elements of this debate may sound familiar, where to locate it and how to finance it. As a subtext, there appears to to have been considerable debate on which issues the citizens should have a right to vote. The debate stretched through 1879 and included several votes rlated to the financing of the project. The Jackson County Courthouse was built in 1879 and is considered one of the finest examples of Italianate architecture. In January of 1880 the issue was put to rest with the judges order to pay the final bill for a new courthouse in the amount of $11,123. The Courthouse can be found on the National Registrar of Historic Places; listed in 1980.

Commerce Historic District:

Downtown Commerce has a fine collection of 19-20th century commercial and industry structures. It was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1988.

Hardman House:

This Mediterranean style house was built in 1920 for L. G. Hardman. Mr. Hardman was a prominent Commerce citizen who served as Governor from 1927-1931.

Hoschton Depot:

The City of Hoschton was founded by two brothers, The Hosch brothers in 1881. The city was built next to the railroad so that the city would become more prosperous. In 1883 the depot was built on land that was donated by the Hosch brothers and today the land is preserved as a land marker and museum.

Sells Mill Park:

Sells Mill is an old mill that ground corn as late as the 1990's. Frank Sells, a legislature from Jackson County, owned it. The mill was built to supply electricity as well as gring grains for bread.

Braselton Historic District:

Braselton is an excellent example of late 19th Century architecture with its award winning town hall, homes, and commercial district on the National Registrar of Historic Places.

Jefferson Historic District:

Jefferson Historic Distrcit, a multi-block district preserving historic homes and retail square of Jefferson, a Better Home Town.

 


History of the 9 municipalities:
To submit information please contact the Chamber at 706-387-0300

History of Commerce, GA:

The City of Commerce was once known as the Groaning Rock, because of a strange rock formation that made an eerie sound whenever the wind passed through it. The first settlement was established in 1784. In 1808 Eli and Rebecca Shankle started a trading spot and named it Harmony Grove.

The Northeastern Railroad came through in 1876 causing explosion in the city's growth. Harmony Grove was incorporated in 1884 and became a major trading and distribution center for north Georgia. The founding father decided in 1904 to change the name to Commerce. They felt that a growing city needed a name that reflected its commercial status.

In 1936, E.M. Williams built Commerce City Hall for use as a post office. The building was purchased in 1995 by the City of Commerce and was renovated to house the current City Hall. The City of Commerce is filled with a rich past that is evident in its historic homes and business.

Downtown Commerce is a beautiful historic district which features 19th and 20th Century shops, resturants and industrial buildings that reflect the charm that Olive Ann Burns wrote about in the novel Cold Sassy Tree.

For more information on Commerce please contact Commerce Downtown Development Authority at 706-335-2954

History of Hoschton, GA:

In 1865 the City of Hoschton was named for three pioneer brothers, J.R., R.A., and William Hosch. The brothers built the first store and other stores soon popped up. A railroad was organized in 1878 which ran from Gainesville to Jefferson and Athens, later is was extrended to run to Monroe.

J.R. and R.A. Hosch decided in 1880 to establish a town. Lots were sold in 1881 and the Hosch brothers bought and donated land for the town square, streets, a church, a school, a cemetery and more. J.C. Saye along with the Hosch brothers surveyed and laid out the town site. It was incorporated in 1891.

City Hall has a displayed collection of the turn of the century famed photographs and narratives. Some of the photos show scenes that dated back to the city's origin in 1891.

Hoschton Dedicates New Flagpole

(7/1/06)  Although flags are a common sight around town, most Hoschtonians can't remember the last time Old Glory flew from a mast in the downtown area.  That all changed on Saturday, July 1 when Mayor Copenhaver and city officials, joined by a police honor guard, local veterans and approximately 50 citizens, dedicated the City's new flagpole and raised the stars and stripes in front of City Hall.

 

Earlier in the year, City officials acknowledged the importance of honoring our nation and voted for the flagpole project to begin without delay.  As a result, the City Council's Public Works Committee took responsibility for exploring and developing options that were recently approved by the City Council.

 

Chairman of the flagpole project, Councilman Jim Jester said by displaying the flag in front of City Hall, the community shows that it is proud and supportive of the ideals and values that make our Country so special.  Hoschton is a wonderful place to live and our new flag helps us to remember all of the past generations that died for our country.  Jester added as a symbol of our country and its traditions, the City's new flag provides a link to the past and helps us to remember all of the sacrifices that our citizens have made in upholding our values, beliefs and freedoms.

 

Mayor Copenhaver conducted the dedication ceremony and emphasized many of the civic improvements that Hoschton is in the process of making.  He said none of which makes the City any more proud than today's dedication of our new flagpole.  It is especially meaningful that the dedication could be held in conjunction with the July 4th national holiday.

History of Pendergrass, GA:

Pendergrass was incorporated in 1891. It was named for F.L. Pendergrass, a railroad director. The train depot located in the center of town and the town limits stretched a half-mile in every direction. In the early 1900's Pendergrass peaked with an oil mill, 2 gins, 2  b uggy factories, a hotel, blacksmith shop, several stores, doctors, veterinarian and a warehouse that held bales of cotton. A.C. Shockley, a pioneer, called Pendergrass home. Mr. Shockley was responsible for developing the apple and peach industry in teh 1870's. City Hall is housed in the old historic train depot which was renovated in the 1990s.

The town has grown tremendously. It has a public library, City Park and numerous new subdivisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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