The first evidence of human civilization in North Georgia exists at the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site in Cartersville. This 54-acre Georgia State Park contains the most extensive prehistoric Mississippian Culture site in the Southeastern United States including three large earthen mounds, a village area and a plaza that were constructed during the Paleo-Indian Period around 10,000 B.C. Prior to the arrival of European colonists, North Georgia was inhabited by Woodland, Mississippian, Creek and Cherokee Native American Indians.
Europeans arrive in North Georgia
In 1540 Hernando deSoto led an expedition of 600 Spanish soldiers through North Georgia in search of gold, and European settlers began to enter the region during the 1600’s. For the next 200 years, Europeans and Native American Indians co-existed peacefully in Georgia. In July of 1829, gold was discovered on the Cherokee’s land and violence erupted when the Cherokees attempted to prevent a huge influx of squatters from stealing their resources. The subsequent gold rush caused the State of Georgia to appropriate all the Cherokee Indian lands, expel the Native American Indians to areas west of Arkansas and divide the land into counties. Approximately 13,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly marched out of North Georgia by federal government troops during the winter of 1838-1839, and more than 4,000 Native American Indians died on the infamous Trail of Tears.
Between 1805 and 1832, Georgia used a lottery system to distribute land taken in North Georgia from the Cherokee and Creek Indians seven times. No other state used a lottery system to distribute land. The largest lots distributed were 490 acres in the 1805 and the 1820 land lotteries, and the smallest lots were 40-acre gold lots distributed during the Gold Lottery of 1832. During the 1830’s, railroad lines through North Georgia were completed that caused rapid economic growth to occur as valuable cotton produced in North Georgia’s textile mills was transported to East Coast markets. A primarily agrarian economy developed based around cotton production. Many Georgian’s became wealthy cotton plantation owners and built spectacular antebellum mansions throughout North Georgia.
North Georgia after the Civil War
It is not necessary to elaborate the history of the Civil War in North Georgia because it was as difficult for North Georgians as it was for the rest of the South. After the Civil War, North Georgia was war torn and it faced its darkest days during the period of Reconstruction. Bands of Confederate soldiers roamed the countryside taking what they needed, former slaves struggled to cope with an entirely new life, food shortages were widespread and the federal overseers were corrupt. By 1874 another railroad building program had begun to stimulate trade and by 1880, cotton had resumed its position as North Georgia’s primary cash crop. But during the 1910’s and 1920’s, devastating boll weevil infestations destroyed Georgia’s cotton crops again and the Great Depression of the 1930’s decimated Georgia’s economy.
North Georgia in the 20th and 21st centuries
Population growth and economic growth in North Georgia stagnated in the 20th century until the Georgia State highway system was completed during the 1950’s. The portion of North Georgia that the Cherokee Indians once called the Enchanted Land has become magically enchanted again and opportunities for recreational fun abound throughout North Georgia. People can enjoy fly fishing for trout in numerous streams and rivers, rent pontoon boats, waterskiing boats, jet skis, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats, swim in lakes, experience whitewater rafting, or hike along the famous Appalachian Trail. In the 21st century, North Georgia has evolved into a region containing many well developed suburban cities that have diversified and thriving economies.