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ABOUT HABERSHAM COUNTY
Resting in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, roughly 90 miles north of Atlanta, is Georgia’s forty-sixth county. Officially created in 1818 from the lands of the Cherokee Indians, Habersham County is named after Revolutionary War hero and U.S. Postmaster General Joseph Habersham.
Habersham County grew to 713 square miles; but through time, it shrunk to 279 square miles as parts of it was used to form the neighboring counties of Banks, Cherokee, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, and White.
Settlers came after the Indian Cessions of 1818 and 1819. They settled along the banks of the county’s four major rivers; the Chattahoochee, Soque, Tallulah and Tugaloo. The Northeast Georgia gold rush brought growth to the area. In 1838, the remaining Cherokee were removed via the “Trail of Tears.”
Over one thousand men of Habersham County bravely fought for the Confederate States of America, many losing their lives in the major battles fought in the eastern front of the Civil War. Between 1870 and 1900, Habersham County’s economy flourished with the help of the railroads, the planting of fruits, and the founding of Piedmont College. Habersham County had a tourist attraction in Tallulah Gorge beginning in 1882. People would ride the rails through the Blue Ridge to see the “Niagara of the South.”
The City of Clarkesville was charted and named for the Revolutionary War General and Governor, John C. Clarke. When Clarkesville was incorporated and selected as the county seat in 1823, feuding over the selection with the city of Toccoa directly led to the formation of Stephens County in 1905 with Toccoa as its seat.
Incorporated municipalities in Habersham County are Alto, Baldwin, Cornelia, Demorest, Mount Airy, and Tallulah Falls. At the high point or “Altus” of the railroads of the 1870’s, the railroad line went through the area known today as Alto, which took their name from the railroad term. Baldwin was incorporated in 1896. It is named for Joseph A. Baldwin, who was an Atlanta-Charlotte Air Line Railroad official. Demorest was incorporated in 1889 and was a Temperance Community. Demorest gets its name from W. Jennings Demorest, a prominent prohibition speaker and leader who formed the Demorest Home, Mining and Improvement Company. The City of Cornelia was built around 1870 in a grid pattern, forming the original city that can now be seen in the square blocks east and northeast of the central business district. On October 22, 1887, the city was incorporated as “Cornelia” in honor of the wife of the attorney who represented the railroad, Pope Barrow.
Habersham County has changed with the times while keeping its small community feel. Some examples of agricultural products from this county are poultry and apples. Fieldale Farms is a family business that has grown to become one of the largest independent poultry producers in the world. It is also Habersham County’s largest employer. Other notable industries include the following: Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company, which develops innovative surgical products for laparoscopic and minimally invasive procedures; Mount Vernon Mills Inc., a diversified and integrated producer of yarns, fabrics, and finished products for the apparel, industrial, home furnishings, institutional and consumer goods markets; and Globaltech Industries, a candle manufacturer that has produced candles for companies such as Bath & Body Works, Curve, and Victoria’s Secret.
In 2013, the estimated population was 43,300, which included 90.7% White, 4.0% African American, 1.1% Native American, 2.5% Asian, and 13.6% Hispanic. Of its population, 78.9% are high school graduates and 17.9% have college degrees. The county has 8 elementary schools, 3middle schools, 1 ninth grade academy, and 1 high school. Habersham is also the home of two institutions of higher learning: Piedmont College located in Demorest and North Georgia Technical College located in Clarkesville.
Habersham County residents are fortunate to have an award-winning medical facility to serve their health care needs. Located in Demorest, Habersham Medical Center is a 53-bed not-for-profit acute care facility providing health care to more than 80,000 residents of Habersham and adjoining counties. Another important part of Habersham County lies 2 miles west of Cornelia. The Habersham County Airport boasts a 5,000 foot runway as well as a fuel station with 100 octane aviation fuel and jet fuel during regular business hours.
Habersham County has also captured the eyes of Hollywood. Parts of the county can be seen in the classic movies “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” (1951) and “The Great Locomotive Chase” (1956). The more recent movie “Wanderlust” (2012) was also filmed in Habersham County.
Habersham County is a beautiful, scenic area that is rich in history and spirit. It is through its history that its residents overcome adversity and face the future. Habersham has survived Indian Wars, Civil Wars, and World Wars. It has survived droughts, boll weevils, stock market crashes, and depressions. But each time, Habersham and its people have bounced back stronger, dedicated, and thriving. An estimated 43, 300 residents call Habersham home. Some were born and raised here; others were intertwined in the web of beauty that is Habersham County. As Sidney Lanier stated in his famous “Song of the Chattahoochee” ….
“All down the hills of Habersham,
All through the valleys of Hall,
The rushes cried `Abide, abide,’
The willful waterweeds held me thrall,
The laving laurel turned my tide,
The ferns and the fondling grass said `Stay,’
The dewberry dipped for to work delay,
And the little reeds sighed `Abide, abide,
Here in the hills of Habersham,
Here in the valleys of Hall.’”