History . . . Long before the Cherokees, a mysterious tribe inhabited these mountains
for at least several hundred years, departing with no indication of where they went
or why they left. They left amazing reminders on nearby mountaintops, including fortifications
and other evidence of a higher intelligence that has been likened to that of the
builders of Stonehenge.
Hernando De Soto, a famous early Spanish explorer, here encountered a well-established
society, the Cherokees, who were later driven west by white migration. One of these
migrants was a hero of the Revolution, James Kell. After the war he journeyed to
Gilmer County and built his farm here in 1834, and it still remains in the hands
of his descendants.
Gilmer County, formed in 1832, was named to honor George R. Gilmer, a prime mover
in the effort to displace the Cherokee.
Gilmer County was one of several North Georgia counties that voted against seceding,
and the course of the War Between the States surged past with no significant battles
or even skirmishes within the county. Some citizens were able to remain outside the
Historic Landmarks . . . Gilmer County has its share of historic landmarks and treasured
edifices, including Georgia's only courthouse that was not built initially as a courthouse.
An old Hyatt Hotel, built in 1897, was converted in 1934. The Courthouse is now listed
on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Searcy House, built in 1832, is the oldest building still standing. The Watkins
residence, home of a prominent physician, was subsequently remodeled in Federal style
to complement the hotel-cum-courthouse. It now houses the County Commission.
The cemeteries of Gilmer County tell a profound story. The earliest date in the city
cemetery goes back to 1782.
Special Events . . . There are two new spring festivals among the beautiful blossoms.
The Log Home Tour hosted in April and Ellijay in May. In a celebration spanning the
second and third weekends of each October, Ellijay observes its own Georgia Apple
Festival, a truly appealing event that draws visitors from all over the country to
the Georgia Mountains. There are handmade arts and crafts, homemade music, performances,
demonstrations and a parade, plus lots of apple cider and every kind of apple delicacy
The Apple Classic Auto Show, a feature of the first weekend of the festival, draws
at least 500 antique and custom cars and trucks. Every show has a swap meet, with
vendors of all kinds selling auto parts and auto-related memorabilia. Just up the
road, the Cherry Log Festival spans four weekends in October, with lots of country
and bluegrass music, arts and crafts, homemade jams and jellies, quilts, all kinds
of apple delights and much more.
The Gilmer County Fair, usually held in August, has the expected agricultural displays
and a midway lined with rides and shows.
Outdoor Recreation . . . Three nearby rivers and lakes offer many recreational activities.
Canoeing, kayaking, tubing and fishing are all available on the Cartecay River, including
thrill-a-minute excitement of Class I, II and III rapids. The Cartecay and Ellijay
rivers come together to form the Coosawattee. The Coosawattee and Ellijay rivers
also offer tubing and fishing. The Coosawattee provides access to a county-maintained
50-acre recreation complex.
Several lakes in the area offer fishing, swimming, boating and other fun-filled adventures.
Carters Lake, a Corps of Engineers creation and the deepest lake east of the Mississippi,
offers 62 miles of shoreline, a variety of attractions and recreation. Fort Mountain
State Park also provides lakeside fun. Many more outdoor activities are available
in the 16,266 acres of the Chattahoochee National Forest located in Gilmer County.
There are numerous hiking and biking trails within the forest, as well as camping
and hunting sites. Other interesting hiking trails and sites include Springer Mountain
(the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail) and Amicalola Falls State Park.
Nestled in the Foot Hills of the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains