The Georgia Land Lotteries: Getting Bigger and Moving Closer

December 2, 2019

 The land lottery system that was used in 1805 in Georgia worked so well that the state government continued the system to distribute new lands when they became available. That happened in 1807 when the Creek Indians sold the state some more lands in middle Georgia, and a lottery was used to essentially expand the new counties started in 1805.


In 1820 and 1821, more lotteries were held to assign land the state acquired as a result of a war with the Creeks--or at least part of them. In 1814, a small faction of the Creek tribe, who lived mostly in South Georgia and South Alabama, went on the warpath and killed about 250 settlers in Alabama. A U.S. Army force was sent south under Andrew Jackson to take care of this, and he did the job with deadly effectiveness. It was this campaign that made Jackson a national hero and began his rise to the presidency.


Though only a small part of the Creek nation had been involved in the attacks, the whole tribe suffered the punishment when all their land in Georgia and Alabama was taken from them. In Georgia, this meant the taking of almost the entire bottom third of the state, about one-fifth of its area. In Alabama, the Creeks had to give up three-fifths of what is now Alabama. They somehow kept a bit of land in both states, but not for long.


Also in 1820, some land in North Georgia was distributed by lottery. This was land ceded by the Cherokee in 1817 and 1819 in one more futile effort to give up a little land in hopes of keeping most of it. This land ran southwest from the northeast corner of Georgia in a narrow, L-shaped strip and was eventually made into about five more counties.


The lottery of 1827 apportioned the last of the land which had belonged to the Creeks in Georgia and they were relocated. These lands became middle western Georgia counties such as Carroll, Troup, Coweta and Muscogee, and their assignment was the total end of the Creeks in Georgia. It’s probable that the clearing out of the Creeks increased the pressure on the state to get rid of the Cherokees, as well, and this pressure certainly increased over the next few years and came to a head when gold was found in the Cherokee lands.


Truthfully, the state government of Georgia had always intended to remove the Indians from the area. When Georgia’s western and northern boundaries were established in 1802, a part of the plan for developing the state was the removal of all the indigenous peoples, but in 1828, the Cherokee were still here. Unlike the Creeks, they were not difficult neighbors. They lived in towns and villages, were essentially farmers, like their white neighbors, and had adopted many other aspects of white civilization--good and bad.


Many had converted to Protestantism as missionaries had been working among them for many years. A few, including John Ross, were slave owners. They had an organized nation, based at New Echota near Calhoun. The capitol is now a state park and if you haven’t been there, I highly recommend a visit as a means of understanding who the Cherokee really were.


They also had a written language, a constitution and a newspaper. (Remember that Sequoyah, inventor of their alphabet, lived in a number of places in our part of the state as he was developing it.) This alone made the Cherokee very different from the other Indian tribes east of the Mississippi.


But regardless of all their legal pleas, a Supreme Court decision in their favor which Andrew Jackson defied as president, and all their efforts to live agreeably with their white neighbors, the Cherokee were eventually removed by force. Their story has been the subject of many books and other media and I would not presume to try to tell it here except to say that it is not an event for us to be proud of.


As soon as the handwriting was officially on the wall, the state fathers began to plan for the apportionment of the last Cherokee land to local residents. Their first move was to extend the reach of government to the new area by declaring it a county--a huge county--called Cherokee, and by sending in surveyors to lay off the area into sections and districts and lots to get it ready for distribution.


Next time: How we went from Cherokee County to Dade



--Joy Odom


Note from the Historical Society: You can now purchase this year’s Historical Calendar. Calendars will be sold at the County Commission office and the Dade County Public Library for $10. The Friends of the Library's new Christmas ornament of Davis School is also available at the library for $ 15. They will also be for sale at the Dade Small Business Expo on Dec. 14.


This year the calendar will feature churches. This is not a complete showing of our old churches. It is simply the ones which we could find or that someone sent to us. Most of the pictures were made in 1975, when the last historical inventory of Dade County was done. Many of the churches that one would expect were not photographed in 1975 and realization has come that many of our churches were founded in the 1940s and 1950s and were not eligible because they were not at least 50 years old. 


There were always lots of churches here because many doubled as schools. Many of those little old churches were not built to live long and have disappeared. Pictures of our oldest churches do not seem to be available. If you have a picture of an old church please take it by the library and ask the staff or volunteers to scan it into our historical picture collection.

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