After the last hopes and efforts of the Cherokees had been defeated and they were on their way out of the state to their designated reservation in Oklahoma, the state of Georgia got busy redistributing their land to white settlers within the state. According to a law passed on 26 December 1831, the former Cherokee territory in North Georgia officially became the county of Cherokee. It was one HUGE county stretching completely across the width of the state’s border with Tennessee in the north and narrowing slightly as it approached what is now the Atlanta area.
Another law passed on 3 December 1832 divided this monster county into 10 smaller counties, but that was only the first division. I couldn’t find an official count of the total number of counties that eventually were made from the first Cherokee, but, by my count, there were at least 25. If you look at a current Georgia map with county lines, the original Cherokee-derived counties form a huge triangle from Dade in the northwest to Carroll in the southwest, then up to Rabun in the northeast.
There was an amazing amount of land to be surveyed and divided into sections, districts, and lots, and my hat is off to the men who took on this job, particularly to those who surveyed and plotted the areas like ours where mountains and highlands and many waterways made doing their jobs a real challenge. They did it all on horseback in all kinds of weather, but they seem to have had what it took. (See the accompanying diagram, created at the time, which shows the layout of the Cherokee Territory at the time of these surveys with some of the current counties added to help explain the size and location of the area.)
In the reference portion of the book on this lottery that we have in the library are drawings of each individual section of land showing all these geographic features and they are surprisingly accurate. Even more surprising is that the final “official” maps are all the work of one man, James F. Smith, who must have labored night and day for months on end to get the 60 maps he had to draw completed in time for use in the lottery.
An additional complication, and one of the reasons that the Cherokee removal was demanded by the white population of the state, was that gold had recently been discovered in the Cherokee lands around Dahlonega, and the locals were more than anxious to get their hands on this land. Because of the value of these lots, the state treated them differently and held a separate lottery for the “gold lots” a little later after the regular Cherokee lottery.
As indicated on the diagram, the “gold lots” are designated by dots in the appropriate areas which are far more extensive than the gold discoveries ever were. Actually, significant amounts of gold were only ever found in the Lumpkin County (Dahlonega) area and even that played out after only a few years, so all the hullabaloo about the gold lots was really much ado about very little, but people didn’t know that in 1832.
Our focus here will be the “regular” land lots awarded in the Cherokee lottery and, especially, those that became Dade County.
Next time: The “Fortunate Drawers” and white settlement begins.