In the northeast Georgia Piedmont, between the Savannah and Broad rivers, lies Elbert County. The area was originally settled before the American Revolution (1775-83) by pioneers filtering into the region from Virginia and the Carolinas. The legal occupation of the lands that would later become Elbert County took place on June 1, 1773, when Georgia's colonial governor, James Wright, negotiated a land cession with local Creek and Cherokee leaders. The cession, known as the New Purchase, contained about 2 million acres north of Augusta and was originally designated as Wilkes County.
During the American Revolution Wilkes County became the scene of severe partisan fighting among Tories, patriots, and Indians. One of the Revolution's most famous heroines, Nancy Hart,
After 1783 the area's population steadily increased. Many of the newcomers were veterans of the Revolution who had been awarded land grants in the region for their service to their country. On December 10, 1790, Elbert County was split from Wilkes County by an act of the state legislature and thus became Georgia's thirteenth county. It was named in honor of Samuel Elbert, who was a commander of Georgia's militia and Continental forces during the Revolution. Elbert later served as Georgia's governor from 1785 to 1786.
After the Revolution the most important town to emerge in the county was Petersburg, located at the fork of the Broad and Savannah rivers. From the 1790s through the 1830s Petersburg flourished as a commercial center serving Elbert County and the Goose Pond community along the Broad River.
Elberton, the county seat, was incorporated in 1803 near what was known as the old town spring, although people had been living at the site since the 1790s. Initially surpassed in importance by Petersburg, Elberton became, by the 1840s, the county's most important town. During this time the county boasted several other communities, including Ruckersville, the home of Joseph Rucker, one of Georgia's first millionaires, and Edinburg (Edinborough), a small hamlet founded by Scottish immigrants at the fork of Cold Water Creek and the Savannah River.
After the war Elbert County remained wedded to the cotton industry and existed as a rural, agricultural community. This began to change in 1882,
Elbert remains primarily a rural county of agricultural fields and timberland, but its economy is firmly rooted in the granite industry. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population is 20,166, a slight decrease from the 2000 population of 20,511.
E. Merton Coulter, Old Petersburg and the Broad River Valley of Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1965).
John B. McIntosh, The Official History of Elbert County, 1790-1935 (Atlanta: Cherokee, 1968).
Clay Ouzts, "'The Man Who Builded on a Rock Was Wise': The Genesis of Elberton's Granite Industry, 1882-1900," Georgia Historical Quarterly 86 (winter 2002).
Herbert Wilcox, Georgia Scribe: Selected Columns by Herbert Wilcox (Atlanta: Cherokee, 1974).
Clay Ouzts, Gainesville College
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