Chattooga County, a county in Georgia’s Northwest corner, was established in 1838 from parts of neighboring Floyd and Walker Counties. Chattooga is directly north of the City of Rome and Floyd County. Chattooga County is only an hour and a half northwest of the State Capital and City of Atlanta and forty-five minutes south of the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The county’s name comes from the river that flows through the eastern portion of the county.
Chattooga County has a varied history even before it became one of Georgia’s counties. The county was originally part of the Cherokee Nation of Native American Indians. Chattooga County, in fact, is considered one of the possible birth locations for Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet. A large Cherokee village on the Chattooga River was one of six major settlements in the county. Other settlements included Island Town, Dirt Town, Whiteoak Town, Broom Town and Raccoon Town. Many of these settlements became the current cities and towns of Chattooga County.
In 1838 the Cherokee in Chattooga County were gathered by the Georgia Guard and housed in deplorable conditions at the Cherokee Removal Fort in LaFayette (Fort Cumming) before being moved north to Rattlesnake Springs in Tennessee. These programs, part of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Acts, culminated in the American Government’s removal of Native Americans from the American South in what became known as "The Trail of Tears.” Cherokees joined Native Americans from the Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, and other tribes in Oklahoma. Sparsely populated by white settlers before 1832, settlers began to pour into the county after the sixth Georgia Land Lottery, mostly moving from the eastern part of Georgia.
Then a part of Walker County, travel to LaFayette was difficult for many people living in Chattooga, taking more than two days to complete trips for county business. This led the Georgia legislature to create Chattooga as a separate county in 1838. Summerville's founder, John Beavers, already had experience building counties. In fact, he had helped establish Campbell County south of the City of Atlanta. (Campbell County was annexed by Fulton County during the Great Depression). Beavers worked diligently to urge the legislature to create Chattooga. Beavers offered a portion of his own land in present-day Chattooga County for the county’s new seat. He sold 90 acres to create the county seat and later sold additional land to create the Summerville City Cemetery.
By 1842, the county teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The path traveled by earlier missionaries grew as settlers moved in and near the area until it was considered a significant road. An early road was also constructed from Summerville to Rome in Floyd County. By the Civil War a surprisingly intricate system of roads had developed in the county although it remained largely agricultural.
Relatively untouched by the American Civil War, the county did send its men to battle as the Chattooga Rangers. The Confederate Army did pass through the county, closely followed by a significantly larger Union Army prior to Sherman’s attack in Georgia. While in Summerville, General William Tecumseh Sherman wired General Halleck with his plans for the infamous March to the Sea. President Lincoln’s Administration approved these plans when Sherman was in Kingston, Georgia on the Bartow/Floyd County line. After the war ended in 1865, the county suffered, like many parts of the South, with the federal government’s Reconstruction policies. The county rejoined the Union with Georgia on July 15, 1870. Georgia was the last state to rejoin the United States. Reconstruction marked the last time a Republican represented the county in county-level office.
Throughout the 20th century, Chattooga County weathered the storms of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. Chattooga became a bastion of Democratic Party politics following the Civil War. That domination, aided by President Roosevelt's New Deal and rural development programs, lasts to this day on the local level. Democrats hold all public offices in Chattooga, though Chattooga County voters have been trending Republican on national-level politics. Chattooga is served by Jason Winters as Sole Commissioner, John Everett as Sheriff, and Kathy VanPelt Brown as Tax Commissioner. All three of these officers are members of the Democratic Party. Barbara Massey-Reece represents Chattooga in the State House of Representatives. Reece is a Democrat from Menlo. State Senator Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga and US Congressman Phil Gingrey of Marietta represent the area at the Georgia General Assembly and US Capitol, respectively. Both of these men are members of the Republican Party.
Chattooga County is now home to four incorporated communities. Summerville, the county’s largest city, serves as county seat. The City of Menlo, a small city of almost 500 people is in the eastern portion of the county. The Town of Trion, the county’s second largest community and home to Mount Vernon Mills, is in northern Chattooga County. Trion is home to over 2,000 people. The Town of Lyerly in southeast Chattooga County is home to approximately 500 people. The county remains largely agricultural and very rural. Though Northwest Georgia has experienced massive growth, Chattooga is home to only 25,470 people (2000 Census). Despite Chattooga being one of the least populated counties in Northwest Georgia, Chattooga ranks 60th out of Georgia’s 159 counties in terms of population.
Chattooga County has a long and storied history. From its ties to Native American culture as part of the Cherokee Nation to the bustling communities of today, Chattooga County’s story is the story of its people. Hard work, determination, and a steadfast drive keep the people of Chattooga County on a path of growth and change as the county works to compete in the 21st Century. The county’s people, as diverse as the valley's Autumn leaves, alongside its prime location near Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Birmingham, make Chattooga County a wonderful place to live, work, and play.