Last week we talked some about town squares. I am going to recommend any tour you take of a N. Georgia town begin there, this includes Blairsville. But make your first stop the OLD Courthouse as it now is the home of The Union County Historical Society and Museum.
Life for European descendants began much earlier, but began booming in the 1830’s. Much like other states and counties, gold was found ! Our claim to fame with that was short lived as California was reported to have gold just lying in the rivers. Gold mining does however remain a going concern in our community today.
Union County’s strong agricultural ties were reflected in the businesses that were established. By 1849 there were blacksmiths, wheelwrights, millwrights, gunsmiths, tanners, and carpenters along with 11 saw mills, 25 grist mills, 7 distilleries and an iron foundry. The census of 1850 reported that there were 1,141 families in the county, at this time the western half of Towns County was still part of Union County.
Next, our trees became the new gold in North Georgia. Although it brought jobs to the area, the lumber industry also began to clear cut and ravage our mountains. The National Forest Service eventually purchase and reforested millions of acres.
By the 1940’s, our way of life began to become our natural resource. A native of Union County a young man named Byron Herbert Reece shared his experiences of growing up and living here. He was a writer and a poet. You can learn more of his life and lifestyle at the Reece Farm and Heritage Center at the base of Blood Mountain.
Another name lost to time, except here in our mountains is Micajah Clark Dyer. He farmed at the foot of Rattlesnake and Cedar Mountains. Attending only the one room school house he was fascinated with birds in flight. If you look up US Patent number 154,654 you will find the plans for his “Apparatus for Navigating the Air” dated September 1, 1874. In 1875 it is said he flew off the side of Rattlesnake Mountain, flying over a couple of fields, a full 30 years before the Wright brothers.
Rail service was established in Gainesville in 1874 and in 1890 in Culberson, North Carolina, 15 miles from Blairsville, the county seat. This made new markets readily available for the products of the county. Availability of these markets immediately reduced the amount of “moonshine” the county produced. Around 1900, gold production was no longer profitable and significant mining operations ended.
After the county courthouse burned in 1898 a new courthouse, now the home of the Union County Historical Society was built. This courthouse would serve the county until 1976 when a new structure was built nearby and the old courthouse was donated to the Society.
You can take in a snapshot of US History and never leave Union County, and we invite you to do just that. As always, thanks for spending some time with us today and
WELCOME TO THE MOUNTAINS