History of Blue Ridge & Fannin County


Cherokee Indians controlled the area today known as Fannin County.

Cherokee Indians controlled the area today known as Fannin County when the first white settlements appeared. Unlike much of the rest of Georgia, Fannin County's first settlers did not come from the East, but from the north. Written accounts date these earliest settlements to 1790. 

Crossing the Appalachian Mountains to Fort Loudon (now Tennessee), the first settlers followed the Tennessee River south, where they took the Ocoee-Toccoa to the wide, fertile valley that separates the Cohuttas and the Blue Ridge Mountains in Fannin County. Coastal Georgians began to push the Cherokee further west and this land was surrendered by the Cherokee in 1835 under the terms of the Treaty of New Echota. In 1838 the Cherokee were forced to leave in a tragedy today known as the Trail of Tears. 

Fannin County was created in 1854 from portions of Union County and Gilmer County, with Morganton as the first county seat. Col. James Fannin, for whom the county is named, was a hero in the Texas War for Independence. Ordered by Sam Houston to pull back from a fortified position in Goliad, Fannin was surrounded by forces under the command of Gen. José de Urrea in the battle of Coleto. Fannin surrendered his force of about 400 men, who were later massacred. 

Early Business in Fannin County

Appalachian farmers in this area grew products that had to be taken to a mill and "cracked" before use, hence the term "cracker" was frequently applied. After the Civil War cotton became a mainstay of the area. A push for diversification at the start of the 20th century greatly expanded the types of crops raised. From the mid-1800's until the start of the 19th century copper mining in the Copper Basin also contributed greatly to the economy, as did lumber from 1900 until World War II. 

The Marietta and North Georgia Railroad made an economic decision to avoid Fannin's county seat of Morganton, building the railroad through the long, relatively flat Toccoa River Valley. Col. Mike McKinney founded the town of Blue Ridge in 1886 along the route of the railroad. When it arrived in Fannin County it gave the county a market for its agricultural products. What had taken days to deliver now took hours. In the early 1920's construction began on U.S. Highway 76, further increasing access to this once remote area. 

Tourism picked up with the completion of the railroad to Blue Ridge, but this boom was short-lived. Starting in the 1950's tourism surged again in the county. With the completion of the Georgia Mountain Parkway in 1986 this trickle became a flood. 

Much of the land in Fannin County is under Forest Service management. Beginning as the Cherokee and later the Georgia National Forest, today's Chattahoochee National Forest is a gem in Fannin County's crown. Managed for use by all Americans the land creates jobs, offers recreational opportunities and preserves ecologically sensitive areas from overuse.