City of Clarkesville History
Clarkesville, the county seat of Habersham County, received its charter in 1823. The city was named for General John C. Clarke, governor of Georgia in 1819 and 1821, or his father, General Elijah Clarke, a revolutionary war hero, according to various versions of the city’s history.
Clarkesville was a resort town for many years, catering to coastal residents trying to escape the heat and diseases of the low-lying areas. Delighting in the climate, some of the visitors bought land and built summer homes. Others found ample room in one of Clarkesville’s many hotels: The “Mountain View Hotel” (previous names: “Village Hotel” and “Habersham House”), “Alleghany House” (later called “The Inn”), “Spencer House,” “Free House,” “Erwins,” “Grove House” and “Fuller House.”
During the course of its history, many people have enjoyed their visit to Clarkesville. The names of some of the more famous visitors or residents include the following:
•Jarvis Van Buren, relative of President Martin Van Buren
•John MacPherson Berrien, later attorney general for President Andrew Jackson and a United States Senator
•Amos T. Akerman, attorney general for President Grant
•Robert Tyler Walker, grandson of President Tyler
•E. W. Eppes, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson
•Thomas M. Bradford, descendant of President James Madison
•Andrew Jackson (as a youth), his mother and aunt
How did travelers get to the city? The stagecoach from Athens to Clarkesville brought many. After 1873, trains became a popular method of transportation. Around 1910, a street car, running between the Clarkesville Train Depot and the Square, carried visitors to and from the center of town. About 1924, a paved road from Clarkesville to Cornelia (the first paved road north of Atlanta) further increased the ease of traveling to the city.
But long before Clarkesville became a tourist spot, Cherokee Indians inhabited the area. Around 1540 Spanish explorer De Soto passed through what would become the city of Clarkesville. It would be many years later, but still long before Clarkesville was created, that white settlers began living in the area.
By 1820 a post office, named “Habersham Court House,” began operation, with Walter Adair as the first Postmaster. After the charter was granted in 1823, the city was surveyed and laid out. Streets were named for presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, and for Benjamin Franklin and generals Greene, Wayne and Marion of the American Revolution.
That same year, the first courthouse — a simple wooden structure — was erected. Then, in 1832, a brick building, located in the center of the Square in town, replaced the wooden one. It remained until 1898, when it was blown up with dynamite in a controversy between Toccoa (then part of Habersham County) and Clarkesville as to which should be the county seat. Both cities eventually got their wish: Clarkesville remained the county seat of Habersham, and in 1905, when Stephens County was formed, Toccoa became its county seat.
The next courthouse, although partially destroyed by fire endured until the construction of fourth (and current) one in 1964. The Hills of Habersham lists the date of the fire as December 28, 1923, but A North Georgia Journal of History gives the date as 1928.
The original hotels have been torn down, the street car line is gone and the Square looks a lot different than it did back in the 1800s and early- to mid-1900s. Today, very few people can leave their jobs to spend all summer here. Still, Clarkesville attracts new residents each year. In the early 1980s, Clarkesville was voted once the No. 1 retirement community in the United States and once the No. 2 retirement community.Information was taken from The Hills of Habersham, by Mary L. Church, and A North Georgia Journal of History, Volume I, by Olin Jackson. His information was a reprint of an article from “The Northeast Georgian.”)
City of Clarkesville History
Be well and keep in touch. Ken
Ken Ruddell is an active Real Estate Broker & Resident of Habersham County. Email me at Info@TheRealtyGuy.com or call me at 706-754-8589. Ken is on Twitter at @TheRealtyGuy and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/KenRuddell