What is now Habersham County was long inhabited by Cherokee Indians, a civilized people who were progressively disposed of their lands until they were finally removed from Georgia during the administration of Andrew Jackson. They had several settlements in the area now known as Habersham County. One of these settlements, called "Sakwiyi" or "Su-Ki", was near the location of Clarkesville today. The Soque River, which rises and has its entire course in this county, received its name from the Indian Village.
There were several white settlements in the county prior to 1880, including one near Providence Church in Batesville, another near Clarkesville, and a third, the famous Woffords's settlement on Broad River.
The Georgia Legislature created Habersham County in 1817and 1818, from lands that had belonged to Cherokee Indians. It was named in honor of Joseph Habersham. Property in the county was distributed through the 1820 land lottery. Habersham was considerably larger in 1818 than it is today. Part of Lumpkin County was cut off in 1831. In 1857, a large part became Banks County. In 1858, White County was carved out of Habersham; and finally Stephens County was created in 1905.
Clarkesville was chartered by the state in 1823, as the county seat, which it remains today. It is said that the earliest court house (1818) was a log building nearby. The earliest settlers of Habersham County were farmers and frontiersmen. In the 1830's, the county began receiving well-to-do residents of the Savannah area who came to Habersham during summers because of the threat of malaria in coastal areas. These residents built many fine homes and buildings in the Clarkesville area, some of which are still standing. In 1842 Savannah families were responsible for building Grace Episcopal Church in Clarkesville, the second oldest church building in use in Georgia and the oldest church building in the county.
Tallulah Falls was an important scenic attraction of the area and attracted many travellers. The falls disappeared when Georgia Power diverted the river in 1913, but the great Tallulah Gorge remains an awe-inspiring sight today.
In the Secession Convention, the delegates from Habersham County were of the conservative group who favored moderation while believing in the right of the State to secede. When the vote was cast, both Georgia delegates voted for secession. At least two companies of the Confederate Army were organized in this county, and Habersham County sent more than one thousand men into the field. Many of them never returned, for Habersham County soldiers were in almost every important battle of that bloody war.
After the Civil War, a terrible depression swept over the State, and Habersham County had its share of suffering. From 1870 to 1900, however, the county progressed significantly. Railroads were built, including the famous picturesque Tallulah Falls Railroad, used in the motion pictures, "The Great Locomotive Chase" and "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" (The railroad was abandoned in 1961).
Piedmont College, a four-year liberal arts institution, was founded in 1897 by the Methodists; it soon affiliated with Congregationalists. Vineyards and apple orchards were set out in the county.
Growth brought trouble in the form of the "Courthouse War". Clarkesville, the county seat, was small in the 1890 's and off the main line of the railway; Toccoa, which was growing fast, wanted to move the county seat from Clarkesville. One night, someone blew up the courthouse with dynamite; Clarkesville, however, remained the county seat, and people below the ridge eventually caused Stephens County to be created, with Toccoa as their county seat.
The most important post-war development in the county was the founding of Cornelia, soon to become the largest settlement in Habersham County. Cornelia was originally the Town of Blaine, settled in the 1870's or early1880's. It became Rabun Gap Junction when two railroad lines meeting there were built. The railroad lines were the impetus for the town's growth and prosperity. The town's name eventually became Cornelia, for Cornelia Barrow, wife of Judge Barrow. Mount Airy started about the same time and was for a time one of the most noted summer resorts in the state.
About 1880, there was a wave of immigration from Germany and Switzerland to Habersham County. They were industrious farmers and winemakers. Later, around 1920, many English and Canadian families moved here, as did families from the North. They were largely apple growers. All this immigration brought new ideas and new blood to the county.
Demorest was founded by New Englanders around the 1890's as an idealistic experiment. It was prohibition town; the original deeds stated that anyone allowing wine or whiskey to be sold or given away on his property forfeited their land. Piedmont College is located in Demorest.
Habersham County, rich in history, looks toward the future with confidence.