Summerville is a city in Chattooga County, Georgia, United States. The population was 4,534 at the 2010 census. The city is the county seat. Summerville was founded in 1838 as the seat of the newly formed Chattooga County. It was incorporated as a town in 1839 and as a city in 1909. Summerville was named from the fact it was a popular summer resort.The city thrived in the late 1880s with the construction of the Chattanooga, Rome and Columbus Railroad (later part of the Central of Georgia system).
The Chattooga County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was completed in 1909. The Summerville Depot, completed by the Central of Georgia in 1918, is also listed on the National Register, and is home to several annual festivals.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.0 square miles (10.3 km²), all of it land. The city lies along the Chattooga River at the western base of an elongate mountain known as Taylor's Ridge. U.S. Route 27 connects Summerville with Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the north, and Rome to the southeast. Georgia State Route 114 connects the city with Lyerly to the south, and Georgia State Route 48 connects the city with Menlo near the Alabama state line to the west.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,556 people, 1,823 households, and 1,141 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,144.3 people per square mile (442.0/km²). There were 2,092 housing units at an average density of 525.4 per square mile (202.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.06% White, 25.31% African American, 0.07% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.90% from other races, and 1.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.58% of the population.
There were 1,823 households out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.8% were married couples living together, 17.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.04.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.3% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $24,911, and the median income for a family was $35,579. Males had a median income of $26,707 versus $20,222 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,090. About 18.1% of families and 20.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.5% of those under age 18 and 20.3% of those age 65 or over.
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.
Creek, Muskogean-speaking North American Indians who originally occupied a huge expanse of the flatlands of what are now Georgia and Alabama. There were two divisions of Creeks: the Muskogee (or Upper Creeks), settlers of the northern Creek territory; and the Hitchiti and Alabama, who had the same general traditions as the Upper Creeks but spoke a slightly different dialect and were known as the Lower Creeks.
Traditional Creek economy was based largely on the cultivation of corn (maize), beans, and squash. Most of the farming was done by women, while the men of the tribe were responsible for hunting and defense. The Creek achieved status based on individual merit rather than by inheriting it. Like most Indians of the Southeast, they commonly tattooed their entire bodies.
Before colonization, Creek towns were symbolically grouped into white and red categories, set apart for peace ceremonials and war ceremonials, respectively. Each town had a plaza or community square, around which were grouped the houses—rectangular structures with four vertical walls of poles plastered over with mud to form wattle. The roofs were pitched and covered with either bark or thatch, with smoke holes left open at the gables. If the town had a temple, it was a thatched dome-shaped edifice set upon an eight-foot mound into which stairs were cut to the temple door. The plaza was the gathering point for such important religious observances as the Busk, or Green Corn, ceremony, an annual first-fruits and new-fire rite. A distinctive feature of this midsummer festival was that every wrongdoing, grievance, or crime—short of murder—was forgiven.
The Creeks’ first contact with Europeans occurred in 1538 when Hernando de Soto invaded their territory. Subsequently, the Creeks allied themselves with the English colonists in a succession of wars (beginning about 1703) against the Apalachee and the Spanish. During the 18th century a Creek Confederacy was organized in an attempt to present a united front against both Native and white enemies. It comprised not only the dominant Creeks but also speakers of other Muskogean languages (Hitchiti, Alabama-Koasati) and of non-Muskogean languages (Yuchi, some Natchez and Shawnee). The Seminole of Florida and Oklahoma are a branch of the Creek Confederacy of the 18th and early 19th centuries.
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Ultimately, the confederacy did not succeed, in part because the Creek towns (about 50 with a total population of perhaps 20,000) were not able to coordinate the contribution of warriors to a common battle. In 1813–14, when the Creek War with the United States took place, some towns fought with the white colonizers and some (the Red Sticks) against them. Upon defeat, the Creeks ceded 23,000,000 acres of land (half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia); they were forcibly removed to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in the 1830s. There with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, they constituted one of the Five Civilized Tribes. For three-quarters of a century each tribe had a land allotment and a quasi-autonomous government modelled on that of the United States. In preparation for Oklahoma statehood (1907), some of this land was allotted to individual Indians; the rest was made available to white homesteaders, held in trust by the federal government, or allotted to freed slaves. Tribal governments were effectively dissolved in 1906 but have continued to exist on a limited basis. Creek descendants numbered more than 76,000 in the early 21st century.