The history of Rabun County begins before the founding of the state by James Oglethorpe in 1733. In the early 1700's George Chicken and other (South) Carolinians were acquainted with the Cherokee Indian villages in the northeast corner of present-day Georgia. Chicken, who may have visited Rabun as early as 1702 or 1703, escorted Sir Alexander Cumming on his journey to present-day Tennessee in 1730 during which they visited Lower Towns of the Cherokee that were within present-day Rabun County's borders.
In 1760 whites again visited the area, intent on attacking the Cherokee Lower Towns. One town, alternately called Stekoa or Stecoa, was a terraced village near Sky Valley. By the time it was burned by Archibald Montgomerie (generally referred to as Colonel Montgomery) in 1760, the village had been abandoned.
Just before the American Revolution the early exploration of Rabun continued with a visit from naturalist William Bartram. His diary, published in 1791, provide an earlier glimpse into Rabun than exists for other North Georgia counties and the first extensive written account of the land and setting. The abundance of Cherokee Indians led him to call the Blue Ridge Mountains the Cherokee Mountains.
He saw and described the remains of Stekoa, apparently near the present-day town of Dillard, although no trace of the city still exists. The Stekoa River, a tributary of the Chattooga River, was name in honor of the Lower Town.
Among the first settlers in Rabun County was the Dillard family. Dillard may have been the first white settler, but it is difficult to tell. In 1794 the long-time North Carolina resident decided to take advantage of an offer made to Continental army officers of land in exchange for serving in the army.
By 1796 the county seat of Clayton was known as "The Dividings" because of its location along several paths. To the west lay the Hiawassee River, which carried a variety of visitors to the Cherokee capital. To the southwest a path ran towards the upper Chattahoochee River. To the east a path to South Carolina and to the north, roughly following today's U. S. 441. a path to North Carolina. At this time there appears to be no commercial development.
Rabun County was ceded by the Cherokee on February_27, 1819 and the county was organized later that year. In 1824 The Dividings was renamed to Clayton in honor of Augustin Smith Clayton.