Union County was an original county from land taken from the Cherokee in 1832. The land was distributed to Georgians in the Sixth Land Lottery of that year. The rugged nature of the land made initial development difficult.
Trackrock Gap, southwest of Blairsville, contains petroglyphs of an American Indian culture carved in soapstone. The civilization that carved these petroglyphs is unknown even in Cherokee folklore, however, the Cherokee were known to control the area by 1600.
Frank Logan, who is best known for discovering gold on Duke's Creek near the confluence with the Chattahoochee River, built the Union Turnpike through Testnatee Gap in 1825. The road provided access to the markets in Gainesville, Georgia for many local farmers. The common name for the road was Logan Turnpike.
According to popular folklore the name Union County came from John Thomas who claimed in 1832 that ..."none but Union men live here," a reference to the Nullification Crisis not the Civil War.
Union County was one of ten counties created in 1832 from what is generally referred to as "Original Cherokee County," a highly unsuccessful attempt by the state of Georgia to extend its government onto the Cherokee Nation. In 1832 the state of Georgia surveyed the land in Union County and divided most of it into 160 acre lots. Using a lottery system they gave the land to qualified citizens.
The only major problem was that the state did not have control of the land. In 1835 a small band of Cherokee known as the Treaty Party signed the corrupt Treaty of New Echota, giving Georgia the document it needed to complete the transfer of property. In 1838 the Cherokee were forced west on the Trail of Tears.
In 1835 the Georgia legislature designated Blairsville as the "public site" (county seat) for Union County. Following the Cherokee Removal in 1838 the city of Blairsville was finally laid out. Blairsville would serve as the county seat following the creation of Fannin County in 1838, which incorporated the western portion of Union County. The city of Blairsville was incorporated in 1847. Towns County was created from eastern Union County on March 6, 1856.
In 1902 the Pfister and Vogel Land Company purchased 80,000 acres of forested land including much of southern Union County. They established a saw mill and quickly became the largest employer in the county. Over the next 20 years the company had a dual mission: to provide lumber to build homes and to supply the Pfister and Vogel Tannery in Wisconsin with tree bark.
In 1931 Augustus Vogel and Fred Vogel Jr., heirs to the Phister Vogel Leather Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin donated some of the land to the state of Georgia, who created the state's second park (known as a state forest park at the time). Depression-era teams of Civilian Conservation Corps boys dammed Wolf Creek to create the parks centerpiece, Lake Trahlyta and added many other features.
Work on the Appalachian Trail began in 1931 in Georgia and was completed by the time the trail opened in 1937. Of the 21 Georgia peaks along the trail, 11 are in Union County.
Neither the completion date nor the location of the original Union County courthouse can be ascertained, but it was destroyed by fire in 1859. The second courthouse was built in the downtown section of the city and burned in 1898. The Romanesque Revival-style courthouse that still stands today was built in 1899 and used until 1976, when Union County built a modern courthouse.
The Union County Historical Society took possession of the building, which by that time was in poor condition. Over the next 30 years the Society's ownership proved to be beneficial to the courthouse as they returned it to good condition including rebuilding the clocktower, which had been removed because of structural problems in 1960.
As amazing as it sounds, very little has changed in the roadways through Union County since the Civil War. In 1926 the existing road from Blue Ridge to Hiawasee was upgraded and designated U. S. 76, but the route was not changed. It would not be paved until the 1930's. Much of the original route is still preserved as "Old 76."
With the advent of automobiles, Logan Turnpike was not much use. The gravity based fuel pump meant you had to back up the road. U. S. 19 was designated in the 1930's but the road south from Blairsville through Neel's Gap was not completely paved until 1946. Frogtown Gap, according to a historic sign at Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi, was renamed Neels Gap in honor of the engineer who designed the road.
Known by a variety of names, such as the Appalachian Development Highway or Corridor A, the Georgia Mountain Parkway took travelers away from the heavily sections of US 76 in downtown areas of Jasper, Ellijay, Blue Ridge and Blairsville. Most people in Union County now simply call it "the four lane."
Portions of the rugged mountains south of Blairsville fell under government control in the early 1900's and were first organized as part of the Cherokee National Forest. On July 1, 1936 about 60.000 acres of Union County was reorganized as part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Since then nearly 40,000 acres from Union County have been added.
The Civilian Conservation Corps dammed Slaughter Creek to create Lake Winfield Scott in 1940. The facility was completed in early 1942 and was one of the last projects completed by the Corps.
Joseph Emerson Brown, the 24th governor of Georgia, grew up in Gaddistown, Union County after being born in South Carolina.
Byron Herbert Reese, Georgia's Poet Laureate, was born in a cabin under what is now known as Lake Trahlyta, centerpiece of Vogel State Park. His family farm is now a developed attraction just north of the state park.