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Gilmer County, located in extreme North Georgia, was established in 1832 and named after George Rockingham Gilmer, lieutenant in the Georgia Militia, as well as a member of the Georgia House, the U.S. House, and governor of Georgia during the gold rush. The county seat is Ellijay--the exact meaning of the name is lost, but most suggestions lead back to a Native American foundation, including the Cherokee word, Elatsi-yi, meaning ‘place of green earth.’

The Cherokee lived in the area long before white settlers, who began appearing in the Talking Rock area around 1765. However, it wasn’t long before the white men overran the area, and, by 1832, the land that had been controlled by the Cherokee since at least 1650 had been assumed by Georgia and dispersed in a land lottery. By 1836, the
infamous Cherokee forts were in full swing, and Fort Hetzel housed no less than 1100 Cherokee in unsanitary conditions at any given time, awaiting their time to begin the journey along the Trail of Tears. Fort Hetzel was operated in what is now the city of East Ellijay until March 24, 1842.

After the War Between the States, Gilmer residents returned to an agricultural economy, and, by 1903, John W. Clayton had introduced apples to the county. Apple production helped loosen the grip of cotton on the county, and, by the time the Great Depression hit, the production of apples was significant enough to help ease citizens through the disastrous crash. Now known as “Georgia’s Apple Capital,” Gilmer hosts the Georgia Apple Festival every fall, on the second and third weekends of October. Gilmer County
is easily accessed from the Atlanta area by taking I-75 North to Highway 515 North, which runs straight through the county. For more information on restaurants, directions, or places to stay, please contact the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce at (706)635-7400.