In the second decade of the twentieth century, many families from Gilmer County, Georgia, moved south to Wayne County, Georgia, in a search for land and opportunity. Many of the Gilmer families had come down the Appalachian Mountain chain by way of Burke, Buncombe, and Haywood Counties in North Carolina. They moved into Union County, Georgia, in the 1830's, and then spread out to Murray, Fannin, and finally Gilmer County. By the turn of the century, the land that had been settled in Gilmer had been divided among three generations, leaving only small acreages suitable for farming. For many mountain dwellers, there seemed to be no way to make a living except for the production of illegal whiskey. According to George Gordon Ward in his book The Annals of Upper Georgia Centered in Gilmer County, the 1920 U.S. Census for Gilmer County showed a population decrease of nine percent for the previous decade. Gilmer County had also experienced a nine percent population drop for the 1900-1910 decade. "The Ellijay Times-Courier attributes the decline mainly to bad roads, poor schools, and 'blockade' liquor." Ward also states that "high wages, high cotton, and other outside financial inducements drew much labor and emigration from the County."
Each family has its own story about why and how their family made this migration. The descendants of these families have recently organized and plan activities to locate the descendants, collect stories, and identify those people still living who were "born in Gilmer County."
Wayne County Historical Society sponsored the first gathering of these
families on August 5, 2000. Gilmer descendants were asked to bring scrapbooks,
family histories and genealogies, photos, and other historical documents.
Facilities were available to duplicate photos and documents. The event
began at 2 p.m., Saturday, August 5, 2000, in the cafeteria of Arthur
Williams Middle School on U.S. Hwy. 301 South in Jesup, Georgia. Refreshments
were provided by the Wayne County Historical Society. Many of the Gilmer
County natives who attended this meeting have passed away in the intervening
July 30, 2000 article (announcement about the meeting)
|Obituaries in Wayne County often contain the words "born in Gilmer County." In his summary of 1918, George Gordon Ward wrote that "Gilmer has already contributed 38 families to Wayne County alone. And these migrants are generally recognized in their new home as the better, more prosperous type of citizenship. For they went there as workers, wealth producers, not as parasites and exploiters." Current information concludes that the John Y. WELLS family was the first familiy to migrate to Wayne County. Other families who came south include the surnames of ANDERSON, BAKER, BEAVER, CARROLL, CHANNEL, COLE, CORBIN, CROOK, DANIELS, DART, DAVES, DOTSON, DRENNAN, EDMONDSON, ELLIOTT, FAULK, FORE, FREEMAN, GATES, HARPER, HILL, JAMES, LATTIE, MANSFIELD, MARR, MCCLURD, MCCOLLUM, MILLER, MORELAND, OSBORNE, OWENS, PARKS, PATTERSON, PEEL, PENCE, POINDEXTER, RANDLE, RYALS, SHARP, SHARPE, SLATE, SPIVEY, TATUM, TEAGUE, WARD, WELCH, WIMPEY, WITHROW, AND WRIGHT. There may be other families who have not yet been identified. A few of these families came from neighboring Murray and Fannin Counties.|
Wayne County Genealogy Page
Wayne County Cemeteries and Marriages
Wayne County Public Library
Gilmer County Cemeteries
Fannin County GenWeb
The Georgia GenWeb
University of Georgia Rare Map Collection for Georgia http://www.libs.uga.edu/darchive/hargrett/maps/nine.html