Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, August 23, 2010

Militia Districts in Union County

The state of Georgia is divided into 159 counties. Within each county are further subdivisions called Militia Districts. Union County is divided into fourteen districts, but only five voting districts. Beginning along the northern border at the North Carolina line and proceeding southward, these militia districts are Dooly, Ivy Log, Gum Log, Lower Young Cane, Blairsville, Upper Young Cane, Coosa, Arkaquah, Owltown, Choestoe, Coopers Creek, Canada and Gaddistown. These names are more for location than for political divisions, as changes have occurred over time to warrant a look at how present election districts have evolved.

Even though there were fourteen districts in 1849 listed for the then seventeen-year old county of Union, those districts were changed through the years due to part of Union being taken into Fannin (formed in 1854) and Towns (formed in 1856). The tax lists of 1849 had the fourteen districts in Union named thus: Hiawassee, Choestoe, Ivy Log, Noontootla, Blairsville, Hemptown, Brasstown, Stevenson, Gaddistown, Arkaquah, Young Cane, Gum Log, Cut Cane and Skinah (Skeenah). You can easily recognize from this listing that only eight of these fourteen remain in Union today, with names the same. As changes in geographical divisions occurred through the county’s history, the districts were realigned accordingly.

Historical records show that a fifteenth district was added in 1851, before the counties of Fannin and Towns were measured off from portions of Union. That new district did not receive a name until 1855, when it was named Young’s District. Later, the Young’s District was split into two and received the names Lower Young Cane and Upper Young Cane. An interesting sideline about districts not only in Union but throughout Georgia is that they were sometimes named for a person prominent in the area, or for families who settled there, especially when several by the same name resided within a given geographical area. Examples of this naming in Union are Young Cane (upper and lower), Coopers Creek and Gaddistown, and although I do not find any named Dooly in the county until the 1850 census, this district name, too, might have been from a family or a remembered family name from a previous place residents lived. The Dooly District was officially added to the tax lists of Union in 1857. Other names were adopted from names the Cherokee had given the place before their exodus on the Trail of Tears. Some of these names are Arkaquah, Choestoe and Coosa.

By 1870, Coosa and Coopers Creek had been added to the tax list districts. And then in 1887 Owltown was formed, taking portions of Choestoe, Arkaquah and Coosa to form the legal entity numbered 1409. In order to get the Owltown District, a petition was presented, with some of the leaders being citizens Thomas Fields, Daniel Mathis and others. The parameters of Owltown were surveyed and recommended by a court-appointed team made up of Quiller F. Reece, John M. Rich, and Milford G. Hamby. The act to form Owltown District took effect on April 4, 1887 when Ordinary William Colwell signed the official document.

Stability remained in the district names for about a hundred years. But even during that time, district lines changed somewhat due to petitions of citizens and surveys that led to resetting some of the district lines by small margins. In 1981, Georgia Code, Chapter 34-7 and 34-701, amended, gave impetus to resetting “election districts” to cut costs in holding elections (not one for each of the fourteen districts), but according to locations, with some of the districts realigned and combined for precincts. Brasstown and Blairsville were combined into Election District 1. Others were combined as follows for precincts: District 2 covered Upper and Lower Young Cane and Coosa. District 3 encompassed Choestoe, Arkaquah and Owltown. District 4 contained Dooly, Ivy Log and Gum Log. And “across the mountain” District 5 combined Coopers Creek, Gaddistown and Canada.

Then in 1983, Representative Carlton Colwell introduced a bill in the state legislature to make the Union County School Districts correspond to the voting districts. Members of the Union County School Board—instead of being from the fourteen districts—would be elected from within the five voting districts. And it was so ordered.

Nowadays, the 14 Militia Districts of the County are remembered from past history and for sentimental reasons. However, we still like to hail from whatever district we or our parents might have claimed. Simplification in government alignment sometimes leads to loss of pride in place. But we still look at the old district lines on a map of Union County and remember “how it used to be.” I look at old marriage records of the county and see names of those important district officers, Justice of the Peace (JP) and Notary Public (NP). They served notably in the capacity they had as legal representatives in their districts. These names appeared frequently on legal documents in the first decades of our county’s history: Jesse Reid, JP; Thompson Collins, JP; Hampton Jones, JP; J Duckworth, JIC (Justice of the Inferior Court); T. M. Hughes, JP; James Bird, JP; M. M. Roberts, JP; John B. Chastian, JP; Enes M. Henry, JP; Posey D. Guthrie, JP; and Bennet Smith, NP, to name a few.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 5, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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