Settlement of this area began in 1784 with a small group of Revolutionary War veterans and other pioneers who ventured into the newly ceded lands of Franklin County. The first permanent communities were on Sandy Creek at Groaning Rock, Yamacutah (near present-day Commerce), Hurricane Shoals, and in 1786 on the Middle Oconee River near the Tallassee Shoals. The population had swelled to 350 by the time the county was formed by legislative act in February 1796.

By 1801, the settlement at Hurricane Shoals included homes, a church, a grist mill, a small iron foundry, and the first school in Jackson County.  Records exist for as many as 247 schools in the county history. Perhaps the most well-known was Jefferson’s Martin Institute, begun in 1818 as Jackson County Academy. It was renowned by the quality education it provided students who came not only from nearby areas, but also other states and some foreign countries.

Named for Revolutionary patriot and Georgia statesman James Jackson, the county originally covered 1800 square miles. However, from 1801 until 1914 portions were taken to form parts of the present counties of Clarke, Oconee, Madison, Gwinnett, Hall, Walton, Banks, and Barrow. Jackson County today contains only 337 square miles.

Jackson County experienced steady growth throughout the 19th century, largely due to the railroads that intersected the area. Many towns did not even exist until the tracks were laid and a depot constructed. Of the ten municipalities incorporated by 1920, seven defined their boundaries from the depot. Of these, Harmony Grove became one of the leading distribution centers of northeast Georgia due to the railroad. The town was prospering so well that in 1904, the citizens changed the name to Commerce “to better reflect the commercial air of a city”.

Rail service began for Jackson County in the 1870’s with the construction of the Northeast Railroad through Commerce, Nicholson, and Center that lie between Athens, Georgia and the Atlanta-Charlotte, North Carolina. By 1883 the forerunner of the Gainesville Midland line was moving passengers and freight from Jefferson to Gainesville and then to Social Circle and Monroe. These steam-driven locomotives, and passenger services in the county were phased out by 1960. But within a decade, the opening of Interstate 85 signaled an accessibility for new industry and homes.

Militia Districts
Justices of the Inferior Court, 1796-1866
Petition to Remove Political Disabilities, 1868

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on 13 Jun 1866 and ratified 9 July 1868. In Section 3 it stated:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

In a resolution dated 12 March 1868, Georgia’s Constitutional Convention sent a resolution to Congress petitioning for the removal of these “political disabilities” with respect to certain named individuals. The Jackson County men named in this resolution are listed below:

Hosea A. Bennett, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
A. T. Bennett, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
C. W. Hood, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
John B. Jackson, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Z. W. Hood, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Robert White, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Robert Moon, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
William R. H. Statham, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
George B Wood, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Ezekiel Hewitt, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Abijah Reynolds, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Wynd. Worsham, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.

John Simpkins, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
James A. Patillon, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.
Abea C. Schoekley, Jefferson, Jackson county, Georgia.

Source: Document #116, Index to Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Fortieth Congress, 1867-1868, Vol. 2, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1868

Submitted by Cheryl Chasin 

Southern Claims Commission

After the Civil War, the federal government created a process by which southerners who claimed to have been loyal to the Union and who had property that was taken by the Union Army could be compensated. A special commission, the Southern Claims Commission, was created for this purpose. Most of these claims were denied, but the files are extremely useful to genealogists because they include information about family members, friends, and neighbors. The standard form includes a number of questions to be answered by the claimant and various categories of witnesses, and the testimony generally follows this format.

Petition of John Seay to the Commissioners of Claims

No. 21508, Mar 3, 1873

Residence – Gainesville(?), Jackson County, Georgia

Nature of claim – corn foraj[sic] bacon

Amount – $352.75

Includes testimony of claimant, B. S. Camp, W. L. Marler, Green Harris

Receipt #1

Head Qtr 4th Tenn Cav

May 12th 1865

This is to certify that this Regt has received from Jno Seay 165 One hundred sixty-five Bushels corn & 1200 Twelve hundred pounds Bacon(?) for which the U. S. Government will pay

By order of of Col. McLemore

  1. R. Briggs


Receipt #2

I certify that I have this day received from John Seay two hundred and 77 lbs Bacon for the use of 4th Tenn Cavalry paroled prisoners for which the U. S. Government will settle

May 13th 1865

  1. Baird

Com Sgt

4th Tenn Cavly


  1. S. McLemore


It is hereby certified that on the 17th day of Sept 1874, at Gainesville in the county of Hall and state of Georgia came personally before me . . . the following persons:

John Seay, claimant

Martin Whiden, counsel


Berriman S. Camp

William L. Marler

Green Harris (col’d)

1 & 2. My name is John Seay. I am 84 years old. I live in Jackson Co GA. I have lived there since 1818. I am a farmer. I am the claimant in this case.

  1. I was born in Columbia Co Ga

4th For six months before the war & during the whole war I lived at home where I now live.

5th I was opposed to the war & my sympathies were against it in the beginning but after it commenced I still felt that we had better had peace all the time.

6th I don’t know what I might have said but I did nothing against the Union cause.

7th I was at all times ready & willing to do whatever I could to aid the Union cause.

8th I had no opportunity to do anything for the union cause its advocates or defenders

9th I had no near relatives in the Union army or Navy

10th I was not in the service or employment of the United States at any time during the war.

11th I never voluntarily contributed money services or property to the Union cause.

12th When the states were seceding in 1860 & 1861 I took the side of the Union & voted against secession.

13th After the states passed into rebellion I had to go with my state. I could not do otherwise.

14th I deplored the war but I hardly know what to say to this.

15th No favors, privileges or protections were ever granted me on account of my union sentiments.

16th I have never taken the “iron clad” oath since the war.

17th I don’t know as I could name any particular Unionist near me during the war. Have forgotten.

18th I never was threatened with damage or injury to my person family or property or actually molested or injured on account of my union sentiments.

19th I never was arrested during the war.

20th The Confederate authorities came & demanded my [–?–]. I gave them up. They took some meat & [–?–] & paid me for all they eat – their own price.

  1. None of my property was ever confiscated by rebel authority on the ground that I was an enemy to the rebel cause.
  2. I did nothing to aid the Confederate cause or to aid the rebellion except I gave my sons who were in the rebel armies some clothing & a soldier came into the settlement nearly naked & I & the neighbors [–?–] in & fixed him up a suit of clothes as an act of charity.
  3. I never did anything against the Union cause.

24th I never was in any service business or employment for the Confederacy or any rebel authority.

25th I was not in the Civil military or naval service of the Confederacy or any rebel state.

26th I took no oath to the Confederate states.

27th I never had charge of any property or supplies for the rebels. I never sold or furnished them any thing except the [–?–] meat & [–?–].

28th I was not engaged in blockade running or running through the lines during the war & was not interested in such business.

29th I was not in any way interested in any boat or vessel used in navigating the waters of the Confederacy or entering or leaving any Confederate port during the war.

30th I never subscribed to any loans of the Confederate or any rebel state. I own some Confederate bonds to my sorrow too. I [–?–] Confederate money for the bonds. I never sold or agreed to sell cotton or produce to the Confederate states or any rebel state or any body representing(?) either.

31st I never contributed to the raising or support or equipment of troops or the building of gun boats in aid of the rebellion or to military hospitals or invalids or to relief funds or subscriptions for the families of persons serving against the United States.

  1. I never gave any information to any person in aid of operations against the United States.
  2. I was never a member of any society or organization for equipping volunteers or conscripts or for aiding the rebellion in any other way.

34th I took no oath of allegiance to the Confederate states.

35th I never received a pass from any rebel authority.

36th I had 3 sons in the rebel army – John 36 when he died, David 33 when he was killed at Kinnishaw[sic] Mountain, & Thomas Seay about 28 when he went into the service, killed at the battle of Murphreesboro, Tenn. They were all of age. They were not with me when they went into the service but as soon as I saw them I approved it. Two of them were Confederates & one was a Union man. I had other relatives in the service but contributed nothing to any of them except the clothing to my sons & to give a grandson a hat – he was in the service.

37th I never was under any disabilities under the Constitution

38th I never was specially pardoned by the President

39th I took no amnesty during the war. I took the amnesty oath after the war before a [–?–] officer I think though [–?–][–?–] sure about it.

40th I never was a prisoner of the United States. Never on parole or bonds to do nothing against the United States.

  1. Never was arrested during the way by the United States
  2. No fines or assessments were levied on me by the United States for any supposed sympathy with the rebellion.
  3. None of my property was ever confiscated by the United States.

44th After the Presidential election in 1860 I voted against candidates favoring secession. Whenever I voted during the war, I voted against secessionists.

45th I belonged to no vigilance committees homeguard or any other organization designed to suppress Union sentiment.

46th I never was in the Confederate army state militia or any other organization hostile to the United States. I never was conscripted & never furnished a substitute either for myself or any body else.

47th I never was in any way connected with or employed by any Department Bureau or branch of the Confederate Government or any state in rebellion. I had nothing to do with it in any way.

48th I never had charge of any thing for the Confederate government.

49th I never was employed in salt petre works in tanning milling making clothing boots shoes saddle harness, arms ammunition accoutrements or any thing else for the Confederacy.

50th I never guarded or helped guard prisoners of any sort during the war.

  1. I never was in the Union army or navy or in any service connected therewith.

John Seay

Sworn to & subscribed before me at Gainesville, Ga this Sept 17th 1874

  1. A. Darnell

Spl. Comm.

Berriman S. Camp, being sworn & being interrogated as to loyalty by this claimant [–?–] says: My age 74 years old. I live in Jackson Co GA & have lived there 71 years. I am a farmer. I am not related to the claimant & have no interest in the claim. I am here to testify in favor of the claimant John Seay I have known him 40 years or more & have known him all that time intimately(?) lives 5 or 6 miles apart all the time including the time of the war. I saw him frequently – at the Court house and our houses [–?–][–?–]. I talked with him about the war often(or after?) about the commencement of it. I can’t say when or where we talked but it was about the time of secession. Can’t say who was present but we talked in [–?–] crowd. The cause of the conversation was the general excitement of the country about the war. The claimant was opposed to secession. I don’t remember his exact words. I don’t know of any thing done by the claimant that showed him to as loyal to the Union cause during the war. I know of nothing he did against it. I know of nothing he said against the Union cause. I never heard any thing said or done for or against the Union cause by the claimant. Don’t know the public reputation for loyalty or disloyalty during the war. Don’t know who could testify on to his loyalty. [–?–] David Burns(?), Robert White, W. L. Marler & others were opposed to the war & lived in the claimant’s neighborhood. I was a Union man. Claimant knew it because we talked about the war together. I know of no treats molestations or injury inflicted on the claimant, his family or his property on account of his Union sentiments. I think there were some threats but I don’t know about these things. I know of no act done or language used by the claimant that would have prevented him from proving his loyalty to the Confederacy – none that I know of. I can state no other facts of my own knowledge going to show the claimant’s loyalty during the war.

[–?–] examined by Spl. Commr. the witness answered: I don’t know what the public reputation of the claimant as to loyalty was, after the war commenced. He took no hand in it & so far as I know he was neutral. I don’t remember having heard any body say he was a Union man after the war commenced. I don’t know that he ever said or did anything for Union [–?–] or for the Union cause during the war. I have heard him say he regretted the war was commenced.


Berriman S. Camp

Sworn to & subscribed before me at Gainesville GA this Sept 17th 1874

S.A. Darnell

Spl. Comr

William L. Marler being sworn & being interrogated by claimants counsel as to loyalty of the claimant says: My age is 44 years. I live in Gainesville GA, have lived here for 3 years. My former residence – that is, I was raised in Jackson Co, GA. I am a lawyer. I am not related to the claimant & am not interested in the success of of this claim. I am here to testify in favor of the claimant. I know the claimant for 30 years or more. I have been a visitor at his house for 25 years. His sons – most(?) of them – were school mates of mine. His youngest was a classmate of mine for a time. I lived about 6 or 7 miles from him during the war. I met him almost every week until I went off into the army I conversed with the claimant about the war its progress & probably results. I don’t know that I can state the first occasion on which I conversed with him the first time. I remember was in Thompsons store in the town of Jefferson in Jackson Co Ga. If was a few days before the election of delegates to the convention in 1861. Alsa Moore was present Wm. S. Thompson & several others were present. The conversation was mainly between Mr. Seay & Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore was advocating the election of secession delegates, Mr. Seay opposing it & stated to Mr. Moore that he was an old man, had seen more of this world than he had and (?) if we over-turned this government we would not likely get a better, that it was a government established by our Fathers. I thought Mr. Seay got the better of it. I could not locate the time of the next conversation though it was after the secession of the state. He spoke of it in terms of regret. Also(?) during the years 1862 & 1864 he spoke of it in the same terms. I don’t know of any particular act done by the claimant that showed him to be loyal to the United States. I know of nothing said or done by the claimant that was against the Union cause. I have heard of nothing said or done by the claimant either for or against the United States. The reputation of the claimant was that of a loyal man during the war to the Union. I heard Steward McElhannon speak of claimant as a Union man. I heard Robert Shields speak of it & both of them were near neighbors of the claimant. I know Jno. J. McCullock & Wm. S. Thompson & James E. Wills – all neighbors – speak of it. [–?–] Burns now dead was a prominent Union man of claimant’s neighborhood. Wm B. Rutherford, Shields & Hampson(?) were prominent Union men. Robert White was also a Union man. J. B. S. Davis now at Newnan Ga was also a Union man & then lived in Jackson Co. With the exception of Burns, these men could all testify to claimant’s loyalty. Burns is dead. I was a Union man during the war & the claimant knew me to be such from hearing me talk. I don’t know of any threats, molestations or injury inflicted on the claimant his family or his property on account of his Union sentiments. I know of nothing said or done by the claimant that would have prevented him from proving his loyalty to the Confederacy except what I have stated. I think of nothing more that would go to show the claimant’s loyalty.

[–?–] examined by Spl. Commr. the witness answered: The claimant was outspoken in the expression of Union sentiments after the war commenced. I did not see him vote but he told me he voted against secession. I know nothing about his sympathies in regard to the war except what I have stated. I remember no other language of the claimant except what I have stated.


William L. Marler

Sworn to & subscribed before me at Gainesville GA Sept. 17th 1874

  1. A. Darnell

Spl. Comr.

The claimant being sworn as to the property & being interrogated by spl. comr. says: The property charged in this claim was my own. Nobody else had any interest in it or any part of it when this property was taken. I got receipts for all that was taken. The receipts were as nearly as I can recollect as follows:

[followed by transcriptions of the two receipts shown above]I do not recollect the dates exactly but I think the foregoing exhibits are correct & I rely on them for proof of the taking of the property. I [–?–] the originals in the hand of Mr. Ril—my atty & he tells me they are filed with his atty & in Washington


John Seay

Sworn to & subscribed before me at Gainesville GA Sept 17, 1874

  1. A. Darnell

Spl. Comr.

Green Harris col. being sworn & being interrogated as to the property by this claimant’s counsel says. I am about 38 years old. I live with the claimant in Jackson Co. I have lived there all my life. I have been a farmer all the time. I am not interested in the success of the claim. I was present when all the property was taken. I saw them taking the corn. I cut the bacon down(?) for them & saw them take that. I saw them taking the fodder. I don’t know that the property or any part of it was taken in the night or secretly. I heard Mr. Seay complaining about the taking of the property when we were taking down the bacon. The man who was taking it told Mr. Seay he would give him a showing(?) so he could get pay for it. I saw Mr. Seay get a paper – saw him have it in his hand. They gave Mr. Seay a paper about the property. I don’t know where the paper is. Mr. Seay has never been paid for any property charged in this claim. He was never paid for any other property taken from him that I know of. I know of no other claim he can [–?–] out for this or any other property besides this claim. The troops that took the property were camped near Mr. Seay. They were traveling through the country. There had been no fighting [–?–] that I knew of. I saw corn taken. It was in the crib, it was shucked. It was in Mr. Seay’s crib at his house. I don’t know the quantity. It was good [–?–] corn as far as I know. I don’t know what it was worth in good money. It was taken about the last of April or first of May 1865. [–?–][–?–] say it was Johnson’s men(?). I recollect his name, he was an officer. They had wagons & hauled the corn in them. Some of it was taken off in bags. I don’t know how many men(?) but many(?) and don’t know how many men or wagons there were. They were camped all around on Mr. Seay’s place & took the corn to their camp. I don’t know whether there were any officers present or not. I don’t know whether the taking was necessary or not. The fodder was in an old gin house. I don’t know how much [–?–][–?–][–?–][–?–]in the stable loft. Don’t know how much they took. It was good sound fodder. Don’t know what it was worth. It was taken in the same way & by the same men that took the corn. It has been so long I have forgotten about it. The bacon was in the smokehouse. Don’t know how many pounds. It was good sound bacon. Don’t know the price. It was taken the next morning after the corn & fodder were taken. I belonged to Mr. Seay. I was then a slave. I am now in his service. I live on his land & am in debt to him. I owe him about 20 or 25 dols, I expect. I am not a sharer in this claim if it is allowed. He brought me here on his interest.

Cross examined by Spl. Commr the witness answers: It was in 1865 the property was taken. I don’t know the authority for taking the property or any thing about the command. The men were not all dressed one way.

Green Harris

Sworn to & subscribed before me at Gainesville GA Sept. 17th 1874

  1. A. Darnell

Sp. Comr.

[Note: This claim was not approved, and the file does not say why. However, based on other files I have seen, the fact that John Seay gave clothing to his sons in the Confederate Army would probably be sufficient to deny the claim.]Submitted by Cheryl Chasin



Confederate Amnesty Papers

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued a general amnesty and pardon to “all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion.” The amnesty required only that those desiring to be covered by it take an oath to remain loyal to the United States in the future. The oath in full, as stated in the proclamation:
I ___________ do solemnly swear (or affirm); in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.
The amnesty excluded fourteen categories of individuals, including those who had held office in the Confederate government and army officers above the rank of colonel. However, even those in the excluded categories could be covered upon special application for pardon. The Confederate Amnesty Papers contain records of these special applications. Two later proclamations drastically reduced the number of exceptions, and on December 25, 1868, President Johnson issued a final proclamation granting unconditional amnesty to all.