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Johnny Vardeman: Line has been drawn between Georgia, Tennessee
Johnny Vardeman

The Georgia legislature approved yet another resolution aimed at moving the Georgia border with Tennessee.

Some legislators want to annex enough of Tennessee to access its water resources, something Tennesseans no doubt resist.

The dispute arises now and then because the 35th parallel was defined as Georgia’s northern boundary since 1861. But the line that had actually been surveyed several decades earlier put it about a half mile to a mile south of the 35th parallel.

So why not use the 35th parallel? Because, says boundaries expert  Farris Cadle, U.S. Supreme Court and other rulings for years have said that if a boundary between two states has been run out, located and marked on the ground and is later recognized and acquiesced in by the states over the years, that becomes the boundary, whether or not it was originally erroneously located.

Cadle, a registered land surveyor and author of “Georgia Land Surveying History and Law,” wishes the legislature would quit dabbling in the border business and instead amend the Georgia code to confirm the surveyed line as the boundary.

He believes attempts to change the Georgia-Tennessee line are a waste of time and gets Tennesseans’ dander up unnecessarily.

Hall County’s Sen. Butch Miller has been quoted as saying the state just wants “to put a straw” in Nickajack Lake fed by the Tennessee River near Chattanooga.

Cadle says practically all of Georgia’s boundaries contain some errors. There have been disputes with both Carolinas over those lines. Georgia lost a chunk of picturesque territory, including the Nantahala River and National Forest, in the tiff with North Carolina years ago.

County lines

According to historic maps of Georgia, Hall County’s line has changed several times, and it also has had border disputes with other counties, including Gwinnett.

Hall County’s northern and western boundary once was the Chattahoochee River. Beyond the river was Indian territory. But treaties with the Cherokees moved the border to the Chestatee River, and the shape of the county has changed since.

Hall County got pieces of Franklin and Jackson counties in 1818. You can’t rely too much on these old maps, witness the Georgia-Tennessee case, but an 1822 map shows a skinny Hall County with Walton and Rabun counties as adjacent neighbors. An 1834 map shows Hall County bordered on the south and east by Walton and Franklin counties.        

Hall’s northern border must have changed way back when because an 1834 map shows “Walker’s Mountain” in Lumpkin County. Wauka Mountain is the mini-mountain near Clermont in Hall County today.

If you look at the northern Hall County line, it has a little notch north of Clermont that inches along Shoal Creek Road (Ga. 284) into White County. When White County formed out of Habersham County, perhaps some property owners in that area preferred to be in Hall County.

Garrison Baker, who wrote a history of White County, tells a story of how the county was formed and how it got its name. Habersham County was a large county, and residents in the western area complained it was too far to travel to the county seat and suggested another county be formed. State Rep. William Shelton of Mount Yonah, then in Habersham, promised to create another county. He would name the county “Wofford” and the county seat “Woffordsville” after a prominent Habersham family.

Shelton’s first bill died in the 1857 legislative session after two separate votes. So dejected, he sat down on the steps of the Capitol and cried. Along came Rep. David T. White of Newton County, who felt so sorry for him he went back into the Capitol and persuaded legislators to create the new county. Shelton might have named the new county after himself or the original “Wofford;” instead he named it after White, who had come to his rescue on the last day of the legislative session.

History on stage

“Cheever,” the play about pioneer potter Cheever Meaders, is returning for encore performances April 24-28 at the Sautee Nacoochee Community Center near Helen. The play will be presented at 7:30 p.m. except the 28th is a 4 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are available online at or by calling 706-878-3300. Actors will be the same cast as in the original production last August.       

Watch for more local history in this column next Sunday.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone 770-532-2326; email