Harris County History
Where Growth and Nature Thrive Since 1827
Long before Harris County came into existence, the area played an important part of Creek Indian affairs. William McIntosh played an important role in the affairs of Georgia. He was the son of British Army officer and cousin of Georgia Governor George M. Troup. McIntosh, from Creek Indian decent, rose from obscurity and became leader of the Lower Creek Indians. He was awarded the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army due to his friendly demeanor toward the Americans during the War of 1812. McIntosh’s greatest service to Georgia was his influence in getting the Lower Creek Indians to assent to the famous treaty of Indian Springs during 1825 which opened land for settlement which became Muscogee County and later a part of Harris County. By the Treaty of Indian Springs, Indian lands were ceded to Georgia and the Creek Indians moved across the Chattahoochee River to Alabama.
Harris County was created during December 1827 by an act of the Georgia General Assembly and assented to by Governor John Forsyth. The county was formed from portions of Muscogee and Troup counties. Georgia’s 71st county, with an area of 465 square miles, was named for Charles Harris (1772-1827), a distinguished Savannah attorney who was born in England, educated in France, and immigrated to the United States in 1788 at the age of 16. He traveled to Savannah to study law. While living in Savannah, he served as mayor of the city. Mr. Harris died on March 13,1827 and is buried in the old Colonial Cemetery in Savannah.
Harris County built its first courthouse in 1831 in Hamilton, the county seat that was incorporated in December 1828. The present courthouse was planned and a construction contract for $35,000 was let on October 7, 1907, the cornerstone made of white Tennessee marble was laid on January 25, 1908, the building was formally accepted on May 22, 1908, and the first court was conducted in the new courthouse on June 1, 1908. The courthouse was renovated during 1986-87 to include new electrical wiring, ceilings, roof, insulation, HVAC systems, handicap access, storm windows, carpeting, paint, and new telephone system. A new courthouse wing consisting of an additional 25,000 square feet was added during 1998-99. The main courtroom in the 1908 courthouse was renovated during 2002.
Harris County is also notable for being the first county in Georgia to have a commission form of government and having a U.S. Navy ship named for the county. During 1869, the Georgia General Assembly approved a local act creating a three-member Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenues with more counties using this form of government in subsequent years.
Today, the county has a commission-manager form of government whereby the elected and part-time Board of Commissioners appoints a full-time county manager to run the day-to-day operations of the county government. The USNS Harris County was built and commissioned during 1944 as a tank landing ship for World War II. The 328-foot diesel powered ship with a complement of 8-10 officers and 89-100 enlisted men and a troop capacity of 130 participated in the Battle of Okinawa during April 1945 and saw action in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 and the Vietnam War during 1954. The ship was also used in Artic operations from 1955 to 1956 and Pacific Ocean operations from 1956 to 1976 when it was sold to the Philippine Navy during September 1976 and renamed the Aurora. During the 1980s, the ship was decommissioned from the Philippine Navy and probably sold for scrap.
Harris County has retained its rural charm throughout the years and is home to Callaway Gardens, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, 23 mile Pine Mountain Trail, 13 mile Man O’ War Railroad Recreation Trail, Lake Harding, and many other recreational amenities.