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Sandy Springs History

Click below to discover the rich history of Sandy Springs!

Before Columbus (1000 BCE – 1000 CE)

During the historic period, the Chattahoochee River served as a boundary between the Cherokee Nation to the north and the Muscogee Creek to the south. “Cherokee” has no meaning in the native language of this tribe. They call themselves Yun-wiya, loosely translated it means, ‘the people.” The name “Creek” is an adaptation of Ocheese Creek, the name given by English settlers to the native people living along Ocheese Creek (Ocmulgee River). Both groups practiced an economy based on agriculture, hunting, and fishing.

Three Native American fishing weirs can still be seen in the Chattahoochee River at the intersections of Sope Creek and Mulberry Creek. Weirs were created by piling stones in a “V” shape. Fish trapped in the weir were easy to catch or spear. Sandy Springs lies south of the Chattahoochee, but the land, like the river, was probably used by both groups.

Although no archaeological evidence has been found to support the claim, tradition holds that the spot where five springs bubble out of the sandy soil was used as a trading site. Whether true or not, the sandy springs are a distinctive landmark that have lent their name to the entire community.

Land Lottery (1805 – 1840)

The borders of Creek and Cherokee lands were never fully respected by settlers or the government. Missionaries, traders, hunters, travelers, and farmers regularly trespassed on Native American lands. As early as 1819 there is evidence that gold was being mined near the Cherokee town of Sixes. The lure of easy riches sparked a gold rush as thousands of settlers swarmed into the land belonging to the Cherokee. Almost immediately, the Georgia legislature began planning to remove the Cherokee from their land.

In 1821, Creek land was divided into five counties by the United States Government. The counties were then subdivided into districts and land lots. Each land lot was 202 ½ acres. Through treaty, warfare, and outright removal the homelands of the Creek and Cherokee were in the hands of the (U.S) government by 1840. The most infamous removal being the Trail of Tears.

Lured by the availability of cheap land, many families migrated along the Great Pennsylvania Wagon Route which ran from the Mid-Atlantic States, through Virginia and the Carolina’s into to the new Georgia counties, others traveled north from coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

Seven times between 1805 and 1832 Georgia used a lottery to distribute land. Almost 3/4 of the land in present-day Georgia was distributed under the lottery system. Commissioners appointed by the governor would draw the names and lot numbers from two separate drums. For a fee of $19.00, the fortunate drawer could take out a grant on the land he drew. The lotteries tended to create a settlement pattern that produced small isolated farm sites rather than towns.

Persons Entitled to draw:

  • Bachelor, 18 years or over, 3 years resident in GA citizen of the United States – 1 draw
  • Widow, 3 year residence in GA – 1 draw
  • Family of minor orphans. Father dead, 3 year residence in Georgia – 1 draw
  • Family (3 or more) of minor orphans, father and mother dead – 2 draws
  • Family (one or two) of minor orphans, father and mother dead – 1 draw
  • Widow, husband killed or died in Revolutionary war, War of 1812, or Indian Wars, 3 year residence in Georgia – 2 draws
  • Orphan, father killed or died in Revolutionary War, War of 1812, or Indian Wars – 2 draws
  • Child or family of children of a convict, 3 year residence in Georgia – 1 draw

War & Invasion (1861 – 1864)

The Civil War left its mark on the land and people of Sandy Springs. Young men, mostly in their early twenties, left home for the first time. Many would not return home.

Since Charleston and Savannah had become victim to ever tightening northern blockades, Atlanta, which was barely 27 years old, became the south’s transportation hub .Certain, that the destruction of the railroads and down fall of the city would mean an end to the Confederacy, the Union forces relentlessly pushed towards Atlanta.

On July 8, 1864 General Schofield succeeded in making the Union’s first crossing of the Chattahoochee at Sope Creek, and arrived on the Atlanta side of the river.

From July 8th until July 18th Schofield’s men remained in Sandy Springs and camped along the ridge of Mt. Vernon Highway.

General Sherman, from his temporary headquarters at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Powers Ferry Road split the troops and sent groups toward Buckhead, Decatur, Peachtree Road, and Cross Keys in an effort to surround Atlanta.

Rural Life (1800's – 1940's)

For a little more than a century, the character of Sandy Springs was entirely rural. Between the early 1820’s when the area was officially opened for settlement and the 1940’s, the community was typical of other small communities in the rural South.

The majority of families were subsistence farmers, not the large plantation holders many people associate with the Deep South. They lived off the land, growing food, raising livestock, hunting, and fishing. Slaves also worked on the small farms. Nineteen slaves are recorded for the district in the 1840 Census. Unfortunately, the ten men and nine women were not named, however, research continues to identify them and tell their stories.

Industry, although usually not located inside the community, has always effected Sandy Springs. The grist, saw, and merchant mills of Cobb County and Roswell encouraged steady ferry operations across the Chattahoochee River.  Atlanta’s growth brought the need for improved roads and rail access. Names of early settlers remain part of the landscape: Abernathy, Hardeman, Heard, Power, Hilderbrand, Burdett, Jett, and Austin to name a few.

In this area, the church was the most important social outlet. One of the first churches was the Sandy Springs Methodist Church. Starting first as simply a gathering place under a brush arbor, the church eventually grew to have a permanent building and to host retreats, or camp meetings.

Camp meetings lasted up to five days and featured revival preaching day and night. People of all races and denominations took turns exhorting would-be converts. Not only a time for spiritual renewal, camp meetings were also gathering grounds where isolated farm families and friends could reunite and where the young could do some courting on their numerous visits to the springs to fetch water.

Camp meetings were festive affairs celebrated annually at a time when crops were laid by, thus providing a reprieve from the rigorous routine of farm life. They were usually the fourth weekend in August.

Rural Retreat (1920's)

During the late 1920s the Sandy Springs area became a popular spot for wealthy Atlanta residents to build summer homes. These homes were built in a rustic log or stone style. As a new Atlanta emerged after the Civil War, so did new industries.

Asa Chandler, the man who brought Coca-Cola to its initial fame had a summerhouse in the Sandy Springs area where his horses grazed around Long Island Creek. In the 1920s our community, once called Hammond became known as Burdal. A name derived by combining the names of two prominent families in the area the Burdetts and the Dalrymples, but like Hammond and Oak Grove after it, the name never caught on and residents still called the community Sandy Springs.

The Depression hit Sandy Springs as hard as elsewhere. The residents were cash poor and bartering became accepted. Men were forced to look for other means of sustaining their families.

The old stand by, moonshining, flourished. A more respectable job, if one was fortunate to get it, was that of a guard at the convict camp that was located near what is now Roswell Rd. and Hammond Drive.

WWII (1940's)

When convict camps were phased out in the 1940s, the prime source for non-farming jobs in the Sandy Springs area was closed. However, the United States soon found its self in World War II; things began to change rapidly in the community.

In nearby Cobb County a Bell Bomber Plant was opened. Locals, as well as people throughout the country, rushed to fill the new jobs that were needed to win the war.

On March 1st 1941 the Post Office officially adopted Sandy Springs as its name.

After the War, many service members and factory workers were able to buy their first home. Soon neighborhoods replaced farms and asphalt covered dirt roads and trails.

Back in the 1800’s it took a full day to reach Atlanta. At the beginning of the 20th Century that time was shorted to half a day. Now the residents of Sandy Springs can commute to Atlanta in less than thirty minutes.