Gwinnett County was established on December 15, 1818 and named after Button Gwinnett, one of Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence. The other two Georgian signers, Lyman Hall and George Walton, also had counties named in their honor.
Gwinnett was formed from land ceded to the state of Georgia by the Cherokee and Creek Indians, as well as portions of neighboring Jackson County. The Chattahoochee Rivers forms a natural boundary line in Gwinnett’s northwest border.
Due to surrounding Indian hostility and their increasing aid to the enemy at the start of the War of 1812, Fort Daniel was built near Hog Mountain to provide safety to the the region. A road was built to connect Fort Daniel to another fort at Standing Peachtree, approximately 30 miles into Indian territory near present day Atlanta. This road become known as Peachtree Road.
After Gwinnett’s creation, all legal matters were held at the house of Elisha Winn, intended to be a temporary location until a proper courthouse could be constructed. Winn was given the power to choose where county seat would be, and was in charge of the courthouse’s construction.
In 1821, Lawrenceville was officially incorporated and named Gwinnett’s county seat. The courthouse went through a few buildings before the building now known the Historic Courthouse was constructed in 1885. This courthouse served as the center of Gwinnett’s government until 1988.
Gwinnett remained relatively unscathed during the Civil War, despite Sherman and his Union troops march through the area on their way towards Atlanta. Because the county avoided destruction, along with the railroad built in 1871 connecting Gwinnett and Atlanta, the county began to explode in growth. The railroad helped create several new cities such as Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee and Buford. Ten years later, a small spur line was created to connect Suwanee and Lawrenceville. In 1891, another main railroad was built through Lawrenceville, Lilburn and Dacula. The railway helped provide Gwinnett with the means to become the industrial powerhouse it would become in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Leather was one of the primary goods manufactured and exported in Gwinnett. Large tanneries were built alongside the railroad depot in Buford, constructing leather goods such as harnesses, whips, shoes, and handmade saddles. The tannery was such a major financial machine for Buford that the Great Depression did not affect the city as much as it did the rest of the nation.
Cotton was a popular export during the late 1800s, but had a sharp falling off due to less demand for the product and large acres of the crop falling to a boll weevil outbreak. As cotton declined, many Gwinnett farmers quickly turned to diary and started producing dairy farms.
The next major turning point in Gwinnett’s history came in 1950, when the U.S. Congress authorized the construction of the Buford Dam. The dam was built to provide power, flood and water supply control, and to bolster recreational tourism. The dam brought about the creation of Lake Lanier, which soon became a popular vacation spot after the extension of I-85 made traveling there easier.
Gwinnett’s population boomed again in the late 1980s, and it was the fastest growing county in the United States from 1986 to 1988. With the passing of the special purpose local option sales tax programs (SPLOST) in the late 1980s, Gwinnett was able to accrue the revenue needed to build roads, parks, and libraries, renovate historic buildings, and build new municipal structures. This continued focus on improving the community is why Gwinnett still sees large population growth and is still considered one of the best places to live in the nation.