The land on which the town center of Lawrenceville GA is located was bought by Elisha Winn for $200 and the county constructed a wooden courthouse on the square in the middle of the town. In 1824 the first permanent brick courthouse was built on the town square by Major Grace and a farming community developed and expanded with the layout of the adjacent property. To prevent livestock from trampling the lawn a fence was built around the courthouse. However, it was a fire, and not beasts that destroyed the original structure in 1871. Courtland Winn was chosen as the first mayor in 1884 at the age of 21 and served two terms.
The Trail of Tears
Lawrenceville became deeply involved in the state land grab of Cherokee Indian land that ended in “The Trail of Tears” as the Cherokee were forced off their land. Gwinnett County Court in Lawrenceville played a major role as the state of Georgia was forced to expand the jurisdiction of local frontier courts to deal with the whole affair. The first round of the case “Worcester vs Georgia” was heard in the Lawrenceville court in which the laws of the state of Georgia was challenged by Samuel Worcester.
A missionary known as “The Messenger”, along with others were arrested by the Georgia Guard. Tied by the neck they were forced to march barefoot to Lawrenceville from Talking Rock. When they arrived in Lawrenceville they encountered courtesy and warm sympathy and two prominent locals, Dr. Alexander and Reverend Wilson personally secured their release. The famous case ended in the Supreme Court where the Cherokee Nation was granted sovereignty.
“Honest Alley” was a mixed-use business and retail downtown complex where mules were traded in good faith and where locals came to buy and sell produce and livestock. Furriers and a tannery were located near the town center and grist mills were established in the outlying areas. Mostly relying on an agricultural economy, the population and growth of the town were greatly affected by the resultant boom-bust cycle of an agrarian community. Dairy farming flourished after boil weevils decimated the cotton crops, causing prices to plummet. The Panic of 1837 took a heavy toll on the city resulting in the closure of a number of businesses and buyouts of small farms by larger ones and the population of this agricultural-based county seat started to fall.
Throughout the late 1800s the railroad played a significant part in moving freight and people to the eastern seaboard and Lawrenceville was established as a significant transportation hub. However, most of the community used mules for transportation until 1929 when US Highway 29, was constructed. Thirty years later the Interstate 85 ran all the way to Pleasant Hill Road which put North Georgia firmly on the map.