Jefferson, Georgia, (population 16,443) was established in 1803 at the site of a former Indian village called Thomocoggan. The town, named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson, was selected as the county seat and incorporated in 1806.
The city limits of Jefferson were originally defined as a circle “three-fourths of a mile in every direction from the center of the public square.” By the 1840s, Jefferson was a rough-and-ready town with a jumble of wood-frame businesses and residences. Located on the route from Augusta to Dahlonega, where gold was discovered in 1842, Jefferson had two inns to serve the stagecoach trade.
The Jefferson Mills, a cotton-to-cloth textile manufacturer, was founded in 1899 and operated solely by a local family from 1916 until 1990. The mill provided work for many, spurred other businesses, and drove the town’s economy until well into the 20th century. Changing market forces resulted in the closure of the mill, as well as many downtown businesses that had been fixtures for decades. Now the buildings are finding new uses as the downtown regains its vitality.
Historical attractions in Jefferson include the Crawford Long Museum, dedicated to the memory of the Georgia physician who discovered anesthesia, and to the impact of his discovery on medicine and life in the 19th century. Another site is the Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm, an outdoor agricultural museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The community recently developed the Historic Jefferson Walking/Drive Tour Brochure, which highlights homes, public buildings, churches, and a cemetery in the town’s six historic districts.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2009.