FROM THE NORTH GEORGIA MOUNTAINS to the Chattahoochee River along a Cherokee Indian trail, a tiny village named New Prospect Camp Ground was formed. This village, made up of tents, a log school, and arbor became a trading post where Indians and white settlers exchanged their goods. The surrounding countryside provided excellent farming land, especially for cotton. On December 11, 1858, the town was chartered and became the county seat of Milton County. The town was renamed Alpharetta from the Greek words "alpha" meaning first and "retta" meaning town. In 1932, Milton County was merged into Fulton County.
Based upon original research by Anne Rogers Ferguson
Alpharetta and Milton County can trace their history to the time of the resettlement of the Cherokee Indian Nation in the 1830’s. First, drawn by the promise of free Indian lands, a few somewhat itinerant setters moved into the area. These first pioneers were soon followed by permanent farmers and merchants who were the fortunate winners of the land lotteries of the early 1830’s.
The first permanent landmark in the area was the New Prospect Campground, often referred to as the "Methodist Camp Ground". This campground was located next to a natural spring just north of the present "downtown" section of Alpharetta. A "Camp Meeting" in that era was the social and cultural highlight of the year for the families living on isolated farms with few travel options.
1858 was the year Alpharetta can date as its birth as a town. On December 11 of that year, Alpharetta was legally chartered. Prior to July of that year, the town was known as the "Town of Milton". The original town charter provided that the City could pass a tax on every grocery store, retailing liquor store, hallway and billiard table of not more than $25.00 per year. Another provision of that charter was the right to levy a tax of $25.00 on every show that may be exhibited within the City. The first report of the City Trustees showed a balance of $1,302. 00 for fiscal year 1859.
A courthouse and jail were soon constructed, and with building costs being what they were, the final bill for the completed facility was $2,400.00. This building served as a landmark for the city limits because, according to the charter, the limits were to extend in a one-half mile radius from the Courthouse.
By the time of the Civil War, Alpharetta had grown to a fair sized town with three hotels, several mercantile shops, numerous churches and a school. The farms around the area were for the most part small family farms and the majority of the farmers were not slave owners.
In 1863, an epidemic of smallpox spread through town. In one instance, 16 cases of the disease were recorded in two families alone. Guards were hired to keep people from leaving their quarantine and thereby spreading the sickness further.
Many of these early records are incomplete because as the left flank of the Union Army passed through Milton County, the original Courthouse was burned. In fairness, it was never established whether it was burned by the Union Troops or by retreating Confederate soldiers. In any case, one enterprising citizen, a Dr. O. P. Skeleton salvaged many of the court documents and carried them to a hiding place in Jackson County and promptly billed the City $30.00 for "services rendered". Later, the City paid O.P.’s friend, John Webb, $60.00 to bring them back.
As the Civil War drew to a close, Alpharetta, along with the rest of the South, suffered a period of economic hardship. These "hard times" tended to draw folks together and a sense of community identity began to grow. But, as hard as these times were, Milton County faired better than many areas. Since the area was populated primarily by small farms and merchants, the collapse of the "Plantation" economy had nowhere near the impact as in other communities.
In the next decades, growth in Milton County was steady, but never spectacular. The area was hampered by the lack of a railroad, around which most growth in those times was centered. The nearest railroad dead-ended at the river in Roswell. It is ironic that in those times a railroad was so important, but today the absence of a noisy and dangerous railroad track is considered desirable for community development.
When the depression of the early 1930’s devastated the nation’s economy, Milton County found itself near bankruptcy. In order to save the area from disaster, it was decided that a merger of Milton County with Fulton County would be to everyone’s advantage. It was because of this merger that the first roads began to be paved. Until that time, the only paved roads in the area were State Highway 19 (now Highway 9) and 120 (now Old Milton Parkway).
Today, Alpharetta is one of the fastest growing communities in the South. Its environment is considered ideal for raising families and living a quality lifestyle free from the problems found in so many similar sized cities.
Visitors to Alpharetta can learn more about its history by a trip to the Welcome Center.
Awesome Alpharetta Welcome Center
Hosted by the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau
178 South Main Street
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Out of State toll free 1-800-294-0923
Monday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm
Saturday 10 am - 4 pm.