The Johns Creek Historical Society wants to get the word out that the history of Johns Creek goes beyond the founding of the city in 2006. The historical society is two years old, but as Joan Compton said, they have barely started telling the story of Johns Creek.
“Two years ago, when I was floating the idea of the historical society, Johns Creek was 10 years old. People said, ‘Well, we’re 10 years old. Where’s the history?’” said Compton, who serves as the historical society’s president. “I would remind them very politely that people lived here and things happened here before there was a city of Johns Creek. Then, their reaction was, ‘Yeah, but history didn’t happen here.’”
The Johns Creek Historical Society holds meetings on the first Wednesday of each month, with most featuring speakers or presenters discussing local history. The historical society is also active in the community, such as doing research on grave plots at the old Macedonia Church Cemetery. The society is also partnering with the city of Johns Creek to establish an oral history program through which residents can record their memories and family stories on video.
Compton said that as interest in the historical society has grown, the group’s biggest need now is a permanent home.
The society holds donated items from families who have deep roots in Johns Creek. However, it does not yet have a place to display the items or organize the collections into an exhibit.
The Alpharetta and Old Milton Historical Society has offered space to Johns Creek in its facilities as Compton continues to find a place in Johns Creek. She has spoken with Johns Creek city officials about the possibility of having space in the new City Hall that will open this year.
“Alpharetta has said they would love to tell our part of history, and I’ve told City Council that I’m fine with that,” she said. “I work a lot with the Alpharetta historical society, but I think it’s important that we have our own history story.”
Compton told some of these stories at a recent meeting of the Johns Creek-North Fulton Rotary Club. She discussed the vibrant history of Johns Creek from 188 years ago, when the area was part of the Cherokee Nation.
The Cherokee history of Johns Creek begins with John Rogers, who married into the Cherokee Nation in 1819. Rogers and his wife, Sally Cordery, built their house on land near Bell Road, where they operated a successful farm. The Rogers had 12 children, and three of their sons — Robert, William and Johnson — negotiated with the U.S. government, leading to the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. The treaty paved the way for the state of Georgia to evict the Cherokee from their land and move them to Oklahoma.
“Please don’t judge them. Because they knew so many leaders in the United States and because they were leaders in the Cherokee Nation, it became obvious to these guys that Georgia and the United States were never going to allow them to stay,” she said. “They came to a conclusion that, ‘We can stay, fight and be massacred. We can stay and be pushed out with nothing, or we can negotiate.’”
Another piece of Johns Creek history that residents may not be aware of is the community’s role in the Dahlonega gold rush of 1828. At the height of the gold rush, Johns Creek was home to six gold mines. Three were in the Shakerag area, and one had a stamp mill powered by Cauley Creek. Another mine operated on Perimeter Church property, and a mine shaft is recorded at Autrey Mill.
The gold rush also played a role in forcing the Cherokee out of Georgia. The state of Georgia held the gold lottery of 1832 to award land across the Chattahoochee River to extract gold. Participants who won received a 40-acre parcel of land for which they paid $10 upon the condition that no Cherokee occupied the land.
The Johns Creek Gold Rush was short-lived, but it provided historians with detailed land surveys of Johns Creek that are used today in studying local history.
For more information about the Johns Creek Historical Society, visit www.johnscreekhistory.org.