A real part of the charm of Decatur is the square and the configuration of roads and buildings around what we call the “old Courthouse,” constructed in 1917. Pictured above, the layout and perspective from the air affords an opportunity to see how Americans surveyed land after removing Indians from the frontier.
Bird’s-eye view of the picturesque square in Decatur centered on the old courthouse, now housing offices of the DeKalb History Center.
After the Creek land cession of 1821, the Georgia legislature, then in Milledgeville, created five “mega-counties” generally west of Gwinnett. One was Henry County, named after patriot Patrick Henry. In 1822, lawmakers carved out of Henry County the new DeKalb County, named after Johan DeKalb, a German who served in the Revolutionary War.
Based on old English models, Americans methodically divided counties first into land districts, and then subdivided the property into land lots. These were subdivided into “squares” of 202.5 acres each. Certain squares were reserved for county seats; and for DeKalb it was the city of Decatur (named after War of 1812 hero Stephen Decatur), which originally had a log cabin courthouse. Much of DeKalb County then grew outward from Decatur Square.
Dr. Paul Hudson, historian at Georgia Perimeter College, writes stories for the Decatur Dispatch and is a member of the DeKalb History Center.