If you reside in Gwinnett or DeKalb, then you’re on land once held by the Creek Indians. In the early history of Georgia, the British claimed land, mainly for large plantations, under authority of royal charters. But after independence when Americans moved west, officials in Georgia distributed three-quarters of the state’s land through a lottery system to benefit white yeoman farmers.
There were eight land lotteries in Georgia from 1805 to 1833, but it was the ones in 1820-1821 that led to white settlement in Gwinnett and then in DeKalb. Common men received lottery lands based on eligibility and chance, paying miniscule amounts averaging 7 cents per acre for lots typically 202.5 acres.
Actual lotteries typically took place in the antebellum capital of Milledgeville, where commissioners randomly drew names out of rolling drums. U.S veterans from the Revolutionary War, 1812, or Indian Wars, got precedence, but other classifications included families with three-year residence requirements. Participation fee was a hefty $19, but winning meant bargain land prices. The last lottery was $10 per acre in 1832 for gold districts in Dahlonega as the Cherokee nation faded.
The lottery system helped power shifts from aristocrats to everyday farmers. With enslavement and cot-ton, some landowners moved up the social ladder, but that was unusual. Descendants of white lottery win-ners sold their land over the years while effects of emancipation and the end of sharecropping for blacks were for generations slow in coming. Indians participated in landholding again only until after they became thoroughly assimilated into the U.S.
–Dr. Paul Hudson