Cherokee County, in northwest Georgia, was formed from Cherokee Indian Territory in December 1831, after the discovery of gold in the region in 1828. In December 1832 the area was divided into ten counties—Cass (Bartow), Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Murray, Paulding, and Union—and in 1853 Pickens County was formed from the northern part of Cherokee and the southern part of Gilmer counties. The Cherokee Indians were gathered into such settlements as Fort Buffington, east of Canton, before being driven out on the Trail of Tears for present-day Oklahoma in 1838-39. The removal of the Cherokees opened up the new territory for agricultural uses, especially the cultivation of cotton and corn, the mining of gold and marble, the making of moonshine, the manufacture of cotton and rope, and the construction of both a railroad in 1879 and a highway for shipping goods.
The county seat, Canton—named for the Chinese city during a short-lived attempt by residents to establish a silk industry—was originally called Etowah, for the Etowah River flowing through the town. The county's fourth courthouse, built in 1929 from white Georgia marble, today houses county administration offices. The current courthouse, the Frank C. Mills III Justice Center, was built in 1993. The Canton Cotton Mills, founded by R. T. Jones in 1899, was the county's main industry until the mills closed in 1981. Today the poultry and technology industries, the expansion of metropolitan Atlanta, and the growth of planned communities are the main reasons for the continuing influx of new residents into Canton. The city is also home to Northside Hospital-Cherokee.
Other communities in the county are Ball Ground, named after a stick ball game played between the Cherokee and Creek Indians; Nelson, shared by neighboring Pickens County in the north; Waleska (the home of Reinhardt University and Funk Heritage Center), named after Warluskee, the daughter of an Indian chief; Holly Springs, south of Canton, named after a spring surrounded by holly trees; and Woodstock, in the southern part of the county. Woodstock has a rich history, a topography of gently rolling hills, fertile soil for agriculture, and accessibility to Atlanta. The Woodstock Depot, Dean's Store, Dixie Speedway, the Kellogg Gold Mine, the Rock Barn, Crescent Farm, Towne Lake, and nearby Lake Allatoona are historical and modern sites of interest.
Cherokee County has been home to two Georgia governors, Joseph E. Brown and his son, Joseph M. Brown; former U.S. secretary of state Dean Rusk; golfer Bobby Jones; and writer Mary Hood.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Cherokee County is 214,346, a significant increase over the 2000 population of 141,903. The community has grown rapidly, partly because of its proximity to Atlanta and the interstate highway corridor.