History of Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville Courthouse

Incorporated on December 15, 1821, Lawrenceville, the county seat, is the oldest city in Gwinnett and the second oldest in Metro Atlanta. The town was named in honor of Captain James Lawrence, a War of 1812 naval commander who gave the memorable dying order, "Don't give up the ship!"

The original square in Lawrenceville was created as a location for the first permanent courthouse, built in 1824. Chosen because of several nearby springs, the inception of the courthouse and layout of adjacent property enabled the town to take shape.

Predominantly farmers, the area residents raised livestock, which regularly trampled the proud courthouse grounds. Various fences were built to keep animals from trespassing, but each failed. Even an eight-foot barricade proved unsuccessful because its chestnut railings were persistently pilfered as firewood. Eventually, the County Commissioners erected a granite and iron hedge to protect the hallowed soil. The permanence of the fence inspired the legend that anyone who sat on it and stayed in Lawrenceville for six months would become a citizen for life.

If the legend is true, thousands have since rested upon that fence.

The population of Lawrenceville has grown most abundantly in recent decades, but the area always offered promise. In the early days, most farmed cotton or otherwise benefited from the industry. An original cotton factory, Lawrenceville Manufacturing Company, made goods for the Confederates, and when it burned during the Civil War, another factory was built to replace it. Corn, lumber and brick also fueled the rural economy.

Even when crops failed, the people were resilient. After boll weevils decimated cotton farms and prices plummeted, dairy farming flourished. In the late 1800s through the turn of the century, the railroad established Lawrenceville as a valuable and viable transportation hub. From there, people and produce could be carried all the way to the eastern seaboard. To an even greater extent, however, modern roadways put Lawrenceville on map - although the first paved road - U.S. Highway 29 - didn't appear until 1929. At last, cars outnumbered horses and mules! Then, only 30 years later, Interstate 85 reached Pleasant Hill Road, and as Atlanta boomed, this sleepy suburb came alive. During the 1980s, Gwinnett earned the title of Fastest Growing County in the United States, and Lawrenceville hustled and bustled alongside her sister cities.

The historic Courthouse on the Lawrenceville Square is the home of the Gwinnett Historical Society which offers a look into the colorful past of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County.

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