When you think of a lottery in Georgia, you probably think of laying a dollar on the counter and hoping to win thousands or even millions of dollars. But, the current lottery sponsored by the State of Georgia is not the first lottery in the state’s history. In the first half of the 19th century Georgia held several lotteries, but the prizes were not millions of dollars but acres of land!
As immigrants flooded “The New World,” the American colonies, and later states, used a variety of methods to distribute land to these new residents. Georgia used some of these methods, but the one it finally settled on was unique among the States – the land lottery. The state conducted eight of these lotteries to distribute its land from 1805 – 1833. The last three, conducted in 1832 and 1833, were used to distribute the former lands of the Cherokees who had been removed to Oklahoma from their last stronghold, mostly in North Georgia, but also including parts of Alabama and Tennessee. The Treaty of New Echota, which extinguished the claims of the Cherokees east of the Mississippi, and the subsequent disaster of their removal, commonly called “The Trail of Tears,” will be discussed here at a later time.
Once the treaty had been ratified by the U.S. Government, Georgia began making plans for distribution of its land being vacated by the Cherokees. Surveyors were elected from existing Georgia counties and the work of surveying began. The land was divided into 4 Sections comprised of most of North Georgia, particularly Northwest Georgia. Each Section was further divided into Districts, and each District was divided into the actual individual Land Lots that would be awarded to the ”fortunate drawers,” as they were called. Each land lot was 160 acres, unless evidence of gold was found in the district, in which case the lots were 40 acres. These “gold lots” were distributed in a separate lottery, and there was also a third drawing where “fractional” lots, and any others not included in the previous two, were drawn.
There were several requirements to be eligible for a draw, the most important being that the person must have been a citizen of the State of Georgia for a certain period of time. Some persons, such as Revolutionary War veterans, widows and orphans, received more than one draw. An “interesting” side note is that since the Cherokees were not considered Georgia citizens, they were not eligible to participate in “winning back” their own land. For more details, including the exact eligibility requirements, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website at: http://sos.georgia.gov/archives/what_do_we_have/land_lottery/default.htm. The three lotteries used to distribute Cherokee Georgia were the 6th (160 acre lots) in 1832, the 7th (or gold lottery – 40 acre lots) in 1832, and the 8th (all lots not distributed in the other two) in 1833.
The drawings took place at the state capitol. Tickets with the drawers’ names were placed in one drum or wheel, and slips of paper for each land lot were placed in another, and lottery officials drew one slip from each wheel. If a person drew a lot, he/she could pay the fee and receive a grant deed to the land. Most of these deeds have been lost, but there are a few originals in existence.
Most current deeds in this part of Georgia still use the same method of describing the land, so it may be possible to discover the “fortunate drawer” of the land you or an ancestor lived on. See the list below for the current North Georgia counties covered by the Cherokee land lotteries. To find the land lot of a parcel of land, look at the current deed (usually a warranty deed) for the legal description which will state something like this: “All that tract or parcel of land being in Land Lot 129 of the 15th District, 3rd Section of Gordon County, Georgia…” This will be the actual land lot/district/section drawn in the 1832/1833 lottery.
The standard index for the 6th lottery is “The 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery of Georgia” published in 1838 – compiled by James F. Smith. Reprints of this work are available, and indexes may also be found online. Both name and lot number indexes are available for this lottery. There are both print and electronic indexes for the 1832 gold lottery (7th) available, but are indexed by name only. Besides listing the names of the “fortunate drawers,” these indexes list the drawers’ places of residence when they registered for the lottery, and state if they were widows, orphans, Revolutionary War veterans, etc.
Current counties in North Georgia whose lands were distributed in the Cherokee Land Lotteries of 1832/1833 are:
- Bartow (originally called Cass)
- Milton (originally formed from parts of other counties, is now north Fulton County)
If you own property in one of these counties, then it most likely was “won” in one of the three Cherokee lotteries. If you want to know who originally drew your lot, but don’t have access to an index, just drop me me a note and I’ll see if I can find more information about it for you. Also, one of the services we provide is researching house histories or the chain of ownership for a piece of property. Not all records exist to be able to trace an unbroken chain back to the lottery, but we’ll be happy to try for you. Just contact us here: www.DeepRootsInTheSouth.com. And, I would love to hear from you if you have one of the original grant deeds or you can trace your chain of ownership back to the lotteries.