The Cherokee Land Lotteries of North Georgia

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:  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)
  • Catoosa
  • Chattooga
  • Cherokee
  • Cobb
  • Dade
  • Dawson
  • Fannin
  • Floyd
  • Forsyth
  • Gilmer
  • Gordon
  • Lumpkin
  • Milton (originally formed from parts of other counties, is now north Fulton County)
  • Murray
  • Paulding
  • Pickens
  • Polk
  • Towns
  • Union
  • Walker
  • Whitfield

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:  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.










The Cherokee Land Lotteries of North Georgia — 20 Comments

  1. I am looking for the location of the property won by my great-great-grandfather Nicholas Albright. I have found his name in the winners but I can’t find the location of his parcel. He was in the 1832 lottery–8th district,3rd section,Cherokee parcel #288. I would like to have a vague idea of where this land was located. Thanks for your help. Ruth McCarty

  2. A book on the 1832 Land Lottery by James Smith is on under and then Search on Cheroke Land Lottery and it was the first book in the list. It has maps but they have no roads, the only identification is creeks and rivers. Lot 288 is right on a river which may give you some idea where it is if you can match it up to a current map. These lots and districts are still used as land descriptions today and a county office or library might be able to help. From the maps I can locate, it looks like District 8, Section 3 is in Gordon county. If you don’t know the county, I would start by trying to locate the county and then use the book by Smith.

  3. My GG grandfather, Henry M Gunter was a Lottery winner in the 454 Walton Co District Cherokee Co 12th District, 2nd Section, I think after the original Cherokee Co was divided, the land parcel would have been located in Gilmer Co. Ga. I haven’t been able to find if he ever took possession, or sold prior to 1838, I have located him in the 1840 census in Meriwether Co, no record of him after then, however located his wife, my GG grandmother and 4 children in Walton co, 1850 census, wife never shows up after that. Trying to put pieces together, thought any info as to the exact location and disposition of the 1832 lottery parcel might be helpful. Thanks, Bob

    • I appreciate any information that you have concerning Henry M Gunter and the 1832 Georgia Land lottery….Thanks Bob

  4. Looking for more information about the lottery won by James Rylee Sr. & James Rylee Jr. in North Georgia

    • If you have sent something I do not have it. Let me know where this land is that James Rylee Sr. won in a land lottery in North Georgia. Was it Walker County or Whitfield County

    • Trying to determine who James Henry Rylee’s Father or Grandfather. Having this information should help. I am thinking it might be Bennett Rylee. I know my Grandfather James Henry was born in Dalton Georgia and I know that it was Whitfield County so I thought this information might help in this quest.

  5. I am looking for the location of the property won by my great-great-grandfather Seaborn Milligan. 15th district, 4th Section, Cherokee but no “parcel” listed. Would you be able to tell me where this is? To my knowledge, he never actually lived anywhere but Wilkes and Pike/Spalding counties in Georgia. Thank you!
    Jeannie Milligan Harper

    • The records usually show where he was living when he drew the lucky draw. Not everyone ever occupied the land they drew, some sold the land and, I believe, some just never bothered to claim it. The maps I referred to before will tell you where the section and district were. You can use that to try to find further records.

      The 15th district, 4th section was due west of Rome, GA on the Alabama border in what is now Floyd Co. These maps are available online. I searched on “Cherokee Land Lottery section maps” and got the maps.

      Genealogy is a work of love and it takes a lot of time, sometimes quite a bit of money. It isn’t something you spend an afternoon doing and expect to learn much. That’s what I see from a lot of people. Some of these answers take work to find.

      • I know a James Rylee Sr. and a James Rylee Jr both won land in the Georgia Lottery but I do not know where this land is located. Blackstone’s Hall and Martin. 7th District, 1st Section, Cherokee

        • I see that James Rylee, Sr. drew lot 181, district 7, 1st section. Here is a link to a page where you can dowload a list of fortunate drawers and maps whowing where their land was:

          Lot 181 is right on the western edge of section 1 so, it was in Union Co. near the Gilmer line. Counties have changed; this lot is now in Fannin Co. James Rylee, Sr. lived in Blackstock’s Dist. in Hall Co.

          There was a Bennett Rylee and John Rylee who drew from Hall Co. As a revolutionary soldier, James Rylee, Sr. was entitled to two draws and both were lucky draws. He also drew lot 198 in the 22nd dist., 2nd section. The 22nd district would have been just west of Canton with the Cherokee/Bartow line bisecting it north to south. Lot 198 would be in present day Cherokee Co., Ga. I can add that Lick Creek shown on the old map is called Stamp Creek today.

          Here is a good overview of the districts and sections:

          James Rylee, Jr. was also shown as a soldier but not as a revolutionary soldier. He drew lot 111 of 26th dist., 3rd section. That’s just SW of Dalton in today’s Walker Co.

  6. I live in Calhoun Ga. and have been trying to get information on the history of ownership on my land. I would appreciate any direction you could provide as it pertains to the land lottery.

    I am located about 2 miles east of town on what is now Dews Pond Rd. 3094 is the address if that helps. Thanks in advance for you help.

  7. I would love to know the location where my GGG grandfather was. His name was James Norton, he won in the 1832 lottery, number 161; district 6, 1st section. That would be for Walker County, Ga.
    Thanks for helping with this, you are a blessing.

    Thanks again,

  8. I am looking for my husbands third great grandfather ( Berry Drake ) location of the land he won in the 1838 GA Land Lottery. It is No. 102 Ninth District, Second Section, Cherokee.

    Thank you Clare Drake

    • Someone, as I don’t remember who sent me a copy of the land that my Great Great Grandfather, James Rylee bought. There is a map and I think it came from the Internet speaking of Land Lotteries of North Georgia and I believe I responded to that message and that is where that I received the map. Good Luck

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