City of Demorest History
Who wouldn't like to have a perfect place to live? A site whose climate, location and morals are completely agreeable to its residents? A group of people who came from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Indiana perhaps had such a vision of Utopia in mind when, in 1889, they moved to the area now known as Demorest.
Looking beyond the sawmill camp that operated there, the small band envisioned a city that would serve as a beauty spot, health resort and center for industry and education. Morals would be strictly regulated: Any resident who permitted drinking, gambling or prostitution would forfeit his property.
To make their dream a reality, the men -- one of whom was W. Jennings Demorest, a prominent prohibition speaker and leader who died in New York in 1895 -- formed the Demorest Home, Mining and Improvement Company. John A. Reynolds surveyed the area and drew the plat for the proposed town. Incorporated on November 13, 1889, it was named in honor of Mr. Demorest, and construction began!
At first, the company built only a few homes and the influence of the settlers may still be seen in the surviving New England-style homes they constructed.. However, with the promise of water power and building lots, industries began to locate here. One of the first was the Norton and Cooper hoop factory. In short order a novelty shop, knitting company, bath tub works, foundry and machine works, saddle-tree factory, wagon factory, and others began operation. The Demorest Bath Tub Works manufactured the Goodrich self-heating, folding bathtub. That would be a sight to see today! Grocery and dry goods stores also opened for business.
The town was becoming a center for industry, but what about education? In 1897 the J.S. Green Collegiate Institute was founded, later (in 1903) to be renamed Piedmont College. An elementary school served the children for many years from its location in the middle of the city. And religious education could be had in any one of the several churches established in the late 1890's or early 1900s.
Has time affected the city? Yes. Eventually all of the initial factories went out of business due to bankruptcy, replacement by newer technologies or for other reasons. The last of the originals, the Flor Saddle Tree Factory, shut down in the middle to late 1990s. The elementary school closed, and a new one opened on the outskirts of the town.
Despite the passing of years and the changes that occurred, Demorest still thrives. Its location (on Highway 441 between Cornelia and Clarkesville), its natural beauty, Demorest Springs Park and the four-year accredited Piedmont College are among the factors that have contributed to its economic health and growth.
Information taken from a brochure printed by the City of Demorest; Georgia Place Names by Kenneth Krakow; and The Hills of Habersham by Mary L. Church.)>