Athens-Clarke County has a rich history that dates back to the very beginnings of the United States. The University of Georgia was founded in 1785 as the nation’s first land-grant institution. Clarke County was established in 1801 and named after Elijah Clarke, a Revolutionary War hero, and Athens was established as a town in 1805. Athens was named by John Milledge, later governor of Georgia, after Athens, Greece, the center of learning in the classical world and home to the academies of Plato and Aristotle.
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Clarke County was created by an Act of the Georgia General Assembly on December 5, 1801. The county was named after Revolutionary War hero Elijah Clarke and included 250 square miles of land that was originally part of Jackson County. Clarke came to Wilkes County, Georgia from North Carolina in 1774 and was most recognized for being credited with the 1779 victory at the Battle of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County. The Elijah Clarke Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument in his name in the middle of Broad Street in Athens that still stands today.