A Journey into Snellville GA History

Snellville’s convenient location, approximately 18 miles east of Atlanta and 45 miles west of Athens at the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and Georgia Highway 124, has permitted it to prosper and become one of Gwinnett County’s fastest growing cities for the previous thirty years. Snellville’s roots extend much deeper than thirty years, however, to 19th century London.

The birth of Snellville http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Snellville_GAcan be traced to 1874 London, England when a secret trip to the New World was a glimmer in the minds of 2 teenage friends, James Sawyer and Thomas Snell. Unfortunately, their strategies were changed when Snell’s parents wouldn’t enable him to make the journey when they learned of the strategy. Instead, Sawyer and his brother, Charles, removed on the experience, leaving England for the United States on March 18, 1874. After a two-week trip, the Sawyer brothers arrived in New York on April 1st, where they stayed for a few weeks. They left New York and ultimately settled in Madison County, Georgia, where they dealt with a farm for $10.00 a month. Thomas Snell was finally able to make the journey and satisfied his good friends in Georgia where they all took a trip through Jefferson and Lawrenceville. Charles Sawyer left his brother and friend in Georgia and in time settled in Alabama, where he went into the turpentine company. While Snell worked on the farm of A.A. Dyer, James Sawyer traveled back to New York then to London, to declare his inheritance soon after his 21st birthday in 1878. James Sawyer ultimately went back to the United States and after traveling through parts of Georgia was reacquainted with his friend Thomas Snell after settling in a little farming neighborhood called New London, now called Snellville. Before that time, the location where Snellville now rests was an old development chestnut-oak-hickory forest settled by the Cherokee Indians.

The 2 good friends built a little wood frame building and began a company together – Snell and Sawyer’s Store– and commerce was born in Snellville. Up until that time, regional farmers needed to travel to neighboring towns in order to purchase anything they might not make themselves or obtain from neighbors. Snell and Sawyer printed store cash with the trade value and Snell’s similarity on the front that their regular consumers might exchange for products, a typical practice in small mill towns of the time. In just a short time, business was prosperous and attracting clients from the neighboring towns of Lawrenceville and Loganville. These tourists who bought supplies at Snell and Sawyer’s would often invest the night under the neighboring oak groves, as the round trip was too wish for one day’s travel. While it is uncertain when the town officially altered from New London to Snellville, Snell and Sawyer’s advertising recognized their location as Snellville.

As Snellville‘s commerce continued to succeed, its religious community began to grow. Numerous churches were started throughout this time, including Snellville Methodist Church and First Baptist Church in the heart of downtown. Other churches opened in the borders of Snellville also during this time, including Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Raymond Hill Baptist Church. All these churches are still around today with their original structures. Snell and Sawyer’s partnership ultimately dissolved and the two each opened their stores. Sawyer retained the original building that housed Snell and Sawyer’s and built a granite structure around and above the initial wood frame, eventually dismantling the wood frame from within. Sawyer opened Snellville’s first post office in 1885 from the back of his store, where he acted as the Postmaster. Snell developed a brand-new shop, likewise of granite. While neither store exists in contemporary Snellville, numerous buildings throughout the city have likewise been constructed of granite, using a glimpse into the past. Snell passed away in 1896 from issues following surgery for appendicitis, at the young age of 39. He was buried on Brownlee Mountain, understood today as Nob Hill. His grave was later relocated to close-by Lithonia. Sawyer ran his shop till the 1940’s when he was forced into retirement due to loss of sight. After his retirement, the shop was owned and operated by numerous merchants until it was destroyed in 1960 and a service station integrated into its location. Sawyer died in 1948 at the age of 91 and is buried in the Baptist Cemetery, now known as the Snellville Historical Cemetery.