The name of every Gwinnett County city, explained

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The name of every Gwinnett County city, explained

Gwinnett County has 16 cities, and each is steeped in history -- but where did their names come from? Some come from war heroes, others from folklore -- and some have origins that may surprise you.

Auburn: According to the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce, Auburn was established in 1892 and named for "the red clay in the area that was used as dye in clothing."

Berkeley Lake: In the late 1940s, a man named Frank Coggins developed most of the land in the area now included in the city. A dam was built in 1948, creating the 88-acre Berkeley Lake -- which was named for Coggins' "berkeley blue granite quarries" up in Elberton. 

Berkeley Lake became a city in 1956, three years after "some 25 property owners" formed a civic association aimed at better securing amenities, including "an all-year road" around the lake.

Braselton: In 1876, a man named William Harrison Braselton bought 800 acres of land and built a plantation near where the town -- which had parts in Gwinnett, Barrow, Hall and Jackson counties -- currently lies. His son was the first mayor after Braselton was incorporated in 1916. 

Buford: Two men named Thomas Garner and Larkin Smith were the original developers of the city, which incorporated in 1872 -- and was named for Col. A.S. Buford, the president of the Atlanta and Richmond Air-Line Railway, which ran from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C.

This postcard dated 1936 shows the Bona Allen Tannery in Buford. (Credit: Gwinnett Historical Society)

MORE: Throwback photos of downtown Buford and its Bona Allen tannery.

Dacula: A strange combination of "Atlanta" and "Decatur." According to a story previously published in The AJC:

"The area originally was called Freeman Town, after a doctor named Samuel Freeman, but by the 1890s, it also was being referred to as Hoke, which was the name of a railroad employee. The town grew, so when it was time to incorporate in 1905, the postmaster – whose name was John W. Freeman – submitted six names. For one of these, he took six letters from the names of two nearby cities. Using the A, L and A from Atlanta and the D, C and U from Decatur, Freeman formed Dacula."

Duluth: Originally named Howell Crossing in honor of Evan Howell, a North Carolinian who settled the area in 1821, the town evolved into a major railroad artery. In 1873, a U.S. Representative named J. Proctor Knott proposed a railroad stretching from Duluth, Minnesota to the town. 

According to the city's website, Howell's grandson was "grateful for the opportunity to build on a vision" and "deemed it appropriate to rename [the] city to Duluth." It was incorporated under that name -- which, in Minnesota, had honored a French explorer named Daniel Greysolon Du Luth -- in 1876.

Grayson: Strangely enough, the town was originally established under the name "Trip" in 1881. But when John E. Jacobs took over as mayor and postmaster, he asked to change the name to "Berkeley." That was approved in 1901 -- but the state later informed him there was already a town bearing the name. 

Jacobs then suggested "Graymont" -- an allusion to Stone Mountain looming in the distance -- but was shot down again. Then Jacobs got a letter from his wife, who was visiting relatives in Grayson County, Texas. He rolled with that, and Grayson became Grayson in 1902.

Lawrenceville: Gwinnett's county seat is the namesake of Capt. James Lawrence, a naval commander during the War of 1812. Lawrence -- who has no ties to the area -- is best known for his dying command of "don't give up the ship."

This postcard dated 1914 shows what's now known as the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in the heart of downtown Lawrenceville.

MORE: Throwback photos of downtown Lawrenceville. 

Lilburn: According to georgia.gov

"The Seaboard Airline Railway founded Lilburn in 1890. Its name remembers the general superintendent of the railroad, Lilburn Trigg Myers. With the support of the railroad, the town prospered and later incorporated on July 27, 1910."

Loganville: Incorporated in 1887, Loganville is the namesake of James Harvie Logan, who "purchased the city's original acreage for $150 at a sheriff's sale."

Norcross: In 1869, Atlanta entrepreneur J.J. Thrasher -- the namesake of modern day Norcross' signature park -- bought 250 acres in the area, which was a stop along a newly proposed rail line. He named the city for friend Jonathan Norcross, who was the fourth mayor of Atlanta. 

Peachtree Corners: Gwinnett's newest -- and biggest -- city has its roots in rural farmland once known as Pinckneyville. But in 1968, a Georgia Tech graduate named Paul A. Duke established Peachtree Corners Inc., a real estate and development company aimed at creating a planned community with a "stringent set of covenants and restrictions" in the area. A developer named Jim Cowart moved over from Dunwoody and built several successful subdivisions. 

Peachtree Corners didn't become an actual city until 2012.

Rest Haven: The origin of this name is a bit of a mystery -- but it may not matter much longer. Rest Haven doesn't want to be a city anymore, and the Georgia Legislature is trying to grant its wish

In this 1998 photo, then-mayor Robert Lee Burnette stands in front of the City Hall building. Burnette was one of the founders of Rest Haven, and served on its city council for more than 50 years. (SCOTT DAVIS / AJC file)

MORE: Throwback photos of Rest Haven, the town trying not to exist.

Snellville: In 1874, English teenagers James and Charles Sawyer departed England for America, leaving friend Thomas Snell -- whose parents were skeptical -- behind. The Sawyers settled in Madison County and, eventually, Snell was able to join them. All three wandered the areas around Lawrenceville and Jefferson before the Sawyers went their separate ways.

Snell, meanwhile, settled in a farming community called New London -- which would be incorporated as Snellville in 1923.

Sugar Hill: The unofficial story, as the city's website puts it, goes like this: Some time before the city's incorporation in 1939, freight wagons frequently traveled from Buford (a railhead) to Cumming (railroad-less). One day, "a heavily loaded wagon lost a wheel on a high hill and spilled part of its load, including several bags of sugar." 

The wagon was reloaded, minus the sugar -- which had spilled all over the hill. It became known as "the hill where the sugar spilled," which, predictably, got shortened to "Sugar Hill" and became the moniker for the entire area.

Suwanee: The city's name is undoubtedly Native American-influenced, but the exact origin is murky. According to Suwanee's website, Shawnee Indians originally settled in the area, but Cherokee and Creeks came later. Various reports suggest that Suwanee is a) an Indian word meaning "echo," b) the Creek word for Shawnee and c) white settlers' mispronunciation of Shawnee. 

Suwanee officially became a city in 1838.

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