In 1860, residents of Dade County voted to secede from the state of Georgia and from the United States; however, the secession was never recognized to have any legal effect. In 1945, the county symbolically rejoined Georgia and the United States.
Dade County was established in 1837 and was named for Major Francis Langhorne Dade,who was killed in the Dade Massacre by Seminole Indians in December 1835. The first settlers of Dade County won the land in the Georgia Land Lotteries, held to encourage settlement after the Cherokee people were forced off the land. Many settlers worked in regional coke and coal mines that contributed to development of the Chattanooga, Tennessee area.
The area was long isolated from the rest of Georgia by its geography of mountains and rivers. The state did not have a road connecting to Dade County until it established Cloudland Canyon State Park in 1939. That year Georgia began work on Highway 136 to connect U.S. 41 to the recently created park. The Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the facilities and access roads to the park. Until then, travelers could reach the county by road only through Alabama and Tennessee.
Dade County had a short-lived state secessionist movement before the American Civil War. In 1860 residents wanted to secede from the Union, but lawmakers for the State of Georgia were cautious. Legend has it that in 1860, the people of Dade County were so impatient that they announced their own secession from the state and the nation. It had no legal effect. On July 4, 1945, a telegram from President Harry S. Truman was read at a celebration marking the county's rejoining the Union. Historians hold, however, that Dade County seceded with the State of Georgia and reentered the Union with it.
The noted Southern humorist and author and among the seminal writers of Southern humor George Washington Harris (1814-1869) is buried in the Brock Cemetery in Trenton. Although he greatly influenced the literary works of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Flannery O'Connor, his grave remained unmarked until 2008.
In 1964 Covenant College established a campus at Lookout Mountain. Founded in 1955 in California, it was ready to expand after a year. Several professors led Covenant to move to St. Louis, Missouri, where it developed for eight years. After outgrowing its facilities there, the college decided to move to Dade County.
Shortly after the Georgia State Quarter was released by the US Mint, Dade County gained attention because of an apparent mistake in the design. As shown on the quarter, the state appears to lack Dade County, in the extreme northwestern part of the state. Some accounts in 2012 suggest the exclusion was intended to refer to the local legend of Dade County's secession from Georgia.