The Rich History of a Small Town: From the Founding Fathers and Turbulent 20s to Today's Celebration of Tradition
Captain John Dillard settled in our beautiful valley in 1794 after being awarded a land grant of 1,000 acres for his service in the American Revolution. Legend has it that to make peace with the local Cherokee Indians a gift of a muzzle-loading rifle, a jug of apple brandy, a coonskin cap and $3.00 was given for all the land between two mountain tops.
The rugged mountains made contact with the outside world difficult, but the remote town flourished from within. The Dillard family established many of the early businesses including a stagecoach way station, boarding house and post office. In 1890, the postal service picked Dillard as the official town name. While the Dillard name is most recognized, several other well-known families moved to the mountain valley during this time—Keener, Garland and Greenwood.
By 1905, Dillard was a thriving mountain town with a blacksmith shop, livery stable, two general merchandise stores, a cobbler, open air market, two boarding houses, a church and a school. Two water powered grain mills and a saw mill were nearby. And in 1907, Dillard was connected to the outside world when the railroad arrived.
Arthur Dillard, the great-grandson of John Dillard, operated a general store and his wife, Carrie, opened a boarding house which later became The Dillard House. The town prospered and during the twenties electricity and telephones were introduced. The road was relocated and widened and became designated as US Highway 23/441.
Arthur and Carrie’s businesses grew and flourished. In 1923, they gave a piece of land behind their store to be used for a community school. The brick building originally built for the school is now known as the Dillard City Hall.
During Prohibition, moon shining (making corn liquor) was an accepted way of life and Rabun County became the moonshine capital of Georgia. During the thirties, the depression took a heavy toll on the town and Dillard family. Arthur lost the general store, but following World War II, good times returned as tourists and summer residents rediscovered the area. The new Dillard House dining room was built in 1958 and the area quickly became a favorite destination for the well-to-do, including Robert Woodruff, the president of Coca-Cola.
Today, The Dillard House is an award-winning Southern favorite known for its legendary flavor and large family-size portions. Currently operated by Carrie’s grandson, John Dillard, the tradition of Southern Hospitality continues.
Dillard has also become well known for its growing number of antique, craft, and specialty shops. Also, the two southernmost skiing areas are just outside the city.
Come visit and experience more than 100 years of tradition for yourself.