From its county population in 2000 of 20509 to its current population estimate of 19438, the county has experienced a growth change of -1071.
Elbert County was formed in 1790 from parts of Wilkes County. Georgia's 13th county and its county seat, Elberton, were named for Samuel Elbert, a Revolutionary War hero and an early Governor of Georgia.
The fork of the Broad and Savannah Rivers was the site of Fort James, built during the Revolutionary War to protect settlers in the nearby community of Dartmouth.
After the war, the town of Petersburg was established near Fort James and became a thriving tobacco farming center, eventually growing into the third most populous city in the state. Cotton's rise to being the region's primary crop saw Petersburg's demise. The site is now covered by the waters of the Clark Hill Reservoir.