Haralson County was carved out of Carroll and Polk counties in 1856. It was named after Major-General (Militia) Hugh A. Haralson of LaGrange, who was a member of both the Georgia General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. Settled long before Haralson County's oldest incorporated city, Buchanan, the county seat, came into being was the city of Tallapoosa. Like many towns in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, it began as a gold mining town. Although other names were used to refer to it in its early years (Pine Grove, Pineville, and Possum Snout), a Tallapoosa post office was established in 1839. Tallapoosa got its name from the nearby river of that name. (Tallapoosa is an Indian word of uncertain meaning.) Incorporated in 1860, less than a quarter of a century later it entered an extraordinary boom period during which it became known to investors and tourists throughout the North and Canada as a "Yankee City Under a Southern Sun."
Prior to 1887, Haralson County historian Lee S. Trimble said of Tallapoosa that,"The main dependence of the town for trade must have been on lumber and agriculture . . . as there were no industries of note in that period. Its best friends could hardly say more than it was another good, small town with excellent railroad service, good water, some fine bottom lands on nearby streams, and a lot of virgin timber. That was about the situation until 1886, when Dame Fortune gave her wheel a spin and strange things began to happen in and to Tallapoosa.