From its county population in 2000 of 26410 to its current population estimate of 35093, the county has experienced a growth change of 8683.
Oconee County was named for the river flowing along part of its eastern border, whose name in turn comes from a Native American word meaning "spring of the hills." The new county was created to satisfy western Clarke County residents' demand for their own county after the county seat moved from the less populous Watkinsville to the thriving university town of Athens in 1872.
The newly formed Oconee County retained Watkinsville as its seat. The current courthouse (a New Deal project of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration) was built in 1939 to replace a courthouse built in 1875. It has been modified twice. The second modification in 1998 more than doubled its size.
Today Oconee County is often characterized as a transitional community, moving away from its longtime rural foundations to become a bedroom community for Athens and even for Atlanta. Pine forests and cattle ranches have given way to residential subdivisions, shopping centers, and numerous art galleries. Boosted by the building of Georgia Highway 316 from west of Athens through Oconee County, the county's transformation has brought with it rising traffic, hundreds of shoppers, increasing sales tax revenues, and escalating property prices.