Cassville (Manassas)

The town of Cassville was the direct result of a legislative act passed in December, 1832 by the Georgia General Assembly dividing the northwestern region of Georgia occupied by the Cherokee Nation into counties. Cassville came into existence to furnish the new county of Cass with a seat of justice. Early in 1833, the site for Cassville was chosen and the town was surveyed and staked out during the month of July. Both Cass County and Cassville were named in honor of General Lewis Cass, Secretary of War in President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet.
A brick courthouse and jail were erected sometime before 1849, and the town was built around the courthouse square. It was incorporated by an act of the legislature in December 27, 1843, with Samuel Morgan, William Latimer, Thomas A. Sullivan, George B. Russell and Julius M. Patton appointed as town commissioners.

By 1849, Cassville was the largest and most prosperous town in northwest Georgia. Letters addressed to Rome, Georgia, were directed “via Cassville”. There were 4 hotels: Brown & Dyer, kept by Higgs; Cassville Hotel, kept by John Terrell; Eagle Hotel, kept by Aaron Burris; and the Latimer Hotel, kept by William Latimer. Leading merchants were George S. Black, T. A. Sullivan & John A. Erwin, J. D. Carpenter, Fain & Smith, Sam Levy, John W. Burke, Patton & Chunn, Humphrey W. Cobb, and George Upshaw. There was a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and an Episcopal church.

During the surveying of the route for the Western & Atlantic Railroad, legend has it that the Cassville citizens did not want their town demoralized nor their horses frightened by having a railroad through the town. The original survey for the railroad in 1837 by Stephen H. Long bypassed Cassville, the county seat, in order to avoid the steep grades northeast of the town. The Western & Atlantic Railroad was completed in 1852, with the nearest railroad depot two miles southwest of Cassville. Cass Station was the name given the new depot and the surrounding community which developed. Many of the citizens had recognized the need for a railroad through Cassville and sought to rectify the situation. The Georgia Legislature in December 1853 responded to their pleas and approved an act providing for an alternate route through Cassville, leaving the Western & Atlantic above Cartersville and again intersecting it at some point south of Kingston. The act also required the citizens of Cassville to bear all expense associated with the survey and cost of construction. Evidently the people of Cassville found that the cost of the project would be far greater than the benefits to be gained. This decision would prove fatal to Cassville following the Civil War.

With the loss of the railroad, citizens looked for other ways to enhance Cassville economically. Community leaders promoted the idea of making the town an educational center. It was proposed that two colleges be established, one for boys and the other for girls. These would be the first such institutions in all of North Georgia. As a center for culture and education, Cassville could yet regain the position of leadership steadily being lost as a center of trade. The cornerstone was laid for the new Cassville Female College on May 10, 1853, with classes commencing in late 1854. Supervision of this new facility was granted to the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. The new Cherokee Baptist College for boys was scheduled to be completed in February, 1856, but a fire destroyed the facility on the night of January 4, just shy of completion. Classes began as planned in other facilities until a new college could be built a year later.

When war did come to the south, citizens began a movement to rename both the county and the town. Lewis Cass’s outspoken support of the Union decreased his popularity to the point that a name change for both was recommended. In the November 1861 session of the Georgia House of Representatives, a bill was introduced by one of the Cass County representatives, Samuel Sheats. This bill was written to change the name of the county to Bartow in honor of Francis S. Bartow and amend the name of Cassville to Manassas in honor of the Confederate victory there. “Whereas, the county of Cass…in its organization was named in memory of Lewis Cass of Michigan; and the said Lewis Cass having recently shown himself inimical to the south by voluntary donations of his private property to sustain a wicked war upon her people, and by utterances of sentiments such as the South must be subjugated and the Union must be preserved; and has thereby become unworthy of the honor conferred by the naming of said county…” The bill passed and both Cass County and Cassville were renamed. As for Manassas, this new name was short lived as the U. S. Postal Service never recognized the new name.

This change in name is said to have been one of the reasons for the utter destruction of Cassville in 1864. Most likely, activities of Confederate scouts in and around Cassville stirred up anger among the Federal occupiers. Attacks on the nearby railroad and Federal supply trains steadily eroded Cassville’s peaceful existence. Many of the Confederates also found refuge among its citizens, a fact well known to the Federals. The murder at Cassville of ten soldiers, who were with a Federal wagon train, finally brought the anger of the Union Army into focus. On the night of October 11, the bodies of nine of them were left on the grounds of the Female College. In retaliation, the Male and Female Colleges and homes of President Rambaught and Judge Nathan Land were burned the following night. On the 5th of November, the 5th Ohio Regiment with approximately 300 cavalrymen set fire to the remainder of Cassville, leaving the churches and a few homes that were used as hospitals.

After the war, Cassville never regained its population or prominence. The citizens, lacking the necessary finances, declined to rebuild the town. When the question of a new county seat was put to the voters in 1866, Cartersville was selected over Cass Station by a vote of 1085 to 919. When the county seat moved to Cartersville, many Cassville residents moved with it.
Today, Cassville is a residential community with historical markers left to remind us of her past. The old city cemetery, which includes the graves of over three hundred unknown Confederate soldiers plus many of Cassville’s early pioneers, attests to days gone by.

Source: A History of Old Cassville 1833-1864 by Joseph B. Mahan, Jr.; History of Bartow County, Georgia, Formerly Cass by Lucy Josephine Cunyus.