The origin of Center’s name may actually be rooted in the former Rowland Springs Hotel and Resort according to a 1975 Tribune News article entitled, “Aunt Beck Donahoo recalls old hotel,” by Clyde Jolly. The mineral springs area was purchased by Major John S. Rowland who came from Rutherford County, North Carolina in 1839. He acquired approximately 2000 acres establishing a resort hotel that could accommodate up to 600 guests. The area became well known because of its mineral waters. Rowland established his personal home place west of Cartersville on current day GA Highway 113 near the airport and named it, Etowah Valley.
In 1849, George White, an Episcopal minister, historian and archaeologist, conducted a study entitled, Statistics of the State of Georgia, which describes various mineral spring locations throughout the state. According to his notation of Rowland Springs he was impressed with the area, hotel and quality of spring water. He comments that, “they are becoming every season the centre of fashion. Multitudes from every part of the State resort here to partake of the excellent water, as well as the liberal fare of the worthy proprietor.”
Resort activities at Rowland Springs ceased operation following the Civil War and were not revived until 1917. Activity continued through 1925 before becoming a private residence. Most of the old resort complex was destroyed by a Tornado in 1948. Over many years of inactivity as a resort, it appears the area may have defaulted to the name, Center. The area soon thrived as an agricultural community and by 1910 a half acre of land was donated by Andrew J. Lewis to establish the Center Baptist Church which began to anchor the site. People from this area were very devoted to church and faith. As an outcome of the population growth a school was established (grades 1-7) on the Church property and also was known as the Center School until it closed in the 1940’s. Children transferred to the old Smithville School on north Tennessee Street in Cartersville. A good number of people in Center can trace their roots back to Corbin and Rowland Springs following the Civil War.
Bob Leachman, a prominent landowner of some 800 acres, operated a number of enterprises in the Center community around 1920 involving lumber, cotton, and mining. He built many wood frame houses, permitting tenants to live on his land and work in his businesses. Leachman also leased and rented large tracts of land beyond the acreage he personally owned. Many of these tenant families collected around the Leachman properties, Center Baptist Church and school. A number of family owned groceries (J. L. Davis, Howard Lewis, Rufus Shinall, Elrod’s and Guyton’s stores) appeared between 1910 and 1950’s. A distillery also operated in the community.
The area received a boost in activity during the late 1940’s when the Allatoona Dam construction project was underway. As the Dam was completed many of the Corps housing units were relocated to Center and sold to residents at a very inexpensive cost. Following completion of the Dam in 1950, activity faded and Center became a faint community to Bartow County. Center is located east of the Cartersville City limits and south of GA Highway 20 on the GA Highway 20 Spur leading to Allatoona Dam. For additional information, refer to the history of “Rowland Springs” and “Etowah Valley”.
Source: Statistics of the State of Georgia, 1849, by George White (pages 149-151); A Preliminary Report on the Mineral springs of Georgia by Samuel Washington McCallie; Daily Tribune News, Cartersville, October 2,1975 article, Aunt Beck Donehoo Recalls Old Hotel.