In an article published in The Tribune News in 1929, Judge John Henry Wikle wrote of his recollections of Cartersville as a child, a young lawyer, and an elder. Judge Wikle was born July 24, 1847 and died May 10, 1930.
He served three terms as Mayor of Cartersville between 1886 and 1898 and was the law partner of Confederate General William T. Wofford.
This article is reprinted with permission of The Tribune News.
“CITY’S GROWTH REVIEWED BY PIONEER CITIZEN”
“GREAT FUTURE ADVANCEMENT IS PREDICTED BY VETERAN MEMBER OF BAR AND EDITOR”
By: JUDGE JOHN HENRY WIKLE
My earliest recollections of Cartersville begin when my father moved here in 1851. Nine years later he purchased an interest in the Cassville Express and the Cassville Standard and it was in that city I received my first experience in editorial work. In 1866 I returned to Cartersville and commenced the practice of law, and in 1874 purchased the Cartersville Standard.
In those days Cartersville was a little town of about 1,000 people, but was known as one of the most progressive communities of Northwest Georgia. It was the trading center for eight or ten of the surrounding counties and it was not an infrequent sight to see the streets crowded with wagons and other conveyances from all parts of north Georgia.
The Western and Atlantic railroad, the state owned project operating between Chattanooga and Atlanta, came through here and was practically the only means of travel to any distance. Passengers and a large amount of freight consisting mostly of cotton, merchandise and building supplies, were carried.
Even in those days Cartersville was a town of some size. Where the hotel now stands was a large frame structure. Across from it was a two story brick building with a basement and there were many other two-story business buildings in the section. The bar rooms were located mostly on the east side of town. On the corner now occupied by the Scheuer Brothers was a two story building that in later years was replaced by a brick structure, not the same one standing now, however. It was owned by George Howard, who later moved to Atlanta. Large stores of the community had great porches in front of them. At almost any time the men-about-town could be seen lolling in the brick sunlight, helping themselves to the country cracker barrel and in their listless way discussing the politics and news of the time.
The residential section of Cartersville started about two blocks from the present business district and ran for some distance. Most of the houses were of staunch build and followed the design of the day. They were set far back from the streets and usually were made attractive by many flowers and gardens.
The countryside surrounding Cartersville held many manufacturing plants. Chief aniong them were mines that gave up iron, later made into pig iron and still later converted into metal utensils and kitchen ware that were sent throughout the South. Outstanding among these plants was the Cooper Iron works, the ruins of which are still standing. Near the latter works was a large brewery operated by a family of Germans which had immigrated here from the east.
Blacksmith shops, wagon companies and other now ancient enterprises were conducted by the business men of the community. This was a great wheat section prior to the war and farmers couldn’t obtain cars enough to ship their product. In those days trains ran with eight coaches, or cars, and each car would hold no more than eight tons.
Education was not lacking. Many private schools were here and at Cassville were two colleges, one the Cherokee Baptist college and the other the Cassville Female institute, a Methodist organization Pupils came from all sections of the state. Some of the outstanding educators of the time were teachers at the schools.
As news of the Civil war spread throughout the South, citizens of Cartersville joined forces with other Georgia detachments. The conflict was not felt here, with the exception of a constant call for food and clothing, until about 1864. During the early years I was in charge of enlistments. As Sherman and his army approached Cartersville the city was placed under martial law. All boys and men between the ages of 16 and 65 were pressed into service in an attempt to keep Atlanta from falling.
For some time the battle around Chattanooga were victorious for the wearers of the grey. But eventually the Federals passed thru. Skirmishes were engaged in at Dalton. On the hill here where the old Baptist church building formerly was, the Federals camped. At Allatoona there were a few small encounters, but not of such great importance as to be remembered as history.
Allatoona was burned. Cartersville, at least the business section, was laid in waste. Only one old building, on the corner of Erwin and Main street was left standing.
After the trail of devastation had been left by the advancing northern armies and the sword of Lee had been surrendered at Appomattox, Cartersville started its reconstruction period. The population was about the same as before the war. Buildings of better grade than those that had been here prior to the conflict were erected.
The city’s old reputation as a trading center returned and people from old sections, learning of the opportunities and climate here, moved to Cartersville to make the town their home. Cass Station at that time was almost the same size as at present.
Soon after the war there was an election to determine whether Cartersville or Cass Station should be the county seat. Cartersville won the balloting by a majority of about 400 votes. The first court was held in an old building on the corner of Main street and the public square.
Cartersville was in an era of growth. One might almost call the years soon after the reconstruction period a “boom.” The so-called boom never fell, never diminished. Cartersville continued to grow until it became the city of today. Though I have seen the city in the clutches of war and on the heights of progress, I have never seen it so progressive as today and I predict that Cartersville will continue its growth until it becomes one of the most outstanding cities of North Georgia.
David G. Archer
City of Cartersville
Sesquicentennial Celebration Chairman