An Architectural Analysis of Native American Houses During the Middle Mississippian Period in the Etowah River Valley
By Jordan Farkas
ANTH 3397 Practicum in Anthropology Department of Geography and Anthropology Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, Georgia
May 12, 2021
The Mississippian period lasted from AD 1000-1550. It is divided into three different subperiods: Early (AD 1000-1200), Middle (AD 1200-1375), and Late (AD 1375-1550). Mississippian life, in general, is characterized by a chiefdom form of political organization, large villages located on floodplains near major rivers, single-set post and wall trenched houses, and a subsistence base centered on corn or maize agriculture. Material culture included plain and decorated pottery and triangular-shaped projectile points.
The Middle Mississippian is distinct from the Early Mississippian and Late Mississippian subperiods due mainly to changes in pottery (temper, thickness, form, and decorative motifs) as well as house design, shape, and construction practices. This research focuses on houses during the Middle Mississippian subperiod and how they compare and contrast with those found at both large and small sites. The research focuses on how they were constructed, where they were constructed, perceived differences in summer and winter houses, and what features were found associated with them. It will examine a single house that has been recently excavated at a small village known as the Cummings site located to the west of the City of Cartersville in Bartow County, Georgia. The Cummings house is compared to those found at Etowah dated to the same time period. Etowah was a large regional center located only three kilometers (two miles) to the southeast of Cummings. Both sites have a well-documented Middle Mississippian component which will allow for a fine-grained analysis of house types situated in the Etowah River Valley.
This research looks at changes in houses in the Etowah River Valley during the Middle Mississippian subperiod. Specifically, it examines a single prehistoric Native American house that has recently been excavated at the Cummings site (named after the current landowner). The Cummings house is located on a high terrace above Pettit Creek approximately two miles (three kilometers) northwest of the Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville, Bartow County, Georgia (Figure 1).
Cummings is the site used for an annual archaeology field school directed by Dr. Terry Powis of the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Kennesaw State University (KSU), Kennesaw, Georgia (Figure 2). For the past four years, investigations at Cummings have included Phase I Shovel Testing and Phase II Testing. It was through Phase II test excavations that the house was located. The house was completely excavated in the winter of 2021 as part of an anthropology practicum course. Less of a focus was placed on the material remains derived from the house floor than on the house shape, design, length of occupation, and construction methods used during the Middle Mississippian subperiod. The analysis of the house, located in a small village like Cummings, is compared to structures at Etowah, the largest site in the region. The intent is to use the comparative data to expose the relationship between large preeminent regional centers like Etowah and smaller sites like Cummings during the height of the Mississippian period.
The Mississippian occupation of the Etowah River Valley spans from AD 1000-1550, when European contact was made between Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and the indigenous people living at Etowah. The Mississippian period is divided into three subperiods, Early (AD 1000-1200), Middle (AD 1200-1375), and Late (AD 1375-1550), with the height occurring during the middle subperiod. Mississippian life, in general, is characterized by a chiefdom form of political organization. In these systems, chiefs and their capitals hold religious and economic importance as well as political influence (King 2003). Chiefdom capitals are identifiable during this time by the presence of mounded architecture. Chiefly residences, temples, and other important civic and ceremonial structures were placed on top of these mounds. Large villages are characteristic during the Middle Mississippian, with a mixed subsistence strategy centered around maize agriculture. Other plants and terrestrial herbivores were also utilized. The Etowah River also provided abundant access to aquatic wildlife such as fish, shellfish, and waterfowl. Villages were located on floodplains along major rivers. This settlement pattern is significant as it provided nutrient-rich soil (due to periodic flooding) and therefore served as prime agricultural land to grow maize. The Etowah River Valley, in particular, is the most productive agricultural area in the Ridge and Valley Province, containing soils that are composed of weathered sandstone, shale, and limestone (Hally and Langford 1995).
The Middle Mississippian is distinct from the Early Mississippian and Late Mississippian subperiods due mainly to changes in pottery and architectural practices. Decorative characteristics of pottery in the Etowah River Valley during this subperiod include thick-walled vessels with bold, curvilinear decorative motifs. Vessel forms include bowls, jars, dishes, and bottles. Wooden paddles with carved designs on them were used to create the decorative motifs found on the vessels. This was done by stamping the carved wooden designs on the pottery before they were completely dried. Houses, made using the wattle-and-daub technique, is the most common dwelling style used during this subperiod (Figure 3). Construction methods at this time shifted away from the wall-trench construction pattern used during the Early Mississippian period to a single-set post-wall construction. Therefore, after AD 1200 single-set post buildings became the dominant architectural form (King 2013). This construction method used large wooden posts pounded into the ground or set in pre-dug holes to form the framework of the house. Then smaller wooden limbs (such as rivercane) were used as wattle. The wattle is woven back and forth horizontally in between the upright posts to construct the house walls. These walls would then have been covered/packed in clay to provide insulation. Houses during the middle subperiod would have also been constructed using interior support posts. These interior support posts would have allowed and supported a hip roof design made out of thatch (e.g., long, thick grass). This differs from the early subperiod, whose houses lacked interior support posts and, as a result, had a bent-pole roof design. The Middle Mississippian period also saw a shift in house shape from rectangular, used during the Early and Late Mississippian subperiods, to a square shape with rounded corners.
The data collection for this research included a combination of both field and lab work. The fieldwork consisted of Phase III feature excavation. In order to fully expose the floor of the house, a total of 40 units were excavated. Each unit varied in size, with some measuring 1 x 1 meters, 1 x 2 meters, and 1 x 0.5 meters. All units were excavated using a square flat-bladed shovel, pointed round shovel, and a trowel. Each unit was dug in arbitrary levels of 10 cm. During the excavation of units, depth was maintained and controlled using a line level in reference to a master site datum. Soil excavated from each unit was screened through a ¼ inch mesh screen, where diagnostic artifacts such as pottery sherds, chert and quartz flakes, daub, FCR (fire-cracked rock), and projectile points/knives were collected. Artifacts recovered from each unit level were placed into a clear, plastic unit level bag, with the provenience information written on the front using a sharpie. The provenience information included the site name, quadrant number, unit number, feature number, date, and depth below unit datum.
Upon completion of each quadrant and unit, the north, south, east, and west wall profiles were recorded on graph paper to show the stratigraphy of the soil. Soil texture was recorded, along with the soil color, according to the Munsell Color system. Features were mapped along with any artifacts that were found on and around the house floor. Some of the items included pottery sherds, celts and burnt posts found in situ, fallen burnt posts, large concentrations of daub (clay applied to the walls of a house), lithic tools, and other artifacts of interest. The depth at which these mapped features and artifacts was recorded. After the entire house floor was exposed, it was also mapped. All artifacts were packaged in aluminum foil to be analyzed in the lab at a later date. Charcoal samples were collected in aluminum foil, taken from both the exterior and interior burnt posts found in situ. The charcoal samples were sent to the Center for Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS) at UGA for radiocarbon dating. Charred wood samples were also sent to archaeobotanist Leslie Raymer to determine the species of wood used in the house construction. Once the house was fully excavated, a trowel was used to scrape the floor. This was done to make sure the house floor was uniform across all quadrants and was the same depth. Photographs using a digital camera, video camera, and drone were taken. Photographs were taken of all of the in situ artifacts found on the house floor. General excavation photos were periodically taken to document the excavation process.
While the emphasis of the research was excavating the house floor, a limited ceramic analysis was performed in order to date the construction of the house. The analysis was conducted in the Anthropology Lab in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at KSU. It should be noted that a historic site dated to 1925, called the Adams Family House, is located adjacent to the Cummings site. As such, historic artifacts were occasionally found with prehistoric material in the excavation units. In the lab, the first priority was to separate the historic artifacts from the prehistoric. There were approximately 50 two-gallon Ziploc bags that needed to be sorted. The contents of each bag were placed on a tray, with diagnostic prehistoric artifacts, such as pottery sherds and projectile points/knives with an intact base, separated from the historic artifacts. Prehistoric pottery sherds were placed into one bag and any projectile points/knives into a separate bag, with both bags placed into a “parent” bag with provenience information written on the front. The same procedure was followed for the historic artifacts.
To accurately identify and type the pottery sherds and projectile points/knives, they first needed to be cleaned. Using a soft fiber toothbrush and a tub of water, all of the artifacts were cleaned and left to dry for at least a week. Once all of the artifacts were dry, decorated stamped pieces of pottery were separated from the plain ones, transferring the provenience information to the new bag. Decorated pottery sherds were typed using a flashlight and a high-powered microscope. Using Lloyd Schroder’s “A Field Guide To Southeastern Indian Pottery,” a total of 491 pottery sherds were placed into four different groups: Etowah, Savannah, Wilbanks, and Unanalyzable. Etowah was composed of three subgroups: Etowah Complicated Stamped, Etowah Brushed, and Etowah Simple Stamped. Savannah was composed of two subgroups: Savannah Check Stamped and Savannah Cord Marked. Wilbanks was only composed of Wilbanks Complicated Stamped. The Unanalyzable pottery group was composed of plain pottery, Lamar, Dunlap Fabric Impressed, Deptford Complicated Stamped, and Deptford Simple Stamped pottery sherds too small to comfortably type. Unfortunately, time ran out before an analysis of the 20 projectile points could be made.
The results of the field and lab work indicate that the Cummings house dated to the Middle Mississippian subperiod. The size of the house measured 4.9 m (16 ft) east-west by 4.65 m (15.25 ft) north-south, or approximately 23 square meters (75 ft) (Figure 4).
The height of the house is unknown but may have stood 2-3 meters (6.5-9.8 ft) high based on ethnohistoric accounts. The doorway or entrance into the house at Cummings is also unknown but there is a large enough gap between posts in the southwest area of the house to preliminarily state this was the original access point. Further work is needed to confirm this notion. Evidence on the excavated floor indicates that the house had burned down, which is demonstrated by the large concentrations of daub and the burned posts found in situ (Figure 5).
The shape of the house is square with rounded corners. It was constructed using a single-set post wall construction, with at least four interior support posts. The interior support posts supported a hip roof design. The house is oriented between 8°-18° east of north. An oval hearth is centrally located in the house and recessed in the floor. It measured about 50 cm in diameter, and has a depth of about 15-20 cm.
Analysis of charred post samples from our archaeobotanist indicated the building material of both the exterior and interior posts was pine, most likely sourced locally. The radiocarbon date provided by the Center for Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS) at UGA gave a very narrow date range of AD 1260-1300 for the construction date of the house. This indicates that the house was built at the height of Etowah during the Middle Mississippian subperiod.
As was mentioned earlier, a total of 491 pottery sherds were examined. Eighty-six of these were successfully typed: seven were typed as Etowah Plain; five were typed as Etowah Complicated Stamped; one was typed as Etowah Brushed; and one was typed as Etowah Simple stamped. Thirty-nine pottery sherds were typed as Savannah. Thirty-eight sherds were typed as Savannah Check Stamped, and one was typed as Savannah Cord Marked. Forty sherds were typed as Wilbanks Complicated Stamped (Figure 6). The remaining 405 pottery sherds were typed as Unknown.
Other interesting artifacts excavated from the floor include two partial effigy pots, both of which seem to depict a bird/dog/deer on them. The base of a spittoon-style tobacco smoking pipe was excavated from around the hearth. A small broken ground stone spatula, possibly used for mixing food(s), and two greenstone celts were excavated from the northeast corner of the house (Figure 7).
Archaeological evidence such as the burned floor and posts, along with large concentrations of daub, indicates that the Cummings house had burned down. It is not clearly understood how this event unfolded, but there are possible cultural and natural phenomena that could explain it. The most likely natural cause is that the house was struck by lightning, causing the house to burn down. Culturally speaking, there are several possible explanations for the house’s destruction. One idea revolves around the notion that one of the occupants living in the house died and, as a result, the house might have been burned intentionally as part of a burial ceremony. Alternatively, a cooking accident at the hearth may have caused the house to burn down.
Another explanation is that the house might have been burned as a result of conflict or warfare. With villages in the valley reaching peak density during the Middle Mississippian subperiod conflict may have been inevitable given increased competition for land and resources. This may be tied to the political leaders at Etowah who may have had the occupants of this house, among others at Cummings, to vacate the area and move further away. This removal may have been an attempt by the leaders at Etowah to control the ever-growing population in the Etowah River Valley (Adam King, personal communication, 2021). If this was indeed the case, then perhaps the occupants living in the house at Cummings would have burned the house upon their departure from the area. The presence of artifacts on the burned floor of the house suggests that the occupants did not have much time to retrieve them once the fire consumed the house. It should be pointed out that the artifacts might have been purposefully left in situ as they were no longer needed wherever a new house was to be constructed.
The length of occupation for those living in the house at Cummings is currently unknown. Due to this research being preliminary and limited to only one excavated house, it is unclear whether this was a long-term or short-term occupation. During the Middle Mississippian subperiod, permanent occupation is associated with “paired winter and summer houses” (Lewis 2013). Both houses would have been situated very close to one another so that a single family could move easily between them when the seasons changed. Given that it took 4-5 months to excavate the floor, the seasonality of the house was the only thing not determined relating to the length of occupation. The presence of a hearth is used as one of the indicators of a winter house, and the absence of a hearth is used as one of the indicators of a summer house. A winter house is typically defined as having a central hearth used as the heating source during the cold months but also served as the cooking area. The number of walls is also another indicator of seasonality during this period, with winter houses being fully enclosed (with four walls) and being utilized during the colder months. The type of houses utilized during the warmer months would have been an “open-walled shelter suggesting (with only three walls) that it is a summer house or outdoor activity area” (Lewis 2013). Due to the presence of a central hearth, it is believed that the Cummings house was occupied during the winter months.
Due to the distribution and location of artifacts recovered from the floor, there does not appear to be any discernible activity areas or partitioning of space within the house. Of interest, most of the artifacts were found around the interior perimeter of the house, with very few found in close proximity to the hearth. However, a few artifacts have been recovered that give a general idea of some of the activities the occupants may have been engaged in. The stone celts, effigy vessels, and the broken tobacco smoking pipe suggest rituals may have occurred inside the house. The spatula and pottery vessels found on the floor may point to food preparation and storage. Cooking food inside a house at this time may have been fraught with problems – the main one being that embers could cause a fire inside the structure. Two styluses, or drawing implements, made from ground slate or andesite, along with pieces of galena and carved mica may indicate that the occupants were engaged in art-related activities. In areas where there were no artifacts may reflect where sleeping occurred. We have found no posts located near the house interior walls to indicate that benches were used for sleeping.
In terms of dating the house, there are two lines of evidence that securely date it to the middle subperiod. A single radiocarbon date of AD 1260-1300 provided by the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at UGA, as well as the typing of 86 sherds combine to provide an accurate temporal assessment of when the house was occupied. For the dating of the ceramics, a reliance on changes over time in decorative motifs, was utilized. However, it should be pointed out that while analyzing sherds identified as Etowah, Savannah, and Wilbanks Complicated Stamped types it became evident that there are no real recognized decorative differences between the three types. Today, archaeologists who work with the Middle Mississippian subperiod do not recognize differences between Etowah, Savannah, and Wilbanks ceramic types. This is because when they were initially identified in the 1950s there were personal relationship issues between the principal investigators conducting research in north Georgia, which resulted in the same decorative stamp being labelled as three different types. Therefore, everything that has a curvilinear stamped design is now typed as Wilbanks Complicated Stamped.
Archaeobotanist Leslie Raymer indicated that the building material used for the exterior and interior posts was pine wood. However, the horizontal building material used for the woven material (wattle) in between the exterior posts is still unknown. None of this building material was excavated, and it is likely that none of it survived when the house was burned down. It is believed that this material most likely would have been river cane. This would have been very easily sourced from along the banks of Pettit Creek and/or the Etowah River. The clay walls of the house would have been smoothed with a maximum thickness of about 15 cm. The material used for the roof is also unknown at this time but most likely would have been constructed using thatch. This type of roofing material would have needed constant upkeep as any holes or leaks in the roof appeared. It may have also needed to be periodically replaced as it was also common for these roofs to become infested with bugs and other insects.
In sum, the Cummings house is a square, single-set post construction with rounded corners that measures 4.9 m east-west by 4.65 m north-south, covering 23 square meters (75 sq ft). Our investigations indicate that, based on the house excavated at Etowah, the house at Cummings appears to be domestic in nature. Importantly, the size and shape of the Cummings house mirrors that at Etowah, which King (2001) labelled as a “square, single-set post building with rounded corners that measured 15 feet on a side”. The inhabitants living in the house that Adam King refers to is perceived as high status due to “their location adjacent to Mound B” and that the “inhabitants may have been of elevated status” (King 2001). Were the inhabitants of the house at Cummings of similar high status to those at Etowah or is the size and shape of the house at Cummings standard at all village sites within a certain distance from Etowah? Exactly what this means in terms of the relationship between the two sites is not known. Etowah is the largest site in the area and Cummings is in close proximity and therefore believed to have been under its social, political, economic, and religious authority/influence. Given that both sites share a similar house architecture/construction may signify some kind of close relationship; however, more research in other areas (e.g., village layout, diet and subsistence practices, material culture) related to these houses is needed to determine the exact nature of this relationship. Our fieldwork has demonstrated that the Cummings house was occupied during the winter months but we do not yet know if the village was occupied year-round like Etowah. Therefore, the length of occupation of the Cummings house (and village site) is still considered preliminary.
Future directions for this study could include further excavations around the site. The use of dowsing at Cummings by Carl Etheridge (of Bartow County) has indicated the presence of another dozen or so houses located at this village site. The excavations of these potential houses could help answer questions about whether there is a summer house that is paired with the excavated winter house. Beyond intra-site information about the village layout is the level of interaction with Etowah and other nearby sites. Another area of interest is a complete and thorough analysis of all of the artifacts found in situ on the floor of the house at Cummings. This analysis will help us to understand what kind of activities were taking place inside the house. As of yet, we do know the answer to that.
This research would not have been possible without the help and support from a number of people, including Dr. Terry Powis, Carl Etheridge, Kong Cheong, Devlin McElrone, Bryan Moss, Stan Tan, and Leslie Raymer. The Center for Applied Isotope Analysis at UGA is thanked for providing the radiocarbon date of the house post. Lastly, and most importantly, the landowners of Walnut Grove deserve a special acknowledgement for allowing Kennesaw State University to conduct archaeological research on their property.
Administrator. (n.d.). CGSS late PALEOINDIAN PERIOD. Retrieved May 13, 2021, from
I received a note from Mr. Ronnie Yancey asking for my assistance. Mr. Yancey was attempting to visit the burial site of one of his relatives in an abandoned cemetery behind Toyo Tire Manufacturing, Company. He asked if I could assist him in gaining access to the site.
Making a few calls and emails to friends, I finally gained approval to visit the site. It was through one of these calls I discovered that Carl Etheridge had completed the original Cemetery Survey in 2003.1 My next call was to Carl. We arranged to meet and visit the Cemetery together.
Carl and I met in the parking lot of the Hickory Log Personal Care Home. A modern brick facility that in many ways carries on the tradition of assisting those less fortunate in our community.
Carl had not been back to the Cemetery since 2003, when the survey was completed. By the time we arrived on the site most of the original land marks, roads into the area, and surrounding forest had changed. It was evident that Mother Nature was taking back that which was hers.
I found myself pushing through brambles and briars, ducking under low hanging limbs, jumping over drainage ditches, and stepping over fallen tree trunks as we searched for the cemetery on a beautiful crisp fall day. The sky was splattered with Cumulous clouds and the sun forced its rays through the trees and onto the forest floor.
Maneuvering along the lower slopes of Little Pine Log Mountain, I couldn’t help but think how this Mountain, in the not too distant past, was teeming with mining activity. Today these industrious activities have given way to Mother Nature’s reclamation.
The once prominent light-rail track moved load after load of mined materials from the mountain to White. The numerous community buildings, connective roadways, and mining camps all in support of the substantial mining industry were all gone, reclaimed by nature.
After a few minutes of orienting ourselves, Carl called out, “it’s over here!” The pioneer era cemetery came into view. It was located along one of the lower slopes of the mountain in a somewhat flattened slope. It was bordered by and abandoned roadway and a pasture. To the North was a chain link fence separating the cemetery and the mountain from a large manufacturing company. When the cemetery came into focus I could see the depressions and fieldstone markers—they were too numerous to get a quick count.
Unable to make a complete count of the graves, Carl pulls out his 2’ x 3’ map and said, “I found 483 graves here in 2003!” I was shocked. The original survey revealed the location of 166 grave sites identified by depressions and fieldstone markers and another 317 by remote sensing and probing. This was the largest abandoned cemetery I have ever seen. This was what was and still is called “The Paupers Cemetery.” Individuals have referred, incorrectly, as the Poor House Cemetery, Hickory Log Cemetery, Bartow County Farm Cemetery, among other identifiers.
The records from the Bartow County Farm or Pauper House were transcribed by Jane B. Thompson and Laurel Baty. It is from this transcription that I began uncovering the personal stories of some of those living, dying, and laid to rest on the Farm.2
The Cemetery is a two acre set-aside of the original 330 acre Bartow County Farm (Farm)— the Paupers or Poor Farm by most all references and I will use the term Farm to describe the institution herein.
The Farm itself is a pre-welfare institution. These institutions were literally spread across the nation and were the conduit whereby the communities, cities, and counties assisted those unable to care for themselves. Bartow was no exception. The Farm provided support and assistance to widows, orphans, single mothers and children, the aged, those who were mentally ill, and those with highly contagious diseases. It was not until the early 1930s that the nation, as a whole, began to discover the substantial need for a national system to care for these individuals. Senator Paul Douglas, seemingly convinced of the need stated, “The impact of all these forces increasingly convinced the majority of the American people that individuals could not by themselves provide adequately for their old age(d) and that some form of greater security should be provided by Society.”
Disease was prominent in these institutions during the19th and early 20th Centuries. The Farm records reveal numerous payments to physicians and others for the care of individuals housed there.
Small Pox had a dramatic effect on the individuals, the economy, and families of the area.7 An article written by Matthew Gramling gives a precursor of what Bartow County would face in just a few short years dealing with Small Pox.
Those contracting the deadly Small Pox among other diseases were sent to the Farm or to the Pest House2,3 at Stilesboro. Records reveal that in order to treat, house, and care for these individuals it became a substantial expense. It is thought that many of the unidentified souls interred in the Paupers Cemetery were victims of Small Pox or other contagious infections.
The Farm itself was established in the1860s and originally consisted of “a number of stark wooden frame row houses that were built side by side.” “A nearby open cut ore mine was also named the Pauper Mine. Mineral rights…were reserved by several ore companies.” 4 The Farm also included a building serving as a church.
The connection between the Farm and the Pest House or Pest Hospital in Stilesboro— some 17 miles distant—is omnipresence in the Farm records. Small Pox was prevalent between 1866 and 1871 and, in fact, the Farm recorded on “October 3, 1870, a receipt to the RRd for $18.00 for tent for use of Small Pox Hospital.” It may be assumed that the tent was some temporary measure to assist with the overflow of patients.
The Farm records help to measure the severity Bartow County faced with this horrible disease. The Farm provided medical services, courier, supplies, guards, and nursing to the Pest House and the records indicate that the Farm took the financial lead. Although the Farm was not immune to having cases within its own confines, most seem to have been transferred to the Pest House from the Farm. Several cases were found in Farm records and medical services that were required to treat the disease.
Those individuals unfortunate enough require the assistance of the Farm ranged in age from 7 months to 91 years. These individuals were called inmates on the Farm and throughout the records are referred to as such. The Farm itself is recorded as being called the Pauper or Poor Farm. The inmates’ average age was 46.6 years and in 1872 it cost approximately $92.00 per year to care for each inmate. Whites, blacks, women, men, and children, at some point, occupied space on the Farm. Those who could work did so on the farm. Being destitute played no favorites and individuals from all ages and backgrounds came to the Farm for assistance.
Death came in many forms on the Farm. Pneumonia is recorded on at least one death certificates and Robert Campbell died from a snake bite. His obituary reads:
“We are informed by Mr. W.J. Collins, keeper of the pauper farm, that Robert Campbell, an aged inmate of the Bartow poor house, was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday afternoon about four o’clock. After lingering in the greatest agony he died at 12 o’clock on the same night.” The snake was about four feet long and had eleven rattles.”5 Robert was interred in the Paupers Cemetery.6
At least one baby was delivered on the Farm and quite possibly more but the records simply don’t record but one such incident. The baby was delivered during the month of February 1872. The receipt reads. “To Mrs. M. Ford for 1 case of midwifery—5.00.” There is no evidence that the child was conceived on the Farm but it is possible as some families were housed there as well as individuals. Or, she may have come to the Farm for assistance in delivery which in all probability was the case.
At least three (3) mothers were left with the difficult decision as to what they were to do with their babies and small children. Some of the more fortunate were able to turn to their relatives while others found the Farm as a respite. At least three are documented as giving away their children.2
One mother gave up her daughter to J.D. Enlow. The farm records state, “Mother, who is inmate at Pauper Farm consents that her daughter, Martha Brown, should be bound to J.D. Enlow until she is 21.” There is no record of the age of Martha Brown.
Another mother, Jane Barnes, “authorizes me to say that she is willing for her child to be bound to Martha Jones.”
The Cofer family which consisted of a husband, wife, and two children gives notice to “Eveline Cofer, next of kin” but fell short of revealing what might have befell the family. However, by July 1, 1878, the records show that “Lindsey Johnson has applied to have Matthew Cofer a minor in the Pauper farm of said county and about eight years of age bound to him in terms of the statue.”
The hardships of the inmates prior to, during, or following their tenure on the Farm was taken with them to their graves. Life stories, diaries, or other written documents have escaped recording. We will forever wonder about their fates, suffering, and the feelings they must have held as inmates. In many cases these individuals were branded as morally unfit by the communities, outcasts if you will. This is not to say that many didn’t overcome their situations but we simply do not have a record of this.
The Cemetery Records6 of the Pauper’s Cemetery and actual Death Certificates reveal short stories of how some of the inmates lived and died. All were interred in the Paupers Cemetery.
May Brinkley, a single white female, age 18. She was attended by H.B. Bradford, M.D. from June 22, 1921 through July 22, 1921. The official death certificate stated that she died at 1:00 PM July 22, 1921 from “Syphilis and Pellagra.” Pellagra was a Niacin deficiency which leads to horrible, debating skin symptoms. The cause of the disease was most evident when the diet consisted of Corn Meal, Molasses, and lesser desirable cuts of meat. Ms. Brinkley has no record of a birth date or other family members, nor why she was on the Farm.
Albert Absolan Nation, a single white male, age 63 was attended by H.B. Bradford, M.D. He was born in 1856 to Jesse and Lucretia Johnson Nation who were living in Murray County, Georgia. He was under the care of Dr. Bradford from January 5, 1920-January 18, 1920. He died on January 21, 1920 of “Broncho-Pneumonia, Pleurisy Right Side.”
Pamelia W Crosson (Crossen), a single white female, age 72. She was attended by H.B. Bradford, M.D. on March 25, 1921. She passed away at 1:00 AM on March 26, 1921. The cause of death as reported by Dr. Bradford was, “Burn of anterior and posterior of arms, legs & body of 2nd degree.” Ms. Crosson’s brother, William, was interred in the Paupers Cemetery in September 14, 1920. He was 77 years old. Several of Ms. Crosson’s family members were interred in cemeteries in Coffee County. Little more is known as to why she and her brother were on the Farm.
The Paupers Cemetery is home to some 483 graves. We simply do not know the actual number of individuals that passed through the Farm or gained some type of short term assistance. Some went on to be successful in their own right while others are interred on the slope of Little Pine Log Mountain.
Their stark graves marked by fieldstone or a simple depression in the ground is all the record we have of them. Hopefully, someday someone will uncover more information regarding these individuals so they can be named and recognized as our ancestors with the humanity and dignity they deserve.
Appendix A – Deaths and Burials
Find-a-Grave list five (5) memorials in the Paupers Cemetery, and two (2) in the Pest House Cemetery.6 The individuals listed on this site are:
Paupers Cemetery (AKA Bartow Poor Farm Cemetery)
22 July 1921
17 August 1878
Crossen, Pamelia W
26 March 1921
Crossen, William Thoma
16 February 1843
14 September 1920
Nation, Albert Absolam
21 January 1920
Pest House Cemetery
Ash, Maring An Stroup
15 August 1829
7 July 1863
10 May 1849
Paupers Cemetery (AKA Bartow Poor Farm Cemetery)
Note: These individuals were obtained from the Bartow County Farm Records by the Author. Corroborating evidence is not presented. The two sources of the following information was taken from the Farm records or from obituaries found in newspapers.
18 January 1872 Name11 December 1872 Name
5 November 1867
8 June 1870
22 July 1871
29 October 1872
21(29) October 1872
11 December 1872
18 January 1872
30 September 1872
2 September 1873
22 August 1878
16 (14) September 1880
6 September 1888
7 November 1889
Appendix B – Transcribed Farm Records
Graves were dug, coffins made, bodies shrouded, and burials were recorded in the Farm Records. The records do not always coincide with the death of individual on the Farm but all these records were paid through Bartow County Farm resources and all are assumed to be for individuals residing at the Farm. The full extent of the deaths and burials may never be known.
November 5, 1867 – Funeral Expenses, $10.00. Last name unclear. This Emerson. March 2, 1869 – Receipt to I.O. McDaniel & T.C. Moore Furnishing Hammond & Family paupers House, wood, provisions and attendance—$6.00; ?? & other burial expenses Hammond—$3.00; Coffin-3.00; December 1868. June 8, 1870 – Pay to J.C. Roper for expenses of burying Ben Mitchell, Pauper. July 1870 – To J.C. Roper. Digging grave for Ben Mitchell Pauper, $2.50; Shrouding for the same, $5.00; making coffin for the same, $5.00; burying, $2.50. December 3, 1870 – Receipt To J.L. Dysart” for making one coffin. January 4, 1871 – Pay to Samuel Pitts for expenses burying Pauper Child of Lucy Rodgers. July 22, 1871 – Receipt to W.C. Grasham to nursing Howell a Pauper from Saturday until Wednesday, 5 days a 2$ pr day—$10.00; to furnishing coffin for same $6.00; to digging grave and burrying-2.50; killed near Stilesboro on 29th April 1871. January 18, 1872 – Order to pay Cartersville Car Factory a& B.A. $10.00 for “one coffin & box for Wm Hazel, Pauper. September 30, 1872 – Pay to Anthony Smith for materials and making coffin for body of child of Mary Wilson. November 8, 1872 – Receipt to J.B Britton for making a coffin (Pine Log). Oct 29, 1872 – Pay to Wm. Goldsmith for one coffin for Freedman Pauper on Sept 10, 1872. October 29, 1872 – Pay to Wm. Gouldsmith for one orrin for L. Gibson, Pauper on Oct 21, 1872. December 11, 1872 – Pay to Joseph Davis to defray funeral expense for Mathew Goodson, Pauper. May 6, 1873 – Pay to McDonald & Branton for burial of Pauper. May 6, 1873 – Pay to Gilbert & Baxter, agts. for graves for Pauper farm. May 6, 1873 – Pay to Wm. Goldsmith for coffins for Paupers. September 2, 1873 – Pay to A. Robin for coffin and to Wyley Harbin for burial expenses for M.T. Hill, Pauper. October 7, 1873 – Pay to Wn. Goldsmith for coffins for Paupers. September 16, 1880, p2, Cartersville Express Newspaper, transcribed by Laurel Baty. Mr. W.J. Collins, superintendent of the pauper farm informs us that one of the paupers, Lucy Felton (col) died Tuesday morning. He also says the general health of the paupers is good and reports the farm in good condition. There are now sixteen paupers at the farm.”
NOTE: The Farm records reveal that 116 individuals had some type of documentation during the tenure of the Bartow County Farm. We simple do not know the full extent of those who lived, were housed there, or died there.
Donna Coffee, Etowah Valley Pilgrimage, Blogging in a time of Pestilence, April 2, 2020.
Joe F. Head, EVHS VP & Dr. Michelle Haney (Berry College), Etowah Valley Historical Society, Hickory Log School (Former County Poor Farm Property Legacy. Research Courtesy of the Etowah Valley Historical Society.
Transcribed by Laurel Baty, The Free Press, Cartersville, Georgia, August 22, 1878, p 3.
Georgia’s chain gang system operated for almost 100 years and in certain instances concealed ghastly conditions that eventually earned it an infamous reputation for hotspots of dark brutality. Unfortunately, Bartow County equally caught high profile attention regarding cruel convict treatment. Periodically, Bartow camps became the epicenter of several state investigations that were featured in a national magazine, courts and major newspapers.
Following the Civil War southern states were faced with widespread destruction including the collapse of the penal system. Georgia was in shambles in the wake of war and particularly the loss of penal facilities, jails and prisons at local and state levels.
As southern states began to dig out of ruin there was little infrastructure left to manage incarcerations. In the Journal of the Georgia Senate Minutes on November 1866 page 24 – 27 a lengthy description appears describing the poor condition of the war ridden state penitentiary and great frustration in how to deal with prisoners. As a solution the penal system turned to a convict chain gang model that did not require brick and mortar facilities. This system operated on a field-based camp method and offered immediate advantages on several levels. It reduced the need to maintain prisoners and delayed the need to fund and build penitentiaries. Further it farmed out prisoners to supervised hard labor camp sites that provided imprisonment, discipline, food and shelter. Furthermore, it served as a divisive replacement for lost slave labor under the “colors of state law.” Typically, discipline was conducted with a strap and more severe methods were used for greater offenses. Each camp had an appointed “whipping boss” who carried out punishments. One report listed 112 registered whipping bosses statewide. The state maintained an annual whipping roster by name of prisoner that was filed with the state.
Joseph Brown, Georgia’s former Civil War Governor was one of the first to take advantage of the Convict Lease System. He contracted for 300 convicts and struck a deal with the state to rebuild the war damaged railroad system and, in doing so, made a fortune.
In 2006 the author of this research received correspondence from William A. Crump, Ph.D, Georgia State University Criminal Justice Instructor and former Assistant Commissioner of Operations, Georgia Department of Corrections. He addressed the origin of the convict lease system and the convict camp north of White in a topic entitled, Who Changed the Landscape of Bartow County Around White, Georgia.
His brief mentions that the convict lease system began in 1868 when the Georgia Military Provisional Governor, General H. Ruger implemented a law which permitted the farming out of the Georgia Penitentiary. On May 11, 1868 he leased 100 Negroes to William A. Fort of Rome to work in railroad construction, thus beginning the institution.
Soon following the launch of the convict lease system conditions became ill managed, notorious and corrupted. It was designed to relieve the state from shouldering the expense of convict upkeep with a deliberate revenue intent. The state invited bids from private interests to lease chain gangs for hard labor in mines, logging, railroad construction, sawmills, turpentine and other industries. As a side bar, many leases were let to third party private contractors who then managed the gangs for a client such as a mining company. These arrangements became breeding grounds for neglect, mismanagement, inhumane treatment, exploitation, disease and brutality. The chain gang lease system became a convenient revenue for the state, means to “legally press the underprivileged into bondage as well as a discreet tool to continue racial bias and a method to fuel cheap labor.” Records indicated that in most camps black convicts were largely the greater percentage of the population. However, some camps were more segregated.
The chain gang model approved camps at the state or county level for public works and private lease. However, as an unexpected outcome a third level of camps surfaced called “Wild Cat Camps.” These were largely unauthorized chain gangs that were assembled in counties from inappropriate conscriptions drawn from local jails. Unfortunate victims were shanghaied by various landowners or industries. Fines, bails and bribes would be paid by discreet individuals who removed jailed prisoners in chains to work for the period of their confinement. However, it was rare for the prisoners to be released on time or they fell to worse fates. These gangs were unregulated, ruthless and became dark operations that were outside the color of law. State officials struggled with these camps and attempted on many occasions to disband their existence.
Understanding the Chain Gang history in Bartow County is rather elusive and sketchy as camp identities were confusing. Basically, camps came and went over the years and were operated under nicknames or simply assigned a number. It was often difficult to determine if they were county, state, leased or wildcat operations. Camps were either mobile or stationary depending on the work and often their identity was determined by their duty.
Bartow County entrepreneurs were quick to take advantage of the lease system establishing a long history of operating a variety of chain gangs throughout the county. Primarily these early chain gangs replaced former slave labor in the construction of laying track, building roads, mining, timber and agriculture toil. Prior to the Civil War it was not unusual for local slave owners to lease their slaves to businesses in return for contract fees. Records found in this research reflect the presence of penal or incarcerated chain gangs operating from the early 1870’s through the early 1940’s.
Accounts discovered in this study reveal that Bartow had at least fifteen or more known residential chain gang camps and many other temporary or mobile camps that existed over seven decades. According to census reports most camp populations ranged from about 15 convicts to over 100 in each location. Camps were classified as either private lease for business or state/county operations for public projects. It was not determined in this study if Bartow had unauthorized wild cat camps. After the state lease system for private business interests was abolished in 1908, camps continued, but only as county and state operations. It was not unusual to see county or state chain gang road crews through the 1960’s.
The camps identified in this research were primarily stationary or residential camps as found in the US Census records, Grand Jury reports and newspaper articles.
Hall Station Road Camp
(1870’s, Between Kingston and Adairsville on Hall Station Road)
Cartersville & Van Wert RR Camp
(1870’s, West of Cartersville adjacent to Hwy 113 to Taylorsville)
Rogers Station Camp
(1870’s, Proximity of Iron Belt Road and Cassville Road, 100+ convicts)
Bartow Iron Works Camp
(1875, Lake Point Station area 50 to 150 prisoners)
Sugar Hill Camp(s)
(1880 -1908, NE Bartow County east of 411 north of White – 50 to 124 prisoners)*
(1900, Misdemeanor at Sugar Hill)*
Chumler Hill Mining Camp
(1901, 24 prisoners off highway 20)
Pine Log Camp
(1900, Area camps and possibly including Sugar Hill Camps 119 prisoners)*
Numbered County Camps
(1900, Area camps and possibly including Sugar Hill Camps 119 prisoners)*
Cartersville City Camp #2
(1910, Lee Street and West Cherokee/Market Street proximity, 20 convicts)
(1910, Taylorsville, 8 convicts)
(1906, Quartered in old school)
(1912, North of White on Hwy 411, 9 inmates)
(1912, 35 inmates)
Cross Roads Camp/ “Whites” GA
(1918, Camps 1 & 2 were merged and located to Adairsville, 27 inmates)
Chain Gang Hill Camp
(1940’s West of Ingles on Hwy 113 past ACE Hardware at top of hill, 34 – 96 convicts)
*Sugar Hill was simultaneously the home to several misdemeanor and felony convict camps over 3 decades.
According to the 1900 US Census the largest number of convicts was consistently centered in the Bartow convict camp around Pine Log District with 119 prisoners which may have included the Sugar Hill Mining Camp. Other camps recorded in the 1900 census ranged between 10 and 50 prisoners. Camps were both fixed locations with long term quarters and rolling camps using tents, wagons and camping equipment to move as the job progressed such as building roads or laying rails. Camps were appointed a warden, a “Boss or Captain and Whipping Boss”. Census records prior to 1910 most often list convict duties as cutting cord wood or mining. Great quantities of wood were necessary for making charcoal and firing the iron furnaces in the area.
As the lease system grew and chain gangs sprang up, so too did complaints and protests around the state emerge to abolish the practice. Bartow took a leading role in protesting the chain gang system. Among local leading voices were Bartow’s own Rebecca Felton, former Confederate General William Wofford, former Sam Jones Methodist Church Pastor General C. A. Evans and Judge Claude Pittman all wishing to extinguish the horrible institution called “Georgia’s Peculiar System”. General Evans became the state Prison Commissioner and testified at the 1908 Sugar Hill hearing that the lease system is radically wrong and needed reform.
On balance, the newspapers found in this research carried both sensational stories of mismanagement, filth and cruelty as well as positive reports on how well camps were conducted. The local papers often featured articles on road repairs and were complimentary of the quality of work. Frequently Grand Jury site visits determined acceptable conditions and satisfied prisoners, but also would cite areas for needed improvements. Chain gangs operated in a variety of capacities throughout the county in known and little-known locations. They were classified as County Misdemeanor camps or State Felony camps. Generally, reports included the number of prisoners, health, diet, sanitation, tools, number of sick or injured, escapes, budget, number of caged transport wagons (metal or wood), work wagons, livestock, road scrapers, negros vs white, male and female convicts and occasionally what work was being accomplished. Jury reports too often omitted camp identity regarding names, number or location which made it very difficult to understand sites. On several occasions reports would lean toward the abolishment of the chain gangs. However, the frequency and litany of reported abuses, hearings, deaths, whippings and investigations was painfully obvious.
During the February 1897 Grand Jury session, a full report was made of the Bartow Chain Gang Camp inspection. Matters were found to be in good order. However, the jury requested that a number of other bridge and road repairs be made and then asked the county to abolish the chain gang. In 1911 the Bartow Board of Commissioners voted to consolidate all the county chain gangs and to put them under one warden. Mr. H. K. Land was nominated and approved. However, no details were listed regarding the number or identity of camps.
The earliest documentation of chain gangs operating in Bartow County was in 1870 on the Cartersville Van Wert Railroad construction west of Cartersville and on the Hall Station Road. Newspaper articles referenced that smallpox had broken out in the Hall Station camp and doctors were dispatched to treat the prisoners.
The Cartersville and Van Wert (C&VW) Railroad was chartered in 1866 and 14 miles of track was completed by 1871, between Cartersville and Taylorsville using 100 convicts that had been leased from the state. (It is not certain if this was a rolling or fixed camp.) The railroad was plagued by shady management, unmet payrolls and reorganizations. As work progressed westward chain gang records appeared more in the Cedartown vicinity. As a result of corruption, by 1882 the road name had been changed to the Cherokee RR, followed by the East – West RR and now the remaining railroad bed is used to supply Plant Bowen (Georgia Power) with coal.
A second camp of 27 prisoners was established in 1919 on the Hall Station Road. The Grand Jury reported it was an ideal location and its operation was found in fine order. Surprisingly, the Jury stated it was too well equipped, over staffed, over stocked with farm animals, did not need motor trucks and recommended implements and some men be reallocated to other camps.
A Grand Jury report was made in August 1898 of the Bartow Chain Gang accounting for inventory and men. Items included 10 mules, 5 wagons, 3 road scrapers, harnesses and tools.
The force of men were 10 Negros and 8 white who were interviewed and found to be in good health and felt they were well treated. However, the tents were worn out and badly leaking.
Perhaps the three most notorious camps that operated in Bartow were the Bartow Iron Works Convict Camp near Emerson, Sugar Hill Camp near Pine Log Mountain followed closely by the 1942 Chain Gang Hill Camp west of Cartersville.
Sugar Hill Convict Camp
The Sugar Hill Convict Camp(s) were likely the most notorious operation in Bartow County. Located in north Bartow County northeast of White off East Valley Road in the upper Stamp Creek area at the base of Pine Log Mountain. It served an iron ore mining community and railroad operation that depended heavily on convict labor. This camp(s) operated from 1878 through 1909 when the Convict Lease System was abolished.
According to Dr. Crump’s correspondence, mentioned prior, there were eighteen different camps in Georgia in 1893. Four of these camps were in Dade County under one supervision and one camp of 51 convicts at camp Bartow (Sugar Hill). He refers to this location as nine miles north of Cartersville on the Rogers Railroad. These convicts were under Penitentiary #1, and lease control of the Dade Coal Company engaged in mining iron ore. Over time, as reports were submitted the number of convicts varied and companies in charge changed from Dade Coal to Georgia Mining and Manufacturing Company. An additional mention cites that I. B. RR. (Iron Belt RR Company) also had 23 convicts in 1899. His conclusion points to the convict lease labor system and mining companies as being key elements in who changed the Sugar Hill landscape around White, Georgia.
If by no other measure Sugar Hill was easily the most reported county camp in local and state newspapers regarding abuse and deaths. The August 1900 Grand Jury reported a list of mis-handlings at both the felony and misdemeanor camps that included self-inflicted wounds, severed toes, broken limbs, deaths, assaults, illnesses and crippling. They uncovered evidence of ill treatment, verbal abuse and a violation of no posted signage regarding rules and regulations for convict treatment. A scandal surfaced about paying wardens and guards under the table additional pay, supplements or bonuses beyond approved salaries.
According to newspaper articles and reported Grand Jury inspections Sugar Hill had both State and County camps in operation at this site. An inspection conducted July 24, 1902 found there were 84 state convicts and 53 county convicts working there. The same report included 48 convicts were at the Chumley Hill Mine. One prisoner was so badly injured that the attending physician recommended he be pardoned as he was paralyzed. On February 6, 1908 another inspection reported there were 76 state prisoners and 27 county prisoners at Sugar Hill. These reports validate that multiple camps operated simultaneously at Sugar Hill over a 30-year period.
The camp was hard labor, dangerous and a brutal private lease enterprise. Convicts were often poorly treated and inhumanely punished. Prisoners were frequently injured or killed in mining and rail accidents. Oral history supports a local legend of “Hangman’s Mountain” that was used as a sentence for violent or disobedient convicts who rebelled or committed aggression against guards or other prisoners. It was rumored that convicts would be taken to the mountain to either climb the steep cliff as punishment or simply to never return.
Prisoners complained of being ordered to perform work under hazardous conditions that put their lives at risk. Examples included being forced to work under heavy loading equipment, explosion zones, unstable mining cuts and overloaded train cars.
Cruel and lethal whippings would occur that often resulted in convict deaths. A charge of manslaughter was filed in 1900 against a Mr. Tomlinson for the whipping death of Mr. George Bankston. According to the investigation Bankston refused to work. A physician declared he was fit to work and following his refusal Mr. Tomlinson struck him with the strap 7 times. The next day he continued to refuse to work, and Tomlinson gave him 30 lashes and then 60 lashes on the third day. Mr. Tomlinson ceased lashing him, however the convict was found dead on the fourth day. The incident escalated into a full investigation resulting in an involuntary manslaughter charge. The commission eventually exonerated Tomlinson.
According to the August 13, 1905 Augusta Chronicle Deputy Warden J. W. Tierce at the Sugar Hill Camp was charged with the whipping death of a convict (Virgil Lidelle). The County Commissioner investigated the matter and heard statements from Joel Hurt owner, J. W. Tierce defendant and attorney Paul Akin, but to no satisfaction. The hearing resulted in the dismissal of Tierce and appointment of Mr. J. A. Carson as the new Warden. A Grand Jury investigation was ordered and eventually Tierce was acquitted.
It was not uncommon at Sugar Hill to witness fights among convicts and guards or guards provoking altercations. In some cases, guards would order convicts to assault or allegedly kill another convict. On one occasion an unusually large negro convict sentenced for five murders refused to come out of a mining cut and declared he would kill anyone who came in after him. A smaller convict volunteered to bring him out. Both were armed with picks. The larger convict swung his pick and missed, but the smaller convict’s pick swing caught his opponent in the cheek penetrating through the jaw and neck proving a fatal blow. The large convict was made to stand up where he was further beaten and chained to a tree where he died shortly after.
Frequent escapes and accidents were typical at this camp. A fourteen year-old boy was killed in a rock crusher accident, another convict was crushed under the wheels of a locomotive, another convict had his legs severed by a train car and a trestle collapsed injuring several men when the ore cars tumbled down the bank. In February of 1900 five negros overpowered two guards and gained freedom with only one being recovered. An August 9, 1900 Grand Jury report printed in the American Courant cited numerous incidents regarding accidents and negligence. It was noted that tram ore cars had crushed feet and severed toes to an alarming rate, diet was absent from meat, guards were found to be abusive, profane and relied on the whip too often. In 1906, the Grand Jury inspected the work areas and cited unsafe conditions regarding loose rocks, unstable dirt banks and rest areas too close to dangerous cuts.
In 1905 a controversy surfaced around Bartow County Commissioner Henderson as he was questioned about the legality of holding both the post of Whipping Boss at Sugar Hill and that of County Commissioner. While no one seemed to question his honesty or good faith many doubted his propriety or good taste of holding both positions posing a conflict of interest. As a result, he resigned as Whipping Boss and all parties were satisfied.
In 1905 a Grand Jury visit was made to the Sugar Hill Camp and it was reported there were 49 negro prisoners, 20 whites, two negro women and one white woman. It was found the convicts were well fed, well clothed and well housed. It was observed that officers treated the convicts humanely along with the sick and feeble. Convict ages ranged from 14 to 52 years old.
Bartow Iron Works Convict Camp
The Bartow Convict Camp was a privately leased unit under the joint authority of Mr. Harris and Mr. Stegall. They contracted with the Tennessee Coal and Mining Company in 1875 to provide labor at the Bartow Iron Works.
Among Dr. Crump’s correspondence cited earlier he mentions that a lease was granted to J. T. and W. D. on April 1, 1874 for Bartow Iron Ore for 180 convicts at $11.00 per capita per annum. Later the force was expanded to 235. Shortly after they subdivided the camp among several counties to make brick, raising iron ore and working on the Elberton Air-Line Railroad.
The Bartow Iron Works was primarily an iron ore mining community about one mile south of Emerson that is now the Lake Point Sports campus. It was a treacherous place as a result of frequent train accidents, assaults and mining mishaps, but also became a hotbed of convict injuries, escapes, mistreatment, health issues and deaths.
An early incident was a conflict between William Moore the Convict Manager of the Iron Works when he reprimanded a white one-legged convict. The convict cursed Moore for the action and Moore slapped the convict resulting in the convict landing a fatal stab to Moore’s side.
Under the Harris and Stegall 1875 lease the Bartow Iron Works camp consisted of about 50 prisoners who were shackled, chained and housed in a group of wooden shanties. Atrocities there reached extreme levels regarding inhumane treatment, hygiene and sickness. Complaints forced the Governor to investigate the camp.
Governor J. M. Smith sent Dr. V. A. Taliaferro to the camp on two occasions to inspect the conditions. On his first visit he arrived late in the day to observe dinner and saw a disgusting meal service that was void of proper cleanliness. He was shocked to see the quantity and quality of food served. Convicts were seated in a circle around a pit and not permitted to wash.
Trustees carried a wooden bucket filled with fatty fried meat. Each convict held out their shovel to receive a scoop from the bucket followed by a trustee distributing bread and water. He found the meat to be poorly cooked and was informed the diet rarely changed. He learned the diet typically consisted of poor cuts of fatty pork, bacon, beef, molasses, bread, seasonal vegetables and water.
Dr. Taliaferro declared the camp cook, Sarah, to be the filthiest woman he had ever seen in his life. He inspected her and found her body unwashed and clothes to be infested with vermin.
His further inspection of the camp found frequent evidence of inhumane treatment, deaths, tales of harsh punishments, escapes, no fresh clothes and illness. Dr. Taliaferro found poor sleeping quarters filled with old straw and lice. He discovered diseases including scurvy, rheumatism, consumption, syphilis, diarrhea, frost bite, dropsy and old age disorders. His inspection uncovered little to no medical quarters nor supplies on site.
He examined their work schedule and found it to be comparable to regular mining employees and determined prisoners work no more or no less than paid laborers. However, he was not pleased with how restricted they were to water and instructed water to not be rationed nor out of reach.
At the conclusion of his second visit, Dr. Taliaferro recommended to the governor that the camp is bordering on a case of morality and should be closed. At his recommendation Governor Smith annulled the lease contract and asked Dr. Taliaferro to transfer the convicts to a location for treatment and preparation to be bid out to another leasee.
However, additional research discovered that subsequent chain gangs operated at the Bartow Iron Works. Following the disbanding of a camp in Cole City in 1896 by order of the Governor, 400 convicts were moved to new locations. Governor Atkinson granted permission to establish a new camp in Emerson and named J. A. Bennet as whipping boss. An article on the health of state convicts in the Macon Telegraph reported that in 1901 there were 149 convicts working at the Bartow Mines. In 1908 seven convicts escaped and boarded a fast bound express train. Bloodhounds were used in tracking one convict who was apprehended in Rome, Georgia.
Roger’s Station Convict Camp
Rogers Station was a stop on the Western and Atlantic Railroad located in the vicinity of Iron Belt Road and Cassville Road north of Cartersville. This location also was the site of an iron furnace and mining operation.
In 1880 a committee was appointed by Judge McCutshen to visit the Roger’s Camp. The committee reported that there were 40 men mostly negros working along the railroad.
The men were housed in log buildings but slept in filthy bunks. Six men who claimed to be ill were chained to their bunks. Food rations were deemed sufficient allowing each man ¾ pound of meat daily, cornbread and vegetables as available. They began work at day light, took an hour and half lunch break and worked till sunset.
In July of 1880 The Macon Telegraph reported a dispute at the Roger’s Camp between two guards resulting in the shooting and killing of one of the guards. No charges were filed as the shooting was viewed as justifiable.
The Savannah Morning News reported on November 9, 1900 two convicts were killed on the Iron Belt Railroad while running from Rogers Station to the Sugar Hill mines. An officer also broke his shoulder in the accident.
In 1897 State Convict Camp Inspector Phill Byrd submitted a shocking report to the Governor regarding the state’s county misdemeanor camps (public and private). Byrd states he visited 51 chain gang camps containing 1,792 convicts. As a practice he made a rule to take each camp completely by surprise in order to discover the reality of conditions and treatment. His findings were graphic, horrific and quantitative regarding gender, personnel, race, ages, death rates, diet, methods of punishment and brutality. He reports briefly of visiting the Bartow camp and found all prisoners housed in floored tents year-round with good stoves and ample bedding.
Overall, his final report revealed harsh treatment, poor housing, poor hygiene, poor sanitation, illness and sickening smells across most camps. He noted that county camps were more often operated slightly better than private. In most instances 90% of the convicts were black and about 1% female. Byrd concludes his report by comparing convict bondage was worse than slavery in many camps. He encourages the governor to systematize and regulate the institution and move it toward reform including finding milder punishments for lesser grades of crime.
Some news accounts reported that local ministers such as Rev. Dunbar would preach monthly to the Bartow County Camps, while other news reported that citizens would hold Sunday picnics with a wide spread of food expressing appreciation for the good work the convicts had done in their neighborhoods. In December of 1920, Rev. Dutton of the First Baptist Church held a Christmas service for the convict camp off of the Dixie Highway near Jones Mill. A sermon, meal and a present were given to each prisoner.
In 1922 the state reported it had 7,667 in the penal population. The report included prisoner illnesses, deaths and comparisons of previous prison populations.
It was not uncommon for newspapers to report varied accidents among the convict road projects. In particular there are several reports of train and dynamite injuries. One explosion was covered in detail that occurred at the Douthit Ferry Mountain near the iron bridge.
Grand Jury Reports
In February of 1912, the Grand Jury submitted an extensive report covering a vast number of topics. One of which was a visit to the convict camp (identity not listed) holding 48 prisoners and Pauper Farm stating only that bedding was in need of replacement. They accounted for mules, equipment, diet and budget. A rather poor report of the jail was included that requested repairs, clean out filth, improve garbage removal, increase daily funding to 0.50 cents per prisoner to provide for better meals and make exterior improvements to the facility.
A November 1912 report was made in the Cartersville News of an unusual site visit to several road projects on the same day to observe work at three locations. The first was in south Bartow on roads leading to Kennesaw to see a new method of using topsoil to build roadbeds that might be used in Bartow. This same day trip was followed by inspecting 9 inmates housed at the county Pauper Farm near White. Discussions centered around how well managed the farm is and the hope to move the farm nearer Cartersville. The jury continued on to Wolf Pen and then White where they found about 35 convicts doing satisfactory work on the dirt roads.
In 1912, a forward-thinking Warden, Mr. Land supervising a county camp of 50 convicts introduced the Rule by Honor System. He abolished chains and shackles in return for good behavior and fair treatment. He established a set of rules and if any were broken the accused would have a fair trial among his fellow prisoners and punishment, if determined by his peers. The prisoners were so grateful, not one escape has been attempted.
Dixie Highway Work (cover photo)
In 1913, the Bartow Chain Gang worked on the road between Cartersville and Emerson. The Georgia Peruvian Ochre Company provided fill dirt for the roadbed followed by a topping from the Bartow Iron Mine. The community and county were extremely pleased with the outcome.
In 1918 two reports appeared in the Bartow and Cartersville News reporting that Camps 1 & 2 (“Whites” and Adairsville) have been consolidated and moved to Adairsville. An inventory listed: twenty-seven inmates (8 white and 21 colored), twenty-four mules, one horse, eight hogs, two Nash trucks, nine two-horse wagons, three 99 steel plows, one Oliver plow, one concrete mixer, two road scrapes, one six horse scape, three drag scrapes and one gasoline engine. At the old crossroads camp (Wofford Crossroads) the following stock remains in shacks: 10 mules, 13 hogs, 3 pigs, 7 bunks, apparel, 3 convict mobile steel cages, 7 wheel scrapes, blacksmith tools, 1 horse wagon, concrete mixer and a gasoline engine. The committee recommends that much of the surplus be sold and other items to be stored for future use.
Chain Gang Hill
The last residential chain gang to operate in Bartow County was known as Chain Gang Hill or Convict Hill west of Cartersville on highway 113. This camp was transferred from Dallas, Georgia and put under state management to complete the Rockmart Road project (Hwy 113). In the March 12, 1941 Tribune News Warden Ed Goble from Dallas reported that he would move the camp from Paulding consisting of 96 Negros, twelve guards and equipment. The article indicated that the Cartersville camp is one of thirteen camps maintained by the state. It operated between 1942 and 1944. Bartow County assisted in constructing the property consisting of a fenced compound of 5 or 6 wooden buildings composing prisoner quarters, commissary, separate mess halls for guards and prisoners, office, watch tower, supply shed, guard and Captain quarters. Much of the construction labor was provided by the prisoners. It held about 100 prisoners, 20 guards and arrived with a reputation of “Little Alcatraz.” There were frequent escapes, harsh treatment, rubber hose whippings and injuries. During its operation inmate population was reported to range between 47 to 100 men.
Correspondence acquired at the Georgia Archives revealed that Governor Arnall requested the Chairman of the State Board of Prisons to increase the number of convicts at several camps in order to expedite work. Cartersville was included to add ten men in this request. Documentation was found that listed the road project routes this camp was assigned to service consisted of: Highways 3, 20, 61, 113 and 140 totaling 110.3 miles of roadwork. However, its main purpose was completion of the Cartersville to Taylorsville (113 Hwy) road construction. Once the camp was established rumors of mistreatment emerged.
Georgia’s Chain Gang reputation attracted the attention of Life Magazine followed by a visit to the state including Bartow County’s Chain Gang Hill facility. While several camps in Georgia were featured, Bartow’s Camp was the leading story. Photography and interviews were witness to a harsh system that turned public opinion to demand the abolishment of the chain gang system.
On September 23, 1943, Senator Claude Pittman from Bartow county presented to the local Lions Club on “State Prisons offer a living hell to inmates.” He lectured that the senate committee on prisons had interviewed prisoners at the state highway camps and learned of harsh conditions and treatment. He lobbied strongly for its abolishment.
At the Chain Gang Hill camp, it was not uncommon for prisoners to walk off, escape or self-inflict injuries, slice tendons or break legs to avoid hard labor. In 1943, charges were made against Warden A. W. Clay for whippings, verbal and abusive treatment of camp prisoners.
The Senate Penitentiary Committee found that Clay and a seven foot, two-inch tall guard, Big Jim Bryant had falsely testified about concealing whippings and should also be wearing stripes. Following a Life magazine feature exposing harsh treatment at the Bartow camp Governor Ellis Arnall ordered that the camp be disbanded and prisoners to be transferred.
On August 31, 1943 additional documentation in the State Archives from Governor Arnall found that the Governor requested a report on the Bartow County Highway Camp investigation alleging mistreatment by Mr. A. W. Clay. This review resulted in the reinstatement of Mr. Clay without prejudice, free of fault and guilt. However, on orders of Wiley Moore, director of prison operations the camp was closed before the end of the year and prisoners were transferred to the Tattnall County prison.
Bartow County chain gangs were not unlike others that operated in the State of Georgia. In fact, there were news articles and state reports (good, bad and ugly) of even more ruthless and violent camps in South Georgia that used more torturous methods. It was not uncommon to find reports of sweat boxes, knotted whip straps, dogs set upon prisoners, convicts staked out in the sun, neglected infections, ankle spikes, shackles, prisoners suspended from trees or bound in contorted positions and food or water were withheld.
As a result of these abuses, Bartow County was singled out by a 1943 Life Magazine story. Additionally, a book and movie entitled, “I am a fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang” by Robert Burns was published. These exposures drew attention to the mistreatment of convicts, embarrassed state officials and helped to demand change.
In light of a harsh penal system that existed for nearly a century, Bartow can boast of the many local and influential voices that championed the cause to abolish the entire state chain gang system. We pay tribute to those local heroes who advocated for the eradication of chain gangs and are saddened for those who suffered unnecessarily in a cruel, archaic system.
To read a companion article on the history of Chain Gang Hill click here:
This article would not have reached the detail and depth of history had it not been for EVHS member, Mr. Sam Graham. His generous contributions from personal files and his additional research efforts in searching digital newspaper sources made this a much richer work. Thank you, Sam!
Bibliography Note: Some article titles were not available or have been altered for formatting andspace
Greensboro Herald, The Cartersville & Van Wert Railroad, February 2, 1870 Cartersville & Express, Story of ride on the Cherokee RR to Taylorsville, August 15, 1891 Standard & Express, Communicated (Editorial), March 28, 1872 Savannah Morning News, Penitentiary Convicts, April 11, 1874 Georgia Weekly and Telegraph, Cartersville Telegram to Rome,Bartow Iron Works, July 6, 1875 Weekly Sumter Republican Americus, A Terrible Record, May 21, 1875 The Georgia Press, Georgia Governor abrogates lease, May 18, 1875 Cartersville Express, Notice of Convicts at Cherokee Railroad & Rogers Iron Works, April 8, 1880 The Free Press, Report of the Convict Committee, July 22, 1880 Macon Telegraph, Removal of 400 Convicts, August 5, 1896 Macon Telegraph, Health of Convicts Good, August 24, 1901 Atlanta Georgian and News, Seven Convicts Escape from Gang, April 15, 1908 Augusta Chronicle, Whipped to Death, August 13, 1905 Cartersville News, Kingston, May 17, 1906 Atlanta Georgian and News, The Holder Bill Gives us Five More Years of This, July 22, 1908 Atlanta Georgian and News, A Battle With Picks, July 30, 1908 Atlanta Georgian, Seven Convicts Escape, April 15, 1908 Marietta Journal, John Neill Killed at Sugar Hill, April 16, 1903 Northeast Georgian, The Penitentiary Convicts, April 11, 1874 Macon Telegraph, Conflict Between Guards, July 30, 1880 Macon Telegraph, Bartow Abolishes Chain Gain, December 27, 1895 Macon Telegraph, Removal of 400 Convicts, August 5, 1896 Courant American, Bartow Chain Gang Abolishment Recommended, February 4. 1897 Courant American, State Convict CampCounty Chain Gang, August 4, 1898 Courant American, Mr. Tomlinson, May 4, 1899 Courant American, They Over Power Guards, February 15, 1900 Courant American, From the Grand Jury, August 9, 1900 Cedartown Standard, Tomlinson All Right, August 19, 1900 Courant American, Captain Tomlinson Friends, August 23, 1900 Savannah Morning News, Convicts Killed, November 9, 1900 Courant American, Sugar Hill and Chumler Hill Inspected, January 31, 1901 Cartersville News, White Convict Killed, Loses Legs, April 4, 1901 The News Courant, Convict Camps, July 24, 1902 Marietta Journal, John Neill Killed, April 16, 1903 Cartersville News, County Chain Gang, January, 26, 1905 Augusta Chronicle, Whipped to Death, August 13, 1905 Cartersville News, Henderson Resigns, May 18, 1905 Cartersville News, Chain Gang, November 15, 1906 Cartersville News, Convict Camps, February 6, 1908 Atlanta Georgian News, Convict Charges Leg was Crushed, July 27, 1908 Athens Weekly, The Statement,Wild Cat Camps, August 7, 1908 Atlanta Georgian, A Battle with Picks, July 30, 1908 Atlanta Georgian, The Holder Bill Gives us Five Years More, July 22, 1908 Atlanta Georgian, General C. A. Evans Admits Lease System is Bad, August 7, 1908 Cartersville News, Vote to Consolidate County Convict Camps, April 13, 1911 Cartersville News, Convicts Hurt by Dynamite Blast, February 2, 1911 Clayton Tribune, Picnic Celebration Dinner, October 6, 1911 Cartersville News, Bartow Grand Jury Recommends Bonds, February 6, 1912 The True Citizen, Convicts Ruled by Honor, August 31, 1912 Cartersville News, Splendid Work on Roads by Chain Gang, March 6, 1913 Cartersville News, County Chain Gang, May 5, 1918 Bartow Tribune, Two Convict Camps Consolidated, July 25, 1918 Bartow Tribune, Grand Jury Presentments, January 30, 1919 Bartow Tribune, Convict Camp, November 4, 1920 Bartow Tribune, Christmas Service, December 23, 1920 Bartow Tribune, County Road Gangs Does Good Work, April 14, 1921 Tribune News, Convict Camp Being Occupied, March 12, 1941 Tribune News, Convict Camp Location Insures Completion, January 8, 1942 Tribune News, Prisons Offer Living Hell to Inmates, September 23, 1943 Oakland Tribune News, Georgia Reforms Prison Camps, March 26, 1944 Miami News, Georgia Reforms Hell Camps, December 12, 1944
Articles, Correspondence, Reports and Exhibits
Georgia Senate Journal Minutes, State Penitentiary and Chain Gangs, November, 1866
Letter, Dr. William Crump, Who Changed the Landscape Around White, GA, February 8, 2006 Reinhardt University, Spirits of Log Mountain Exhibit, 2021 Dr. Donna Little Etowah Valley Historical Society, The Legend of Chain Gang Hill , Joe F. Head, December 2000 Digital Library of Georgia selected photos Life Magazine, Georgia Prisons – State Abolishes Old Abuses, November 1, 1943, pp 93 – 99 North Georgia Journal, A Look Back at The Chain Gangs, Gordon D. Sargent, Winter 1996 Report of Special Inspector of Misdemeanor Convict Camps of Georgia, 1897, Phill G. Byrd Letter, Ellis Arnall Governor, Clem E. Rainey, Chair of State Board of Prisons, August 12, 1943 Letter, Ellis Arnall Governor, Clem E. Rainey, Chair of State Board of Prisons, August 20, 1943 Letter, Ellis Arnall Governor, Clem E. Rainey, Chair of State Board of Prisons, September 6, 1943 Executive Order, Ellis Arnall Governor, September 10, 1943 Digital Library of Georgia, UGA
1880, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, 822 District, June 26, Pages 43, 70, 71, 72, 73 1900, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, (no location) Sheets 12, 13-A, 13-B, 14, 22 1910, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, Pine Log District, April 23-25, Sheets number 2, 5 1910, US Department of Commerce Census, page 216 1920, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, (no location) January 3, 1920, Sheet number illegible
Historic Train Wrecks of Bartow County
A look at rail tragedies in the Empire County between the 1840’s and 2022
By: Joe F. Head
Among the primary influences that established early Bartow County one must agree that rail history has played a major role in the development of what has been called the Empire County of north Georgia. As a result of the many railroads that have operated in the county, so too does a story emerge of twisted and mangled train wrecks combined with human tragedies.
The early occupation of Bartow County and its heritage may rest on four historic features that established its rise and initial success as a frontier settlement in the early 1830’s. First, the historic Etowah River Valley was inhabited by Native Americans who left significant remains of their past as evidenced by mounds, fish weirs, rock structures, burials and the Trail of Tears saga. Secondly, prospectors soon arrived to mine gold and in the process found a bonanza of abundant ores embedded in the red hills of early Cass County. This industry led to a dozen stone furnaces built to smelt pig iron and the need to transport product to market. Thirdly, Bartow was soon on track to be a part of the ambitious Western and Atlantic state railroad project to build a road connecting Atlanta and Chattanooga. And finally, the importance of the railroad through Bartow County during the Civil War adds further credence to the impact of Bartow rail history.
Bartow (formerly Cass County) was officially founded in 1832 following the nation’s first gold rush in north Georgia. Soon the county became involved in the great westward expansion to connect the heart of America to the Atlantic Ocean by building the Georgia owned Western and Atlantic Railroad (W&ARR). This project was a cooperative between Tennessee and Georgia to build a rail based commerce route east from the Mississippi River at Memphis to Chattanooga. The road would then run south to Atlanta and then east to Augusta connecting with the Savannah River and the Atlantic Ocean reaching European markets. The objective was to reduce shipping time down the Mississippi and avoid navigating the Gulf of Mexico around Florida and then to the Atlantic. The short cut to lay track between Memphis and Atlanta would also offer many added advantages to interior towns and expedite shipping time.
As the great Western and Atlantic Railroad (W&ARR) project unfolded, Cass County attracted keen mining interest from entrepreneurs seeking to piggy-back on the W&A RR and ship ores and freight from the county to distant markets. As a result, home grown railroads eventually emerged in Bartow that connected to the W&ARR between, 1837 to 1900. Following the Civil War the state owned W&A rail bed was leased to other railroad companies to include: Nashville Chattanooga & St. Louis (NC & St.L), Louisville & Nashville (L&N), CSX and other lines that rented rights to run trains on the rails.
Following the construction of the W&A RR, five indigenous railroad beds evolved in Bartow County including: Cooper’s Etowah RR, Rome RR at Kingston, Iron Belt RR between Rogers and Sugar Hill, Tennessee Iron and Coal in Bartow/Emerson and the Cartersville Van Wert (AKA Cherokee Iron Co RR & East – West RR) between Cartersville and Rockmart. Additionally, two rail beds were built by L&N and CSX specifically to service their corporate needs. In 1906, L&N opened a line between Cartersville and Etowah, Tennessee and is referred to as the Etowah – Cartersville New Line. In 1906 NC&StL (L&N) constructed a short line by-pass (coal loop) northwest of Cartersville. Today, among other commerce this line services fuel needs of Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen in Euharlee. This line tied into the former Cartersville – Van Wert rail bed.
Research uncovered a plethora of small-scale accidents involving trains colliding with automobiles, wagons, minor derailments, operational mishaps and people being hit along the tracks by moving trains. Many small accidents occurred on all the railroads in Bartow County and were far too vast in number to mention each in this study. This topic clearly revealed a preponderance of calamities from Cartersville south through Emerson, Bartow, Allatoona to the Hugo water stop at the county line. The number of small wrecks and deaths related to rail mishaps along this stretch was ghastly in frequency and suffering and too many to list. However, token citations are included and a few of these instances will be fully represented at the close of this work, but the core of this research will be dedicated to the major wrecks and catastrophes found in Bartow County. Most descriptions are drawn from newspaper articles and have been paraphrased for quick reading.
Train Wrecks, Tragedies and Entanglements
As grim as it sounds, there is something captivating about shipwrecks and train wrecks. People yearn to hear of stories that surround each incident and keep alive the tales of disasters in order to remember heroism or memory of loved ones. Both type of wrecks seem to enjoy folklore in the form of song and romantic legends than do other transportation disasters. As a result, Bartow shares in this mystique of legendary wrecks as a part of local railroading history.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Early operations on the W&A RR between Atlanta and Chattanooga were less than stellar during its first century and earned the road an undesirable reputation. Newspapers reported frequent smash ups, run offs, collisions, turn overs, loss of life and maimed or mutilated bodies as a result of riding the rails. It was soon learned that riding the W&ARR could be at one’s on risk. This unfortunate era spanned from the1840’s through the 1950’s before significant improvements were implemented. In fact, letters of protest from passengers printed in regional newspapers claimed bad management and careless operations by state authorities. Disasters became so bad and so frequent that tabloids commonly reported disparaging headlines or introductions of yet another negligent tragedy. The pride of Georgia’s State Road had become known as theValley of the Shadow of Death, as reported in January 15, 1852 by Augusta’s Daily Chronicle. The press chastised the state legislature for procrastinating and not taking responsibility for poor management referring to its supervisors as imbeciles and incompetent managers.
It was not uncommon for defective equipment to cause loss of life and damage to property. The Augusta Daily Chronicle reported a fatal explosion of the W&A engine, Delaware near McGuire’s Curve at the Etowah Station. One trainman was killed and several injured. The cause was reported to be “bad iron” used in the construction of the engine boiler. Other wrecks of the this period also included flash fires that were sparked by wood burning stoves used in the passenger cars during cold weather.
The Great Chase: The earliest records of Bartow train wrecks appear prior to the Civil War and forward. Perhaps the most famous episode regarding trains in Bartow County would point to the Great Locomotive Chase. While not an official train wreck, the event itself christens the topic as it is considered to be the greatest railroad adventure in American history. The event led to a chase and recovery of a hijacked W&A RR locomotive, The General. Union raiders hijacked the locomotive from Big Shanty in Kennesaw with the intentions of burning bridges along the W&A RR north through Bartow County to Chattanooga, destroy tracks and telegraph lines along the way. Considering the action, distance covered and that all chase engines were acquired in Bartow the heart of the chase did indeed occur in Bartow County. Had the mission been successful, Bartow would have faced a devastating railroad set back far exceeding a traditional train wreck.
McGuire’s Curve: Oral history and state documents speak of a treacherous section of track known as McGuire’s Curve that was built by the State during the original 1841 W&A RR construction. This section existed south of the Civil War period Etowah River bridge. The curve accounted for scores of derailments and accidents suffered by the W&A RR and NC & St L RR. As a result, in 1944, with the anticipated Corp of Engineer’s Allatoona Dam project several miles of track were relocated west toward highway 293. This alteration eliminated the dangerous curve and pulled approximately six miles of original track bed between Cartersville and Emerson away from the impacted dam construction project area to the west.
In the infancy of the W&A, Kingston became a major junction due to the addition of the Rome railroad made possible by the WYE allowing a rail connection between the state road and Rome, Georgia. As a result of this junction many mishaps and massive accidents occurred in the community. Additionally, just a few miles north was a lime kiln industry owned by the Rev. C. H. Wallace that also was the site of many derailments and nuisances to the W&A. Rev. Wallace fell in dispute with the state railroad superintendent in 1855 regarding turn out sidetracks used to load his limestone. Wallace maintained that accidents had not been that serious and to force a relocation of sidings would be costly and put contract labor out of work for a period of time waiting for his product to be delivered. The argument reached the papers for public awareness, but ultimately the state ignored Wallace’s case of imaginary damages to his business and instructed for the sidings to be moved and reinstalled satisfactory to the state.
Providential and Singular Escape, 1846
The earliest record of a train accident found in this research happened just north of the county seat on the State Road. On February 10, 1846 the Brooklyn Evening Star, Louisville Daily Courier and Baltimore Sun reported a bridge collapse over the Oothcalaga Creek north of Cassville (near Adairsville) on the W&A RR. The Engine with five freight cars and 25 passengers all fell into the stream below. There were no fatalities, nor injuries. According to the Cassville Pioneer news printed on January 23 the locomotive namesake was ironically named for the Oothcalaga Creek. The engine had only been in service for several months before the accident. The freight was hauling iron ore with crew aboard. The collapse was estimated to be approximately six feet to the water and caused little damage. A schedule of Georgia locomotives printed in the 1847 Merchant’s Magazine cited the cost of repairs to be $432.00 or $3,100.00 in 2019 dollars.
Letter to the public, 1852. One of the earliest records of a train wreck begins with a letter printed by the Charleston Courier in January 1852. A passenger wrote an open letter to the public about a train wreck on Tuesday January 13 that he was involved in approximately mid way between Cartersville and Cass Station on the W&A RR. The southbound passenger from Chattanooga was behind schedule and met an up bound passenger train without incident. After consultation it was agreed the south bound would back onto a Cass Station siding to allow the north bound to pass. However, an unanticipated southbound freight under full steam was encountered and an inevitable jarring collision resulted. The crew from the southbound freight jumped to safety, but the passengers in the returning train were severely injured. The letter describes how powerful the impact was crushing all passenger cars. Most passengers suffered broken legs, ankles, cuts and many will be crippled for life. He placed the responsibility of the accident clearly on bad management of the State of Georgia.
The Chiefton and Senator, 1863: Perhaps Bartow’s first documented train disaster during the Civil War occurred in Emerson, Georgia between the Chiefton and Senator locomotives. In September 1863 the southbound Chiefton collided head on with the northbound Senator in the deep cut about one mile north of Emerson adjacent to state highway 293. The southbound train may have been empty or carrying wounded Confederate soldiers while the northbound train was transporting fresh troops from Tennessee regiments to the northern battlefields. Both locomotives were running at high speed at night without lights and upon collision the engines fell on their sides with the cars and men scattered all along the rail bed. Casualties reported were confused as a result of men already wounded and dead on the southbound train. Best accounts attribute between 12 and 18 bodies were recovered for burial following the wreck. Records and oral history credit these deaths to having established the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta as the bodies were all eventually transferred there for interment.
Cartersville Van Wert Adventure, Circa 1870’s
According to an excerpt in the book, In the Light of Other Days, written by Caroline Couper Lovell of Etowah Cliffs near Euharlee an accident occurred on the Van Wert Railroad. She speaks of her cousins witnessing a train on the Cartersville Van Wert line crossing the Etowah River bridge, but before the train made if fully across the bridge collapsed. The train was a mix of freight and passenger cars and only one car length longer than the bridge. All but the passenger and baggage car plunged into the river. As fate would have it the witnesses had taken the train into Cartersville that morning, but decided to drive back to Malbone that afternoon. Amazingly, all the crew and passengers survived. When the crew and passengers gathered on the bank her cousin knelt with them and led everyone in prayer.
Rogers Station 1870’s
A number of wrecks occurred between1873 and 1900 at Rogers Station north of Cartersville. The 73 wreck was the result of a freight train derailing and a following passenger train colliding with the rear of the freight. No injuries and little damage was reported. Similar accidents occurred at Rogers Station as a result of misplaced switches and signal mishaps.
Van Wert Engine Run Off, 1876
The Cartersville Express reported that on February 17, the Nickajack locomotive of the Cartersville-Van Wert RR ran off the tracks about one mile west of the city. The engine sustained severe damage when it ditched along with two cars it was pulling. No injuries were reported.
Fall of a Railroad Bridge, 1878
A number of newspapers reported on a bridge collapse over the Etowah River west of Cartersville on the Cherokee (Van Wert) railroad. The engine and six cars stretched across the river forming a perfect dam. No fatalities, but several were injured according to various papers. The cause of the collapse was simply assigned to the bridge being too rotten. (It is possible this incident may be that described in the book, In the Light of Other Days, mentioned above.)
Ride to Death, 1882: The Atlanta Constitution reported on June 20, 1882 a massive midnight collision involving none other than the Great Locomotive, The General. This event involving the General has largely escaped public or historic attention about the famed locomotive. The accident occurred in the rail community of Kingston when two track switches were left open that threw the southbound General into the rear of a side tracked train. The engineer, Andrew J. West died shortly after the impact and the fireman, George Bass was severely injured, but survived. The story reports that the General was at maximum speed of 35 to 40 miles an hour and was not scheduled to stop in Kingston. Once the sudden switch occurred the General plowed through several sidetracked cars. The General was also pulling coach cars, but passengers suffered no serious injuries. However, as the wreck was sorted out an injured hobo was discovered in one of the smashed boxcars. He could not account for what happened and was completely disoriented to where he was and his identity. Later it was determined he was John Fitzpatrick from Philadelphia.
In a subsequent article printed by the Cartersville Free Press, January 4, 1883 it was learned that criminal negligence was suspected in the catastrophe. The railroad hired a private detective who relentlessly researched the case. It was discovered that a black man had sued and lost a case over an injury regarding a crushed hand on a previous railroad incident. He had sworn to get revenge after the case. He was tied to five previous derailments and found to possess a set of switch keys.
Georgia Car Company Explodes, 1882 Little known today is the once thriving railroad car manufacturing industry that once stood in the center of town. Following the Civil War two railroad car manufacturers erected plants adjacent to the W&A RR tracks. Each were producing as many as 20 to 25 cars per week and hired between 100 and 200 hands. The first (Cartersville Car Manufacturer) was located where the Grand Theater stands today and the other (Georgia Car Company) about two blocks south approximately behind the current day Tribune News. On February 17, 1882 the Georgia Car Company suffered a devastating boiler explosion that killed six men and severely injured several others. This event was so massive it destroyed, equipment and buildings, but the paper reported the business rebounded to fill its order for 800 railroad cars.
A Narrow Escape, 1886 On the East West Railroad a passenger cab unexpectedly detached and the engine was reversed to catch the loose car. However, the recovery was too swift and the train collided with the lost car causing a smash up and injuring a passenger.
Attempted Train Wrecking, 1887 An attempt to wreck passenger train No. 19 near Cartersville in route to Chattanooga caused damage and delay. Five cross ties were piled on the tracks. The cow catcher knocked off three of the ties with the remaining two being slid along about 100 yards until the engine stopped. The cars were full of people and running about thirty miles an hour. If it were not for the skill of the engineer the train would have been hurled down a 100 feet embankment.
Fireman Killed and Others Wounded at Midnight, 1888 A heavy engine known as Ole Reliable pulling freight cars was derailed south of Allatoona in a deep cut when it collided with a cow or ox laying on the tracks. The engine and several cars were thrown off the tracks and ditched. The fireman, Mr. Cirero Dilleshaw was caught by the turning engine and was so badly injured that he died several hours later at the St. James Hotel. The engineer, Mr. McDade was seriously hurt, but survived. It was highly speculated foul play was at work and the wreck was intentional as the ox was clearly out of place and thought to be dead at the time of the impact. Likely the motive was to collect damages from the loss of live stock from the railroad. The wreck cost over $15000.00 and took over 50 men to clear the tracks.
A Bad Collision, Circa1890 A “head-end” collision of two freight trains ran together one mile south of Adairsville killing the southbound engineer Charles Elliott of Atlanta. Dave Mc Dade engineering the northbound was considerably bruised. No deaths were reported. Both trains were badly damaged including engines and passenger cars. Rail traffic will be routed through Rome while the wreck is cleared.
On the Same Track, 1891 A disastrous collision occurred in Kingston injuring six men and damaging two trains as a result of a failing to replace a switch position. A northbound heavy freight pulled onto a switch to wait for a southbound train to pass. When the north bound pulled out a careless brakeman failed to properly replace the switch leaving it open. At 5 o’clock a northbound freight pulled on to the sidetrack from the south to wait for a coming train to pass. Upon the arrival of the speeding southbound train it suddenly dashed onto the open switch siding and crashed into the waiting train. No one was killed, but many crew and passengers were bruised, suffered broken bones and all were shaken up. Both trains were seriously damaged.
Trying to Pass on the Same Track, 1891 Haste makes waste in this unfortunate collision between Emerson and Allatoona. A southbound train fell behind schedule and chose to make up lost time by gambling to beat a north bound train through the Allatoona Pass stretch. The two trains collided just north of the Pass resulting in considerable damage to cars and track. Only minor injuries were sustained among the crews of both trains. A long delay ensued to clear the wrecks, therefore passenger trains were brought to each end of the wrecks to transfer travelers on to their destinations.
Death on the Rail, 1893 Early reports of two railroad men were killed when a collision occurred between a freight and passenger train nicked named “The Lightning Express”. The wreck occurred in the community of Bartow south of Cartersville where many were injured. Details of the accident are yet unclear, but both trains were badly broken up and were moving rapidly.
Smash – Up at Cartersville, 1895 A Western and Atlantic mail train, No 3 arrived in Cartersville at 5:12am during a heavy rainstorm and crashed into the rear of a fright train. The mail train was slowing down which prevented a complete disaster. The fireman and Engineer jumped before the collision sustaining only slight injuries. The tender was driven entirely through the mail car and the trucks were entirely demolished. The cause of the collision was attributed to the lead freight train not fully pulling on to a siding to allow the passenger train to pass. Several cars were remaining on the main line and a thunderous noise was heard when the mail train engine hit the freight caboose.
A Trestle Falls In, 1898 The Courant American Newspaper reported on October 20, 1898 that a train belonging to the Iron Belt Railroad Mining Company lost two cars loaded with ore. A trestle gave way over the creek (Likely Pettit’s Creek) sending two cars down about fifteen feet to the creek. The locomotive had already passed over the bridge near the Guyton Ore Bank. Two Negroes riding the ore cars tumbled down with the cars and were pelted by the scattering ore. A supervisor, Will Wofford was considerably bruised and the others escaping injury.
Train Deliberately Wrecked, 1898 A southbound freight was deliberately derailed near Cement in April of 1898. The wreck was caused by a pile of cross ties placed on the tracks at a point near a curve. When the engine hit the obstacles it left the track carrying eleven cars with it. A negro stealing a ride was seriously injured.
Trains Go Together, 1899 Two freight trains collide “head-end” a half mile near Kingston with mighty force piling up cars and scattering debris everywhere. Engineer William Hyde, northbound locomotive number 9 was killed when a large timber struck him in the chest. He was carried to the local hotel where he died. The southbound locomotive was engineered by Lee Dobbs who later declared the blame was all on him as he forgot his orders.
Double Header Collision at Noon, 1900 Six miles south of Cartersville at Bartow, Georgia, two freights crashed when the engine of one freight collided with the caboose of the forward train. Both engines were badly damaged and the caboose burst into flames. Several box cars were smashed, tracks were badly damaged, but both crews escaped serious injuries.
Wreck on the Iron Belt, 1900 The Courant American newspaper reported that on November 8, a disastrous wreck occurred on the Iron Belt Railroad near Sugar Hill in northeast Bartow County. Four convicts were killed and several others injured. The engine was returning from the Chumley Hill mines in route back to the Sugar Hill camp. The engine was pushing fully loaded cars with convicts aboard. The loaded cars became detached and ran down a grade in front of the engine. As the engine closed the gap the cars began to roll back crashing into the engine causing a considerable impact. Several other convicts were not expected to live as a result of serious injuries.
Passenger and Freight Collide, 1901 According to the Atlanta Constitution a “head-end” collision occurred in Bartow, Georgia just south of Emerson. Engine 91 left Chattanooga in route to Atlanta with orders to wait at Bartow for northbound engine 18. The crew jumped from the engine causing only minor injuries and only shaking up the passengers. Upon investigation it was learned that engineer Joseph Renard piloting number 91 forgot his orders and continued south. The two trains collided about one mile south of Bartow in a blind curve. Renard sustained the greatest injuries suffering a broken leg and internal wounds. This is the second accident in just three days where a previous Bartow collision also took place killing three.
Old Reliable, 1901 The Chattanooga News reported that on February 8 a collision occurred at Roger’s Switch (Roger’s Station) six miles north of Bartow, GA. Jeff Burrows’ engineer of the southbound Old Reliable engine was taking the sidetrack to allow another engine to pass. However, the air brakes failed causing a massive crash with the waiting northbound engine. The wreck occurred on a slight curve and engineer Burrows was on the right side of the cab and did not see the waiting engine. Burrows was fatally injured in the collision suffering two broken legs and internal injuries and was not expected to live. Remaining crew members jumped and escaped serious injuries.
Freights Meet in Head On Collision, 1906 On July 27 a NC&St L freight train collided with a L&N freight near the Etowah River bridge on Mc Guire’s curve. Both engines were severely damaged with crews on each train injured. A dozen cars were destroyed. The cause of the accident was thought to be a mix up by the southbound train in signals to wait for the approaching train in Cartersville. No deaths were reported.
Sleeping Man was Killed, 1907 On March 14 at the rail yard (Junta) a deadly accident occurred when a section of cars being pulled by an engine plunged into a caboose. Aboard the caboose was Mr. F. G. Maulding who was asleep. The crash destroyed 6 cars and ignited a fire partially cremating the body of Mr. Maulding. The fire burned for 2 hours before being extinguished. Ironically the President and Superintendent of the railroad were at the yard and witnessed the wreck.
Bad Freight Wreck Derailed on W&A, 1910 On March 10, 1910 an empty freight train derailed about one mile south of Emerson on the W&A RR in the mining community of Bartow (Lake Point Sports today). A northbound freight traveling at a high rate of speed jumped the track pulling twelve empty cars on Saturday. The cars overturned and rolled down a steep bank of back fill resulting in the road being blocked until late that night. The cars damaged over 100 yards of track. Engineer E. L. Finney remained at the throttle and avoided injury. However, the fireman, Mr. E. Nolan was painfully injured as he jumped from the engine. The cause of the accident was not determined.
Nine Men Killed, 1912 A Canadian newspaper reported of a disastrous collision in Emerson, Georgia between an L&N freight train and a W&A work train. According to the US DOT Library transcriptions the casualties were caused by a “head-end” collision. The work crew was riding on flat cars being pushed north from Hugo by W&A engine #27 toward Emerson. The southbound L&N being pulled by engine #9 collided with the north bound engine #27. A mix up of “wait orders” was deemed the cause of the smash up. Immediately following the wreck, flagman Head although painfully injured ran two miles to the Hugo station to warn other trains. According to the November 14, Centerville Press six men remained missing in the wreckage preventing the burning of the destroyed cars and further delay of clearing the site. Box cars were loaded with mattresses from near by depots and sent to the scene. Crews quickly installed a sidetrack to route traffic around the wreck. Wreckage was scattered all around the cut including several cars of lumber and coal. Over 200 people visited the wreck site on the following day to observe the carnage.
The foreman and assistant foreman were among the nine killed and fifteen other men among the work crew were injured. Survivors were transported to Atlanta’s Union Station on a special train. According to the November 10, 1912, Atlanta Constitution a crowd of over 3000 people met the train including ambulances, families and police. The injured were quickly shuttled to various hospitals for medical care. The wreck was so egregious that it was investigated by the grand jury.
Wreck Near Cartersville, 1914 A head-on collision south of Cartersville occurred on January 9on the W&A RR. An engine was distributing ballast at the Hugo water stop near Allatoona when a fast moving freight struck the paused train. All crew members jumped to safety before the trains collided. The engine of the freight and three cars were ditched.
W&A Passenger Train Derails, 2 Dead, 50 Injured, 1914 On Saturday December 19, a passenger train number 93, Memphis Limited derailed one mile from Emerson killing two trainman and four others. A NC&St L locomotive and five passenger cars left the tracks and rolled down a steep embankment of 50 to 75 feet. A variety of newspapers reported on the story claiming multiple deaths and dozens seriously injured. Among the dead were V. H. Entrician, Ernest Griggs and F. W. Bell of Atlanta. The injured were carried to several hospitals. A relief train consisting of an engine and passenger car was sent from Cartersville carrying two doctors and many men and women to help the injured. It was reported in another paper that fifty others were seriously injured and many were feared not to survive. A sleeper car was used to transport the casualties back to Cartersville for further treatment. The fate of surviving passengers was said to have been determined by a single mighty pine tree that stopped the coach from rolling further down the embankment.
A subsequent investigation of this wreck was reported in the February 25, 1915 Atlanta Constitution. This incident was initially thought to have been caused by poor condition of the rail bed to include defective crossties and worn or broken rails. Early suspicions declared that rotten crossties and other ill – fated maintenance was the fault of the railroad. An intense investigation was conducted following the accident to determine the cause. The review went on for many months. Findings were held not to be the condition of the track, but rather some breakage in the engine’s machinery, but it could not be determined.
Wreck Near ATCO, 1914 A freight train side swiped a standing switch engine near ATCO causing three cars to turn over. No injuries were reported, but the wreck caused a considerable delay.
Head on Wreck, June 24, 1920
The earliest image found in this research is that of a collision between a NC & St L work train that was backing southward and a northbound switch engine of the same road. The two engines collided around noon at a high rate of speed over the viaduct that spans the Old Dixie Highway, 293 south of Cartersville near Chemical Products Corporation. The larger work engine was completely demolished, but traveled several hundred feet after the collision before stopping. Two crewmembers on the work engine were able to jump clear prior to the crash, but one was killed from the collision. Dying aboard the switch engine were Mr. Arthur L. Rhodes, engineer of Cartersville and thrown from the cab to the lower road was Mr. Martin D. Teague, fireman of Kingston with Mr. M. D. Hollum from Kirkwood dying aboard the work engine. All three men suffered severe burns and blunt trauma. A passing motorist witnessed the collision and stopped to help the injured. All three men were highly regarded in the community and received impressive funeral services. Upon close inspection one can make out Coca Cola advertising signs at the center of the bridge under the locomotive and tender wheels.
3 Men Killed, 1920
At 5:05AM, Thursday June 19, a south bound NC&StL passenger train No 3 collided with a work train about one and half miles south of Adairsville. Both engines turned over and rolled down the bank. Three men on the work train were killed including R. J. Robinson, engineer and two brakeman J. L. Lockbridge and John Tomlinson. Six other people on the passenger train and work train were also injured. Doctors were dispatched from Adairsville to render first aid. Ironically, one of the deceased engineer’s wife was aboard the passenger train. According to the US DOT report the cause of the accident was attributed to work train extra #683 having inadvertently forgotten siding orders to allow for the through passenger train.
Wreck Near Kingston, 1921
An engine and five freight cars overturned at Cave just south of Kingston. Crews worked in extreme weather all night.
Engineer Killed, 1925 On January 18, 1925 a NC&StL southbound passenger train struck a mudslide that derailed the engine, two mail cars and several passenger cars. The engineer was killed and the fireman was seriously hurt. None of the passengers were injured. The slide was caused by a sudden, heavy rain, that blocked the tracks and caused the derailment.
At Emerson, 1928 A young road machine operator attempted to cross the railroad tracks in Emerson while pulling a large 30 ton Caterpillar tractor grader. He was employed with the Weeks Construction Company who was contracted to do work on the Dixie Highway south of Emerson. Before he could clear the crossing a Dixie Flyer appeared running at a high rate of speed. He thought he had time to pull the equipment off of the track, but the engine clipped the trailer wheel and demolished the big machine. Young Mr. Gibson jumped in time to save his life, but suffered a broken leg, sprained wrist and many cuts and bruises. The engine left the track as a result of the collision and sustained considerable damage.
Car Derailed, Two Killed, 1930 On April 17, an L&N motorcar struck an insulator bracket apparently placed on the track by someone. The incident occurred near Mc Callie Station about eight miles north of Cartersville. Joe Hood and Alfred Boston were riding the car and were killed. Both men were working on a section gang. No further information was available.
Engineer and Fireman Die, April 18, 1933
Flamingo Serpentine Wreck, April 23, 1933
An article appeared in the Tribune News on April 20, 1933 describing a serpentine heap of passenger cars that derailed in the Allatoona Mountains (April 18). Four fatalities (crew and hobos) resulted from the wreck. Also on board this train was the famed, Miss Pittypat (Laura Hope Crews) of the legendary Gone with the Wind novel. George Evans, engineer and Denny Giles, fireman were both scalded to death in the cab. A. H. Perry, a hobo was found crushed to death between the tender and mail car. The engineer and fireman were removed through the cab window of the over turned Flamingo locomotive. Three other injured hobos were found between the engine and baggage car. Clifford Decker also penned between the tender and baggage car was taken to Crawford Long hospital in critical condition, but died later. The wreck stretched over 500 feet in a scrambled heap. A Negro hobo was seen running from the scene exclaiming he did not want to be charged for stealing a ride. The conductor, L. C. Butcher was in charge of the Flamingo and reported all passengers were safe.
Flamingo Gold Robbery Wreck, April 18, 1933 A subsequent story was report by the Atlanta Constitution indicating the Flamingo may have been intentionally wrecked. The Flamingo was a fast passenger train operated by the L&N RR that ran between Cincinnati, Ohio and Jacksonville, Florida. It was well known to often transport gold to points across the south. On April 17, 1933 the train derailed in Emerson, Georgia resulting in two lives being lost in the accident. Witnesses reported seeing three white men attempting to break into the express car that was directly behind the engine and tender car. The suspected robbers escaped, but detailed descriptions were given to the railroad police and local sheriff, George Gaddis. A week after the fatal accident the local Grand Theater featured live film footage of the wreck.
L&N Washout, 1938
On April 14 area creeks in northeast Bartow County quickly swelled and covered large sections of track between Bartow and Gordon Counties. A raging torrent of rain washed a section of L&N track away south of Fairmount causing 18 freight cars to pile up. Sulfuric acid spilled delaying repairs. No fatalities were reported.
Two Killed in Gruesome Train Wreck, July 20, 1940
What appears to be the most horrific train wreck in Cartersville occurred July 20, 1940 when a switch mishap caused an inferno collision. Mixed track signals were blamed for a fiery collision between two locomotives and fourteen derailed freight cars just south of Cartersville next to the old Cartersville golf course (Tinsley Park) on highway 293. A NC&St.L locomotive was pulling off a side spur onto the main track in route to Thompson and Weinman. A northbound freight traveling at a high rate of speed collided with the switching southbound NC& St. L resulting in a massive smash-up and fire ignited from a fuel tanker. Scores of spectators gathered to see the carnage following the collision and were deathly panicked when a gasoline tanker car exploded unexpectedly. The blast was so catastrophic that it stampeded the crowd causing trampling. Families were separated, children lost in the chaos and desperate screams were heard to find loved ones. Fleeing observers received burns, cuts and bruises from trying to escape the raging fire. Some were trapped between the fire and wire fence causing desperate attempts to climb over the fence works. Flames shot several hundred feet high, people jumped to shelter, some dropped to pray and others ran. The heat was so intense that firefighters and rescue personnel had to have water hosed over them to continue rescue efforts. Over 200 people received injuries from the sudden explosion and fear stricken reaction to run from the blast. The local Stanford hospital was over run with injured people.
The engineers of both trains perished in the wreck with Mr. Greenwell of the northbound locomotive found crushed under a freight car and Mr. Gilstrap piloting the southbound train was found at the cab throttle with a broken neck and crushed shoulders. A third train arrived and the engineer, Mr. Ross entered the fire to rescue his colleagues. He summoned help from stand by golfers who were on the near by course. It took several days to clear the wreckage and attracted 20,000 spectators from miles around to see the carnage.
L&N Spills Tons of Coal, 1960’s
The Tribune only offers a brief mention of a L&N coal train over turning north of Cartersville. No cause, specific location or injuries were reported.
Train Derails in Cartersville, 1960 Seventeen cars were derailed a few blocks south of the central Cartersville business district in mid December. A southbound NC&StL freight lost several cars when they jumped the tracks with one car running into a lumber shed at the J. Hugh Gilreath Lumber Co.
Junta Yard Pile Up, 1953
While not definitive it appears a derailment occurred north of Cartersville in the vicinity of the Junta signal tower switchyard just north of the former E Z Knitting Mills. According to photos from the newspaper this wreck occurred in January 1953, but no story was located to support this pile up.
According to the May 21, 1953 Tribune a freight train piled into a Dixie Flyer passenger train on Hall Station Road. The passenger train stopped to allow the freight to pull on to a siding. As the southbound freight pulled onto the siding its cars began to jack knife into the passenger train resulting in the derailment of 11 cars between the two trains causing four cars to overturn and two of which contained liquid chlorine. Chemical specialists were rushed in to supervise how to evacuate the hazardous liquids.
Photo courtesy of the Tribune News
In mid December of 1958, a northbound L&N freight train wrecked on the north end of Kingston completely destroying the center section of the overhead bridge at Hall’s Station Road. According to an account by Sara Johnson as published in the book Remember Kingston, by Martha Mulinix, train cars were in her grandfather’s (C. E. Pratt) and neighbors gardens. Freight such as towels, sheets, blankets and appliances were scattered all along the tracks. People did not go to work or attend school that day in order to see the recovery and salvage goods from the wreck. Seven box cars scattered into neighboring yards. The cause of the crash was considered to be a “hot box” failure. (A set of wheels and axles that became over heated and disintegrate from extreme stress causing the trollies to breakup from lack of grease and lubrication.) The clean up and bridge reconstruction took months to restore.
17 L&N Cars Derail, 1960
A freight train number 55 pulling 116 cars through Cartersville at about 7:30PM lost 17 cars on the W&A at the Leake Street crossing. All but two of the cars were empty with the remaining two hauling tobacco and potatoes. Officials determined the derailment was caused by a coupler – assembly that disconnected. The damaged cars were refrigeration units costing approximately $27,000 each. Emergency power line crews had to be brought in to restore electrical service and clear dangerous live wire. No injuries or fatalities were suffered.
Derailment Sends Acid into Creek, 1962
An L&N train from Etowah, Tennessee to Atlanta developed a “hot box” wheel and derailed just north of the city. Four tank cars ran down an embankment and spilled sulfuric acid into Pettit’s Creek. The accident caused no injuries. Residents were warned to stay clear of the area keeping children and pets away until the chemical become diluted and harmless.
L&N Cars Derail in Adairsville, 1962
Fourteen cars of a 106 car train derailed north of Adairsville. The cars were badly damaged, but no injuries were reported.
Adairsville Rail Wreck Leaks Acid, 1963
A rail car transporting sulphuric acid was among nine cars that derailed in the downtown Adairsville business quarter and narrowly missing houses. A city square block was roped off and near by residents were evacuated. Bartow County Rescue officers plugged the punctured tank with a rubber inner tube using a long pole.
Twenty Freight Cars Leave Track, 1964
Mixed coverage from several newspapers reported that between 20 and 24 L&N cars derailed north of Acworth near Emerson in Bartow County. The Marietta Daily Journal declared three wrecks had occurred in the same vicinity during the same summer.
L&N Freight Derails in Kingston, Tragic death, 1964
Twenty four cars of a NC&StL derailed near Kingston resulting in approximately 500 feet of damaged track. While there were no injuries at the site, a death was reported several days following the incident. A 16 year old boy was found during the clean up having been smothered in bushels of corn and debris that was being loaded in a hopper.
Train Derails North of Town, 1970
On December 17, a southbound L&N freight train derailed north of the city at 6:15 AM. The accident occurred one quarter mile north of the Jones Mill Road underpass.
A witness reported seeing a “red hot wheel” on one of the freight cars as he waited to cross the tracks. Six cars derailed and massed into a tangled pile while another car loaded with coal did an undetermined amount of damage. There were no injuries or fatalities reported in this incident.
Train Derails Smashes Emerson House, 1974
Three people were injured and taken to the hospital September 26 when a L&N train derailed in Emerson. A northbound freight pulling 17 cars derailed about one block north of the Morris Grocery Store (Doug’s Place) and struck a house completely demolishing the structure and injuring 3 people. Occupants of the house were Mrs. Tom Kincannon and her two children, Kevin and Melissa. The cause of the wreck was not reported.
Derailment in Adairsville, 1975
A northbound L&N freight train derailed at Bowdin’s Crossing north of Adairsville on January 9, 1975. Twenty-two cars piled up as a result of a broken rail according to a spokesman from the railroad. The train was L&N’s number 620 headed for Chicago. Rails and cross ties were significantly damaged. There was one fatality and no other injuries reported. Wreckage was cleared in about 24 hours.
Plant Bowen Coal Derails at Dairy, 1975
According to an L&N spokesman eight coal cars destined for Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen derailed with some overturning on December 4, 1975 across from the Jackson’s Dairy farm on Mission Road. Train wreckers were brought in the following week to remove the wreckage. No injuries were reported.
Railroad Cars Derail North of Kingston, 1975
The Tribune News reported September 2 that approximately 20 L&N railroad cars derailed north of Kingston. It took three days to fully clear up the wreckage. No one was injured in the accident.
Six Coal Cars Derail on Mission Road, 1975
In almost the same location as a previous wreck near Jackson’s Dairy a L&N train derailed spilling six coal cars in route to Plant Bowen. There were no injuries reported.
Three Engines Derail North of Cartersville, 1978
The Herald Tribune reported that three L&N engines and 23 cars derailed at the Cass Station and Iron Belt Road intersection on March 16, 1978. The lead engine did not derail, but the following three engines and cars did derail. No injuries or fatalities were reported. Most of the cars were empty, but some were loaded with goods including aluminum, cable, filters, soybeans and resin. The cause of the wreck is unknown.
Seven Cars Jump the Track, 1979
On November 15, seven L&N cars of a 72 car coal train bound for Plant Bowen jumped the tracks near the intersection of Chulio Road and Mission Road with cars and rails suffering considerable damage. This is near the same site of two previous derailments of coal trains headed to the Georgia Power Plant. No injuries reported.
Kingston, 16 L&N freight cars derail, 1979
Nearly two decades later a northbound freight lost sixteen cars at the same Kingston bridge location at Highway 293 bridge as an earlier wreck occurred in 1958. There were no fatalities, nor injuries, but considerable damage to track and freight cars was sustained. The cars were mostly wooden having splintered and piled on top of each other. According to records this train was known as the shuttle train between Chattanooga and Atlanta.
L&N Train Derails near Stilesboro, 1979
In July of 1979 ten cars were over turned outside of Stilesboro and two others derailed around midnight. The incident was not heard by neighbors and attracted no attention until daylight. The cause for the wreck was undetermined and no fatalities or injuries were reported. The scene was just west of Plant Bowen at Old Taff Road on the old Cartersville Van Wert rail bed.
Off The Line, 1986
Thirteen Seaboard System boxcars derailed southeast of Emerson near the Sandtown Road. No injuries were reported.
CSX Grain Train Derails, 2010
On November 5, 2010 a CSX train derailed north of Cartersville, at the crossing of Felton Road west of Tennessee Street near a residential section. Twenty cars hauling grain jumped the tracks. The train consisted of two locomotives and 74 cars. The train had departed from Michigan headed southbound to Comer, Georgia. There were no fatalities or injuries, but considerable dust and damage to tracks and equipment resulted. CSX staged heavy equipment along Beaver Trail for several days to clear the wreck.
CSX Coal Train Overturns, November 6, 2013
A CSX coal train derailed after delivering its payload to the Georgia Power Plant Bowen in Bartow County west of Cartersville near Euharlee. The train overturned near Beasley Road about 11:15. Two injuries were report and taken to the Floyd Medical Center.
Emerson Crossing Collision, 2020
On Wednesday June 24 at 9:15 a tractor and trailer got hung up on the high track crossing on HWY 293 in front of Doug’s Restaurant. The truck driver (Vicky Morris from Missouri) attempted to quickly decouple the trailer from the tractor, but was unsuccessful. She then attempted to accelerate the tractor across the tracks, but was struck by the CSX engine before she could exit the cab. The impact pushed the tractor and trailer north for about a quarter of a mile prior to stopping behind the Southern Girls Produce stand. The truck driver was killed in the impact and the tractor was demolished. It took about five hours to clear the track.
Hall Station Road Derailment, 2020
On Friday August 14, ,2020 a CSX train derailed north of Kingston adjacent to the Hall Station Road (Hwy 293) near the Old Hall Station Crossing and Double J Farms. The wreck occurred at 5:00am and involved 35 rail cars that left the tracks. The incident resulted in no injuries and the cause has not been determined. The site was a mass of tangled box cars, hoppers and auto rack carriers. Scores of automobiles being transported were crushed and fully destroyed . Other cargo included cement, rice, potatoes, canned goods and animal tallow. There were no hazardous spills other than minimal diesel fuel posing no threat to water sources. Over 100 men with heavy equipment were called in to remove the wreckage that is expected to take about three days. Damage to Hall Station Road is expected to be significant.
Kingston February 17, 2022
CSX train derails north of Kingston at the Hall Station Road bridge. There were no injuries or discharge of harmful chemicals. Crews worked into the night to clear the tracks. No cause of derailment was determined at the time of recovery.
Token Mention ofVehicle and Train Entanglements
The newspapers frequently reported mishaps, smash-ups, impacts and collisions between locomotives, rail cars or vehicles almost monthly. More horrific were the incidences of literally striking an individual or running over a person leaving them mutilated, dismembered or dead. Listed below are token examples of these tragedies as a tribute to this category of fates.
Convict Killed, 1901
A young white convict was killed at the Sugar Hill mines in northeast Bartow County. Bob Kent was carrying water when a strong wind swept smoke from the engine blocking the view of the engineer and convict. Kent was knocked down and before he could clear the tracks the engine and several cars rolled over his legs severing both. He died soon afterwards.
Train Demolishes Auto, 1938
Circa 1938, the famed Flamingo fast passenger train stuck a car attempting to cross over a temporary grade crossing north of Cartersville. Mr. V. C. Autrey and his light coupe vehicle was carried a half mile before the train stopped.
Wreck Victims Awarded Cash, 1940
It was not uncommon for victims of train and auto collisions to receive compensation for rail accidents. Lawsuits and settlements were common between the railroad and injured parties. Such an incident occurred during the Christmas season at the Main Street crossing. On June 20, 1940 the Tribune News reported that the NC&StL agreed to a cash pay out for a mishap involving Mrs. Gertrude Harvey, Mrs. Robert Wilson and a Mr. Pittard each receiving between $1000 and $2000. All three sustained serious leg injuries.
Young Woman Killed by Train, 1962
Shirley Ann Mathison was killed when the car she was riding in was struck by an L&N train at the (former) Cook Street crossing. She was pronounced dead from head injuries at the Sam Howell Memorial Hospital. Louie Head, believed driving the car was injured suffering broken ribs, knees and several teeth knocked out. The automobile was carried 735 feet by the northbound passenger train before coming to a stop. A secondary source cited that this was the fourth young person killed by a train within two years. The previous youth killed in February 1961 was the daughter of the police officer called to investigate the tragedy.
The newspapers hold a cache of reports citing mishaps at street crossings, collisions with cars, trucks, wagons and multiple instances of people being struck by trains while walking on the tracks. Other reports include hobos being found injured or dead along the railroad resulting from various forms of fatalities.
The causes of most wrecks were typically assigned to human error, poor maintenance of the line and faulty equipment. Reports included broken rails, rotten cross ties, neglected switch positions, poor bridge conditions, confused orders, premature turn outs, weather, excessive speed, washouts, coupler disconnects and hot boxes or wheel/axle assembly disintegration.
This research reminds us of the importance of Bartow’s rail history and reveals 180 years of forgotten railroad tragedies. Bartow once thrived with five indigenous railroad beds that eventually develop a storied chapter of train wrecks and rail history. The major findings point to the frequency of wrecks occurred on the W&A RR under the authority of the State and leases including Joseph Brown, NC & St L, L&N and CSX RR’s. As a secondary observation it appears wreck hot spots most often occurred in Kingston, Cartersville, old Bartow mining settlement (Emerson) and the Allatoona community.
As a result of the local rail industry, it became inevitable that train accidents and loss of life would soon claim a piece of Bartow history. As instances occurred no central archive was maintained to preserve a collective memory of wrecks and tragedies. These ghostly train whistles of long ago deserve to have their story not forgotten, but also preserved in a special place of Bartow history.
This work is intended as an initial effort to document “significant” train wreck history occurring in Bartow County from the pre-Civil War period to 2020 by offering a reference for future readers and researchers.
Newspapers, Magazines and Blogs
(Note: Some article titles have been abbreviated for space concerns)
Work continues on RR Track after train derailment, Tribune News, November 5, 2010
No injuries or hazardous spills reported in Kingston Train Derailment, Tribune News, August 15, 2020.
Train Derails in Kingston, Tribune News, February 19, 2022.
Head, Joe F., Cartersville’s Car Manufacturing Age, April 2016, EVHS Bartow Author’s Corner
Head, Joe F, Emerson’s Forgotten Train Wreck, July 2016, EVHS, Bartow Author’s Corner
Martino, Giovanni, Historic Railroads of Bartow County, February 15, 2018, EVHS Bartow Author’s Corner
Head, Joe F, The Heart of the Chase, July 2015, EVHS, Bartow Author’s Corner
Lovell, Caroline Couper, In the Light of Other Days, Mercer University Press, Copyright 1995
Head, Joe F, The Great Locomotive Dispute,1990 & 1997, Bartow History Center
Mulinix, Martha, Johnson, Sara, We Remember Kingston, The Big Train Wreck, 1992
Johnson, James Houstoun, Western and Atlantic Railroad of the State of Georgia, Stein Printing Co, 1925, Copyright 1932.
A special thank you is extended to Mr. Sam Graham for his keen research skills in locating train wrecks between 1840 and 1900 in a variety of on-line digital newspapers and government documents. Without his assistance this period of documented train wrecks would have been largely under-represented.
This brief paper covers the changes in Cartersville’s
fire service from 1867, when there was no fire department, until 1918, when the
fire service included a municipal water system, full-time professional
firefighters and a motorized engine; the basics of the system which is still in
In the years following the Civil War, the citizens of Cartersville were in the process of rebuilding upon the ashes left by Sherman’s troops. At 7:00 P.M. on January 4th, 1867, fire broke out in one of the buildings on Main Street, west of the railroad tracks. Several buildings were consumed by the flames, and the office of the local newspaper, the Express, which was in the path of the conflagration, was demolished in an attempt to stop the spread of the fire. The Express was soon back in business, and the issue of January 11, 1867 described the futile attempts of the citizens to fight the fire “without the aid of an engine and in the absence of an organized fire company”. On April 27, 1870, another fire occurred, destroying the entire block of buildings on the west side of the depot.[i] Cartersville was still in need of an effective fire department.
In 1873, the City purchased the lot at the corner of Erwin Street and Church Street, “with the view of erecting thereon a Fire Engine and Market House on the first floor, and a City hall and Council Chamber on the second…”.[i] A volunteer fire company was organized, a new hook & ladder was purchased, and a
building erected on the lot for the storage of firefighting equipment. There was a bell tower, and in the event of a fire, the bell was rung to alert volunteers.[i] In February of 1877, the company had dissolved, turning over their equipment to the City Council. The Council immediately began efforts to organize another fire company.[ii] Over the next 30 years, interest in the department fluctuated, and there were several reorganizations. Lack of participation was a continual problem with the all-volunteer department,
local leaders attempted to stimulate interest with various social events,
including meetings, banquets, parades and competitions, or “tournaments”, with
other departments. In 1889, the City’s
first water system was completed. Prior
to this time, Cartersville’s water sources consisted of wells, cisterns and springs. The city never purchased a hand engine or
steam engine, using only the hook & ladder, hose reels and hose carts; all
hand-drawn equipment. With these
conditions, and having to rely on volunteers exclusively, results were unpredictable. It wasn’t until 1909, when the city hired two
men as firefighters, that an efficient & reliable firefighting force became
A Professional Fire Department
In August of 1905, the city council authorized the purchase of a wagon and two horses for the fire department.[i] The wagon, which would serve as a hose wagon, arrived in November, 1905. Built by G. W. Walker of Gainesville, Georgia, at a cost of $300, the wagon was to be stored in Bradley’s shop on West Main Street until a team of horses could be purchased.[ii] The wagon was still in storage, in the Anderson Livery stable, in November of 1908, when Sheriff T. Warren Tinsley traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, & purchased a pair of horses. According to the Cartersville News, November 19, 1908, “They are a magnificent pair of dark bays, four and five years old, weighing twelve hundred pounds or more and measuring something like sixteen hands in height. Everybody who has seen them pronounces them a splendid pair of animals and seemingly fitted to the work.” The city rented a small building on Erwin Street, south of the Anderson Livery, from Dr. Thomas Baker to serve as a fire station. It was equipped with a “Hall’s patent harness”, which hung overhead, and was lowered onto the horses when the fire alarm sounded.[iii] The Council hired two men, Cartersville’s first paid firemen. They were Gideon W.
Hendricks, fireman, and Will Haney, driver. Living quarters were prepared in the rear of the station, and
In February, a telephone was installed, and the City’s fire protection was made even more efficient. Residents now had only to dial 38 to report a fire. The two men on duty would respond immediately and begin fighting fire, receiving assistance from the volunteers who responded.[i] The wagon carried some 1200 feet of hose, ladders, chemical extinguishers (soda & acid) & tools.[ii] A hook & ladder was still in
service, as well as the hose reels. Presumably, these were still stored at the old Church St. station, given the limited space on Erwin Street.
On April 1, 1909, the Cartersville City Council elected Gideon W. Hendricks the
fire chief, making him Cartersville’s first professional fire chief.[i] Hendricks, age 31, only stayed with the
department a few months, possibly a year.
The 1910 census, taken in April, shows him living at the home of his
father, Judge George W. Hendricks, on Bridge St. (Etowah Dr.), with the
occupation of “brakeman”.[ii]
1910, Hoyt Hazlewood was hired as driver and Albert A. McEver as fireman.[iii] The photo of Hazlewood & McEver (below) illustrates
the chemical extinguishers in use at the time.
The gong located below the feet of the men, served as a warning, much
the same as sirens on modern fire apparatus.
Nothing certain is known about the two dogs pictured, but the Cartersville
News of July 10, 1913, reported that, while en route to a fire, “the
fire wagon ran over and killed ‘Blitz’ the pet dog of the fire boys. This was indeed a sad loss, as the little dog
had been a pet around the fire house for the past four years and in the past
few months had become so well trained as to run errands for the boys, such as
bringing and carrying articles to and from the fire house which they desired
sent or brought. The little dog was
buried yesterday morning in the rear of the fire house building and numbers and
numbers of people have called by and expressed their sympathy to the boys in
the loss of their little pet.”
Wofford replaced McEver in 1911. His
employment seems to have been cut short by an injury sustained while on
duty. On Wednesday, June 14, 1911, while
working in the feed room at the fire house, Wofford fell several feet and
injured his left side.[i] He doesn’t appear on subsequent fire records
for the year, and his position was filled by volunteer Henry Collins in January,
At a meeting of the fire department in February of 1911, Walter R. Satterfield
was unanimously elected chief of the department. Satterfield was a veteran of the volunteer
department, having been a member since the 1880’s, and having served in the
position of chief in the 1890’s. He had
also served the city as
alderman, as well as having interests in the mining industry.[iii]
began with Satterfield being reappointed to the position of chief, and
Hazlewood & Collins as paid firemen.[i] Notable fires for the year were the almost
total loss of Judge Watkins’ house on Douglas St., a fire at the Seaboard Depot
and the Stanford Brothers’ store & bakery on Main St.[ii]
February of 1915, the city of Chatsworth was in the process of organizing a
fire department, and purchased from Cartersville one of the old hand
reels. Chatsworth’s chief also expressed
interest in the old hook & ladder, but the record is unclear as to whether
he purchased it.[iii] It appears that the success of Cartersville’s
fire department had rendered the old hand-drawn equipment from the
all-volunteer days obsolete.
the Spring of 1915, Cartersville received a reduction of 15% to 20% in its
insurance rates when the City’s fire risk was reassessed by a representative of
the Southern Underwriters Association.[iv] This was due in part to the two paid firemen
and other improvements made in the fire department.
In 1916, Hoyt Hazlewood was named Fire Chief, a 2-year appointment.[v]
In May, 1917, the new City Hall building at the corner of North Erwin Street and West Church Street was completed. The fire department moved into the new building, but the horses and wagon would only occupy it for a few months.[i]
In April, 1918, the City accepted delivery of a new Model 75 American LaFrance pumper.[i] This was Cartersville’s first motorized fire apparatus, and for the first time, the department was able to produce its own water pressure for firefighting. Manpower was increased to three firefighters (including the Chief). Judson O. Eaves was hired to operate the new pumper, and served as Chief until 1923.[ii]
Columbus Daily Sun (Columbus, Georgia) April 30, 1870, GenealogyBank, WWW
The Standard and Express (Cartersville, Georgia),
January 23, 1873, Microfilmed Newspapers, EVHS (Etowah Valley Historical
The Standard and Express (Cartersville, Georgia), January 30, 1873, Microfilmed
City of Cartersville Council Proceedings, February 7, 1877, Cartersville
City of Cartersville Council Proceedings, March 5, 1877, Cartersville City
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), August 10, 1905, Microfilmed
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), January 21, 1909, Microfilmed
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), January 21, 1909, Microfilmed
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), February 18, 1909, Microfilmed
Sanborn Map of Cartersville, Georgia, March, 1909
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), April 8, 1909, Microfilmed
1910 United States Census, Bartow County, Georgia, Ancestry.com, WWW
Graham, Sam. CFD Rosters Compiled from Fire Report Books, Paid. MS
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), June 15, 1911, Microfilmed
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), January 2, 1913, Microfilmed
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), February 9, 1911, Microfilmed
The Bartow Tribune (Cartersville, Georgia), January 8, 1914, Microfilmed
The Bartow Tribune , (Cartersville, Georgia), September 10, 1914, Microfilmed
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), February 8, 1915, Microfilmed Newspapers,
Cartersville News (Cartersville, Georgia), March 11, 1915, Microfilmed
The Bartow Tribune (Cartersville, Georgia), January 6, 1916, Microfilmed
The Bartow Tribune (Cartersville, Georgia), May 10, 1917, Microfilmed
The Bartow Tribune (Cartersville, Georgia), April 18, 1918, Microfilmed
 The Tribune-News (Cartersville,
Georgia), May 3, 1923, Microfilmed Newspapers, EVHS
A man out of slavery overcoming and achieving the extraordinary.
Sponsored By: Etowah Valley Historical
Alexis Mazique Chistopher Mazique
Joe Head Sam Graham
First and foremost, we are indebted to Mr. Sam Graham who
rediscovered Henry Clay Smith. He not only found this forgotten son of Bartow
County, he worked tirelessly uncovering facts, public records, countless number
of days of searching through leads that led him to even more facts. We can
honestly say that without Sam laying the foundation, this paper would not have
A special word of thanks goes to Mr. Joe Head for allowing
and guiding this father-daughter team through the process of writing on Henry
Clay Smith. The experience is one that has given us the opportunity to explore
the rich history of this area together. We appreciate the opportunity EVHS has
provided to discover this fascinating person and Mr. Head’s coaching us on how
to compose this project.
We would also like to thank Mrs. Alexis Carter who words of
encouragements energized us. Your work in Cartersville does not go unnoticed.
Thanks for being a great role model and advisor.
Finally, we dedicate this to Henry Clay Smith for the
wonderful life that he lived.
Henry Clay Smith
An Unknown Bartow Child of Slavery Destined
to Diplomatic Prominence
Early Life of HCS
Henry Clay Smith (Smith) was born into slavery on January 3,
1856 in Bartow County, Georgia. i He lived with his mother, Mary
Johnson a slave. He also lived with his Stepfather and half-siblings. iii
His biological father is unknown. During this time, the people would have been
dealing with the aftermath of the Civil War. The period for Reconstruction was beginning.
It was a hard period for all southerners in this region. It could be said that
for the citizens of northwest Georgia, it was a time of poverty and suffering.
To be an African American during this time would have been much worse.
It seems that his family was freed when he was around 6
years old most likely due to the Emancipation Proclamation. They moved from Georgia
to Chattanooga, Tennessee. At this time, Chattanooga, Tennessee was considered
the negro’s Mecca. The family made this move due to opportunities in Chattanooga.
He and his family worked on a farm for many years. During this time, Smith had
somehow received a basic education.
Education of HCS
Smith had attended Roger Williams University in 1878 at the
age of 22. iv It was noted that he participated in college debates
and demonstrated his bias for democratic teachings. This was unusual because the
democratic parties view towards African-Americans during this time was not
favorable. They did not support the expansion of voting rights for
African-Americans, and often tried to prevent them from voting.
He married Lizzie Winfield on January 1, 1884 in Haywood
county, Tennessee (Figure 1). v In
March of 1884, Smith was the first African-American to pass the civil service
examination. ii On July, 22 1884, He received a civil service
position as a Clerk, Class 1 in the office of the 6th Auditor of the
Treasury department in Washington D.C. It was noted that Smith received this
Clerkship without the help of any politician. Smith continued to further his education
at Howard University. There he enrolled in a course of Law.
Figure 2: Catalogue of Howard University students from 1887 to 1888.
Smith completed the course of Law at Howard University
(Figure 2). ix He was asked by the Auditor to resign his position as
clerk but resisted. He felt as if the request was politically motivated and had
nothing to do with his work performance.
Smith eventually resigned his position as Clerk on August 1
1889. x Leaving Washington, he moved back to Chattanooga to practice
law and he started the newspaper, “The Agitator” releasing the first print on
September 25, 1889. xi The following year he moved to Birmingham,
Alabama where he continued to practice law and publishing The Agitator. He also
got involved in the local politics supporting the Democratic party. He
eventually became the president of the Afro-American Democratic League of
Political life of HCS
While Smith was in Washington D.C he became active in the
Democratic Party. He continued to work for the Democratic party while in
Birmingham as the President of the Afro-American Democratic League of Alabama. While
in Birmingham, he was instrumental in aiding Congressman Turpin’s campaign. In
return for his assistance, Congressman Turpin introduced Smith to President
Cleveland. xiv Smith’s sound sense and diplomacy at once attracted
the President. On March 7, he wrote a letter to the Assistant Secretary of
State requesting to become the Minister of Liberia (Figure 3). xv
Smith sought the post as Minister of Liberia, but was later re-appointed
to United States Consul to Toamasina, Madagascar. xvii He was to
replace a Republican Consul, John L. Walter, from the previous administration. Smith
has been an unfaltering Democrat for years, and the appointment was a recognition
of his services in the democratic ranks. By July 1, 1893, he was then re-assigned
to the post of Consul to Santos, Brazil. xviii The reason given for
this change is that Smith’s talents would be better used in Brazil. At this
time Brazil and the United States were conducting more trade. Smith was to
replace Consul Berry who had gone missing for the previous three months amid
reports of a yellow fever epidemic in which thousand were reported ill. Between
two to three hundred people were dying each day. It was believed that Berry had
ether died or fled his post. The U.S. government nor Berry’s family could
contact him. Some newspapers reported that nearly all African-American
appointments were to places where death awaited the appointee. Despite the
risk, Smith took the assignment. He was supported by a large Democratic delegation
who were determined to see the appointment go through. He had very strong
political ties that supported and respected him.
Smith’s duties were consular as well as judicial. By October
1894 he had completed the “Handbook of Brazil”. He planned to be in the United
States the following November to hand it in to a publisher. While serving as Consul
to Brazil, Smith was praised for helping Americans conduct business. Brazil was
becoming one of the most important commercial countries in South America. There
were many people moving into the city of Santos. With lack of housing,
opportunity was growing very rapidly in the construction industry. New railroad
lines were being constructed. New roads were being built to connect the city to
other places that were growing as well. Many American investors were encouraged
to invest because of the high return on their money. However, the charge for
docking there was extremely high. Nearly all ships were heavily fined for
breaking very strict port regulation. It was reported by E.A. Armstrong, Master
of the W.R. Hutchings, that all American ships had their fines remitted thanks
to Smith. Smith used his skills as a Lawyer and diplomatic tact to have the
fines dismissed. The United States government received many such reports
praising Smith’s work as the consul to Santos Brazil.
Smith returned back to the United States sometime in
November of 1894. While home, he visited many African American churches and
venues. In December 1894, he gave a lecture titled “The Negro in Brazil” at the
Metropolitan A.M. E. Church in Washington DC. Smith talked of seeing blacks in
Brazil who were considered respectable members of society. He heard of one
particular man who was born into slavery only to purchase his freedom. The
ex-slave then went on to practice law. The Brazilian Bar Association there had
placed a painting of him in the halls of the local court house after his death.
Smith interacted and met black Captains, Colonels and Generals in the Brazilian
Army. He commended the self-reliance of the black people of Brazil. Smith, on a
few occasions, spoke along with Fredrick Douglas.
In helping the American investors avoid penalties and fees,
Smith paid a high political price. It was not long before he started receiving
criticisms. After the criticisms started, he submitted his letter of
resignation (Figure 4). xx Smith stated in his resignation that he
planned to help another Democrat in a political campaign. His resignation was
accepted and Smith returned home.
Personal life of Smith
Smith and his wife had 5 children, 2 boys and 3 girls. During
his last year in office, Smith was accused of not properly caring for his
family (Figure 5). His wife had applied to associated charities for aid. On
October 30, 1897 the courts removed the 4 children, the oldest had been removed
a few days before, and sent them to live with his wife’s family in Brownsville,
Tennessee. After his wife left him, Smith relocated to New York. The judge stated
to the Washington Bee that it is a Godsend that we have such an institution to
take care of the children. It was a sad scene that was keenly felt by him.
Religious life of Smith
Smith became a Baptist Minister and was very active with the
concerns of the African-American community. He worked with other religious and
civil leaders to promote freedom and equality. Many of his lectures were in
Churches involving the development of the Black man as well as equality and the
race problem. From the beginning Smith realized that the land in which they
lived was controlled by the white race. He also believed that the black man
would be respected and eventually treated as equal by demonstrating his hard
work and intellect. The church was a place where the black community could come
together in a welcoming environment to improve the lives of many African-Americans.
He soon helped to establish “The National Mutual and
Industrial Order”. xxi The purpose of this educational organization
was to provide job skills to African-Americans who wanted employment
opportunities. During this time many African-Americans were beginning to
migrate to the north in search of employment and better treatment by society.
Training was provided in the area of Domestic help, Butlers, Chauffer and other
careers. Offices were established through-out the northeastern and southeastern
Smith also helped found “The New York State Association of
Colored Voters” (NYSACV). xxii This organization held meetings that
were closed to the public. The politicians became uneasy by this idea and began
to express concerns. The NYSACV wanted to collect the black vote and support
the political party that addressed most of the black community’s concerns. This
was the start of a shift in Smith’s thinking and acting. In the past he had
only supported the Democratic party. In doing so, he was given support in
return. Now he was promoting that both parties should work to get the black
vote. The NYSACV insisted on conducting the meeting behind closed doors to
allow the participants the opportunity to freely express their views and
concerns. Smith toured the state and organized more than forty-five cities and
towns. This took him through twenty-five counties. He was targeting areas where
there were large numbers of black voters. He had to now work with people who
were strictly Republicans supporters. He had to convince the voters to be
willing to support the Democratic party if they were willing to agree to the NYSACV’s
proposal. They were able to deliver over 20,000 votes for that local election.
At this time, there existed other political organizations that worked with
ether the Democratic or the Republican parties. The New York State Association
of Colored Voters said that they would no longer consistently support only one
The other important issue that NYSACV addressed was the
education of black voters. The idea was to educate the community on the value
of wealth. NYSACV believed that by placing importance on maximizing the wealth
in the community will lead to a new found self-respect and result in being
respected by other races. The condition of the whole community is more
important than the poor people who were looking to sell their vote for financial
profit. The condition of the whole community was more important than any
wealthy black person who despised the poor. There was also lots of emphasis
placed on respecting the black woman in particular. It was clear that NYSACV
were not against any political party. The philosophy was intended to improve
the lives of all in the black community by pooling together the voting power.
It was hoped that the actions of NYSACV would result in equality in the
northern states as well as southern states.
Smith became president of the Staten Island Domestic Training
School. xxiii The school offered a six-month training program to
prepare black men and women with the skills needed to work after migrating to
the north. It was meant to address the problems that many African-Americans
faced after migrating to the north only to find it difficult to find gainful
employment. The school had multiple campuses in the north and the south. Some of
the topics covered in the program included: How to select good meats, fruits
and vegetables, basic arithmetic, cooking, how to prepare drinks, house repair,
cleaning, hygiene, reading, spelling, writing and black history in America. Smith
used his alliance with both African-Americans and whites to solicit financial
assistance in the form of investments in the school. He skillfully explained how
investing in the school would benefit all members of society. He readily worked
with both black and white churches to ask that collections be taken up to
support this cause. The funds were used to establish buildings, dormitories and
Late in 1902, Smith traveled to Long Branch, New Jersey
where he acted as a delegate to the “Afro-American Baptist Association” xxviii. Three
days later, he was having supper with friends at a boarding house when he experienced
chest pains and excused himself. He was later found dead in the back yard of
the boarding house. The cause of death was due to an affection of the heart. His
funeral was held at the Second Baptist Church in Eatonton New Jersey. He was
remembered as a scholar of remarkable intellectual ability, being at one time
consul to Brazil under former President Grover Cleveland. He was the master of
several languages. He was laid to rest in White Ridge cemetery.
The contributions of Smith
With the passing of to the Emancipation Proclamation, many African-Americans
began to discuss the best path forward. Two views rose to the top of the
discussion. The views of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois were very
popular. Booker T. Washington believed that if the black people would demonstrate
their excellence through work and character, then the white man would accept
them. On the other hand. W.E.B. Dubois believed that African-Americans should protest
for equal rights. This was a huge debate between peace and protest.
Early in Smith’s life, he seemed to practice the philosophy
of Booker T. Washington. This was demonstrated in his decision to join the
Democratic party. He formed political alliances with powerful whites. This may
have enabled him to solicit the backing and support needed to allow him to be
appointed to public office. He also founded “The Christian National Mutual and
Industrial Order.” The purpose of this organization was to provide training to
all black people who wanted various jobs in domestic or professional positions.
Later in Smith’s life he seemed to practice the philosophy
of W.E.B. Dubois. This was demonstrated by his insistence that political
parties work to get the black vote. He also helped form a secret political
society that discussed and proposed topics that should be addressed before the
black vote would go to them. The formation of this secret society made many whites
very nervous. He also was the Director of the New York State Association of
The New York Times stated, “he had succeeded, after making a
tour of the state, in organizing in more than forty-five cities and towns
covering twenty-five counties, where there are colored voters.” xxii
His association is like the Italian, German, and Irish associations. “Our
meetings are all secret, because we discuss and talk over matters that could
not very easily be discussed in public. We have not yet determined what party
we will support. That will be for the convention to determine.”
Many politicians were suspicious of the association due to
the secret meetings and the constant change of party support. When Smith
started the organization, he pointed out that the organization had no
grievances against any political party. ”If this is a Democratic platform,
“said Mr. Smith, “make the most of it. If it is Republican, make the most of
He believed that if it was not for the laws of oppression that there would not
be growth where there once was idleness and poverty. “The salvation of the
black man is in his own hands.” xxiiv Smith states.
i NARA Record Group 59, Box 80, letter
dated March 7, 1893, HCS to President Grover Cleveland.
ii The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee)
July 29, 1884, Newspapers.com. Web.
iii Ancestry.com. 1870 United
States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA
iv The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee)
July 29, 1884, Newspapers.com. Web.
v Marriage record, State of Tennessee,
Haywood County, January 1, 1884, Ancestry.com. Web.
vi Pittsburg Dispatch (Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania) July 24, 1889, Chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Web.
viii Chattanooga Daily Commercial August 7, 1885, Chattanooga
Newspapers, chattanooga.advantage-preservation.com. Web.
ix Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Howard
University from March, 1887 to March, 1888, Howard University Catalogs. Web.
x Pittsburg Dispatch (Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania) July 24, 1889, ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov. Web.
xi Jacksonville Republican
(Jacksonville, Alabama) October 12, 1889, Newspapers.com. Web.
xii Montgomery Advertiser January 13,
1893. Newspapers.com. Web.
xiii Huntsville Weekly Democrat (Huntsville,
Alabama) August 20, 1890. Newspapers.com. Web.
xiv The Montgomery Advertiser January 13,
1893. Newspaper.com. Web.
xv NARA Record Group 59, box 80, letter
dated March 7, 1893, HCS to President Grover Cleveland.
xvi The Brewton Leader (Brewton, Alabama)
April 4, 1893. Newspapers.com. Web.
xvii NARA Record Group 59, Box 28, Card
Record of Appointments.
xviii NARA Record Group 59, Box 28, Card Record
xix Alabama Beacon (Greensboro
Alabama) June 28, 1893. Newspapers.com. Web.
xx Jersey City News October 12, 1896.
xxi Richmond Planet (Richmond, Virginia)
August 28 1897. Virginiachronicle.com. Web.
xxii New York Times, July 25, 1900. Newspapers.com.
xxiii The American Kitchen Magazine
April-September, 1902. Google Books. Web.
xxiv Denver Rocky Mountain News, March 5 1902.
xxv Long Branch Record (Long Branch, New
Jersey) October 31, 1902. Newspapers.com. Web
xxvi Long Branch Record
(Long Branch, New Jersey) November 7, 1902. Newspapers.com. Web.
xxvii The Washington Bee
(Washington DC) October 30 1897. Newspapers.com. Web.
xxviii Long Branch
Record (Long Branch, New Jersey) November 7, 1902. Newspapers.com. Web
xxiv The Brooklyn Daily
Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) August 8, 1900. Newspapers.com. Web
xxiiv The Standard Union
(Brooklyn, New York) August 8, 1900. Newspapers.com. Web
TINSLEY PARK Cartersville’s First Park and Golf Course
The following article was published in The Tribune-News, June 27, 1929, under the title “Local Golf Course Has Important and Noticeable Niche in Sportdom”. As wheels of progress turned their cycles towards greater industry and business for Cartersville and Bartow County, they made an extra revelation in order that sports and recreation might be included in the assets of which this section is justly proud. Bitten by the “golf bug” that seems to have been rampant in the nations a few years ago, a number of Cartersville enthusiasts in 1925 combined to form the Cartersville Golf Club which started off with 20 charter members. Since established the club has risen to be one of the most popular organizations in the vicinity and now ranks on par with all other civic groups of the community. In 1925 there was no course in “Cartersville, but the club members, determined to have one, secured the loan of propriety from the city and developed it. Nine holes were completed that year, but the roughs and greens were almost inseparable and alike. However, Rome was not built in a day and neither was a golf course. As time passed, the members sought to improve the course that had been so ably designed by H. R. Womelsdorf. No change has been made in his plan, but from time to time the course has been so improved that it has been claimed by many to be one of the best in North Georgia. Fuzzy Woodruff, sports writer for the Atlanta Journal, after a pleasant round in which he swung not so many times, pronounced his opinion that the course was splendid.
Today  the nine hole course covers 30 acres and has a par of 34, which has been broken several times, notably by L. O. Bishop, the club champ and A. G. White, Jr., both of whom have journeyed around in 32. The club now has 60 members. It is distinctive that the local course has been honored with three holes in one all of which to the layman is nothing but so much Chinese. But to the follower of the little white sphere, it is but his highest ambition and to the club it’s a thing that comes but once in a lifetime and to the skilled wearer of the knickers and sox it’s nothing more than a pleasant mishap caused by the hand of kind fate. J. H. Calhoun was first president of the club. He was followed by O. T. Peeples and W. J. Weinman who now heads the organization. T. J. Champion is a director and one of the outstanding members, having been partly responsible for the great progress made. END of TRIBUNE-NEWS ARTICLE.
Now in the current year of 2019 more to this story is known and able to be shared. Across Tennessee Street, a house which is now the law firm of Archer & Lovell, overlooked the golf course and was owned by Mr. and Mrs. George Washington Brooke. Mrs. Brooke was the former Emily Jones, sister of Robert Purmedus Jones, father of Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones, the most famous golfer of his time. Bobby visited his aunt on occasion, however never found time to play the Cartersville course. He did encourage his aunt to learn the game and even left a complete set of his old clubs for her use, however she never took up the game. A group of local golfers including Milton Fleetwood, publisher of the local paper, and Mr. and Mrs. Brooke attended an exhibition round of golf played by Bobby Jones in Canton. They hoped he would come to Cartersville and do the same, however his time did not allow it. The 1925 Cartersville Course was built on land occupied by the newly formed Bartow County Fair Association in 1914 which was south of Cartersville, bordered by South Erwin Street to the west, Cook Street to the north, Tennessee Street and the Railroad to the east and Old Mill Road to the south. The Fair had previously been located since 1869 on 40 acres owned by the City of Cartersville north of town along the west side of Cassville Road from the Railroad to Pettit’s Creek (site now occupied by Self Recycling). The Bartow County Fair moved to its new and current home in Cartersville during the fall of 1948 surrounding the newly erected American Legion House and Memorial facing Martin Luther King Drive, formerly Moon Street. Originally the Legion used the site occupied now by the Market Square Shopping Center (Hobby Lobby and Big Lots) for the Fairgrounds up until 1972. Since that development, the Fair uses their remaining grounds for the annual Fair.
Cartersville High football established in 1909 played at first on Jones Field to the west side of the old High School (formerly Sam Jones Female College fronting Cherokee Avenue/Field now paved over). Play was moved to the Fairgrounds in 1914, though no permanent stadium was ever built as the site was of multi-purpose use. The Cartersville City Council did approve seating for 500 in 1948 after the announcement of the Fair’s move, however several citizens of the time did not remember any permanent seating. Cartersville High football moved to its current home on East Church Street in 1955, bordering the new high school whose doors opened in 1952. The new stadium was named for Andy Weinman, former Cartersville coach and one of its largest supporters.
The Fairgrounds became Cartersville’s Municipal Park in 1920, named for T. W. Tinsley, Fair Association President who became Mayor two years later. A swimming pool followed in 1923 and the golf course in 1925. A baseball field and tennis courts were added in time. Certain citizens worked with The City of Cartersville and Chamber to expand its industrial base around 1950 and the old Fair Grounds were selected as a future industrial park. The Fair was now gone and the Golf Course was behind the times with its design and sand greens. Its tees & greens were arranged around the parks perimeter with fairways crossing in the middle which created a pedestrian obstacle especially when other activities were taking place. For those who are uneducated on the subject of sand greens, golfers putt on sand rather than grass. These were quite common in the old days as modern golf course science was in its infancy. The sand was oiled to provide a consistent putting service and to prevent weeds and erosion, however play required the use of a strait edged rake to provide a smooth surface on which to putt. The golf course, pool and tennis courts by most accounts were abandoned when the land was offered for development. Golfers in particular began playing in other surrounding communities such as Rome, Rockmart and Cave Springs. Football continued up to 1955. Tennis courts, pool and the baseball field were later moved to the land surrounding the new Cartersville High School. With the development of Dellinger Park in 1976, a new home was found for the tennis courts and pool and since that time Cartersville has steadily moved forward with recreational facilities in numerous locations to meet the needs of a growing population. The old baseball field at the high school was moved to the sports complex on Sugar Valley Road not to many years ago. The City’s industrial plan paid off in 1954 with the commitment of Cartersville Undergarment as its first industry in the new industrial park. Golf did return to Cartersville in 1954 with the founding of the Cartersville Country Club. Next was Green Valley Greens, a privately owned public play course in 1969. Last was the City owned Golf Course “Royal Oaks” in 1971 which is now known as Woodland Hills and privately owned for use by both members and the public. Tinsley Park and the old Fairgrounds are now just a memory which is fading away with time, however it once brought so much joy to a growing community.
Compiled by Guy Parmenter
Cartersville Centennial 1872-1972 Publication Cartersville Public Schools Centennial 1888-1988 Publication
Interview with Dave Tillman featured on Perspective with Hershel Wisebram
Notes by Alan Riley on the History of the Cartersville Country Club
Personal Conversations with Hal Cook and Mike Cook
The Weekly Tribune, March 18,
1948 The Tribune-News, June 27, 1929 Bartow Tribune, October 8,1914
Entrance to Kingston Saltpeter Cave (Linda Pye photo)
a part of our study of Kingston Saltpeter Cave in the 1980s, inscriptions were
recorded from the walls of the cave, and these – nearly 500 names, some with dates
and other information – were included as an Appendix in my 2007 book, Bartow County Caves: History Underground in
North Georgia. These names, and the record of a visit to the cave by people
over a period of 200 years, had been written with charcoal or scratched into
the walls throughout the cave. Although we had systematically recorded these
inscriptions so that none would be missed, we found a few years ago that we
had, indeed, overlooked an entire wall of writing.
this was brought to our attention was by Mrs. Joan Creviston having found
online a video of the cave that had been made by Kevin and Shannon Glenn,
members of the KSC Committee of the National Speleological Society. The video
had panned across a wall where the name “Jodie Hill 1935” was clearly shown.
Mr. Hill was an uncle of Joan’s and she wanted to visit the cave to see the
inscription. Joan and her husband then accompanied me to the cave, where we
found that wall. A follow-up trip was made, which included Joe Head, also a
nephew of Mr. Hill. Following that trip Joe purchased a copy of the book, and
upon inspection of the Appendix listing names from the cave, found that the
inscription of Jodie Hill was not shown and he informed me of such. I later recorded
all of the names from that wall, and they are published herewith.
addition to those inscriptions, I have now recorded several that were not on
the original survey because they were covered over by soot and not visible. These
are found on the ceiling of a passage that is now about eight feet high, but at
the time they were written, prior to the intensive excavation for nitrates
during the 1860s, the passage was only a few feet in height. To find and record
these I carried into the cave a short stepladder, and, protected by goggles and
mask, I carefully brushed away the soot, exposing pre-Civil War inscriptions.
Hereby was discovered the oldest inscription in the cave, that of a John W.
Bank, dated 1802.
is hoped that by publishing these names someone will recognize a name that is
familiar to them, perhaps a relative or a person with whom they are otherwise
familiar, and report it to this writer. Likewise with names previously
published in the Bartow caves book. Joe Head has set a good example by sending
me the following information about his uncle whose name is on the wall recently
Jodie L. Hill (Nov. 5, 1919 – Feb. 20, 2016)
Jodie was a native of
Bartow County and the son of William and Ludie Hill. He was a veteran of WWII
having stormed the beaches at Normandy France where he received the Purple
Heart. Following the war Jodie became an insurance executive becoming vice
president of the Life and Casualty Insurance Company in Nashville TN. While in
Nashville, Jodie met many country singers and performed as a back-up fiddler
for the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. He was married three times and
had two children, Jodilynn and Vickie, by his second wife Myra Spivy Hill.
Jodie was an entrepreneur and a historian. In the mid 1990s, he purchased and
restored the Corra Harris property in Rydal, Georgia known as “In the
Valley” and later donated it to Kennesaw State University. Jodie received
the Life Time Achievement Award from the Etowah Valley Historical Society in
In my study of caves
in Bartow County, and learning of the involvement of Corra Harris in the
protection of early Native Artifacts from Bradford Cave, I sought out Mr. Hill
since he at that time was the owner of the property that Mrs. Harris had owned,
and he was arguably the person most familiar with that lady. Mr. Hill
graciously spent an afternoon with me, telling me about Mrs. Harris and showing
me around the property.
KINGSTON SALTPETER CAVE INSCRIPTIONS 2019 Newly-Discovered Names Not Included In Original 2007 Transcription
WEST WALL OUTSIDE “DOOR TO THE PLEISTOCENE”
Dec 9 (section of small rock ledge
broken off) w/ Lakes
May 12 Alto, Ga
Crossville, Ala w/ V Z Cobb
Crossville, Ala w/ Disha Cobb
Dec 13 Age 21 w/ Martin, Gaines,
Mar 21 Forsyth, Ga
Dec 13 Sweet 16 Kingston, Ga w/
Martin, Reg…, Colbert
with Jim Meyer
July – with W (?) Petty
Dec 11 year not legible
Dec 9 (section of small rock ledge
broken off) w/ Boyle
Group a (assume 1954)
Dec 13 Valdosta Age 17 w/ Gaines,
with Bob Hanie
Aug 16 New Orleans
Dec 11 Crossville, Ala
July – with T A Jefferson
Dec 13 Age 42 w/ Martin, Gaines,
with Kenneth Richmond
with Gus Richmond
Group a (assume 1954)
Aug 21 Gulfport
Group a (assume 1954)
Group a (assume 1954)
includes flag with CHS on it
Jun 22 Fitzgerald, Ga
April (date obscured)
Group a (assume 1954)
with Arthur White and Br.. White
with A J White and Arthur White
with A J White and Br.. White
CEILING IN WEST END OF “BLAIR’S SALTPETER CORRIDOR”
B H(or W)
on top of this is a large
“N” w/ 1841
JoTon (?) H
could be Bunch
2 other lines of small cursive
could be Chann
This research has been compiled to preserve the list of pioneers and early visitors who left an inscription of their visit to the cave before they are lost to natural deterioration or vandalism. It is very likely that many of these people may have explored and toiled in the cave or once enjoyed the legendary dances that were once held in the large chamber in the 1930s. Some of the names represent historic figures and community leaders who ventured in to one of Bartow’s most iconic natural features.
For those who do not have the Bartow Caves book, the following is the list that appears in the book as Appendix 1:
possibly last name
Name is illegible
Illegible due to spray paint
Reads “Myrt the Flirt”
Etched, covered with soot
Yellow paint over some signatures
at this point
H F Y
“Y” is backwards. At 5′
level many signatures not readable
with other, illegible, names
with Alexander and Hutson
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
7/27/1879; w/ Bessie Crawford and
?/21/1894; w/ Milams, Sneed and
Rome, Ga.;9/28/1941; w/ 3 others
8/24/1904 w/ TD
11/1834; written twice (etched)
9/7/1894 with 6 other names
appears very old
with Bessie(?) and Hutson
May be associated with G.G.M.
Kingston, Ga., Age 72
Could be E.A.B.
above Ms. Munford w. 4 others
w/ F.C. McDaniel
1/11/1895; w/ Neal Young
776 Beardsley St., Akron, Ohio
Be ? (Beam?)
w/ J M Carver
written in script; probably same
as H. Benton written next to it
Boy Scouts of Amer.
7/17/1915; Calhoun, Ga.
Same style as Johnson, H.F.
reads “Amoret (?) Grant
Bradley, Wilmington, NC”
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
w/ J T Bridge
19??/4/?; w/ J L Bridge
12/??/1938; below this is the date
Date could read 1939
Mrs. C A
to right is “N 1841”
w/ Word (Ward)
1892 near this
w/ R A Beale
5/18/1838; writing in ochre
9/7/1894 with 6 other names
5/1894; w/ Patterson, Godfrey and
J H M
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
Could be Crawford
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
could be Cranford
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
could be Cranford
7/27/1911; Cassville, Ga.
7/27/1879; w/ Marie Headen and
Wm K H
7/19/1933; w/ R E Hamby
8/24/1904 w/ BA
8/5/1899; w/ M.H. Stiles
18??; etched Roman style
4/3/1915; Fairmont, Ga. Rte 3; w/
Edwards and Livingston
large block letters
4/3/1915; w/ Dickson and
12/5/1928; on formation!
5/1894; w/ Patterson, Colbert and
Written in pencil
11/7/1900; may be w/ Jos. Emory
w/ Pittard, Smith and Moncrief
5/1894; w/ Patterson, Colbert and
w/ J T Groves and A C Willy
Arthur from Plainsville, Ga.
8/19/1896; w/ Ware RCO and CF
Date could be 1813
w/ C H Goullding and A C Willy
Written in charcoal pencil
7/19/1933; w/ Vera Crowe
Printed and etched
etched, Roman style
w/ Fred Mills
?/21/1894; w/ Milams and Sneed
9/5/1857; Etched, printed in Roman
Date could be 1813
7/27/1879; w/ Bessie Crawford and
w/ Mary and Miss Pearl Rollins
w/ M L Moss 1934
on Jug formation
with Bessie(?) and Alexander
w/ Ms. Mary Ma?
12/28/1957; w/ J? Ingram
12/28/1957; w/ Billy Ingram
could be associated with Billy
8/9/1965; along w/ Jimmy ’56
3/16/1805; old script. Group w/
McCarthy(?) and Morgan
Etched, covered with soot
Etched old style printing
4/14/??18; w/ H. Thompson
old looking; etched
Rome, Ga.;9/28/1941; w/ 3 others
K L B
From Xenia, Ohio
8/10/1941 reads “plus Johnny
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
4/3/1915; w/ Dickson and Edwards
Rome, Ga.;9/28/1941; w/ 3 others
9/2/1894; has “jr.”
after last name
may be with Tom Lockridge
Rome, Ga.;9/28/1941; w/ 3 others
Also initials PHD, etched
w/ John Hydes
Columbia, S.C. (under J.W. Lewis)
3/16/1805; old script. Group w/
Johnson and Morgan
w/ Joe Barrett
183?; beautifully etched; last
digit obliterated by MDG
?/21/1894; w/ Sneed and Hays
?/21/1894; w/ Sneed and Hays
5/22/1901; Cassville, Ga.; w/
7/20/1855; possible Milam
6/26/1845; Miller printed below
w/ Billy Hawkins
9/7/1894 with 6 other names
9/7/1894 with 6 other names
w/ Pittard, Gilreath and Smith
3/16/1805; old script. Group w/
Johnson and McCarthy (?)
w/ H C Howell
1954-55; also 56-57
Euharlee; w/ John Mullenix and
w/ Jarrett Mullenix and Hugh
9/7/1894 with 6 other names
9/7/1894 with 6 other names
5/1894; w/ Colbert, Godfrey and
9/5/1857; Etched, printed in Roman
Also has CSA; charcoal and scratch
w/ Gilreath, Smith and Moncrief
11/11/1974; w/ Larry Pratt
11/11/1974; w/ Doug Pratt
R E C
R E G
M a hall
Address of “128 _____”. Second
line reads “_____ Ga.”
w/ Jarrett and John Mullenix
with 9 other 1896 names (grp 36)
w/ Mary and Miss Callie Herrington
w/ Miss Callie Herrington and Miss
may be G.T.
S A M
Below Jim Butler in script
8/24/1902 Seney, Ga.
could be Lulu; 8/23/18?9
appears very old
“M.Melissa Smith Was Born
Jan. 15, 1827” Written below is “Aug,1844”
Many of our forefathers who endured the hardships of a time we can now only read about can still be found today resting peacefully in the numerous cemeteries which dot the landscape throughout Bartow County. Nowhere else is it possible to look so deeply into our past. A cemetery can be a wonderful world of discovery and a voyage through time, especially Cartersville’ s Oak Hill. At rest there may be found quite a few of the early settlers who have left their legacy on mankind. We have all heard of Sam Jones, the noted Methodist evangelist and Rebecca Felton, our country’s first woman United States Senator. There are Charles H. Smith, alias Bill Arp, Mark A. Cooper, the ”Iron King” of Georgia, Pierce Manning Butler Young, the youngest major general in the Confederate Army and many other notable and interesting people.
Today I write about one of these pioneers, a man with very impressive credentials inscribed upon a monument at his grave. He is a lesser known person to today’s generation. However, in his time, this individual was a man of national prominence. His legacy would be one of honesty, integrity and a defender of human rights. Welcome Amos Tappen Akerman to the list of growing memories of our past. Inscribed upon that monument is his epitaph, which reads as follows:
In Thought Clear And Strong,
In Purpose Pure And Elevated,
In Moral Courage Invincible,
He Lived Loyal To His Convictions
Avouring Them With Candor,
And Supporting Them With Firmness.
A Friend Of Humanity,
In His Zeal To Serve Others,
He Shrank From No Peril To Himself,
He Was Able, Faithful, True!
These are very intriguing words left by a loving family.
Amos Tappan Akerman, Attorney General of the United States July 8, 1870-January 10, 1872. Photo courtesy of Mark Akerman.
Perhaps these words were left for me, someone of another generation to keep the memory of Amos T. Akerman alive.
Amos was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on February 23, 1821, the ninth of twelve children born to Benjamin and Olive Meloan Akerman. Benjamin was a civil engineer by trade and of the fifth generation of Akermans to live in North America. According to descendent, Mark Akerman, ”the Akermans of Portsmouth came from the burgher class in England. Their staunch Protestantism was converted into the sterner theology of the Old North Church where the family has occupied a pew for more than two centuries.
Amos began his education in the local school in Portsmouth before transferring to Phillip’s Exeter Academy in 1836. Amos remained at the Academy for three years until August 25, 183 9. With the financial help of his grandmother and a friend at the Academy, Amos entered Dartmouth College, arriving in Hanover on September 27, 1839. That same evening, he was examined by Professors Chase and San borne and admitted as a sophomore. While there, Amos was a member of the United Fraternity, serving as its President from 1841 until May 1842. This was one of two literary and debating societies at Dartmouth. He was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. During his senior year, Amos was one of four editors of the Dartmouth, a literary magazine in its third volume. After graduating college in 1842 he went to Murfreesboro, North Carolina, where he opened a school and taught for ten months, beginning October 24, 1842. He lived in the home of Dr. Robert Worthington. After a brief trip to Portsmouth, Amos moved to Richmond County, Georgia, at the urging of a former classmate, setting up a new school on January 22, 1844. This new school was financed by Mr. Everett Sapp for the benefit of his own children, but was open to other students. Akerman would teach there until December, 1844. Amos was then employed by John Whitehead of Bath, South Carolina to teach his children and those of his brother. At this point in Amos’ life, he was financially able to reimburse his former classmate at Phillips Exeter Academy who l1ad helped finance his Dartmouth education. Amos would write in his diary that ‘”the fears that I might never pay this debt was a constant source of anxiety until it was fully paid. Then I breathed more freely. I could not bear the thought that he should be the loser through kindness to me.”
In 1845, Judge John Berrien and his family visited the Whitehead home. John McPherson Berrien was a former U.S. Senator from Georgia, a former Judge and a for1ner U.S. Attorney General in President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet. While there, Berrien requested that Akerman become a tutor for his children, which he declined. The proposal was later renewed and accepted, with Amos arriving in Savannah on November 21, 1846. John Berrien was a highly successful lawyer in Savannah and proved a qualified teacher for Amos Akerman, who began his study of the law under hi1n. Berrien had a good law library and Amos read extensively. After about two years, Amos traveled to Peoria, Illinois where his sister Celia Rugg lived. For six months, he worked and studied in the law office of A.0. and A.L. Merriman. The frigid northern climate did not suit Amos, so he returned to the south, settling in Habersham County, Georgia. While working for John Berrien, Amos had spent summers at Clarksville, in Habersham County. In fact, Amos bought the summer home of John Berrien upon his return to Georgia and began farming while continuing to read and study law.
On October 18, 1850, Amos petitioned Judge James Jackson of the Superior Court of tl1e Western Circuit of Georgia for the purpose of being allowed to practice law. Judge Jackson appointed a committee of four to examine Akerman. They found him both knowledgeable and well versed in the law and as a result, Amos was admitted to practice law. Amos remained in Habersham County, both farming and practicing law, until January, 1856 when he moved to Elberton, Elbert County, Georgia. The following July, Amos entered into law practice with Robert Hester and according to Amos, ”In short time the business of the firm became enough to employ all my time, and I have ever since led the life of a busy country lawyer”. In politics, Mr. Akerman was a southern Whig until the party’s demise around 1856. No doubt Amos was influenced by his good friend and former teacher, John Berrien, a staunch Whig. In the Presidential election of 1860, won by Abraham Lincoln, Amos supported the Constitutional Union candidate, John Bell of Tennessee. Bell’s views of conservatism, a vigorous defense of the Union, plus his opposition to expanding slavery into the new territories was very much like that of Amos Akerman.
As the secessionist movement swept across the south, Akerman opposed Georgia’s involvement. When Georgia did finally secede and war broke out, Amos elected not to join the Confederate Army right away. Having been born and raised in the north, his feelings were divided. Amos said, ”I reluctantly adhered to the Confederate cause. I was a Union 1nan until the North see1ned to have abandoned us. In January, 1860, the United States steamer, Star of the West, on her way to relieve Fort Sumter, was fired on by the secessionists of fort Moultrie, and compelled to return to the North. The Militia of Georgia, under orders from Governor Brown, seized Fort Pulaski and the arsenal, near Augusta, and these acts were not resented by the government at Washington. Not caring to stand up fora government which would not stand up for itself, and viewing the Confederate government as practically established in the South, I gave it 1ny allegiance though with great distrust of its peculiar principles”. He did, however, join Company Hof the Third Georgia Cavalry of the State Guard as a private on August 22, 1863. He later served in the quartermaster department, being ordnance officer in the regiment of Colonel Robert Toombs. Captain Amos Akerman later became assistant quartermaster of the militia division under General Gustavas Smith. This placed Amos in the defense of Atlanta in September 1864 and the gradual retreat in the face of Sherman’s famous “march to the sea”.
The Akerman family lot at Oak Hill Cemetery
On May 28, 1864, Amos married Martha Rebecca Galloway of Athens. Amos apparently met her on one of his many business trips to Athens or while serving with the State Guard near Athens.
Martha was the youngest of five children born to the Rev. Samuel Galloway and Rebecca Erwin Scudder at St. Mary’s, Georgia on May 8, 1841. Martha was of distinguished colonial ancestry. Her maternal great-grandfather, James McClain, was killed in battle while serving in the Revolutionary War, his last act having been one of such heroism that congress voted to his family a medal in commemoration of his heroic death. Sadly, Martha was only three months old when her mother died during a yellow fever epidemic at St. Mary’s. The final tragedy of Martha’s young life occurred when her father abandoned his children to their maternal grandparents, Jacob and Hester Scudder, in Princeton, New Jersey. Rev. Galloway then moved to Texas and remarried, dying there in 1891, never having contributed any further support to his children. Martha moved to Athens, Georgia at the age of fourteen to live with her uncle, Alexander Scudder, who ran a boys’ school there. Later Martha attended Mt. Holyoke Seminary before becoming a school teacher in South Carolina. At the request of her Uncle Alexander, she returned to open a girls’ school in Athens. Amos and Martha would eventually have seven children, the three eldest born in Elberton and the others in Cartersville. The oldest, Benjamin, was born in 1866, followed by Walter in 1868, Alexander in 1869, Joseph in 1873, Charles in 1875, Alfred in 1877 and Clement in 1880.
Following the war, the United States Congress had divided the South into military districts in order to speed up reconstruction. Part of this Congressional Plan was to rewrite each southern state’s constitution. The military commander, General John Pope, called for a statewide election in late 1867 in order to decide whether a constitutional convention should be held as mandated by Congress and at the same time elect delegates to the convention. The Georgia voters approved the convention and Amos Akerman was elected one of 166 delegates to it. The delegates were made up of thirty-seven Negroes, nine white carpetbaggers, approximately twelve conservative white Georgians, and the remainder, like Amos Akerman, white Georgians (commonly called scalawags) who wanted to put the ways of the Amos Akerman would become one of the principal leaders of this convention which began on December 9, 1867 in Atlanta and continued until March 1868. It was reported that one of the finest constitutions of any southern state came out of this convention. Amos would be credited with authoring the judicial system embodied in that document. According to From New Hampshire to Georgia, by Mark Akerman, “there was a strong movement in the convention to insert clauses in the constitution which would permit the repudiation of all previous private indebtedness. Since Amos was unable to defeat the movement and did not wish to become a part of it, he resigned and went home. The U.S. Congress would later remove the repudiating clauses when submitted for approval.”
Amos T. Akerman portrait on display in the U.S. Justice Department. Artist, Freeman Thorpe, was paid $5.00 in I875 for his work. Picture courtesy of Mark Akerman.
Akerman had become a member of the Republican party and unlike most Republicans, he enjoyed the esteem of Georgians from all social classes and political beliefs. This was quite a tribute to Amos. For the most part, the Republican party, who held power in this state for a short period following the war, were objects of general indignation and scorn, and their administration of affairs a record of incompetency and corruption. In 1868, Amos became a Grant elector in the former General’s first race for President. The victorious Grant rewarded Akerman for his devotion to his campaign the following year by appointing him United States District Attorney for Georgia. He began his office in December, 1869 and held the position until June, 1870. Amos’ chief concern as District Attorney was violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. He saw too often the rights of the Negro trampled on by many, including State government. The republicans, needing a strong southern voice in Washington, obtained the appointment of Akerman as Attorney General of the United States in 1870. The Attorney General position had just recently become vacant with the resignation of Ebeneezer Rockwood Hoar. Amos was sworn in on July 8th, by Justice Wylie of the District Supreme Court.
The office of Attorney General presented Amos with numerous challenges and responsibilities. For one thing, his duties were expanded by Congress to include supervision of the newly formed Justice Department. All government legal work previously performed by private attorneys was now under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General. Akerman was a firm believer in the law and now as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, he was sworn to hold everyone in compliance, especially in the south where violence against former slaves was ever increasing. Amos summed up the hatred manifesting itself in the south in a letter to a friend. “A portion of our southern population hate the Northerner from the old grudge, hate the government of the United States because they understand it emphatically to represent northern sentiment, and hate the negro because he has ceased to be a slave and has been promoted to be a citizen and voter, and hate those of the southern whites who are looked upon as in political friendship with the north, with the United States Government and with the negro. These persons commit the violence that disturbs many parts of the south. Undoubtable the judgement of the great body of our people condemns this behavior, but they take no active measures to suppress it.”
Klan violence progressively increased in the south, especially throughout the Carolinas, resulting in new federal laws designed to enforce the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the U. S. Constitution. These Force Acts authorized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, suppression of disturbance by force and heavy penalties on terrorist organizations. In South Carolina, Governor Robert K. Scott requested and received federal troops. Arrests were made, but it was soon evident that state courts could not and, in some cases, would not protect the rights of negroes. Akerman realized the need to personally go to South Carolina. Amos judged the situation so severe that he requested and obtained an order from President Grant suspending the writ of habeas corpus in nine counties. Suspected Klan terrorists could now be held accountable in the Federal courts without the possibility of being released before trial. Resulting Federal prosecution of suspected Klan members evoked widespread southern sympathy. Southern newspapers such as the Rockhill (S.C.) Lantern lashed out at Akerman and also Major Lewis Merrill, commanding the Federal troops. “If the walls of the McCaw House could disclose the secrets of headquarters, they could a tale unfold that would consign the names of Merrill and Akerman, his legal accomplice in catching Ku-Klux. How the one sunk the office of Attorney General and for two weeks turned constable at York County to prosecute his countrymen.”
Amos Akerman found himself caught in a political inferno between Northerners who were growing tired of the whole Reconstruction issue and Southerners, many in his own party, who refused to accept total equality. However, Amos Akerman did not waiver and continued the fight. Over half the cases prosecuted by Akerman’s lawyers were won.
Of course, the office of Attorney General had its lighter moments, as mentioned in a letter home. “Last night I had a call from one of the sprightliest and pleasantest talkers that I have ever met. And who do you think it was? General Sherman, that terrible ‘vandal’ of whose atrocious march through Georgia you have heard so much. If all vandals are like him, they are agreeable in the parlor, whatever they may be elsewhere!”
The end of his career as Attorney General came when the Pacific railroads became dissatisfied with a ruling he made in regard to a subsidy in public land, in which the Attorney General said their charter did not authorize. According to My Memoirs of Georgia Politics by Mrs. William H. “Rebecca” Felton in 1911, she describes the aftermath of the Pacific railroad decision. “The Secretary of the Interior sided with the railroads, and sought to override the decision. The conflict began. I think the secretary’s name was Delano, one of the men who got into the State Road lease in Georgia, and he understood the temper of our half-frenzied people in Georgia against Republicans – a frenzy that was fanned into a consuming flame by so-called Democratic politicians who were busy all the time in cramming their pockets during Bullock’s reign. This honest man, this upright lawyer, was actually hounded out of General Grant’s Cabinet by men in Washington City, owned and used by these Pacific railroad authorities, and the run-mad politicians in Georgia actually danced in fiendish glee over the result. Genera! Grant stood by his friend for some months, but at last he yielded and asked for Colonel Akerman’ s resignation, but not until an interested person went to Colonel Akerman ‘s wife and hinted that $50,000 would not stand in the way and all opposition to Colonel Akerman would be withdrawn, if the Pacific railroad land subsidy was allowed to stand.” A confidential letter from the President to Mr. Akerman dated December 13, 1871 read,
“Circumstances convince me that a change in the office you now hold is desirable, considering the best interests of the government, and I therefore ask your resignation. In doing so, however, I wish to express my appreciation of the zeal, integrity, and industry you have shown in the performance of all of your duties, and the confidence I feel personally by tendering to you the Florida Judgeship, now vacant, or that of Texas. Should any foreign mission at my disposal without a removal for the purpose of making a vacancy, better suit your tastes, I would gladly testify my appreciation in that way. My personal regard for you is such that I could not bring myself to saying what I say here any other way than through the medium of a letter. Nothing but a consideration for public sentiment could induce me to indite this. With great respect, Your obedient servant,
Akerman did resign his post on January I 0, 1872 and was succeeded by George H. Williams of Oregon. When asked about his tenure as Attorney General, Akerman would state … “! believe it was satisfactory to the President; but it was not satisfactory to certain powerful interests, and a public opinion unfavorable to me was created in the country. I resigned the office and came home.” To one of his sons he wrote, “Love your country. Be a true patriot. Understand public questions. Ask what is right, try to make it popular; but cleave to it, popular or not.” Amos T. Akerman had never succumbed to the graft and corruption that ruled government and business in the years following the war. He left the office of Attorney General as he entered into it, an honest man dedicated to enforcing the letter of the law and a man whose integrity could not be bought. In his book, Region, Race, and Reconstruction, author William S. Mcfeely wrote, “Perhaps no Attorney General since his tenure … and the list includes Ramsey Clark in the 1960’s … has been more vigorous in the prosecution of cases designed to protect the lives and rights of black Americans.”
The Free Press in Cartersville published this story from the New York Times on February 10, 1881. Among the many stories which are told of the eccentricities of A. T. Akerman, none is more characteristic than that of his encounter with a Western Union telegraph boy. The attorney-general, who had only just been called to his high office, and who knew next to nothing of its duties, was one day very busy at his desk, a pile of papers migher than his head were in front of him, and he had given orders that he was on no account to be disturbed. But this prohibition was not believed to extend to telegraph boys, and one of those industrious and not always well treated Little servants of the public, was admitted. He delivered his dispatch. The attorney-general signed for it without looking up. Then the boy, not noticing that the time was an unfavorable one, began to tell of a project which he and his associates had on hand, and asked for a small subscription. Worn out with work which he did not fully understand, the new attorney general returned such an answer that the boy was only too glad to get out of the office as fast as his active legs would carry him. Then Mr. Akerman went on reading, altering and signing the papers before him. So, he went on for three or four hours, until his work was done. Then he rang for one of his clerks and ordered that the telegraph messenger who had brought him the dispatch be sent for. After some difficulty the boy was found, and, still remembering his former experience, was, trembling and afraid, brought before the attorney general. But the latter, instead of soundly scolding him as he expected, patted his head and said: ”My little 1nan, it is the duty of United States officials to be polite to all those who call on them. This is a rule which I forgot this morning. Here is a five-dollar bill, my subscription to the fund of which you spoke to me; and I beg you, don’t mind what occurred between us a few hours ago.” Attorney General Akerman was not a popular man in Washington, but there were not a few of the official gentlemen who decried him who might with great benefit to themselves and the public have adopted some of his methods.
According to family notes written by Minnie Akerman, the wife of Amos’s third son Alexander, ”Amos never swerved from his loyal devotion to Grant. Nothing could dim his admiration for hi1n nor shake his faith in Grant’s goodness and ability.”
In a letter written to his wife on July 2, 1870, Amos states, ”Last evening I dined at the President’s with four senators. I had the honor of attending Mrs. Grant to the table and of sitting next to her. She is intelligent, ladylike and particularly pleased me by speaking of her husband as Mr. Grant.” Why any man would forgive the ingratitude shown Akerman is far beyond the understanding of most. However, Amos, a man of foresight and judgment, knew and understood the pressures descending upon Grant. A few months before Amos’ resignation, he would write to his wife the following, ”I want you to learn something of the dimensions of a new effort which I am satisfied is going to oust me from office because I will not sub serve certain selfish interests. If nobody but myself is to be affected, I should feel no concern; but I have a delicacy on the point of exposing the President to annoyance and perhaps the censure and dislike of powerful interests, on my part. If the combination is serious in its strength, I have a disposition to get out of the way by resigning.”
Amos never aspired to be a political giant and was just thankful for the opportunity to do his small part in restoring the union.
Akerman left Washington to join his family at their residence in Cartersville, where he had moved from Elberton some twelve months earlier in January 1871, after a storm of controversy while still serving as U. S. Attorney General. In an election held December 20, 1870, Emory P. Edwards, a renowned lawyer of Elbert County, was the Democratic candidate for representative. He was opposed by Nathaniel Blackwell, a former slave. When the votes were counted, Mr. Edwards had won by a vote of almost four to one.
Amos Akerman was very interested in the candidacy of Blackwell back in his home county. According to the History of Elbert County, Georgia, 1790-1935, Amos made a special trip fro1n Washington, D. C. to cast his vote for him. Akerman apparently had an interest in seeing that the rights of Blackwell were protected, as well as those of Negroes who had not so long before been granted the Right to vote. While home in Elberton, he assembled a crowd of Negroes, encouraging them to exercise their right to vote and attempted to lead the1n to the poles. His actions proved very unpopular to a community inhabited by white people slow-to change fro1n their old southern ways and beliefs. The History of Elbert County, Georgia 1790-1935 went on to say that as a whole, Negroes remained with their old masters after Emancipation and disregarded the efforts of those like Mr. Akerman who attempted to arouse their right of freedom. No doubt, intimidation, fear, a lack of skills, wealth and education had a lot. to do with the failed efforts of Amos Akerman. His actions during the election would leave the Akerman family as outcasts in a community they considered home. The Elberton Gazette on January 3, 1871 carried this notice: ”Departed: Attorney General Akerman left this place (perhaps forever), on Wednesday last, apparently disappointed and disgusted with the result of the elections. We care not how long he 1nay live, nor how far he may go. He carried his family with him.”
Akerman pursued his work as an attorney in Cartersville. He was said to have had a large and lucrative practice in the United States Courts, where he was regarded as the equal of any in_ legal ability. Amos chose Cartersville for several reasons, one being its location on the railroad. Another reason was his family’s strong ties to the Presbyterian faith and Cartersville had a flourishing parish. The political and racial climate in Cartersville was much more subdued and provided a safe environment for the Akermans. We also know that Amos was a good friend of Warren Akin, a local Bartow County attorney noted for serving as the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives in 1861, for serving in the Second Confederate Congress at Richmond and for pleading the first four cases of the Georgia Supreme Court. Warren had strong family ties to Amos’s former home of Elbert County, being born there in 181 1. Akin apparently had great respect for Amos’ legal ability, calling upon him in May, 1865 to intercede with U.S. occupational forces in order that he could return home without fear of being arrested for his role in the Confederate Government. The large two story Akerman home was located at what is today 336 South Tennessee Street. It was built in 1848 by a Mr. Woodbridge. The house previously had two other owners. The first was Malcomb Johnson and the latter a Col. Pritchett who sold it to Akerman. Unfortunately, the home was destroyed by fire in 1900 while the residence of Amos’ third son, Walter.
Site in Cartersville of Amos Akerman ‘s home. The actual house on South Tennessee Street was totally destroyed by fire on September 26, 1900.
Amos loved Cartersville and remarked more than once that he would spend the remainder of his life here. He was very active in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church and continued his hand in national politics supporting the Republican Party. In fact, in the months prior to his death, he took several extended trips in support of the Republican party, coming home greatly fatigued. During the elections of 1880, he spoke in several of the northern states to great crowds, often making addresses two hours and upwards in length. In southern Ohio, Amos and Eugene Hale, of Maine, were announced to speak. Mr. Akerman was on time and talked for two hours. A dispatch was sent him to hold the crowd until Hale could get there. Fresh trainloads of eager Republicans had just come in, and rather than disappoint them, he rallied his remaining strength and continued to speak until he broke down from sheer exhaustion.
Amos T. Akerman died on Tuesday night, December21, 1880, after being stricken with rheumatic fever the Thursday before. He had been attended by his longtime friend, Dr. H. W. M. Miller of Atlanta. The announcement the following morning of his death brought great sorrow to our community, the state and the nation. Georgia had lost one of her best citizens, and the Republican Party the man to whom more that any other they have looked to for counsel and guidance.
The funeral took place the following Thursday afternoon with the Rev. Theodore E. Smith of the Presbyterian Church officiating.
The Cartersville Bar, City government and a large number of citizens packed the church to hear a most earnest and tender tribute to Amos Akerman. The local press reported that none had any but the kindest utterances of regard and esteem for Mr. Akerman. Those who had most widely differed with him in politics were readiest and foremost in making acknowledgments of his high character, his great attainments and his unselfish pure life.
Prior to Amos’ death, a movement was underway to obtain for Amos an appointment to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. ”Resolved by the members of the bar and citizens of Bartow County, Georgia that we recognize the eminent ability, the unswerving integrity, and commanding influence of the Hon. Amos T. Akerman, avail ourselves of this opportunity to endorse his candidacy for the appointment of judge of the United States Court of the fifth judicial circuit and to express our earnest desire that the same may be conferred upon him. Although every member of this meeting is a democrat and differing entirely fro1n Mr. Akerman politically, yet such is our confidence in hi1n as a citizen and a lawyer, that we feel his appointment would prove eminently satisfactory to the people of the state wherein he will be called to preside, and will do much to conciliate them and strengthen their faith in the administration appointing him.” Weeks after his death, the ”Washington Star” reported: ”It is stated that the President had fully made up his mind to appoint the late Attorney General Akerman to the vacant circuit Judgeship occasioned by the promotion of Judge Woods to the United States Supreme Bench.”
The death of Mr. Akerman at the age of 59 had left his widow alone with seven children ranging from a few months to fourteen years. Life is not always fair, but with God’s help all seven children grew up to live productive lives. Benjamin, the eldest, was a mining engineer in Mexico. His life ended in Washington State on December 17, 1927. He is buried in the family plot at Cartersville’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Walter was Postmaster in Cartersville for 22 · years, a teacher, a WWI veteran and a U.S. Marshall. His last job was as a Public Relations Special Agent for the Seaboard Airline Railway. Walter passed away April 29, 1951 and is also buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, along with his wife Susan Young Akerman. Alexander became a lawyer serving as U. S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. He would later practice law in Orlando, Florida before being appointed as Federal Judge tor the Southern District of Florida. Alexander died August 21, 1948. Joseph would become an obstetrician and educator, serving in the latter capacity at the University of Georgia as a professor of obstetrics until his death on December 9, 1943. Charles also would become a lawyer, setting up practice in Macon, Georgia. He died November, 1937 in Macon. Alfred was State Forester for Massachusetts, professor of Forestry at the University of Georgia and last, chairman of the Forestry Department at the University of Virginia. Clement was a Lieutenant on Pershing’s staff during WWI and assisted the War Department in compiling a history of that war. He would afterwards serve as a professor of economics at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
Mrs. Akerman remained in Cartersville until 1892 when she moved to Athens. She became greatly interested in missionary work for the Presbyterian Church and traveled extensively too many foreign lands. Martha Akerman died at her home in Athens on Friday, January 19, 1912 from heart failure. Her remains were returned to Cartersville for burial beside her husband.
The late Rebecca Felton wrote this story in My Memoirs of Georgia Politics, which attests to the honesty and integrity of Amos Akerman. ”The Honorable Mr. Stephens (presumed to be Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, a U.S. Congressman, a Georgia Governor and a close friend of the Feltons) said to me: When Honorable Thomas W. Thomas of Georgia, lay on his deathbed he told his wife that he wished to advise her as to the future .. Said the dying man: If you need a lawyer, and you will need one, I tell you to employ Colonel Akerman. I know him-he is absolutely honest. He will serve you well and he will treat you right.”
So, remember this man of national prominence who was the only ex-Confederate to serve in a Presidential Cabinet during Reconstruction. Amos Tappan Aker1nan, like so many others, migrated to Bartow County only to call it home.
This article was compiled by Guy Parmenter with the assistance of J. Mark Akerman (Lake City, Florida), Francis Akerman (Opa Locka, Florida), Robert W. Wilson (Orlando, Florida) and the Bartow History Center.
By Peggy L. Brown Senior Warden, Church of the Ascension, 2019
On the occasion of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension’s 175th
anniversary as a congregation, I asked our
rector, the Very Rev. Mary K. Erickson, how the church today is connected to
the one in 1844. “We have been
proclaiming the Good News continuously here in Bartow for 175 years,” she said. “One of the things I really like about our
liturgy and our way of understanding the work we do as ‘Church’ is that through
time and in this space we have been saying virtually the same words–even as
the Book of Common Prayer has changed, much of it has not–through the
On Ascension Day, May 30, 2019, the tiny gray church with the red
doors kicked off its year-long celebration. Now located on West Cherokee Avenue
in Cartersville, the church began on November 6, 1844, when the Rev. Thomas
Scott, of St. James Episcopal Church in Marietta, and Bishop Stephen Elliott,
the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, visited the Etowah River.
According to the bishop’s diary, the two met with community leaders, including his
friend William Henry Stiles, Savannah native, statesman, Ambassador to Austria,
and agricultural innovator. Elliott was encouraged to form a parish near the Etowah River “in
this most interesting country.” After the bishop preached on November 8, 1844,
at Pettit’s Creek Baptist Meeting House (the church that became Cartersville
Baptist Church), “it was determined among the friends of the church to erect a
church, a parsonage, and a school house” and call it Ascension. Soon Major John
S. Rowland–of Rowland Springs fame–donated ten acres for the church near
Valley View plantation, and forty acres were purchased directly across Euharlee
road from the parcel, the area which is now River Station Subdivision, where
the parsonage and school house were built.
Though marked by times of struggle when Ascension had no rector or
when the rector divided his duties among up to four mission churches, Ascension
has survived into the twenty-first century. What helped the small church
endure? Partly the support of landowners migrating from Savannah and elsewhere,
such as the Stiles, Shelman, and Gilreath families and partly the liturgy helped,
according to Erickson, rector at Ascension since 2010. Liturgy comes from Greek
word liturgia meaning the work of the
people for the common good. Erickson said that the liturgy is key to emphasizing
“the role of the people over and above the role of the clergy. It is important
to have an ordained person, but regardless of who is the clergy, it is the
community that gathers that really matters.”
It seems, in fact, that in the Stiles 1840 home Etowah Cliffs, Episcopal
services in the drawing room had been the norm. William Henry and wife Eliza
Mackay Stiles often led Episcopal services such as Morning Prayer on Sunday
mornings with family and friends present. Rector diaries from 1844 state that
prayer books were circulated, and “thus the means of knowing our doctrines and
modes of worship have been open to a few.”
The liturgy was in the hands of the people in their homes. Bishop Elliott also wrote that he held
services at Etowah Cliffs on Sunday evenings when he visited.
So, as the church organization began in 1844, Morning Prayer at home
was a regular event in at least one of the founding members’ homes. Soon a
teacher and a rector were hired for Ascension.
Rev. Scott reported in 1845 that a “very accomplished classical scholar
and able teacher, Frederick Elwell,” had been acquired for the School
House. By 1846, the first rector Rev.
Owen P. Thackara had charge of the Ascension mission and the Episcopal missions
in both Cassville and Kingston, as well as the one in Floyd County. But the difficulties of this mission and ill
health compelled Thackara to abandon his post by early 1847. The pattern of rectors leaving after a short
tenure required the people in the community to carry on the liturgy without them. The liturgy, Erickson said, is not just for
ourselves. “Every Sunday when we are
saying the liturgy,” she said, “we are doing something in this community by
continuing this word, this proclamation.”
In 1848 Rev. Thompson L. Smith served ably two Sundays every month, and
following “in the afternoon of each Sabbath, services [were] held for a large
and attentive congregation of people of color,” usually at Etowah Cliffs. Rev.
William J. Perdue served Ascension for eighteen months into 1851, but the same
year Bishop Elliott noted “the absorption of the land into a few hands has so
much diminished the population immediately around the church, as to render it a
work of greater toil than ever, to plant the church successfully at this
From 1851 through1860, Ascension was closed or without a rector for
all but a couple of years, and similarly during the Civil War when—arguably—the
help of God was needed most. However, the Episcopal church, Erickson said, “has
a strong tradition of embracing the importance of our community, that the
relationship with God and with one another is important. It’s not either-or;
it’s both.” This may have helped the
small number of communicants, which in 1860 was described as “little more than
a summer colony from Savannah.”
During the Civil War, Union soldiers encamped at Etowah Cliffs and
Valley View, very close to Ascension and likely in the church itself. But, history shows the damage inflicted upon
the community. From Etowah Cliffs Union Brigadier-General
Milo S. Hascall wrote of the damage to personal property on May 23, 1864: “I have seen as many as half a dozen houses
and barns on fire at one time and in too many cases the wanton destruction of
fine paintings and other works of art and culture has been reported to me, and
also come under my own observation…” Indeed,
the Stiles library was completely destroyed, and the Episcopal mission at
Cassville did not survive the Civil War.
Ascension bounced back, however, as windows and a wood stove were
added at the Etowah site in 1869. But by 1871 the congregation chose to move
into the growing town of Cartersville. Much ado was exercised in this project,
begun in 1871 by Rev. R.W.B. Elliott who sold the last twelve acres of property
at the river for purchasing the lot in Cartersville. Early (1872-73) in the new
Bishop John W. Beckwith’s tenure and with Beckwith’s influence and perhaps
partiality, the church chose construction plans for a Carpenter “Country”
Gothic style, built by local homebuilders the Jackson Brothers–for the new
Church of the Ascension. Rev. Samuel J. Pinkerton oversaw the move from Etowah
and fundraising for building materials in 1873.
During Reconstruction in the South everything was scarce—from lumber
to money—so the project moved slowly. On March 13, 1873, the Cartersville Courant-American newspaper stated, “The
new Episcopal church, in this city, is not going up very rapidly, owing to the
difficulty getting lumber.” A week later, the building committee of Ascension
published a “notification that the first installment is now called for.” In May
1873, Pinkerton noted in his rector diary that “every proper exertion has been
made, on the part of the Church people, and others in Cartersville, to complete
the building; but mainly on account of money embarrassments they have not been
able to do as they wished. They lack yet
about one thousand dollars…” The community supported the building with a
December 1873 fundraiser, advertised in the newspaper as follows: “We understand that some of the young ladies and
gentlemen of Cartersville design getting up a musical entertainment, to be
interspersed with tableaux, for the benefit of the Episcopal church…We wish
them success. The Episcopal church ought to be finished. It will be an ornament to the city…”
By April of 1874 with gifts from “kind friends in Savannah, Augusta,
and Macon” as well as one $400 gift from Grace Church, New York, the church we
see today was finally occupied, consecrated on June 22, 1875, 144 years ago.
Over time additions and demolitions to parsonages, education wings and parish
halls have changed the overall property, but the central nave, the sanctuary
that the community of Cartersville helped to build, remains very much the
same. According to Stiles descendant and
current Ascension member Frederick Knight, “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t
love that church.”
Erickson said that the first time she ever walked into it she “was
struck by its beauty, its warmth, and the sense of all the prayers and the
songs that have been said and the people that have been in that space over
time.” She continued: “But also…As
Christians, we have been saying the same words of praise as everybody else
around the world as part of the Anglican Communion. So, it makes for a very rich and beautiful
space to me.”
Having built a new church, the congregation of Ascension from 1875
through 1907 continued much as before: sharing
rectors with Cave Spring, Cedartown, Calhoun, Dalton, Kingston, or any
combination of these mission churches. The bishop himself would often travel
from Atlanta to conduct services, especially baptisms. During this 32-year
span, eleven rectors served Ascension over 21 years with nine years unaccounted
for. Highlights include the Rev. W.R. McConnell, who in 1866 wrote a history of
the church for the Diocese of Georgia.
In it he listed names of vestrymen during his tenure: the names George H. Gilreath and W.H. Stiles,
Jr., among others, continued to appear.
In 1890 with Mr. Jones listed as Missionary in Charge, gas lights and
aisle carpet were added to the nave. With the Rev. George E. Benedict in 1892,
Ascension reported 17 families and 79 individual members, an upward trend. Rev.
F.W. Ambler—also rector of St. Andrews in Kingston–the church embarked on
building a rectory in 1900, located directly behind the church in the current
Bishop Beckwith, whose tenure from 1868 till 1890, observed growth from 31 churches to 53 churches and chapels, with five missions added, according to Henry Thompson Malone’s book The Episcopal Church in Georgia 1733-1957. But one church, the mission at Kingston, did not survive after 1907 and was declared dormant. With the bishop’s death in 1890 and installation of the Right Reverend Cleland Kinloch Nelson, D.D., as bishop in 1892, discussion began for dividing the diocese into two to make overseeing it more manageable. This finally occurred in 1907, with the creation of the Diocese of Atlanta—Columbus and Macon north–and the Diocese of Georgia—Augusta, Valdosta and Savannah south. Church of the Ascension, the little gray church, remained in the Diocese of Atlanta, a small mission church in Cartersville.
Sources for Ascension Church’s Beginnings: 1844 to 1907
By Peggy L. Brown
Crumbliss, R. (1950). “Mode of Living in Other Days.” In J.B. Tate (Ed.), 2014. Sketches of Bartow County(pp. 68-70).
Malone, H. (1960). The Episcopal Church in Georgia 1733-1957. Diocese of Atlanta.
Hascall, M. (1864). Letter. In Keith Hebert, 2017. The Long Civil War in the North Georgia Mountains: Confederate Nationalism, Sectionalism, and White Supremacy in Bartow County, Georgia.U of Tennesee Press.
Episcopal Church. (1844, 1845, 1846, . . . , 1907). Journal of the [Fiftieth, etc.]. . . Annual Convention of the Diocese of Georgia.