The settlement to become Cartersville began around 1838 following both the removal of the Cherokees and the surveying of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. A post office was established in this new community, which was given the name Cherokee. Henderson Willingham was appointed on May 15, 1838 as postmaster, followed by John Clayton in 1839 and William Milner in 1840. The name Cartersville was settled upon around 1845. However the post office changed its official name to Cartersville on January 13, 1846 with William Milner continuing as postmaster.
Less than a mile south of that early settlement which became Cartersville was a hamlet called Birmingham, along a stagecoach route between Rome and Marthasville (now Atlanta). A frequent traveler along the route was Farish Carter, a prominent north Georgia planter and entrepreneur who owned plantations in both Chatsworth and Milledgeville. Carter, noting his many stops in Birmingham, suggested Birmingham be renamed for him, an offer which was refused. However, a new settlement being established in anticipation of the railroad further up the road did use his name. Whether in jest or due to the fact that Carter had significant land holdings along the proposed Western & Atlantic route may never be known. Cartersville was incorporated, February 1850 with R. H Cannon, W. W. Leak, Wm. H. Puckett, J. F. Sproull and Coleman Pitts appointed as town commissioners. It was reincorporated as a city with a mayor and alderman in August, 1872.
As part of the early settlement of Cartersville, there was a slight shift in the community churches both north, south and west of town. All predated Cartersville’s founding and realized the need to be near this new population center. The oldest established church was the Pettit’s Creek Baptist Church, established in 1839, located between Nancy Creek and the old Cassville & Burnt Hickory Road, west of Cartersville. It’s members began construction of a new church in Cartersville in 1856, changing its name to the Cartersville Baptist Church in 1866. With completion of a new church building in 1905, the name was again changed to the First Baptist Church. Just south of Cartersville near the Etowah River was the Friendship Presbyterian Church, established in 1843. It relocated to Cartersville in 1853 and was renamed the First Presbyterian Church in 1887. North of town on a site in what is today the Oak Hill Cemetery, stood the Ebenezar Methodist Church, whose congregation moved to town in 1848, renaming it the Cartersville Methodist Church. During 1904-1907, the present church building was erected and renamed the Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church.
The railroad was completed between Atlanta and Chattanooga on May 9, 1850. However, service to Atlanta was completed through Cartersville between 1846 and 1847. With a town population in 1849 of 150, Cartersville had four or five stores and one hotel. Most of the area in and around Cartersville was affected by the Civil War as both the retreating Confederate army and the advancing Union army relied on the railroad for supplies. Confederate forces under the command of Joseph E. Johnston retreated from Cassville through Cartersville on May 20, 1864 crossing the Etowah River and camping in the areas surrounding Stegall’s Station (now Emerson) and Allatoona. Most of the fighting in around Cartersville involved rear guard action by Confederate troops retreating in the advance of Union forces. Following Johnston’s retreat from Cassville through Cartersville, the Union 23rd Corps camped just north of the city limits on May 21 along Pettit’s Creek in what is now the ATCO community.
Considerable damage was done by occupying forces during their occupation. However, numerous structures survived only to be destroyed by fire and neglect over time. The Field-Tumlin home, on South Erwin Street, once a post office and the Wofford home on Douglas Street were two of many residential structures in Cartersville which survived. By 1866, 20 new commercial buildings were built and a steady but slow growth was evident year by year. Before the war the majority of business were on the east side of the railroad.
By an act of the Georgia Legislature in 1866, the question of the new county seat was addressed. The former county seat of Cassville had been burned during the war and its citizens had declined to rebuild it. Therefore an election was held between Cass Station and Cartersville and Cartersville won by a vote of 1085 to 919. In 1867, at a cost of $20,000 dollars, a new county courthouse was constructed on Church Street at the railroad. It was called one of the “finest edifices” in the state. This praise could not stop the distracting noise from the trains, and in 1901 construction of a new courthouse was begun and completed in 1903. It was built on a hilltop several hundred yards from the tracks overlooking downtown. Both buildings remain focal points of Cartersville today.
The trains continue through downtown numerous times a day. First it was the Western & Atlantic passing through Cartersville and then the Cartersville & Van Wert Railroad was completed September 12, 1870, connecting Cartersville with Taylorsville to the west. A second depot in downtown Cartersville existed temporarily to service this line only. The year 1906 saw the completion of the Atlanta, Knoxville and Nashville railroad between Cartersville and Chatsworth. Today CSX operates all three lines for freight only.
In addition to the railroad, Cartersville owes much to the major highways that have brought prosperity to the town. The old Dixie Highway (now U. S. Highway 41), built between 1915 and 1927, passes through Cartersville and extends from Florida to Michigan as does Interstate 75, completed on December 21, 1977. East and west, Cartersville has GA Highway 20, GA Highway 113 and 61 plus U. S. Highway 411 which goes both west and north.
In the beginning, Cartersville’s economy relied heavily on agriculture and mining. The early predominant cash crop was cotton, followed by corn and wheat. Today much of the surrounding farm lands have been annexed for housing and industry. Minerals have always been in abundance throughout the county. Iron, baryte, bauxite, limestone and manganese have been mined through the years, however today only ochre is mined by New Riverside Ochre south of Cartersville. Mining pits along East Main Street east of U. S. 41 were filled in as recently as the late 1970’s to accommodate shopping centers and road construction.
As for manufacturing, Cartersville owes much to the American Textile Company Plant built in 1903 and acquired by Goodyear in 1929. The Cartersville Mills, another textile plant, flourished from its beginning in 1920 and was later acquired by EZ Mills, followed by Spring City Knitting. These two former businesses together provided jobs for as many as 1000 people, supporting the economy of Cartersville. The 1950’s saw the addition of many new textile plants. Most are now gone, with Shaw Industries being the exception, having multiple facilities in Cartersville. Companies such as Anheuser Busch and Toyo Tire are welcome additions to the Cartersville landscape. Cartersville will continue to attract new industries, businesses and residents due to its close proximity to both Atlanta and Chattanooga, as well as Lake Allatoona.
The future of Cartersville’s downtown looks promising as new businesses and facade changes continue to improve the historic downtown area. The 1970’s saw a nationwide trend, causing people and businesses to abandon historic downtowns in favor of strip malls and chain stores. This shift was so alarming that the National Trust for Historic Preservation started the Main Street program in eight pilot states. Georgia was one of the original pilot states, with Cartersville becoming a Main Street City in 1987. In addition, Cartersville is enhanced by Red Top Mountain State Park and the Etowah Indian Mounds. Museums dot the landscape with the Bartow History Center and the Booth Western Art Museum both located in downtown, not to mention the Tellus Science Museum on the north end of Cartersville.
Source: History of Bartow County, Georgia, Formerly Cass by Lucy Josephine Cunyus; 150 Years of Cartersville,1850-2000, Cartersville Magazine; United States Postal Service.
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