Center, Georgia (Bartow County)
By Joe F. Head
The origin of how Center was named
Center, Georgia is located east of the Cartersville city limits and south of Highway 20 on the HWY 20 spur leading to Allatoona Dam. It was primarily a rural farming district with a footprint reaching from Highway 20 to the vicinity of Mc Caskey Creek and Jim Knight Roads.
The origin of how Center was named has eluded individuals for more than a century. There appears to be no official documentation, stories or proclamations regarding how “Center” became the name of this small community. Oral history has even failed to produce a consensus among citizens as there is simply an absence of information on this issue. However, one plausible event is documented and may be the mustard seed of how Center became Center.
According to a 1975 Tribune News article entitled,” Aunt Beck Donahoo recalls old hotel,” by Clyde Jolly, the origin of Center’s name may be actually rooted in the former Rowland Springs Hotel and Resort. The mineral springs area was purchased by Major John S. Rowland who came from Rutherford County, North Carolina, in1839. He acquired 2000 acres and established a resort hotel that could accommodate up to 600 guests. The area became well known, because of its mineral waters, but never carried a specific name. Rowland established his personal home place west of Cartersville on now Hwy 113 near the airport and named it, Etowah Valley.
In1849, George White conducted a study entitled, Statistics of the State of Georgia, which describes various mineral spring locations throughout the state. According to his notation of Rowland Springs he was impressed with the area, hotel and quality of spring water. He comments that, “they are becoming every season the centre of fashion. Multitudes from every part of the State resort here to partake of the excellent water, as well as the liberal fare of the worthy proprietor.”
The Rowland Springs Resort was destroyed by a tornado at the turn of the century and not rebuilt. Over the following years it appears the area may have defaulted to the name, Center. The area soon thrived as an agricultural community. By 1910 a half-acre of land was donated by Andrew J. Lewis to establish the Center Baptist Church, which began to re-anchor the site. People from this area were very devoted to church and faith. As an outcome of the population growth a school was established ( grades 1 – 7 ) on the Church property and was also known as the Center School until it closed in the 40’s. Children were transferred to the old Smithville School on north Tennessee Street in Cartersville. A good number of people in Center can trace their roots back to Corbin and Rowland Springs following the Civil war.
An additional coincidence was the rise of a diversified farming operation that attracted labor and families to rent housing on the property. Bob Leachman, a prominent landowner of some 800 acres operated a number of enterprises around 1920 including: saw mill, cotton, lumber and mining. Having a sawmill and labor he built many wood frame homes and permitted tenants to live on his land and work in his businesses. He also leased and rented large tracks of land beyond the acreage he personally owned. Leachman became a member of the Bartow County Board of Commissioners. Many of these tenant families collected around the Leachman properties, established Center Baptist Church and school. A number of family owned groceries (J. L. Davis, Howard Lewis, Rufus Shinall, Elrod’s and Guyton stores) appeared between 1910 and 1950’s. A distillery also operated in the community.
The area received a boost in activity during the late 1940’s when the Allatoona Dam construction project was underway. As the Dam was completed many of the Corp housing units were relocated to Center and sold to residents at a very inexpensive cost. Following the completion of the Dam, activity faded and Center became a faint community to Bartow County.
Statistics of the state of Georgia, 1849, By George White
Published by Thorne Williams, Savannah, GA
Pages 149 – 151
Reverend George White (1802 – 1887) was an Episcopalian preacher, historian and archeologist. (Georgia)
A Preliminary Report on the Mineral Springs of Georgia
By: Samuel Washington McCallie
DTN October 2, 1975 Article
Aunt Beck Donehoo Recalls Old Hotel