Kingston was named in honor of John Pendleton King (1799-1888) of Augusta, a noted lawyer, U. S. Senator and Georgia senator, railroad financier and President of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company. We may never know when and who decided to honor King, whether it was the early settlers of the area, railroad officials, politicians of the day or John P. King himself. According to the book, “History of Bartow County, Formerly Cass” by Lucy Cunyus, published in 1933, “prior to the completion of the railroad, the stage coach route passed through the town and the hotels and the spring there were well patronized”. This statement lends credence to the fact that the impending completion of the railroad was welcomed by many, both existing and new settlers who envisioned the railroad as a means for prosperity.
The railroad was completed through Kingston around 1847, but some of the early population of this new community had settled in the community known as Connaseena a mile to the west. As the railroad neared completion, settlers looked towards the community which would become Kingston as the new center of local commerce. The post office, which had been granted to Connaseena in 1945, was closed and reopened in Kingston two years later. The Connaseena Methodist Church, founded in 1845, moved to Kingston in 1854, changing its name to the Kingston Methodist Church.
The Western & Atlantic Railroad was the superhighway of the time, bringing commerce and prosperity to a new Kingston. Economic fortunes were greatly enhanced in December 1849 as The Memphis Branch Railroad from Rome, Georgia was completed, connected to the Western & Atlantic at Kingston. Because of this new rail line and a new steam boat on the Coosa River at Rome, Kingston became a key distribution point for freight in northwest Georgia.
Kingston was once a cotton market and summer resort. There were 40 business houses, four churches and four hotels. Most of them were on the west side of the Western & Atlantic which divided the town. The population in 1849 was 100 and by 1852 was 1,169. Kingston continued to grow until the Civil War when fortunes changed. One year prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas visited Kingston. A crowd estimated at 10,000 jammed into town to hear Douglas’s address on the vital issues of the day.
By April 12, 1861, North and South were officially at war and Kingston was not immune. The muster rolls swelled as the young men of Kingston signed up to fight for the Confederacy. War first touched Kingston on April 12, 1862, when the locomotive “General” rolled into Kingston, having been stolen by Union raiders earlier that morning at Big Shanty, now Kennesaw. Upon arrival in Kingston, the “General” had to be sidetracked in anticipation of southbound rail traffic. While waiting, the depot agent and postmaster, Uriah Stephens confronted raider leader, James Andrews, about the authority of his urgent powder train cover story. Stephens’ resistance to surrender the switch keys to permit the locomotive “General” back on the main line contributed to the failure of the Union raiders. The “General” finally headed north, with the locomotive, “William R. Smith”, obtained in Kingston in hot pursuit. However, the delay at Kingston sealed the outcome of the “Great Locomotive Chase”.
Kingston was a supply and hospital center during the war due to its location on the railroad. A group of concerned ladies formed The Soldiers Aid Society in August, 1864, establishing the first Confederate Hospital known as ‘The Wayside Home”. This facility and others throughout Kingston treated over 10,000 soldiers, of which 250 are buried in the local Confederate cemetery.
By May 18, 1864, the Union Army under command of William T. Sherman occupied the town. Sherman himself occupied the home of Thomas V. B. Hargis for three days in order to reorganize his forces prior to his push south towards Atlanta. Following the fall of Atlanta on September 1, 1864, Confederate forces retreated south, before again heading north using hit and run tactics along the railroad during October. Sherman returned to Kingston in early November, directing his army against Confederate forces until they were driven from Georgia. During his stay in Kingston, Sherman refined his plans for the impending campaign south to Savannah and it was at Kingston that Sherman received his orders from General Grant to proceed with his “March to the Sea”. During both occupations of Kingston, considerable damage was inflicted upon the town with most businesses and churches destroyed.
Following the war, the last contingent of Confederate troops east of the Mississippi were paroled in Kingston. Confederate Brigadier General William T. Wofford of Cassville arranged with Union Brigadier General Henry M. Judah for the surrender of some 3000 to 4000 Confederate soldiers, mostly Georgians, not paroled elsewhere. Since April 23, 1865, residents have every year observed Confederate Memorial Day by honoring the 249 unknown confederate soldiers, one known and two union soldiers buried in the city cemetery. This is the oldest continuous memorial service for Confederate soldiers in the country thanks to the Kingston Womens History Club, founded in 1900, and their predecessor, The Soldiers Aid Society.
Following the war, Kingston rebuilt the business section parallel to the railroad on the north side of the track. The town again began to flourish and was incorporated November 19, 1869, with a town council composed of L. M. Gillam, T. F. Towers, C. N. Mayson, T. R. Couche, and M. M. McMurray. In March 1911, a major fire raged through the business district, destroying all but the one brick structure on the east end which was occupied as a general merchandise store. About 1920, the downtown was restored using brick. According to first hand accounts found in the book “We Remember Kingston” by the Woman’s History Club, Kingston continued to thrive up until World War II when many of Kingston’s young men went off to war and by October 1944, the Rome Railroad discontinued operation. Fewer people and freight were traveling The old Rome Road or Highway 293 had given way to more modern U. S. 41
Source: History of Bartow County, Georgia, Formerly Cass by Lucy Josephine Cunyus; Kingston Tells Tales Out of Past But Predictions of Future Not New by Harris Dalton, Bartow Herald, May 23, 1963; The Historical Markers of North Georgia by Kenneth W. Boyd.