Perhaps one of the oldest inhabited areas in the United States, what now is known as Cartersville was inhabited by Indians of the Woodlands era. About 200 BC these Middle Woodland Indians began to flourish in northwest Georgia. Today archeologists refer to this group as the Cartersville Culture. Eventually they adopted ceremonies and beliefs from a larger group centered in the Ohio River Valley known as the Hopewell Culture.
Sometime during Europe's High Middle Ages a culture evolved in the United States that rivaled their European counterparts -- the Moundbuilders. A major trading center was located within a few miles of downtown at the confluence of the Etowah River and Pumpkinvine Creek.
|Effigies from Etowah Mounds|
Original photo courtesy GDITT
Digital enhancement copywrited
Palisades of wood protected the large, central mounds of this early culture and a vast inland network of villages allowed trading goods to move great distances. Copper so unique that it can be identified as coming from the hills of Bartow has been found in archeological digs as far away as Minnesota.
Then, like so many of the early Indian civilizations, they vanished for some reason yet unknown. The remnants of the tribe perhaps became the Creek who controlled the area until 1755. Cherokee Indians defeated them that year at the battle of Taliwa, near present-day Ballground (Cherokee-Pickens line). During the next 78 years the Cherokee would rule this land.
In 1792, after a battle at Rome's Myrtle Hill, the village of Hightower moved east along the major east-west route in the lower Cherokee Nation. Today the remains of this village lay beneath downtown Cartersville. In 1838 the Cherokee were rounded up and herded into Kingston's Fort Means. From here they were sent west on a journey known today as "The Trail of Tears."
Founded in 1832 by settlers who won their land in Georgia's sixth land lottery, Birmingham was at the junction of the Hightower Trail, Sandtown Road, one of three "Alabama Roads" and a lesser known north-south route running from Cincinnati to Florida. Yet Cassville, county seat of Cass County and cultural capital of north Georgia, easily overshadowed its neighbor. In 1837 the Western and Atlantic Railroad decided to put a depot in the tiny town, giving the city the impetus for future growth. Although the rail bed was quickly graded it would be another 8 years until the track was laid and trains actually began to travel on the railroad.
One reason people came to Cartersville was to visit the Tumlin Indian Mounds. Among those making this journey in 1844 was a young lieutenant stationed in Marietta, William Tecumseh Sherman. After riding a horse to Cartersville and visiting the mounds, Sherman stayed with the Tumlins while he surveyed the surrounding area. This reconnaissance would serve him well as leader of the Union forces during the "Atlanta Campaign." The name of the city changed from Birmingham to Cartersville in 1846, in honor of Farish Carter, a wealthy businessman with ties to the town.
Roads that played an important role in the development of the town now became "feeders" for the farmers to transport crops to the Western and Atlantic railroad depot. In 1848 the city began a pattern of slow, steady growth that would continue through the start of the Civil War. In 1858 the Cartersville Express was first published, but the center of the town remained the depot and the railroad itself.
During The Atlanta Campaign Union forces briefly battled citizens and soldiers who had taken a position in the Cartersville Depot on May 20, 1864. Sherman's capture of Allatoona Pass on June 1 effectively gave control of the town to the federal army. On November 12, 1864, Sherman ate lunch at the Park Hotel in downtown Cartersville. From the depot across the street a telegraph operator sent messages to General George Thomas in Nashville. After the last message a Union soldier climbed up just outside the depot and cut the wire. The next communication Sherman had with the North came from Savannah six weeks later after completing the "March to the Sea." As with other towns in their path, the Union Army destroyed Cartersville so completely that only 2 wooden structures remained, both homes. The antebellum depot, which now houses the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau is brick.
|4 Way Lunch|
General Thomas removed the track of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, the rails transported to Chattanooga (History of Chattanooga), the ties burned along the side of the railroad. General Sherman did not want an army mobilizing when he left northwest Georgia and destroying the railroad was the best way to prevent this without stationing men in the area. After the conclusion of the war the railroad was rebuilt and run as USMRR until returned to the state in 1866.
From November 1864 until the railroad was rebuilt in the summer of 1865 the lack of this transportation service created severe hardship for the people living between Atlanta (History of Atlanta) and Dalton (History of Dalton), including Cartersville. Drought, severe at times, further restricted Cartersville's growth, but the city of Cassville had also been thoroughly destroyed. The county government chose Cartersville as its new home in 1868.
The town began to attract new residents. Charles Smith wrote for various Atlanta newspapers. He moved to Cartersville from Rome in 1870. Shortly after that attorney Sam Jones followed in his footsteps. Finally, a doctor and political activist, Charles Felton and his wife Rebecca Latimer moved to the town. Each (including Mrs. Felton) would become internationally famous in their own right, Smith as a columnist under the pseudonym Bill Arp, Jones as a evangelic preacher, Mr. Felton as a leader of the Populist movement and Mrs. Felton as the first woman to serve in the Senate of the United States.
In 1872 the town incorporated and became a city. Later that year an attempt to rename Cartersville to Etowah City failed because the founder of Etowah (destroyed by Sherman and never rebuilt) opposed the name change. From 1880 until 1940 the population of the city proper remained consistently near 5,000 people. Another 5,000 or so lived in the Cartersville district outside the city limits.
Surrounding agricultural areas depended heavily on the production of cotton. By 1924 the boll weevil reached the Cartersville area and destroyed much of the cotton crop. The United States, the state of Georgia and local communities embarked on an extensive road-building program in part because of the increasing number of automobiles, in part to create jobs for out-of-work agricultural workers and farmers. U. S. Highway 41, which runs through downtown Cartersville, was built with funds from this program.
After suffering through more than 15 years of a depressed economy Cartersville received a boost in 1940, when work began on Allatoona Dam. Although work stopped for three years while America won World War II, the project employed hundreds of men giving the area additional income. Creation of the lake made the Cartersville area a popular recreation destination for Atlanta folks who would travel north by car on Highway 41.
Today, Cartersville is a favorite stop of visitors to the state. The familiar gold cupola of the old courthouse welcomes people who enter the Etowah Valley from I-75. The depot is alongside a small city park at the center of town. The downtown area is being revitalized, in part thanks to the growth that has occurred over the past few years because of its proximity to Atlanta. Downtown is home to The History Center, a small museum that tells of Cartersville's past.
|Frank Moore building|
Cartersville is the seat of the Bartow County government and still has 3 courthouses standing.
Roselawn, home of evangelical preacher Sam Jones offers a glimpse of his personal life as well as the life of Rebecca Latimer Felton. Across the street from the home is a marker dedicated to missionary Lottie Moon. The Etowah Indian Mounds are still a major attraction. Along the shores of Lake Allatoona Red Top Mountain State Park is one of the most popular parks in the state. Not far from downtown is Allatoona Pass, a bloody Civil War engagement. Weinman Mineral Museum is an exploration into the minerals that attracted people to the area.