For more than a hundred years the Cherokee and Creek Indians fought to control north Georgia. The Creek loss at Taliwa (present day Cherokee County) gave the Cherokee control of all land north of the Chattahoochee. The southernmost village in the Cherokee Nation, Beaver Dam, was on Cedar Creek west of the spring off Main Street in present-day Cedartown.
In 1826 two white men (Linton Walthall and Hampton Whatley) visited the fertile Cedar Valley. These men would return in 1832 (maybe earlier) and establish stores in the area (Walthall's was next to the spring). Soon the community of Big Springs began to develop.
Enter Asa Prior. A rugged blacksmith from eastern Georgia, the patriarch of Cedartown moved to the area in 1832. During the early years, when the town was called Big Springs, Prior contributed time, money, and land to the growth of his new home. In 1848 he built a house near Walthall's store and he maintained a plantation outside the city.
In 1838 the Cherokee were herded into small forts, then moved north and forced west on The Trail of Tears. One of the forts was in Cedartown.
When the state of Georgia split Paulding County in two, creating Polk County, it did so to decrease the travel time to the courthouse. Van Wert, also in Polk County, had been the previous county seat, but this did nothing for the farmers in the western part of the county, so the county seat was moved to the newly created Cedar Town.
Prior deeded a twenty-acre tract bounded by present day West Avenue, College Street, East Avenue and South Main Street. In 1852 the first courthouse was built on the site and two years later the town was incorporated with the city limits set at one mile in each direction from the junction of Main and Herbert Streets.
|Cedartown High School|
The Civil War was not kind to the fledgling city. Howell Cobb defended the area towards the end of the war with a ragtag group of "cavalry"; General Hugh Kirkpatrick's Union Cavalry easily bypassed the defenders and destroyed much of the city including the courthouse. For the next three years the city struggled to maintain its identity. The state withdrew the charter and many of the people gave up on the town. Then, in 1867, the town began work on a new courthouse. Business grew on Main Street and in spite of a fire on the West Side in the late 1870's the town prospered, as did much of the surrounding area.
One major reason was Amos West, a northern ironmaster who relocated to the village. Familiar with the Georgia iron from Mark Cooper's Etowah plant, West built the Cherokee Iron Works in 1873 to take advantage of the abundant natural resources essential in creating quality iron. The growth was so substantial that by the 1890's Main Street was completely built. In 1906 the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument to honor Confederate Veterans. With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900's the town paved Main Street in 1911 (some streets in the town had been paved in the 1870's) and added lights in 1913.
Women began to play an increasingly important role in the city at the start of 20th century. A small group of women began to help the children of area mill workers and farmers. In 1914, 29 year old Ethel Harpst moved to Cedartown as superintendent of these women, under the auspices of the Methodist Church. In 1924 a decision was made to create separate quarters for boys and girls and the Ethel Harpst Home was established. Beginning with a donated house, the campus grew through the Depression. Charity, hope, and love for those less fortunate continues in the combined Murphy Harpst Children's Centers (site), under the auspices of the Methodist Church.
|Ethel Harpst Home|
In the early 1900's the town began to grow with the addition of a railroad line and the arrival of Charles Adamson, whose Philadelphia-based land speculation company built the Cedartown Cotton Manufacturing Company (1896) and bought neighboring Paragon Mills. Additionally, Adamson was responsible for building the Cedar Valley Golf Club, a nine-hole semi-private facility south of town (known as Cherokee Golf Club when completed in 1924). The city's dependence on cotton made it vulnerable, and the boll weevil (1922-1925), the Great Depression, and the introduction of rayon (discovered, 1891) dealt the city a serious blow. By the middle 1930s the agricultural base that supported the city was in serious trouble.
U. S. 27, The Martha Berry Highway, supplemented the growth of the city by providing a much needed north-south transportation route. A shift in the area surrounding Cedartown from cotton to other crops gave the city some relief. A facility that produced a wide array of canned goods under a variety of labels including J. J. Lassiter, provided employment.