Today a commercial hub of north Georgia, Marietta begins its life as a cluster of homes near an old Indian trail. The original four homes comprise a community of less fifty people. Cobb County is organized as one of 10 counties from the original Cherokee County and named for T.R.R. Cobb. Marietta, named for his wife Mary, becomes county seat in 1834.
With Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw Mountain in the background, the city of Marietta in 1854
Among the early residents is James Anderson, first postmaster of the city. Designing many north Georgia towns, he incorporated the concept of a central square as had been done in his hometown, Savannah. He used this concept in the design of Marietta.
The Panic of 1837 throws the city into economic turmoil. By this time grading had begun on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, destined to run from the Chattahoochee to the Tennessee River. Stephen Long, building the railroad, had chosen Marietta as home base. For the first three years of the Panic, Marietta suffers somewhat less than its neighbors because of Mr. Long's railbuilding activities. Then he quits, citing undeserved criticism from the state. For two years (1840-1842) the project comes to a halt, although a significant amount of the grading has been completed.
When work resumes, Atlanta is chosen as home base and Marietta becomes a stop on the railroad. Starting in 1848 a fledgling travel industry attracted Georgia's wealthy plantation owners to the city at the base of Kennesaw Mountain. It was then that John Glover arrived, joining Henry Cole, James Fletcher, Phillip Root, James Powers and John Denemead, among others, to build the city. Georgia Military Institute selected the city for its campus in 1852. Brumby Hall was the home of Augustus Brumby, GMI's first commander. Fire in 1855 destroyed three blocks in the downtown area, but a vibrant Marietta quickly rebuilt.
A year after the start of the War of Northern Aggression, a favored term in the city for the War Between the States, Marietta saw James Andrews and 20 spies boarding the General after spending a night in the Fletcher House (now the Kennesaw House) and Cole's, local boarding houses. The Great Locomotive Chase followed. With mounting losses closer and closer to home, and the city's proximity to the railroad, Marietta became a hospital town, and served in that capacity throughout the Atlanta Campaign. In June, 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman begins shelling the town from positions west of Kennesaw Mountain. On June 22, 1864, Sherman tries to outflanked his opponent at Kolb's Farm. General John Bell Hood stops the attack, but sustains heavy losses. On June 28, 1864, Sherman attempts a frontal assault on Joseph E. Johnston's entrenched positions across a front some two miles in length. This time the Union forces suffer heavy casualties. The line holds, but on the evening of July 2nd, Johnston withdraws to the east.
The withdrawal leaves the city to the bluecoats. who occupy the town from July 2nd through November 14, 1864. General George Thomas uses the Georgia Military Institute as his headquarters while Sherman stays, albeit briefly, at the Kennesaw House. When Atlanta is finally captured (Sept. 2, 1864) most federal troops remain stationed in the Marietta vicinity. The city of Marietta is set on fire at the start of "The March to the Sea" by Hugh Kirkpatrick, Sherman's "Merchant of Terror." Most of the downtown area is destroyed.
Within five months (April, 1865) the South had surrendered. During Reconstruction the city grew, partly to Atlanta's choice as the state capital, partly because of its development as a rail center. A National Cemetery was created just east of downtown in 1866. Marietta's citizens did not want their dead buried near Yankees, so they created the Confederate Cemetery the same year. Through the last third of the century the city became a center of commerce for north Georgia. By the dawn of the new century Marietta had built a new railroad depot (now home to the Marietta Welcome Center) and soon (July 17, 1905) would inaugurate trolley service.
|Early Marietta Square|
As a center for cotton distribution, and thanks to its location near a major railroad, Marietta grew.
Mary Phagan, a Marietta native, moved to East Point and was working in the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. Her brutal murder in April, 1913, was sensationalized across the United States, and Leo Frank, her Jewish manager, was convicted on eyewitness evidence provide by Jim Conley, once a suspect himself. Frank was taken from the Georgia State Penitentiary in Milledgeville and lynched at the present-day corner of Frey's Gin and Roswell Road (near the present location of the Big Chicken). In 1982 Alonzo Mann, a janitor at the factory, admitted seeing Conley move the body, which led to the pardon of Frank in 1986. The incident is one of many that led to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. (More on Mary Phagan and Leo Frank)
During World War II Marietta's Rickenbacher Field served as home base for the Bell Bomber factory. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the recently (June, 1941) begun project. For four years the state-of-the-art field was used to test the bombers before flying them to the Western Front.
State Representative James V. Carmichael, along with Rip Blair, (Carmichael's law partner and mayor of Marietta) had been instrumental in convincing Larry Bell to choose Marietta as home for the Bell Bomber factory. During World War II this plant built B-29 bombers (669 in all) used by the American forces and employed 29,000 men and women at its peak shortly before the end of the war. The plant was rescued by Charmichael and Lockheed Corporation in 1951 after being abandoned by Bell. Through a number of name changes and consolidations the manufacturing facility and company is known as Lockheed-Martin and is one of the major employers in the county and state.
|Blue Top Motor Court on U.S. Highway 41 in the late 1950's|
On October 31, 1963, an explosion at Atherton's Drug Store left 8 people dead. Some of the people who were killed had come downtown for the Halloween celebration that afternoon.
History of the area around Marietta
Archives of Cobb County