The first great inland city in the US was to grow at the intersection of two Native American paths, the Peachtree and Sandtown trails.
Following the Supreme Court decision “that the Cherokees were a “domestic dependent nation” under the protection and tutelage of the United States”, President Andrew Jackson and Congress defied the Court and removed the Cherokees and Creeks from northwest Georgia in 1821. A few miles north, the nations’ first Gold Rush came when gold was discovered in Dahlonega, Georgia in 1828. At this time, a few pioneers were settling the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The towns of Gainesville (1821), Lawrenceville (1821) and Decatur (1822) had already been established.
Major James Montgomery’s ferry was near Fort Gilmer, built at the native American landmark Standing Peachtree on the Chattahoochee River. By 1835, Charner Humphey had built a whitewashed wooden home that served as a tavern, inn and post office which came to be known as Whitehall. Anderson Walton built a popular resort near the spring on what would become Spring Street behind the present day Peachtree Plaza Hotel.
Then, a highly eventful decision, in 1837, the Georgia legislature decided to build a railroad from Chattanooga to a point on a ridge about seven miles southeast of the Chattahoochee River which would be a town named Terminus. The granite zero mile marker was placed on Hardy Ivy’s land. By 1842, in addition to the few pioneer families, the area was covered with the shanties of unruly railroad hands and prostitutes.
By 1847, the town had 3 railroad lines, lumber mill, newspaper, school, doctor, and a new name– Atlanta. By 1850, it had improved roads, sidewalks, the telegraph, and Oakland Cemetery.
There are more antebellum homes in the outer metro areas of Atlanta, especially Roswell (see my blog on Atlanta Historic Districts), as well as Marietta, Newnan, and Jonesboro, Ga.
1850’s – 1860’s
Population 1850: 2572
Population 1860: 9554
Population 1864: +/- 22,000 (to zero during occupation)
Prior to the Civil War, business-minded city leaders argued against slavery as well as secession or war with the United States.
Summer of 1864, General Sherman and the Confederates battled for Atlanta from July 22. After retreat into the city, for five weeks, Atlanta was bombed. Before surrendering, the Confederate troops burned all the ammunition stores and war industries. After the final surrender, citizens were forced to leave the city on September 7th.
Two months later, Sherman ordered troops to burn the rest of Atlanta, including homes, as they left on November 15th to destroy anything in their path between Atlanta and Savannah.
Atlanta During the Battles, Bombing, and Occupation
July to November, 1864
1870’s – 1880’s
Population 1870 – 21,789
Population 1890 – 66,000
1890’s – 1900
Population 1890 – 66,000
Population 1900 – 90,000 43rd in US. About the same as Portland OR (1845), Nashville (1779) and Seattle (1851).
Los Angeles (1781) 102,000. NYC (1625) 3.5 million. Chicago (1803) 1.7 million.
Coming up in my next post, Atlanta sizzles from 1900 to the millennium…