History of Downtown Adairsville
In 1832, following a treaty with the, Cherokee, the State of Georgia held the first of six land lotteries to distribute the Indian Lands to its white citizens. The sixth dealt with the land in North Georgia. While many Indians remained on the land in 1832, the area was technically divided and distributed. During 1837-38, the infamous "Trail of Tears" ensued, removing the rest of the Cherokee to what is now Oklahoma. Their former territory was thus totally open for re-settlement.
After the 1832 land Lottery (called the Cherokee Land Lottery and the Cherokee Gold Lottery because two different lists were made), the state divided the "short-lived" Greater Cherokee county into several smaller counties. The site of the future town of Adairsville fell into Cass County, created on December 3, 1832.
The location of the town of Adairsville stems first from a preexisting Indian settlement located about five miles north of the present town. It was called Oothcalooga Village, named for the Cherokee word meaning "bearer" for the stream of the same name that runs through the valley. The village was the residence of the Adairs, descendants of Scottish adventures who settled among the Cherokees, intermarried with them, and by the 1820s, were prominent representatives of the Cherokee nation. After the Cherokee were removed, a small settlement with a store or two arose about two miles north of the present-day town of Adairsville and south of Oothcalooga. This settlement was the first to be called "Adairsville" to compliment the Adair family.
Land Lot 168, consisting of 160 acres, is the center of the present town and contains the proposed district. It was won in 1832 by Hubbard Williams of Butts County and granted to him on February 4, 1834. It was sold by John Doss on October 31, 1836, to William Watts of DeKalb County for $1200. Watts moved to Cass County and became the founder of the town of Adairsville at its present location. Land Lot 168 takes in the Public Square, Cherry Street, Summer Street, South Main, part of North Main Street, and more. Watts chose as his home site a prominent elevation later known as Bowdoin's Hill.
While the initial village, as mentioned above, derived from one man's vision, the site grew in importance because it was on the direct path of the state-owned and built Western and Atlantic Railroad. First authorized by the Georgia Legislature in 1836 to run from what is now Atlanta (in 1827 known simply as Terminus) to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the railroad began construction in 1838. Mr. Watts deeded land to the railroad in 1840, giving the right-of-way through a small portion of his land. In 1846 he sold the State of Georgia three acres for a depot, and the first one was completed in early 1847.
It was in 1846, only after the site of the depot had been selected, that Mr. Watts called in surveyors and had the Public Square laid out into business lots, basically in the same configuration as they are today. He then began to sell these lots. Two of the earliest purchasers were Johnathan H. Whitesides (1849) and the firm of Veach and Lawrence (1850). While Mr. Watts first called this new town "Adair Station" similar to many railroad communities at that time, it appears on Bonner's 1847 Map of Georgia as Williams, no doubt for the original land owner. Besides being a future railroad spot, it was, by 1847, just south of a junction of two main roads, one leading east-west to Rome, and other north-south from Cassville to New Echota, the Old Cherokee Capital.
As with other railroad-derived towns vs. preexisting communities, it was not long before the small village known as Adairsville, two miles north, gradually merged with the new station. "Adair Station" then assumed the name and was incorporated in 1854 as Adairsville. The original city limits were established as a circle with a radius of one-half mile from the depot. The State Census of 1852 gives the population of the Adairsville district as 1,565 persons, of which 239 were slaves. The town itself was much smaller.
From its creation in the 1840s until the onset of the Civil War in 1861, Adairsville and its surrounding area attracted wheat farmers who supplied the several water-powered mills, and later the steam-powered flour mill of J.M. Veach Milling company (1868), now destroyed. The Oothcalooga Valley was known as the "Granary of the State".
One of the first two businesses to locate on the Public Square was that of Veach and Lawrence. James Madison Veach (1832-1897) was a Virginia native who came to Adairsville around 1848 where he soon established a general mercantile store in partnership with Horatio G. Lawrence, one of the six original town commissioners in 1854. They opened their business on Gilmer Street where it prospered until the Civil War.
During the building of the state-owned Western and Atlantic Railroad about 1848, Governor G.W. Towns intended for Adairsville Station to be the terminus of the road and had a roundhouse and other large machine shops built on the site where the present town grew. Adairsville was exactly half-way between what is now Atlanta and Chattanooga. The first railroad depot was built at this time. The current depot is its successor.
A hotel (now gone) was built to accommodate the travelers and the railroad technicians since after the railroad was completed to Chattanooga in 1851, the trains stopped here overnight due to inadequate lighting on the engines. Therefore, supper and breakfast were served travelers before the old wood-burning engines fired up to continue the journey. Before the days of prohibition, accommodations included a tavern in the downstairs of the hotel. The hotel (or hotels since there were two at one time in Adairsville, both now gone) were conveniently located on Railroad Street.
The Civil War (1861-1865) found Adairsville a town of major strategic importance since it had been designated a terminus for the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and thus contained large machine shops and a roundhouse owned by the railroad. Through this line came arms; munitions, and other supplies from the factories in Atlanta destined for the front lines in Virginia. A large gun and powder factory was located near Adairsville and the farms in the valley provided food for the troops.
Two major war-time events happened in Adairsville. The first was Andrews' Raid and the "Great Locomotive Chase". This occurred when a Union spy named James Andrews (ca.1829-1862) was sent on a mission to cut the rail lines (specifically the Western and Atlantic) that were supplying Chattanooga and the Confederate forces keeping the union forces at bay there. Andrews was to steal a locomotive just north of Atlanta (The General) and proceed up the tracks to Chattanooga, cutting the rails and destroying the Confederate lifeline. On April 12, 1862, Andrews and his men stole The General at Kennesaw or Big Shanty as it was called then, north of Marietta. At Adairsville, they were pursued by The Texas and were finally stopped further north at Ringgold, Georgia. The chase later became the subject of a movie. Both trains, The General and The Texas are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as objects in other counties.
The other major event that happened in Adairsville was the arrival of the opposing armies. This occurred after the fall of Chattanooga in November 1863 when Gen. William T. Sherman had a clear path to follow the W. and A. Railroad straight to Atlanta when he began the Atlanta Campaign on May 7, 1864. Confederate General Joseph Johnston was unable to hold his position and eventually arrived at Adairsville on May 16, 1864. He felt the strategic location of the town, situated in a pass encircled by a high ridge, could be guarded by cannons. The Confederates had around 50,000 men, the Union forces, 100,000. Due to strategic miscalculations, the Confederates decided to split forces with half going to Cassville and half to Kingston, both towns in Cass (by then Bartow) County. Thus abandoned, Adairsville was entered by Union troops on May 18, 1864. At this time they destroyed part of the town. General Sherman and his troops continued to march on to Atlanta. Part of the existing depot was probably there in 1864.
After the Civil War, peach orchards and cotton crops boomed. The red clay soil that covered the mountains in Bartow County produced the finest Elberta peaches in the world. All the high mountains and hills outside the district were covered with fine peach orchards. They were planted on top of the high mountains so the late spring frost would not destroy the peach blossoms. There were also peach trees in the back yards of almost every family in the Adairsville area. There was a peach packing shed located near the railroad on Railroad Street as well as a company that made the crates in which the peaches were shipped. Cotton was another large crop. At one time Adairsville had 2 cotton gins. The Veach cotton Gin and the Shaw Cotton Gin were both located on South main Street. The Shaw Gin was the first cotton gin built in Adairsville, and was built by Abe Cox in 1890. Peaches and cotton provided the main sources of income for most families. An overview of Adairsville in the 1881-82 Gazetteer of the State of Georgia states that the population was given as about 400, and:
"It has one church in town and two nearby, and a fine academy, Bartow Institute; also an express office, telegraph office and banking facilities. In manufactories it boasts of two steam gins, flouring mill and a cotton factory with 2,000 spindles, consuming about 20 bales of cotton weekly, turning out nearly 4,000 yards of goods daily, and furnishing employment to about 70 operatives. The principal exports are cotton, hay and grain."
During the period 1884-1920, the downtown area began to grow. A majority of the historic commercial structures on the Public Square date from this time period. The building boom opened in 1881 when James M. Veach, Sr. built a new roller mill/flour mill building on a site just north of the depot (now vacant) and where this large factory operated until the 1940s. It was demolished in the 1950s. The Bank of Adairsville, the first bank was established in 1899, and is now the location of City Hall. Telephones arrived in Adairsville in 1903 and the exchange was located upstairs over McCollum's Hardware on the Public Square. Mr. Robert L. McCollum had been instrumental in obtaining the service. There were 32 initial subscribers. The waterworks, outside of the historic area, was established in 1906. It was instigated by two local doctors, Bowdoin and Bradley, who sought to keep down the recurring epidemics of typhoid fever. Electricity was late in coming to Adairsville, not arriving until 1924. (Adairsville Sans Souci National Register Nomination Form)
The old Dixie Highway (now U. S. Highway 41), built between 1915 and 1927, passes through Adairsville and extends from Florida to Michigan. This highway was a catalyst for the Chenille rug textile industry established in the 1940’s. Interstate 75, completed on December 21, 1977 also proved important for both tourism and public access. Adairsville is also home to the Georgia’s first Boy Scout Troop established in 1915.
Today, Adairsville boasts a revitalized downtown with numerous period houses lining the streets. Adairsville is also known for Barnsley Gardens, which is now a luxury resort located to the southwest on Barnsley Gardens Road. The home was built in the 1840’s by Godfrey Barnsley of Savannah for his wife Julia. The reinforced ruins of the main house still remain and are surrounded by magnificent gardens.