1800s

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Melvinia Shields

The Great-Great-Great Grandmother of First Lady Michelle Obama is buried in Kingston, Georgia. Upon freedom from slavery, Melvinia Shields migrated from Rex, Georgia to be near other freed slave families from her youth. In Kingston, she spent the remainder of her days in the community that knew her as “Mattie” McGruder and cared for generations of its children as a midwife.

Euharlee Black Pioneer Cemetery

Euharlee Black Pioneer CemeteryThe Black Pioneer Cemetery is a one-acre cemetery that was used for slave burial prior to the Civil War and for African American resident of the area through the early 1900s. Most of the graves were originally unmarked. Of the 333 known burials, only four individuals have been identified. The Euharlee Historical Society, along with other groups in the area, undertook the task of clearing the cemetery and identifying graves in the late 1990s. In August 2002, the EHS erected and dedicated a permanent marker in memory of those buried. The cemetery is located on Covered Bridge Road between Euharlee Presbyterian and Euharlee Baptist Churches.

Washington W. King

Bridge builder Horace King is well known throughout the South for his life and work. His sons were also part of the bridge building business and had an impact in Bartow County.

Covered-BridgesepialowresWashington W. King was born in 1843 in Alabama, the oldest child to Horace and Frances King. Although Horace King was enslaved at the time of his son’s birth, Washington was born a free person due to his mother’s status as a free woman. He grew up running pole-boats along the Chattahoochee River and later learned the bridge building craft from his father. After years of working at the King Brother Bridge Company in Alabama, Washington opened his own business in the Atlanta area.

King married Georgia Swift, an educator at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), and had a son, Ernest in 1882. The following year, Washington and his brother George built a covered bridge spanning the Etowah River in the Howard Shoals area of Bartow County. That bridge is no longer standing. In 1886, Washington King and a local man named Jonathan H. Burke were contracted by Bartow County to construct a 138-foot covered bridge spanning Euharlee Creek near the Lowry Mill.

Washington W. King died in 1910, and his son Ernest took over his business. The craftsmanship of the King family can still be seen in Euharlee and throughout the Southeast.

1900s

Noble Hill Rosenwald School

Originially named the Cassville Colored School, the Noble Hill School as it became known, was built in 1923 as the first standard school for Black children in the Bartow County School System. The Rosenwald Fund, established by Sears, Roebuck & Company President Julius Rosenwald for the education of Black children, contributed $700 and the Cassville community gave $1,300 to build the school.

Teacher C.W. Williams introduced the Rosenwald initiative to local trustees and, with their approval, obtained the grant to begin construction. Trustees and local craftsmen Webster Wheeler and Daniel Harris volunteered to build the school.

NobleHill_91sepiaFor three decades, black children in grades 1-7 were educated at Noble Hill. The school closed in 1955, when all schools for Black Children were consolidated into Bartow Elementary School. Eleven years later, the school system would begin a successful integration made easier by a former Noble Hill student.

In 1923, Susie Weems entered the first grade at Noble Hill. She would later grow up and marry Webster Wheeler’s son, Daniel. The Noble Hill school nurtured her love of learning and laid a foundation for lifelong education. She obtained a B.S. from Ft. Valley State College in 1945, a Masters of Education from Atlanta University in 1956, a teaching certificate from the University of Kentucky in 1960, and an education specialist degree from University of Georgia in 1976. In 1978, she earned a doctorate in education at Atlanta University. Dr. Wheeler served as a Jeanes supervisor, or superintendent of African American schools, in Bartow, Gordon and Polk counties. She retired as curriculum director of Bartow County Schools.

As integration moved forward, Noble Hill, like many Rosenwald Schools, fell into great disrepair. The property had been sold to Bethel Wheeler, another son of Webster Wheeler. Dr. Wheeler convinced her brother-in-law’s widow that the school needed to be saved. The Wheeler family donated the property in 1983 and Dr. Wheeler led the effort to raise funds and obtain grants to restore Noble Hill. The restoration process took three years with grants awarded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division, Coosa Valley Regional Development Center, the Governor’s emergency fund, and the Georgia Humanities Council. Noble Hill Rosenwald School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

In December 1989, the school opened as the Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, an African American heritage museum. Inside displays replicate the classrooms of the two-room schoolhouse, artifacts introduce daily family life of the early 1900s, and photos introduce other colored schools throughout the county.

Summer Hill

summerhilllcmooreclassgraduation-u896After seventh grade, many African American students continued their education at Summer Hill School in Cartersville. Summer Hill was not just a school, but a community overlooking the town of Cartersville where four generations of black Americans were nurtured. The community produced Georgia’s first black Supreme Court justice; a famous Motown songwriter; teachers, ministers, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals despite poverty, racism and segragation laws.

From the late 19th century until the civil rights movement, the black people of Cartersville, Georgia lived exclusively in the Summer Hill section of town. The community’s legacy of lasting hope was the subject of a 2005 documentary. See clips of the compelling interviews. Read more about Summer Hill from the Georgia African American Historic Preservation Network.

George Washington Carver State Park

Georgia’s first “Negro” State Park was created on Allatoona Lake in 1950, when John Loyd Atkinson, a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, sought a recreational facility for black Americans. He had tried unsuccessfully on his own to get permits to establish a park, but then with the creation of Allatoona Dam, Georgia State Parks leased 1,457 acres that became Red Top Mountain State Park, and an additional 345 acres to create George Washington Carver State Park. The only Georgia State Park to be named for an African American honors the renowned Tuskegee Institute botanist and inventor.

gwCarverParkSmAtkinson became the first Black Park Superintendent in Georgia at built a clubhouse/concession stand, playground, boat ramp, boat and fishing docks, a swim beach with diving platform and a residence. He operated the park until 1958. Atkinson also started a black Girl Scout Camp at Carver Park with a sub-lease on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property.

George Washington Carver State Park became fondly known as “The Beach.” Well-known entertainers performed at the park including Ray Charles and Little Richard. Carver Park served as the summer home of the St. John’s Ski Bees, the only black water ski club in Georgia and their summer performances attracted blacks from nearby Atlanta and from across the southeast. The Beach is where Mrs. Coretta Scott King spent weekends at church outings, and where Rev. Andrew Young and his family learned to water ski.

Due to state budget cuts, George Washington Carver Park was removed from the state park system in 1970, and its operation turned over to Bartow County Government. Bartow-Carver Park is available for reservation and is ideal for reunions, corporate picnics, and other large gatherings.

Bartow County’s Notable African Americans

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham

WWII “Red Tail” Tuskegee Airman John Henry Morgan d.1944

Vietnam F4-D Phantom Pilot Lorenza Conner 1943-1967

Motown Songwriter Jackey Beavers 1937-2008

Additional African American History Resources

Bartow County History Timeline

Bartow History Museum

Euharlee History Museum

Summer Hill Heritage Group

Etowah Valley Historical Society

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