The earliest evidence of human occupation of the Bartow County Georgia area is the Paleoindian Period (10,000 B.C.) The area’s geological attributes, natural resources and favorable climate combined to provide bounty sufficient for large numbers of indigenous peoples. The resulting archaeological richness of the Etowah River Valley Region, a 40,000-acre tract spanning the southern third of the county, justified the entire tract being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The first historic documentation came with the 1540 DeSoto Expedition’s accounts of the culture at the Etowah Indian Mounds, today a state historic site and public attraction.
After the dissemination of the Mississippian Mound Builder Culture, the Creek Indian Tribe inhabited the region until driven south by the Cherokees in the late 18th century. The progressive Cherokee adopted the lifestyles of the European clergy and frontiersmen already forging into the area. Regardless, the discovery of gold in north Georgia in 1828 numbered the Cherokee’s days here in their “Enchanted Land.” The State of Georgia usurped Cherokee lands and created the county today known as Bartow and nine others in 1832. The Treaty of New Echota of 1835 set the stage for the forced removal of the Cherokee from north Georgia in 1838 with the infamous “Trail of Tears.”
Throughout the 1840’s and 1850’s, the fertile land and rich mineral resources of the Etowah River Valley drew industrious, visionary men and their families. By the late 1840’s the Western and Atlantic Railroad spanned the county, connecting her with Atlanta and Chattanooga. While iron production began here as early as 1837, it became a major influence after 1845 with the organization of Mark A. Cooper’s Etowah Manufacturing and Mining Company. “Gentlemen farmers” prospered from crops of tobacco, corn, wheat, as well as cotton. Colleges and academies flourished alongside commerce. Then came the Georgia Secession Convention of 1861.
The county’s three delegates voted against secession. (Ironically, one of the delegates, Gen. William B. Wofford, surrendered the last contingent of Confederate troops east of the Mississippi on April 12, 1865 in Kingston, Bartow County, Georgia.) When the state voted to leave the Union, the county not only sent their men to volunteer but renamed herself and the county seat as well. Bartow County was originally Cass County, in honor of Lewis Cass, of Michigan, Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Cass was renamed “Bartow” in honor of Francis Bartow, who fell at the First Battle of Manassas. A Savannah attorney, Bartow had represented William Henry Stiles, Godfrey Barnsley and other prominent Cass County citizens who moved here from Savannah.
By the end of the Civil War, Bartow County bore little evidence of her antebellum prosperity. 1864 brought rampant devastation. That year, Bartow witnessed the full fury of the Union Force’s Atlanta Campaign, the first battle in the CSA’s Campaign for Nashville, and the launch of the March to the Sea from Kingston. The county seat, Cassville, with her two colleges, four hotels, wooden sidewalks and proud homes, was destroyed. The populace voted to move their seat of government to Cartersville (named for an important north Georgia planter and entrepreneur Farrish Carter), and began to rebuild.
Central to the re-birth was the area’s natural resources and transportation corridors. The role of the railway was soon supplemented by the “Dixie Highway” which succumbed to Interstate 75. Cotton, corn and wheat farms were joined by peach orchards, textile factories, and a curious cottage industry, chenille tufting, gave rise to the carpet industry. Mining grew in importance, especially the extraction of barite and ochre. While agriculture, mining , and carpet manufacturing remain important economic factors, common products streaming from today’s industry include Anheuser Busch beers, Toyo Tires, and Muzzy hunting and fishing gear. Tourism, which flourished in the 1850’s with low-landers arriving by trainloads to escape coastal “miasma” and enjoy therapeutic warm springs, is experiencing a vibrant resurgence.
From the late 19th century to the present, Bartow County produced such notable personalities as Gangster Pretty Boy Floyd, humorist Bill Arp, author Corra Harris, baseball great Rudy York, Methodist evangelist Sam Jones, Baptist missionary Lottie Moon, Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris, and Robert Benham, Georgia’s first Black Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Currently, the 10 largest manufacturing employers include:
Toyo Tire North America
Georgia Power – Plant Bowen
T.I. Group Automotive
Yanmar America Corporation
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