History of Atlanta, Georgia

History of Atlanta, Georgia

The city of Atlanta, Georgia has a history dating back to antebellum times.

Early to 1860

The region where Atlanta and its suburbs were built was originally Creek and Cherokee Native American territory. In 1813, the Creeks, who had been recruited by the British to assist them in the War of 1812, attacked and burned Fort Mims in southwestern Alabama. The conflict broadened and became known as the Creek War. In response, the United States built a string of forts along the Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee Rivers, including Fort Daniel on top of Hog Mountain in present-day Norcross, Georgia, and Fort Gilmer. Fort Gilmer was situated next to an important Indian site called "Peachtree Standing", named after a large tree which is believed to have been a pine tree (the name referred to the pitch or sap that flowed from it). The word "pitch" was misunderstood for "peach", thus the site's name. The site traditionally marked a Native American meeting place at the boundary between Creek and Cherokee lands, at the point where Peachtree Creek flows into the Chattahoochee. The fort was soon renamed Fort Peachtree. [cite web | title = Georgia's Forts | publisher = Our Georgia History | url = http://ourgeorgiahistory.com/lists/georgia_forts.html | accessdate = 2007-06-26]

The Creek land in the eastern part of the metro area (including Decatur) was opened to white settlement in 1823. In 1835, leaders of the Cherokee nation ceded their land to the government in exchange for land out west under the Treaty of New Echota, an act that eventually led to the Trail of Tears.

In 1836 the Georgia General Assembly voted to build the Western and Atlantic Railroad to provide a trade route to the Midwest. The initial route was to run from Chattanooga to a spot called simply "Terminus", located somewhere east of the Chattahoochee River, which would eventually be linked to the Georgia Railroad from Augusta and the Macon and Western, which ran from Macon to Savannah.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State, [cite web | title = History of Atlanta | publisher = Georgia Secretary of State | url = http://sos.georgia.gov/tours/html/atlanta_history.html | accessdate = 2007-07-27 ] an experienced army engineer, Colonel Stephen Harriman Long, was chosen to recommend the location of the terminus. He surveyed various possible routes, then drove a stake near Five Points in modern Atlanta. Although the “zero milepost” marker has been moved repeatedly, its current location in Underground Atlanta is very close to Long's original choice.

A number of sites were proposed or actually designated as the Terminus, and the history is not completely clear. In 1837, work began to build it near Hog Mountain in present-day Norcross, where Fort Daniel was located, but the site was soon abandoned because there were too many creeks, valleys, and steep gradients. It was moved to Montgomery's Ferry near Fort Peachtree, for a savings of $18,000 per mile. Some historians claim that Decatur, a town founded in 1823 to the east of current Atlanta, [Many current suburbs of Atlanta were actually prospering towns before Atlanta had its first building, including Norcross, Decatur, Marietta and Lawrenceville] was proposed as the Terminus, but declined due to worries about noise and crime.

Several months later in 1837, the legislature finally established the zero-mile marker for the Terminus at a point near the present-day Georgia World Congress Center, because the area was relatively flat and would better allow for turnarounds.(The zero-mile marker was later moved a short distance east, and today sits underneath Five Points, which was built on iron pilings above the railroad.) The first store, a general store, was opened at the site in 1839 by John Thrasher and a Mr. Johnson.

The area around Atlanta, later to become a part of the city, also began to be developed. A well-marked Indian trail, known as the Peachtree Trail, had long run from the area of present-day Suwanee to the site of Standing Peachtree. To the south, in the present-day Campbelltown Road area, the Owl Rock Methodist Church was founded in 1828 by Richmond Barge and other members of the Mutual Rights faction. In 1838, Henry Irby started a tavern and grocery on a spur of the road, and the paths leading to his establishment became Paces Ferry Road and Roswell Road. Two years later, the head of a buck was set on a pole in front of the tavern, and the region came to be called Buck's Head, and then Buckhead.

By 1842, the settlement at the Terminus had six buildings and 30 residents. When a two-story depot building was built, the residents asked that the settlement be named "Lumpkin", after Wilson Lumpkin, the Governor of Georgia. He asked them to name it after his daughter, instead, and Terminus became Marthasville. Just three years later, the Chief Engineer of the Georgia Railroad, (J. Edgar Thomson) suggested that it be renamed to "Atlantica-Pacifica", which was quickly shortened to "Atlanta". The residents approved—apparently unabashed by the fact that not a single train had yet visited—and the town was eventually incorporated as "Atlanta" in 1847.

The first Georgia Railroad freight and passenger trains arrived in 1845. In 1846, a third railroad,the Macon & Western, completed tracks to Terminus, connecting the little settlement with Macon and Savannah. The town then began to boom. In 1847, two hotels were built and two newspapers were published. The population exploded to 2,500 citizens. In 1848, the first mayor was elected, the first homicide occurred and the first jail was built. A new city council approved the building of wooden sidewalks, banned business on Sundays, and appointed a town marshal.

By 1854-55 another railroad had connected Atlanta to Chattanooga. The town had grown to 6,000 residents and had a bank, a daily newspaper, a factory to build freight cars, a new brick depot, property taxes, a gasworks, gas streetlights, a theater, a medical college, and juvenile delinquency. [According to the Fulton County Grand jury, an "evil of vast magnitude, the herds of unruly and vicious boys who infest the streets of the city ... by day and night, especially on the Sabbath, to the great annoyance of (the) citizens..."]

Civil War and Reconstruction

During the American Civil War, Atlanta served as an important railroad and military supply hub. (See also: Atlanta in the Civil War.) In 1864, the city became the target of a major Union invasion (the subject of the 1939 film "Gone with the Wind"). The area now covered by Atlanta was the scene of several battles, including the Battle of Peachtree Creek, the Battle of Atlanta, and the Battle of Ezra Church. On September 1, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood evacuated Atlanta after a four-month siege mounted by Union General William T. Sherman and ordered all public buildings and possible Confederate assets destroyed. The next day, Mayor James Calhoun surrendered the city, and on September 7 Sherman ordered the civilian population to evacuate. He then ordered Atlanta burned to the ground on November 11 in preparation for his punitive march south.

After a plea by Father Thomas O'Reilly of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Sherman did not burn the city's churches or hospitals. The remaining war resources were then destroyed in the aftermath, and in Sherman's March to the Sea. The fall of Atlanta was a critical point in the Civil War. Its much publicized fall gave confidence to the Northerners. Together with the Battle of Mobile Bay, the fall of Atlanta led to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln and the eventual surrender of the Confederacy.

The city emerged from the ashes – hence the city's symbol, the phoenix – and was gradually rebuilt, as its population increased rapidly after the war. Atlanta and Fulton County received migrants from surrounding counties, as well as new settlers to the region. According to the US Census and Slave Schedules, from 1860 to 1870 Fulton County more than doubled in population, from 14,427 to 33,336. The effects of African-American migration can be seen by the increase in Fulton County from 20.5% enslaved African Americans in 1860 to 45.7% colored (African-American) residents in 1870. [http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/stats/histcensus] In a pattern seen across the South after the Civil War, freedmen often moved from plantations to towns or cities for work. They also gathered in their own communities where they could live more freely from white control. Even if they continued to work as farm laborers, freedmen often migrated after the war. Fulton was one of several counties in Georgia where African American population increased significantly in those years. [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/ajac/]

Atlanta soon became the industrial and commercial center of the South. From 1867 until 1888, U.S. Army soldiers occupied McPherson Barracks (later renamed Fort McPherson) in southwest Atlanta to ensure Reconstruction era reforms. To help the newly freed slaves, the Federal Government set up a Freedmen's Bureau, which helped establish what is now Clark Atlanta University, one of several historically black colleges in Atlanta.

In 1868, Atlanta became the fifth city to serve as the state capital. Henry W. Grady, the editor of the "Atlanta Constitution", promoted the city to investors as a city of the "New South", by which he meant a diversification of the economy away from agriculture, and a shift from the "Old South" attitudes of slavery and rebellion. As part of the effort to modernize the South, Grady and many others also supported the creation of the Georgia School of Technology (now the Georgia Institute of Technology), which was founded on the city's northern outskirts in 1885.

Post Reconstruction to Present

In 1880, Sister Cecilia Carroll, RSM, and three companions traveled from Savannah, Georgia to Atlanta to minister to the sick. With just 50 cents in their collective purse, the sisters opened the Atlanta Hospital, the first medical facility in the city after the Civil War. This later became known as Saint Joseph's Hospital.

Around 1900, Atlanta's wealthier inhabitants began to develop land north of the city. In 1904, Amos G. Rhodes (who had founded the Rhodes Furniture Company in 1875) built a mansion on Peachtree Street north of 10th Street called "Rhodes Hall". It has been preserved as the headquarters of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, which offers tours of the house to the public. As Atlanta grew, ethnic and racial tensions mounted. Late 19th and early 20th c. immigration added new Europeans to the mix. After Reconstruction, whites had used a variety of tactics, including militias and legislation, to re-establish political and social supremacy throughout the South. By the turn of the century, Georgia passed legislation that completed the disfranchisement of African Americans. Not even college-educated men could vote. Nonetheless, African Americans in Atlanta had been developing their own businesses, institutions, churches, and a strong, educated middle class.

Competition for jobs and housing gave rise to fears and tensions. These catalyzed in 1906 in the Atlanta Race Riot. This left at least 27 dead, 25 of them African American, [cite web|url=http://www.1906atlantaraceriot.org/|title=Atlanta Race Riot|accessdate=2006-09-06] and over seventy people injured.

In 1913, Leo Frank, a Jewish supervisor at a factory in Atlanta, was put on trial for raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old white employee from Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta. After doubts about Frank's guilt led his death sentence to be commuted in 1915, riots broke out in Atlanta among whites. They kidnapped Frank from prison, with the collusion of prison guards, and took him to Marietta, where he was lynched.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression hit Atlanta. With the city government nearing bankruptcy, the Coca-Cola Company had to help bail out the city's deficit. The federal government stepped in to help Atlantans by establishing Techwood Homes, the nation's first federal housing project in 1935.

On December 15, 1939 Atlanta hosted the premiere of Gone With the Wind, the movie based on Atlanta resident Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel. Stars Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Olivia de Haviland were in attendance. It was held at Loew's Grand Theatre, at Peachtree and Forsyth Streets, current site of the Georgia-Pacific building. An enormous crowd, numbering 300,000 people according to the Atlanta Constitution, filled the streets on this ice-cold night in Atlanta. A rousing ovation greeted a group Confederate veterans who were guests of honor. Noticeably present was a young Martin Luther King, Jr., who sang in a boys choir from his father's church, Ebenezer Baptist. [ [http://ngeorgia.com/ang/Atlanta_Premiere_of_Gone_With_The_Wind Atlanta Premiere of Gone With The Wind ] ]

With the entry of the United States into World War II, soldiers from around the Southeastern United States went through Atlanta to train and later be discharged at Fort McPherson. War-related manufacturing such as the Bell Aircraft factory in the suburb of Marietta helped boost the city's population and economy. Shortly after the war in 1946, the Communicable Disease Center, later called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was founded in Atlanta from the old Malaria Control in War Areas offices and staff.

In 1951, the city received the All-America City Award, due to its rapid growth and high standard of living in the southern U.S.

In the wake of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision "Brown v. Board of Education", which helped usher in the Civil Rights Movement, racial tensions in Atlanta erupted in acts of violence. For example, on October 12, 1958, a Reform Jewish temple on Peachtree Street was bombed. The "Confederate Underground" claimed responsibility. Many believed that Jews, especially those from the northeast, were advocates of the Civil Rights Movement.

In the 1960s, Atlanta was a major organizing center of the US Civil Rights Movement, with Dr. Martin Luther King and students from Atlanta's historically black colleges and universities playing major roles in the movement's leadership. On October 19, 1960, a sit-in at the lunch counters of several Atlanta department stores led to the arrest of Dr. King and several students. This drew attention from the national media and from presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

Despite this incident, Atlanta's political and business leaders fostered Atlanta's image as "the city too busy to hate". In 1961, Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. became one of the few Southern white mayors to support desegregation of Atlanta's public schools. While the city mostly avoided confrontation, minor race riots did occur in 1965 and in 1968.

In 1990, the International Olympic Committee selected Atlanta as the site for the Centennial Olympic Games 1996 Summer Olympics. Following the announcement, Atlanta undertook several major construction projects to improve the city's parks, sports facilities, and transportation. Former Mayor Bill Campbell allowed many "tent cities" to be built, creating a carnival atmosphere around the games. Atlanta became the third American city to host the Summer Olympics, after St. Louis (1904 Summer Olympics) and Los Angeles (1932 and 1984). The games themselves were notable in the realm of sporting events, but they were marred by numerous organizational inefficiencies. A dramatic event was the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, in which one person died and several others were injured. Eric Robert Rudolph was later convicted of the bombing as an anti-government and pro-life protest.

On March 14, 2008, a tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta, the first since weather has been recorded in 1880. There was minor damage to many downtown skyscrapers. However, two holes were torn into the roof of the Georgia Dome, tearing down catwalks and the scoreboard as debris rained onto the court in the middle of an SEC game. The Omni Hotel suffered major damage, along with Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center. Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills and Oakland Cemetery were also damaged.


ee also

* Atlanta, Georgia
* Atlanta in the Civil War
* Great Atlanta Fire

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