Marietta History

A Brief History From the Marietta Museum of History


Before there was an Atlanta or a Chattanooga there was Marietta, Georgia. A small cluster of homes near the Cherokee town of Kennesaw were reported as early as 1824. An early road in what would become Cobb County crossed the "Shallow Ford" of the Chattahoochee and ran just south of these settlers.

In 1832 the state of Georgia formed 10 counties from what had been Cherokee land. Cobb County was named for Thomas Willis Cobb, U.S. representative, U.S. senator and Supreme Court judge. In 1837 the Georgia Gazetteer reported that the city of Marietta was named for Cobb's wife. The Georgia legislature legally recognized the town on December 19, 1834, but by that time a sizable community already existed. The first plat for the city, since destroyed, was laid out by James Anderson in 1833, who had worked extensively in north Georgia. Like most towns, Marietta had a square in the center with a modest courthouse.

Three years later the state assembly approved a bill creating the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Colonel Stephen Long, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was chosen to head the project, and he selected Marietta as home base. The impact of locating near Marietta Square was significant. Business began to boom. Three taverns sprang up around the center of town to accompany the early stores of Thomas Johnston and George Winters, John Lemon, Watson W Simpson, and James Waller. A tanyard was nearby.

By 1838 roadbed and trestles had been built north of the city. Construction continued until 1840 when Long quit, having been criticized by politicians for being too slow. He felt the criticism unfounded, and he was probably correct. For two years work came to a standstill until another engineer was found. On February 7, 1842 Charles Fenton Mercer Garnett took over, using the area that would become Atlanta as his base.

As crews began to clear and grade north of the town a new pastime became popular. The roadbed was perfect for horse racing, and the sport grew quite popular, taking place in the approximate area of the present-day Marietta Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau. The Western and Atlantic began to operate from Atlanta to Adairsville in 1845 and through to Chattanooga in 1850. Tanyards became a thriving business and, coupled with railroad-related revenue, made up a major portion of the city's business income.

Enter John Glover. Arriving in 1848, Glover quickly became a successful businessman and popular politician. So popular that when the town incorporated in 1852, Glover was elected its first mayor. Although the Glovers would be successful at many endeavors through the years, among the earliest successes were a tanyard and warehouse. Also moving to the city were Dix Fletcher, who managed the Howard House, which served as a stagecoach stop, and Henry Greene Cole who ran Cole's, a "bed and breakfast" of the day. In the Howard house register one of their guest was Zachary Taylor of Washington City. Cole ran a hotel called the Marietta Hotel on the south side of the square. It was known as the finest in Marietta.

To the west of the city, near the base of Kennesaw Mountain, a "Dr. Cox" offered treatment with his "water cure." Although visitors described it as "invigorating," most probably just came to get away from the bug-infested coast and to enjoy the good food; however, by 1861 Cox began what would develop into a substantial tourist industry. "Drive. Cox" was a real medical doctor, named Drive. Carey Cox, and practiced what is known as homeopathic medicine today. The Cobb Medical Society recognizes him as the first physician.

The Georgia Military Institute was built in 1851 about a mile from the square on Powder Springs Road. Classes began in July with just seven students. By the end of the first year, 28 men were in attendance. During the 1850s fire destroyed much of the city on three occasions. The first, in 1854, destroyed the Howard House and threw Dix Fletcher out of work. He took Mayor Glover's warehouse, which had been spared, and turned it into the Fletcher House, another bed and breakfast to serve the visitors of the growing town. John Denmead, a contractor who helped build the railroad, stayed on and opened the first bank in the city in 1855.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, Marietta had recovered from the fires and was booming. The Raiders spent the night of April 11 and stole the train on April 12. Twenty-one of the men stayed in the Fletcher House and two stayed in Cole's Marietta Hotel. On the night of April 12, 1862, a group of 23 men spent the night split between Cole's and the Fletcher House. Early the next morning they met in James Andrews' room and proceeded to Marietta Station. Boarding a train, they commandeered it a few minutes later in Big Shanty. The next 50 miles of the ride has been dramatically recreated for generations and is now generally referred to as "The Great Locomotive Chase."

During the summer of 1864, forces under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman moved in and occupied the town. For the next five months, federal troops would pillage by day and ravage by night. In November 1864, men under the command of Union General Hugh Kilpatrick, Sherman's "merchant of terror," set the town on fire. "Uncle Billy's" boys were leaving for the heart of Georgia on "The March to the Sea."

In 30 years as a town Marietta had seen more history than most towns see in a century. Witness the history of the city at the exciting Marietta History Museum on the second floor of the Kennesaw House. See the room where Andrew's Raiders finalized their plans for the Great Train Robbery. Visit the Cherokee section and learn about "removal" on the Trail of Tears.

Marietta Museum of History