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Ours is a history that stretches back more than 170 years ago, when the first settlers of this land – the Cherokee Indian tribe, made their home among the shade of the Cedars and along the edges of a crystal clear, bubbling limestone spring.
That spring, now called Big Spring, remains as the crown jewel of our community even today.
Early in our country’s history, the land we presently know as Cedartown, and the spring that nourished it, was much sought after by Native Americans. In fact, legend has it that the Cherokees took possession of the area by winning a high-stakes ballgame against the Creek Indian tribe.
It was the Cherokees that first named their new home the “Valley of the Cedars."
Another trading post was created that same year, but farther away from the spring, in an area now identified as Tan Yard Branch on South Main Street. In 1883, a post office was established just a stone’s throw away from the Big Spring, on land that now houses Cedartown’s First Baptist Church.
As this bygone “Cedar Town” continued to develop, The Pony Club – a notorious gang of thieves and outlaws ravaged the area. Historians report that the gang killed so many settlers and burned their homes that dozens fled the area; others were afraid to come. The early fathers of Cedar Town banded together and put an end to The Pony Club in 1834, bringing peace back to the area.
This peace would continue until the late 1830s. Cedar Town, now an established part of Polk County, saw the forced removal of the Cherokees on May 26, 1838. More than 200 Cherokees were removed and marched out West by way of the Trail of Tears. Today, our city remembers and honors the spirit of those forcefully removed from the land they called home. On April 19, 2011 – 173 years after the removal – hundreds of people gathered as historical signage was placed at the site of the Cedar Town Cherokee Removal Camp.
During the 1840s, the town began to see increasing prosperity. Asa Prior, often called the father of Cedartown, owned much of the land in the area. In fact, in 1852, Prior sold off 19 acres of land for $1,200 so that a county courthouse could be erected. This sale included rights and access to the Big Spring. Also during this time, the area became known as a place of beauty and refinement. Many wealthy families from Virginia moved here, and with those families came skilled tailors and cobblers. The town was also known for producing fine racehorses.
On February 8, 1854, Cedar Town was incorporated and grew considerably before the Civil War. As was the case for many towns in the South during the war, Cedar Town suffered through loss of life through military service and loss of physical structure. The town’s original courthouse, along with 65 other buildings, were burned when Union forces destroyed much of the city.
In 1867 Cedar Town was re-chartered by the State of Georgia as Cedartown, and during the years that followed, became an important player in early industry and development. A.G. West, an iron worker from New York, visited Cedartown and was so impressed with the city that he decided to build an iron foundry not far from the Big Spring, even though the closest railroad was eight miles away. The materials used in the foundry’s construction were brought in by rail from the North and then hauled to Cedartown by ox teams. The 1880s saw a massive land sale which attracted many new industrialists. One of them, a man named Thomas Adamson, was Cedartown’s first factory owner. He bought land in the city, and along with his sons, established a textile mill called the Cedartown Cotton Manufacturing Company.
As years progressed, the main attraction that lured the town's first inhabitants to the area – an ample water supply courtesy of the Big Spring – continued to draw development into the city. Railroads were extended farther into town and roads were established, making Cedartown a prime location for growth.
The city’s Main Street was created; both sides of the thoroughfare were wrapped in late 19th and early 20th century grandiose displays of masonry and architectural detail that can still be seen today. In 1913, Cedartown boasted a “Great White Way,” referring to the state-of-the-art electric lampposts that lined the city’s Main Street (they cost 50 cents per night to operate).
The Cedartown Cotton Manufacturing Company, opened in the 1890s, later became the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1925 and served as the county’s largest employer for years. A news article in a 1949 Atlanta magazine stated that “one of Cedartown’s most cosmopolitan factories” was the Rome Plow Company (opened 1934) that exported farm implements and disk plows all over the world. That factory remains in operation.
From its beginnings as the pristine home of the Cherokee people to modern-day Cedartown, the Valley of the Cedars has continued to charm residents and visitors alike. A close-knit community with many attractions to offer, Cedartown will develop and change with the times, though keeping its history as a cornerstone of its progress.