A visit to this Norman Rockwell kind of town is a must for anyone who loves history, antiquing, and good food.
Adairsville, nestled in the Oothcalooga Valley, was the first Georgia town to be listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places (December 1987). More than 130 homes and businesses are designated as historic properties.
Adairsville began as a Cherokee Indian settlement—Oothcalooga Village—named after the stream of the same name that runs through the valley. The town’s genesis was as a small village named in honor of Chief John Adair, a Scottish settler who married a Cherokee Indian girl.
By 1838, the Cherokee Indians had been removed from the area on “The Trail of Tears” and a small settlement was built two miles north of the present town site.
Land which was owned by William Watts was in the direct path of the Western and Atlantic Railroad’s expansion to Chattanooga. He deeded land to the railroad and then surveyed business lots. The depot was completed in 1847 and Adairsville grew quickly as mills, blacksmiths, and hotels opened around the town square. The town continued to prosper, becoming known as the “Granary of the State,” and was incorporated in 1854.
The Civil War (1861-1865) found Adairsville a town of major strategic importance since it was a rail terminus and thus contained large machine shops and a roundhouse owned by the railroad. Through this line came arms, munitions, and other supplies from the factories in Atlanta destined for the front lines in Virginia.
During the Civil War, Adairsville experienced two major events. The first was Andrews’ Raid (April 12, 1862), popularly known as “The Great Locomotive Chase.”
James Andrews led Union spies in an espionage scheme to destroy the Western and Atlantic rail line and thus disrupt a vital supply line for the Confederacy. Andrews’ Raiders stole a train, The General, 50 miles south of Adairsville at Big Shanty (Kennesaw) and sped north. Confederate Captain William Fuller pursued Andrews, first by a hand powered ‘pole car’, and then by commandeering The Texas, just south of Adairsville.
With no time to turn the train around, Fuller chased The General with The Texas in reverse. Due to Fuller’s diligent pursuit, the train and spies were captured south of Ringgold and major destruction of the railroad system was avoided.
The Chase is remembered in a three day arts and crafts festival held annually during the first weekend of October (September 29-October 1, in 2017).
The other major event of the Civil War, The Gravel House Battle (July 17, 1864) was a significant resistance to Sherman’s March toward Atlanta. It is described in detail by Samuel Watkins in his memoir Company Aytch, which was referenced extensively in Ken Burn’s popular PBS documentary The Civil War.
Peach orchards and cotton were booming businesses after the Civil War and continued to thrive through the turn of the century. The town boasted of two cotton gins existing at one time. During harvest time, the Depot overflowed with crates of Elberta peaches ready for transport to Atlanta.
In the 1940s the chenille textile industry brought many “spread line” to Adairsville. Visitors along the Old Dixie Highway recall peacock chenille spreads blowing in the wind earning the route its nickname “Peacock Alley.” In this tradition the annual three-day 90-mile Dixie Highway Yard Sale is held the first weekend of June each year.
Adairsville still has its 1847 frame depot and many historic homes and old business blocks. The depot displays over 100 years of history. Visitors are welcome to tour the depot and discover Adairsville’s rich history and the role it played in the Great Locomotive Chase.
Many of the pre-Civil War homes and churches stand alongside fine Victorian examples in the 170-acre historic district. Explore tree-lined streets and marvel at the interesting history shared by residents in the Adairsville Visitor’s Guide brochure.
Adairsville was born with the advent of the railroad. With the development of travel by car, it became a thriving community along Highway 41 or the Old Dixie Highway.
Adairsville’s location—exactly 65 miles north of Atlanta and 65 miles south of Chattanooga—makes for a convenient overnight stay—or longer. Harvest Moon RV Park at I-75 Exit 306 offers comfortable full-service camping for RVers including long pull-through sites (85-90 foot length) for those traveling in big rigs.
Georgia On My Mind
Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.
—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael