Atlanta – Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow – John R. Hornady
It seems more than passing strange that Atlanta, where the Sherman war machine attained the maximum in destructive force, should have become the most dynamic power in the rehabilitation of the South; that a city which was fed to the flames in times of internecine conflict, should have become as a shining light, leading an exhausted and impoverished people into peaceful conquests out of which came wealth and happiness undreamed. The intention of the author of this valuable book is to point out the important developments in the history of Atlanta, beginning with the transfer in 1821 of the land upon which the City stands and continuing until 1902.
Atlanta – Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow.
Excerpt from the text:
IT seems more than passing strange that Atlanta, where the Sherman war machine attained the maximum in destructive force, should have become the most dynamic power in the rehabilitation of the South; that a city which was fed to the flames in times of internecine conflict, should have become as a shining light, leading an exhausted and impoverished people into peaceful conquests out of which came wealth and happiness undreamed.
Sherman, when he had driven back the ragged and exhausted forces which fought for the defense of Atlanta, found here something that was impervious to shot and shell and flaming torch — a spiritual something that lived and loved and hoped and wrought when ashes filled the nostrils and scorched the feet and no green thing seemed to hold out hope of a brighter and happier day. Strange, too, that the very thing which caused the war clouds to burst upon Atlanta with the utmost fury, should have proved the mainspring of her rehabilitation. Yet it is so. This flaming spirit of faith, this inextinguishable hope, this unalterable purpose to achieve, made Atlanta a center from which radiated the impulses that kept ill-equipped and exhausted forces fighting on and on as long as one ray of hope remained. And because it was such a center, it was marked for the maximum of punishment. That which furnished so much of hope and of material assistance must be destroyed utterly. So Atlanta was reduced to ashes. But a vain thing it was, for that which it was sought to destroy was indestructible, then as now. The Atlanta Spirit survived, and the influence that had wrought so much in promoting the cause of the Confederacy, became a mighty factor in the amazing restoration which was to follow.
The world likes to see the ideals and purposes of a people epitomized in an individual, and Atlanta has been fortunate in that it possessed a son through whom the guiding impulses of its heart — and the heart of the South, for that matter — were so visualized that the whole nation understood. Henry Grady vocalized and visualized these impulses with a clarity and a beauty that thrilled hearts that had been unfeeling and caused the scales to drop from the eyes of those who had been unseeing. Close enough to the Old South to feel all the sweetness and tenderness of its softer moments, and to know all the sternness and gallantry that characterized its conflicts, and close enough to the New South to sense every impulse by which it was stirred; having the gift of prophecy and the tongue of golden speech, Grady revealed Atlanta and the South as he revealed himself — devoid of bitterness because of the things that had gone before, and filled with a great and just pride because of the things that were and which were yet to be.
A stalwart figure was Grady, and every fiber of his being was vibrant with the purpose to translate into actuality his own dreams of a South vastly enriched through the development of its marvelous resources. And his dreams and his purposes became the dreams and purposes of a mighty people, with results that fairly stagger the imagination.
In this determined application to the task at hand; in this tireless work of improving every advantage, Atlanta took a leading part, and its own development into one of the greatest among Southern cities was the just reward of spirited endeavor.
Yet, while Atlanta is of the South and proud of it, there is a difference, indefinable but real. Some, sensing this difference, and feeling the impulse of its virile commercial life, have endeavored to identify it and to tag it. Hence the expression one hears now and then that Atlanta is “The New York of the South.” But this does not describe it, though one might construe the statement as a delicate compliment to the Empire State metropolis. True, there is some resemblance between the business section of Atlanta and down-town New York, the height of skyscrapers being emphasized by the narrowness of the streets, and the congestion being emphasized
by the same cause, but cities are not made of streets and sky-scrapers alone, and in its spiritual aspects, there is a wide difference between the great Northern city and its some-times name-sake in the South.
The average New Yorker is well satisfied with his city — and vastly ignorant of what it contains. The average Atlantan is merely gratified with his city and will not be satisfied until it becomes one of the world’s greatest centers of population. Moreover, he knows his city and is never quite so happy as when telling someone of its greatness, past, present and potential. His love for his city is deep and fervent and his pride in it is not a thing to be whispered. It is something to be shouted from the housetops, and it has been shouted so loudly and so frequently that its echoes have penetrated to the most distant and the most obscure points in the South, with the vibrations thereof extending even into the North and East and West.
The impulse which prompts a citizen of Atlanta to let the world know what a great city is his, has been named, not by the people of this community, but by observers on the outside, and it is known as the “Atlanta Spirit,” a term the traveler through the South will encounter at almost every turn. Let him attend a meeting of some civic organization in any Southern ‘city, where an effort is being made to accomplish something constructive, and the chances are about ten to one that before the meeting is over, someone will arise to suggest that “If we had the Atlanta spirit we could put this over in a jiffy.”
Thus is tribute paid to Atlanta throughout the length and breadth of Dixie, and thus Atlantans have created an asset that the self-satisfied Gothamite well might envy.
It is this spirit, inextinguishable and all-pervading, that gives Atlanta the atmosphere that stamps it as different. Nor can one inhale this atmosphere without feeling some of its contagion. The “why” of it provokes inquiry, and one cannot inquire about the things that make Atlanta great without receiving a strong impression of their permanence. Atlanta has a number of assets that are slow to change. Its topography is delightful, its climate most desirable, and its geographical position such that it will ever occupy a commanding position as a commercial and financial entity.
Atlanta measures its length and breadth along a ridge that forms the dividing line between the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This ridge is gently undulating, lending itself most admirably to the arts of the landscape architect and the builder of boulevards, and furnishing alluring settings for homes, many of which are truly palatial.
It is to this ridge, which at this point is elevated more than a thousand feet above the sea, Atlanta attributes its remarkable freedom from disease, since it not only furnishes excellent drainage but lifts the city into a bracing atmosphere. In this connection, it is worthy of note that Atlanta furnished a shining exception in the old days when yellow fever so often carried terror into many parts of the South. Atlanta was ever a haven for refugees who were fleeing from the cities farther South, and here perfect immunity was found. The reason for this immunity was not then known, as the fact that the mosquito was responsible for the spread of this disease, had not been discovered, but the fact that the gates of this city were ever open to the refugee and that the disease could find no foothold here, gave it an enviable prestige.
Only those who witnessed the scenes of terror that attended a violent outbreak of yellow fever in those old days can appreciate what it meant to have a haven of refuge open somewhere in the South. The moment the disease made its appearance people in the affected sections would begin to flock North. Every train would be crowded to the doors, chiefly with women and children, and all along the hot and dusty way these trains would be greeted by guards; guards who sternly forbade any one to leave the cars and who, in many instances, required that the windows and doors of all cars be kept tightly closed while the train passed through the community. Armed guards, these were, and grimly determined to prevent the landing of a single pilgrim from the land of plague.
Then the train reached Atlanta, and what a change! No guards, no rules against alighting and making oneself at home, no atmosphere of antagonism or of fear. Here the refugee ceased to be an Ishmael and became again a freeman, privileged to go and come at will and to live the normal life that was being lived by other folks in this community.
The high ridge upon which Atlanta rides to ever increasing greatness, is not only responsible for making it an unusually healthy community, but m a way it is responsible for the very existence of the city. It was the topography of the land m this quarter which led to its being selected as the terminus of the first steel highway through which it was sought to connect the waterways to the West with those of the Atlantic. John C. Calhoun, m an address delivered in Memphis m 1845, said that one of the great needs of the South was to link the Mississippi valley and the Southern Atlantic coast by rail, and in this connection he pointed out that the formation from the course of the Tennessee, Cumberland and Alabama rivers was such that all the railroads which had been projected “must necessarily unite at a point in DeKalb County, in the State of Georgia, called Atlanta, not far from the village of Decatur.”
The accuracy of Calhoun’s deductions was demonstrated by subsequent events, and because of the formative work of nature, the steel high ways following the course of least resistance, worked their way to “the point called Atlanta not far from the village of Decatur,” and because of the coming of the roads there developed here one of the great cities of the South; a city so overshadowing when compared to other centers of population in the vicinity, that were some modern Calhoun to describe Decatur’s location today he would refer to it as -a place near Atlanta.”
The South was filled with embryonic schemes for railroad building at the time of Calhoun’s address, and had been for some years prior thereto, and out of some of these plans grew the first name by which the Georgia metropolis of the future was known, that of “Terminus.”
Even before the Indians had been removed from this section, the State of Georgia had awakened to the importance of providing better transportation facilities than were afforded by the wagon trails of the period, and as early as 1833 charters had been granted to several roads and a state-owned road was receiving favorable consideration. In 1836 the Legislature passed an act authorized the building of the State road, which was to run from the Tennessee line at a point near the Tennessee River to the Southwestern bank of the Chattahoochee ”at a point most eligible for running branch lines to Athens, Madison, Milledgeville, Forsyth and Columbus.”
Preliminary work upon this ambitious project began at once, and by the following year, Stephen H. Long, the engineer in chief, had established the terminus of the road at a point which today is in the very heart of Atlanta.
At that time, a solitary cabin occupied the site of the future city, a structure which had been erected of logs by Hardy Ivy. His reactions with reference to the invasion of the solitude by snorting steel monsters were not recorded, but if the attitude ascribed by historians to the people of Decatur may be considered as a criterion, then he was not enthusiastic over the project, for the people of that community are said to have been so well satisfied with the music of the birds that they were averse to having this melodious chorus interrupted by the shrieking of locomotives. This, by the way, was not an unusual attitude among the people of rural communities at that time. Life consisted of a comfortable routine, and there was a charm about these isolated towns that made a powerful appeal to the finer feelings. The streets, as a rule, were bordered by giant oaks, whose wide-flung branches met and intertwined above the driveway. Old-fashioned gardens, sweet with the odor of tube roses, jessamine and honeysuckle, and bright with varigated colors, flanked the way, and peace brooded above them like a benediction. Conservatives were content, and cared not for the clarion call of the steel highway.
Another factor which entered into the opposition which existed to the building of railroads, was found in the fact that these highways threatened the life of established industries. Their coming meant the passing of profitable stagecoach lines, of wagon trains, which transported freight from city to hamlet, and the passing of these enterprises meant serious injury to sundry little industries. The blacksmith, the wheelwright and the wagon-builder felt their enter-enterprises menaced, and these and kindred spirits exercised no little influence upon public thought. This explains why so many small communities in the South are ”off the railroad,” to the great satisfaction of sundry dusky hack-drivers, but to the great annoyance of the traveling public. But all this changed long ago, and for years projected railroads have been able to collect handsome bonuses for stretching their lines through ambitious communities.
With the coming of the railroads to ”Terminus” came shops and people to work in them, and stores and dwellings began to appear, creating a demand for building materials, and with this demand came brick works, sash and door factories and kindred enterprises — and saloons. The future city was under way.