1782 – 1859 | 1860 – 1864 | 1865 – 1877 | 1878 – 1899 | 1900 – 1930 | 1931 – 1960 | 1961 – 1986
1782 – 1859
- The Indian Village of “Standing Peachtree” exists at the junction of the Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek.
- Fort Gilmer (later called Fort Peachtree) built near site of “Standing Peachtree” village.
- Wilson Lumpkin and Hamilton Fulton survey possible railroad route between future site of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Milledgeville (then the capital of Georgia).
- Then Governor Lumpkin prods the legislature to charter three railroad lines, but none of them between middle Georgia and the northern USA.
- White Hall Tavern established by Charner Humphries near Atlanta at the corner of present-day Gordon and Lee Streets.
- Hardy Ivey becomes Atlanta’s first permanent white settler, building his cabin at present corner of Courtland Avenue and International Blvd.
- The state-financed Western & Atlantic Railroad, tying mid-Georgia to the north, is founded by the legislature and signed by the Governor.
- Work to build the southern terminus of the line begins in July at Pittman Ferry, near Hog Mountain in present-day Norcross, which would be the location of present-day Atlanta had the site not been abandoned because of too many creeks, valleys, and unsatisfactory gradients.
- The engineers switch the terminus site to Montgomery’s Ferry at Ft. Gilmer, where Peachtree Creek runs into the Chattahoochee River, for a savings of $18,000 per mile.
- The legislature changes the terminus again by extending the line several miles to what is now where Foundry St. crosses the railroad tracks, next to the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. (They felt the land at that point was more “eligible for running branch roads” of the railroads.)
- The town of Roswell, to the north of Atlanta, is founded when Roswell King moves there with friends, the John Dunwody and James Bulloch families.
- The forced march west, known as the “Trail of Tears,” begins when General Winfield Scott arrives to remove 15,000 Cherokee Indians to Arkansas, per an 1802 agreement between the state and the US government. Over 4,000 don’t survive the trip.
- Henry Irby buys about 200 acres north of Atlanta and erects a tavern and grocery at the northwest corner of what is now Roswell Road and West Paces Ferry Road. (Two years later, the head of a local deer was mounted on a post nearby, giving the tavern — and later, the neighborhood — its name: “Buckhead.”)
- John Thrasher and a partner named Johnson open a general store, the first store in Terminus, on land that is, at this writing, next to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta.
- The chief engineer of the W&A railroad resigns, declining a half share in land along present Marietta Street, saying that “Terminus will be a good location for one tavern, a blacksmith shop, a grocery store, and nothing else.”
- Willis and Julia Carlisle move to Terminus from Marietta, putting their grocery store/home across from Thrasher’s store. Their child, Julia, born in August, is the first baby born in Atlanta. (She died in 1919.)
- The settlement of six buildings and 30 inhabitants gets a name change, from “Terminus” to “Marthasville,” after the daughter of Governor Wilson Lumpkin. (They wanted to call it “Lumpkin,” but he pursuaded them to name it after his daughter instead. On behalf of all of us, I want to thank you, Governor. But for your foresight, we might have been saddled with the “1996 Lumpkin Olympics.”)
- The new depot, now the tallest building in town, is built. It is two stories tall.
- The first-ever use of ether as an anesthetic for surgery is performed by Dr. Crawford Long of Georgia.
- Thirty-three miles of track north of Marthasville are reported as having been laid.
- William T. Sherman, a 23-year old Army lieutenant, passes through Marthasville on his way to his assignment in Marietta.
- Marthasville commissioners try to levy a tax to fund the opening of new streets, but are turned down by residents, who say their seven streets (Marietta, Decatur, Peachtree, Whitehall, Pryor, Alabama and Loyd) are enough.
- The name “Atlanta” is suggested to replace “Marthasville” by John Thomson, chief engineer of the Georgia Railroad. The name, shortened from the mouthful “Atlantica-Pacifica,” becomes popular with residents, and the name change becomes official later in the year.
- The first train to reach Atlanta, a Georgia Railroad freight, arrives after a one-hour journey from Decatur to the east. (That trip now takes fifteen minutes by car.)
- The next day, the first passenger train arrives, from Augusta, carrying Georgia Railroad president John P. King, who then stepped off the train in the dark and fell into a well. According to one observer, he was “highly disgusted and for years would not buy Atlanta real estate.”
- George Washington Collier opens a grocery at what is now Five Points, which later serves as Atlanta’s first post office in 1846.
- The first Jewish families, that of Jacob Haas and Herman Levi, arrive and open a dry goods store on Whitehall St.
- A third railroad, the Macon & Western, enters Atlanta.
- Atlanta’s first and second hotels, the Atlanta Hotel, between Whitehall, Pryor, Decatur and Wall Streets, and Washington Hall, facing Loyd (now Central) Street, open. (Both were later destroyed in the war.)
- Atlanta’s first and second newspapers, “The Luminary” and the weekly “Enterprise,” begin publication, both lasting only a year or two.
- The town of Atlanta is incorporated, with town limits defined as a one-mile radius from the mile marker at the depot. A movement had already begun to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta. Atlanta has 30 stores, several hotels and private schools, at least one house of worship, and a population of about 2,500.
- William Howell builds a bridge across Nancy Creek on Paces Ferry Road.
- Moses Formwalt becomes Atlanta’s first mayor, defeating Jonathan Norcross for the job. The polling place is Thomas Kil’s grocery at present Five Points; 215 voters show up.
- The first Atlanta city council meeting approves wooden sidewalks, a ban on Sunday business, and a marshal.
- September Crime Spree: Atlanta’s first homicide, end of a family feud, occurs when William Terrell stabs James McWilliams; Terrell gets four years hard labor. Also, Judge Francis Cone stabs Alexander Stephens at the Atlanta Hotel; Stephens survives, later becomes Governor of the state, then Vice President of the Confederacy.
- The first town jail, so flimsy that prisoners could tip it over to escape, is erected at Pryor and Alabama Streets.
- The W&A Railroad track to Chattanooga, 138 miles to the north, is completed.
- The City Council okays a 30 cents per $100 value property tax, little of which ever gets collected. The town also issues six-month $500 municipal bonds.
- Atlanta gets its first telegraph line, connecting the town to Macon.
- P.T. Barnum and his huge elephant, Tipo Sultan, are star attractions at the Southern Central Agricultural Society Fair held at Stone Mountain.
- The “fast passenger train” to Dalton makes the 99-mile trip in a mere seven hours, an average speed of a little over 14 miles an hour.
- Every slave sale in Atlanta is taxed $1.
- The City Council hires two night watchmen, at $20 per month each, to patrol the town from 10pm to dawn.
- The city buys land that becomes Oakland Cemetary. (According to tradition, its first occupant feared being buried alive and arranged for a doctor to slit his body’s throat before it was put in the ground.)
- Atlanta Census: 2058 whites, 18 free blacks, 493 slaves. Among main jobs: 70 carpenters, 38 merchants, 11 clerks, 10 farmers, 10 grocers, eight clergymen.
- Suspected slave uprising halted with the arrest of nine men.
- Mayor Norcross, who had run on “law & order” platform, cleans up the town and survives personal threats from town ruffians.
- Bank of Atlanta becomes first bank chartered in Atlanta. (It goes out of business three years later.)
- Slaves must have written permission to possess liquor or suffer 39 lashes to the back, according to City Council.
- Union Democrats, led by Howell Cobb in Atlanta meeting, choose to remain in Democratic Party rather than join Southern Rights movement.
- Freight cars are being manufactured in Atlanta at the factory of Joseph Winship.
- City Council forms three-man police force and approves oil-burning street lamps, the oil to be supplied by residents.
- Grand openings: Atlanta gets its first hospital (mostly to deal with smallpox), its first public school (The Holland Free School, which will not survive past the war), and a central market on Market Street.
- Atlanta exceeds 6,000 population and outgrows Dekalb County (Decatur being county seat) and Fulton County is formed, with Atlanta its seat.
- Mittie Bulloch marries Theodore Roosevelt Sr. in Roswell’s Bulloch Hall. They later become parents of President Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Elliott Roosevelt, who becomes father of Eleanor (and later Mrs. Franklin) Roosevelt.
- City Council okays plan for gas-lighting, bans hogs from streets, and continues attempts to make Atlanta the state capital.
- City Hall opens on four acres of land bought the year before (land that now sits under the state capitol building.)
- The Examiner, Atlanta’s first daily newspaper, launches. One week later, the Intelligencer goes daily.
- Atlanta’s first theatre, the Athenaeum, opens on the second floor of a brick building on Decatur Street, between Peachtree and Prior Streets.
- A new 100-by-300 foot passenger depot made of brick opens to serve all four railroads. (It is destroyed in the war in 1864.)
- Philadelphian William Helme erects a gas works (using coal) to illuminate streets and buildings of Atlanta, talking City Council into buying 40% of his $50,000 worth of stock. The first lights go on Christmas day.
- The Fulton County Grand Jury warns of 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 citizens…”
- The founding of Atlanta Medical College which, in 1915, joins with other medical schools to form part of Emory University.
- Atlanta population: About 8,000.
- Helme’s gas works granted corporate charter as Atlanta Gas Light Company, which still exists at this writing.
- A rally is held to support sending settlers to “Bleeding Kansas” to support the Southern viewpoint in the strife there.
- A black man is denied permission to open an ice cream parlor by City Council, which pronounces the idea “unwise.”
- The “National American” newspaper begins publication. (In 1861, after seccession, it changes it will change its name to the “Gate City Guardian.”)
- Two hundred Atlantans present a petition to City Council protesting use of slave labor in industrial plants, arguing that the “Negro mechanics can afford to underbid the regular resident citizen mechanics…”
- The state legislature agrees to set aside $100,000 a year from W&A Railroad earnings for public schools for white children ages 8 to 18.
- Atlanta’s first public park is built on land bounded by the streets of Decatur, Pryor, Loyd (now Central) and the passenger depot.
- The “Southern Confederacy” newspaper begins publication.
- Although the City Council orders free blacks to post $200 bonds to live in the city (or be liable to indenture), it also ignores petition of white dentists to prohibit the practice of black dentist Roderick D. Badger. (Badger practiced until his death in 1891.)