Newspaper Article from 1939 on the Burning of Cassville
CASSVILLE DESTROYED SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
Many Landmarks Still Remain To Tell The Tragic Tale
Seventy-five years ago—it was on November 5, 1864—the City of Cassville was destroyed by fire at the hands of the Fifth Ohio Regiment of the Federal Army under the command of Col. Heath and Major Thomas. They said they had orders from Sherman “that not a house be left within the limits of the incorporation, except the churches.” The town had been in the hands of the Yankees since the 25th of May, when General Johnson had retreated without a fight, and left it to the mercy of the enemy. Sherman’s army had marched on in pursuit and, as General Sherman gave no order to burn the town at that time, many people believe until this day, that he never did, but that it was the work of Yankee stragglers who had some sort of grievance against the people of Cassville.
One reason, it is believed, that there was an especial grievance against Cassville was the changing name from Cassville to Manassas and the name of the county from Cass to Bartow in 1861, just after the Confederate victory at the first battle of Manassas. The name Bartow was for General Francis S. Bartow, who was the first Confederate officer to fall in the Manassas battle. The county and county seat had formerly been named in honor of General Lewis Cass, Michigan statesman. General Cass had the wrong views on the slavery question for a Southern town to bear his name, leading citizens of that day agreed.
From the time the county was formed and the town laid out in 1832, until it was destroyed thirty-two years later, Cassville had sprung from the woods through which the Cherokees were still roaming to a busy town of about two thousand inhabitants. The town boasted with pride about two of the finest colleges in Georgia at that time—the Cassville Female College and the Cherokee Baptist College, both of which were housed in large brick buildings on beautiful campuses. The library in the Cassville Female College was the finest in North Georgia. Girls and boys from all over Cherokee Georgia came to Cassville to college.
Here the first decision of the State Supreme Court was handed down; here were laid the first paved sidewalks in upper Georgia. It was one of the very first towns in Georgia to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors. In the middle of town, on a square shaded by giant oaks stood a handsome brick court house. Around the square were the stores, a fine brick hotel, The Latimer, and the printing shop where the Cassville Standard, at one time the only weekly newspaper for many miles, was printed. Here fine cultured people lived in beautiful homes. In short, it was a town in which all the culture of the old South bloomed in richest profusion.
FEDERALS IN CASSVILLE
On that November day seventy-five years ago all this was ruthlessly destroyed and left in its place was a mass of smoked walls and charred timber. During the summer of 1864 the Federals were in complete control of Cassville and here citizens suffered great hardships. The nearest mill in operation was fifteen miles away. And those fortunate enough to possess wheat or corn, had to walk that distance since the few horses were so poor that they could hardly pull the grain. And as the Yankees were certain to steal it, if the few small boys in the town went alone, the women had to go along too. Mr. J. L. Millhollin, was a lad of thirteen at that time and remembers quite well those terrible days.
All the people had to pick berries to help toward their daily meals. It is said that their suffering would have been much worse if it had not been for the kindness of a Federal captain stationed at Kingston, who helped the poor people of Cassville in every way possible.
Those who refugeed met with even worse fate as Mr. John C. McTier, of Cassville, who fled to Atlanta with his mother and sisters, remembers quite well. But the worse came when the town was completely destroyed except for three churches and three homes.
BURNED NOV. 5th
On the morning of the 5th of November the Union Army marched into town and, after giving a short notice about what was to follow, began their devilish work. Within a short time the whole town was in flames. And that night the people found themselves out in the street in a cold rain with not a shelter left over their heads. They could have found shelter in churches but they had to watch over the few personal belongings they had saved from the flames. They knew that the Yankees would either steal or destroy them if they had a chance. Mr. Milhollin remembers that, as their house was near the cemetery, his mother built a tent against the cemetery fences and spent the night there with her children. His father had died in the army only a short time before and his new-made grave was only a short distance away.
The three churches in town, along with three private homes were spared. The home of Dr. Weston Hardy served as a hospital and was not burned for that reason. The Mercer home also, was spared because of sickness. Tradition has it, the home of Mr. A. C. Day was saved when the captain saw a certain Masonic emblem as it dropped from a Bible while the family brought out their furniture. Five of these six buildings are still standing: the Baptist church was razed in 1910 and replaced by the present brick building.
Mr. Tom Word, clerk of the court, loaded his buggy with county records and some of the files of the county paper when he heard that the town was to be burned and rode away just before the court house was destroyed. If he had not done this, there would would have been none of the old county records preserved. The books which he saved are still to be seen in the clerk’s office in Cartersville.
It would seem that after all these years there would not be many things left to remind one of old City of Cassville. However, any visitor who takes the time to look around the village, soon finds that he is completely under the spell of its glorious past and realizes full well there are many reminders left to reveal a story of beauty, romance and tragedy about a community that was Cassville.
Traces of the old streets are to be seen in hedgerows running through fields and ditches and down the side of the hills, outlining blocks upon which the only evidence of the homes which once stood there, are a few broken bricks and, in some instances, a small clump of bushes surrounding an old well. A small remnant of the old brick sidewalks may be seen just across from the court house square, and they still serve to this day as a sidewalk.
The Methodist church, although somewhat changed, is still in use. The present-day negro Methodist church was formerly the Presbyterian church.
The Confederate Monument now standing in the cemetery was erected in 1878 by the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Cassville, it being one of the first Confederate memorials erected in those hard times immediately following the war.
On “College Hill” a few scattered bricks and traces of walks winding in graceful curves up to an entrance that is no more, mark the site of the Cassville Female College. The cornerstone of this building may be seen in the yard of Mr. Eugene Chunn and Miss Gertrude Chunn. Their grandfather, Judge Nathan Land, gave the ground for the college. The college still lives vividly in the memory of Mrs. S. E. Maxwell, of Pine Log, who entered the institution in 1861 as a freshman at the age of thirteen. Now Mrs. Maxwell has the distinction of being the only living person who attended this renowned college.
After the war, as the Bartow County History so truly points out, Cassville never regained its population nor its prominence.