On the Northern Terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad

Saturday, December 17, 2016 - by Chuck Hamilton

Most people to whom the question occurs about where the State of Georgia might like to anchor the far end of its Western & Atlantic Railroad coming from south of the Chattahoochee River at Terminus (later Thrasherville, later Marthasville, now Atlanta), would think the answer obvious, but as I found out recently, that was not the case.

One of the reasons Americans in Georgia and Tennessee wanted the Cherokee removed was because the Cherokee Nation stood in the way of connecting the Chattahoochee and Tennessee Rivers by rail.

In 1837, the State of Georgia hired Col. Stephen H. Long of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to survey the best route for the Western and Atlantic Railroad from Zero Mile Post (now in Underground Atlanta) to a northern terminus.  In January 1838, the State of Tennessee authorized the State of Georgia to continue the survey from the state line to a point on the Tennessee River.  The chosen entry point was the center of Lot 5, District 28, Section 3, of the Cherokee Land Lottery.

Four locations were considered for the northern terminus: Vann’s Ferry (later Harrison); the mouth of the Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek); Gardenhire’s Landing (just below the mouth of the Citico Creek); and Ross’ Landing.

The first option discarded was Vann’s Ferry, because one of the checkpoints on the want list was accessibility to a possible future route to Nashville, and this even though construction of the route to that destination was by far the cheapest.

Once Long counted out Vann’s Ferry, he and his team came up with a single point about nine-and-a-half miles past the stateline from which to continue to the northern terminus, this point of divergence, as he called it, being Kenan’s Mills, a few hundred feet from South Chickamauga Creek on its left bank.  Given the fact that Long puts this at about 2.65 miles from the mouth of the South Chickamauga Creek, the location must have been near where the later Chattanooga-Cleveland Pike crossed it.

From Kenan’s Mills, routes directly to the mouth of the South Chickamauga, directly to Gardenhire’s Landing, to Ross’ Landing via Gardenhire’s Landing, to Ross’ via a tunnel through Missionary Ridge, and to Ross’ via a deep cut through Missionary Ridge.

For railroads, a deep cut is a way through an obstacle that involves digging a passageway through the hill, ridge, or mountain (not always ground level) that creates a gully or ravine, like that which the Chattanooga Extension of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad built through Brabson Hill from where Erlanger now is through UTC (Univ. of Tenn. @ Chatt.) campus to the switch yards past East 11th Street.  Usually the idea is to avoid a tunnel, but ET&G did both.

In the end, due to shortness of distance, height above the level of freshets (normal spring floods), cost, and directness, Col. Long recommended the northern terminus be placed at the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek.

News of Georgia’s intentions to build the railroad to the Tennessee River, however, spurred residents of the area around Ross’ Landing into action, and provided much of the impetus for the speed with which its commissioners laid out streets, built bridges, cleared swamps.  Nor did it hurt that the landowner of the target area at the mouth of the South Chickamauga, Tom Crutchfield, Sr., also favored the Ross’ Landing location (where he also owned property).  So proficient were they at lobbying that Georgia bought land on which to build the terminal and yards before the Town of Chattanooga was even incorporated.

Had it been otherwise, perhaps we would now be living in the City of Toqua, or maybe the City of Amnicola, or even in the City of Citico.

Chuck Hamilton

<natty4bumpo@gmail.com>



VVA, Chapter # 203 And Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR To Honor Spouses Of Deceased Vietnam Veterans

Bill Norton, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter # 203, and Jessica M. Dumitru, Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR and their organizations have partnered to initiate a new Department of Defense Program designed to recognize the spouses of deceased veterans from the Vietnam Era. The Deceased Vietnam Veteran’s Surviving Spouse certificate and lapel pin ... (click for more)

Chester Martin: A Trip To South Texas - And Mexico - In 1946 (Part One)

The following story was begun in 2009 for my family. It tells a little about our country right after WWII and the United States as your grandparents might have remembered it. East Main Street, Chattanooga, is where it starts - where Abe Zarzour and Ira Trivers famously ruled for a time... * * *   My Uncle Forrest Martin, and wife, Aunt Lydia (say "LIE-da") Richter ... (click for more)

Longest-Serving County Official Knowles Is First In Line To Sign Up For New Term

Bill Knowles is one of the longest-serving officials in Hamilton County history, and he's not through yet. County clerk since 1974, he was the first in line on Friday morning to pick up his petition for re-election. Then he beat everyone back with the completed form. Mr. Knowles said, "I ran in 1974 on a campaign of ending the long tag lines. We put in a tag by mail system ... (click for more)

River Gorge Explorer Will Log Final Cruises In January

After operating on the Tennessee River for more than nine years, Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford informed staff and volunteers that cruise operations aboard the River Gorge Explorer will be ending in January. “After developing a new strategic plan and carefully evaluating the Aquarium’s resources, we have decided to stop operating the boat,” said Mr. Sanford. “We are ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Should Be Problem Solvers Around The City

Re: Roy Exum’s “Stay, Signal Mountain, Stay”  Well this article is something to think about. I think the split could go either way, and Signal Mountain schools would still flourish, as they have done for the past several years. What I'm worried about is why Signal Mountain has not yet had the guts to go be problem solvers at Howard, or Tyner, or Central. Why do ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: How Would I Vote?

I don’t know what to think or who to believe in the debacle surrounding Alabama’s Roy Moore and his quest for a Senate seat. I have no earthly idea what he did or how he acted 40 years ago. Heck, I can’t remember what I did or how I acted 40 years ago but I do recall I kissed some minors back then. To be real honest, they were the only ones that would let me, this because I was ... (click for more)