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Ringgold, GA 30736

Reconstruction

IN WAR'S WAKE
Catoosa faces devastation; Georgia rejoins the Union

By Randall Franks


After the Civil War, Catoosa's residents took up the task of rebuilding shattered lives and the county's stalled economy. County histories shed little light on the day-to-day activities of residents following the war, but it is safe to say that families went back to tilling on the county's 325 farms; merchants re-opened their shops, and the trains came and went through Ringgold.

 

The Peter's family stands on the front porch of their Ringgold home in 1890.

According to 1870 U.S. Census numbers, the population of the county decreased from 5,082 in 1860 to 4,409 in 1870. Of those residents, 616 were African-Americans.

Many residents spent their Sundays at the county's 13 churches of various denominations. Almost 500 students attended area schools, and two were African-American. Thirty percent of the population, or 1,187 residents, could not write. Twenty percent, or 756, over the age of 10 could not read.

Catoosa was home to 24 manufacturing establishments in 1870 that employed 50 residents and boasted 28,226 acres of improved land. The county's farmland was valued at $542,538. County government carried a $4,000 debt.

After the war, Georgia leaders faced the task of meeting federal requirements for re-entry into the union. State legislators had to repeal the ordinance of secession and recognize the abolition of slavery.

Legislators created a new constitution that largely reflected an elevated status of whites over the newly freed slaves. The state enacted laws that placed harsh restrictions to civil liberties for African-Americans, measures that aligned squarely with most other Southern states.

On the national level, President Andrew Johnson fought with Congress to maintain his leadership role guiding reconstruction of the South, but he lost control in 1867 when Congress placed all of the Southern states except Tennessee under military rule.

A return to the union became contingent upon each state's adoption of a constitution approved by Congress. The states were to provide basic civil rights and the right to vote for all residents under these new constitutions.

Republicans in 1868 gained control of the Georgia Legislature, electing Rufus B. Bullock as governor and a number of African-American legislators. The legislature ratified the 14th Amendment extending citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. and providing equal protection under the law. Georgia rejoined the Union in 1870.

The birth of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan played a part in helping bring Democrats back to power after expelling duly elected black legislators. In 1871, Bullock fled the state.

Personal stories about this era are limited, but in a May 10, 1872 edition of the Weekly Catoosa Courier, some light is shed on the period.

Catoosa Springs, the resort area from which the county draws its name, was operating again and attracting tourists from around the state according to an ad.

Families could send their children to the Ringgold Masonic Literary Institute, one of the county's first organized schools, where “the curriculum is of the highest standard,” according to another ad. The staff included R.T. McMullen, principal; J.A. Robert, associate principal and Benjamin F. Clark, professor of music.

In Susie Blaylock McDaniel's “History of Catoosa County,” Jim Carlock remembers leaving West Chickamauga in 1869 to live at Peavine near Post Oak.

“There I went to my first Sunday school,” he said. “One-Arm Jim Park was superintendent and I thought he was a good man. His oldest son, Heck, was one of my old chums. The old log house is gone. They built a new house and it burned down about the year 1883.

“We have moved to the Caldell Farm, at the Wild Cat Spring, which is now known as the Brotherton farm. In the years of the 1870s, the Burning Bush Church was organized. In June 1872, Mr. Napier and Mark Lansford were our schoolteachers. In debates, Mark Lansford was the best speaker; we also had Gordon Lee and Brother Matthews, and Bill Burk would come over from Crawfish Springs. They had big times then.”

Devastation marks the way to Ringgold following Union Gen. William T. Sherman's infamous “March to the Sea,” which began at Ringgold Gap in late 1864.(Photo by George Bernard, 1865)

Residents and tourists could patronize a variety of businesses in the spring of 1872, as recorded in the Weekly Catoosa Courier:

Dry Goods and Groceries

T.M. Gordon, Ringgold, Ga., Dealer in Staples and Fancy Dry Goods, Hats, Caps, Boots, Shoes, Saddles, Bridles, Groceries, Provisions, etc. Also, Agent for the sale of Wilcox, Gibbs & Co's Standard Fertilizer.

W.J. Whitsitt, Ringgold, Ga., Dealer in Clothing, Hats, Caps, Boots, Shoes, Saddlery, Dry Goods, Groceries and Provisions. Agent for the sale of General Agricultural Implements.

W.J. Whitman and Bro. Corner of Tennessee and Nashville Streets, Ringgold, Ga. Dealers in General Merchandise. Purchasers of all kinds of Country Produce.

T.B. Cox, Dealer in Dry Goods, Groceries, and general Merchandise, and dealer in Country Produce, LaFayette Street, Ringgold, Ga.

Charles S. Evans, Dealer in Country Produce and General Commission Merchant, Post office Building, Ringgold, Ga.

Robert F. Anderson, LaFayette Street, Ringgold, Ga., Dealer in General Merchandise, Choice Family Groceries, Wines, Liquors and Cigars. Highest market prices paid for all kinds of Country Produce.

W.C. Patton and Co., General Commission Merchants and Dealers in Dry Goods, Boots and Shoes, Groceries, etc., Ringgold, Ga. We buy all kinds of Country Produce.

Merchant Millers

Dunn & Brown, Merchant Millers, Produce and Provision and Commission Merchants, Ringgold, Ga.

Drugs and Medicines

Cravens and Harris, Druggists and Apothecaries, Dealers in Paints, Oils, Glass, etc. Nashville Street, Ringgold, Ga.

Boots and Shoes

R.H Stanfield. Dealer in Custom made Boots and Shoes. All orders promptly executed. Ringgold, Ga.

Attorneys at Law

E.M. Dodson, Attorney at Law, will practice in the Cherokee and Rome Circuit Courts and Supreme Court. Ringgold, Ga.

A.T. Hackett, Attorney and Counselor, Practicing in Cherokee and Rome Circuit Courts and Supreme Court. Ringgold, Ga.

W.H. Payne, Attorney and Counselor, Practicing in Cherokee and Rome Circuit Courts. Ringgold, Ga.

Saddlery

C.M. Crowson, Agent. Manufactures all kinds of Saddlery, Harness, etc. Ringgold, Ga.

Carpenters

Parsons and Trimmier, Contractors and Builders. Carpenters work of all kinds, promptly and faithfully executed. Ringgold, Ga.

Abijah Johnson, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker, Ringgold, Ga.

Established in Augusta 1853; Established in Rome 1856. A.A. Clark & Sons, Dealers in Pianos, Organs, and all kinds of musical instruments. Second-hand pianos taken in exchange for new ones, and always on hand for sale or rent.

Every piano sold by us if fully warranted, and kept in order twelve months free of charge. Brass Bands furnished is furnished at short notice. Pianos tuned and repaired in the best manner, and on reasonable terms. Orders or inquires addressed as below will meet with prompt attention. A.A. Clark & Sons of Ringgold, Ga.

New Carding Machine, Dunn & Brown, Ringgold, Ga.

Are prepared to do all work with promptness, is either Plain or Mixed Carding and the reputation of Mr. W.S. Hannah who has charge of the Machine, is a guarantee that the work will be done in a superior manner.

Livery, Feed and Sale Stable by Jones & Cox, Ringgold, Ga.

We are prepared to furnish vehicles and horses at all hours, to parties visiting Catoosa Springs, and any and all points away from the Railroad.

Careful drivers, safe horses, and comfortable vehicles.

O.F. Johnston, General Commission Merchant and Real Estate Agent, Ringgold, Ga. References: Devant, Waples and Co., Savannah, Ga. W. Wyley, Esq., Savannah; J.C. Plant, Macon; Hon. Wm. Doherty, Atlanta; Thos Crutchfield, Esq. Chattanooga, Tenn. Marsh and Allgood, Trion Factory, Ga.; Hon. Ben C. Yancey, Atlanta; Rev. C.W. Howard, Kingston; Hon. T.M. Gordon, Rev. Thomas McCanley, Chattanooga.

Superior court

Terms - Second Mondays in February and August. J.R. Parrott, judge; C.E. Broyles, solicitor general.

County officers

John M. Combs, ordinary; O.W. Trimmier, clerk of Superior Court; T.B. Cox, sheriff; R. Clarke, deputy sheriff; W.A. Woods, county treasurer; James. A. Park, tax assessor; W.F.B. Ramsey, tax collector; Abilah Johnson, county surveyor; John Swope, coroner.

Sessions of the Court of Ordinary were held on the first Monday of each month. Sales day, first Tuesday of every month. I.R. Jobe and R.J. Jones, justices.

Town government

W.L. Whitman, T.B. Cox, T.J. Cox, Abijah Johnson and R.B. Trimmier, commissioners; James McGhee, marshal.

Masonic Lodges

Lawrence Chapter: Stated meetings, first Friday night in every month. Rev. A.I. Leet, H.P.; N. Lowe, G.K.; D.G. King, scribe; J.L. Harrell, C.H.; W.J. Whitsitt, P.S.; W.G. Cook, treasurer; L.A. Knapp, secretary; A.S. Chastain, R.A.C.; R.J. Jones, Third V.; Thos W. Gordon, Second V.; Chas W. Gray, First V.

Quitman Lodge, No. 110: Stated meetings, third Thursday in each month. D.G. King, W.M.; R.J. Jones, senior warden; T.J. Clarke, junior warden; W.S. Inman, secretary; W.J. Whitsitt, treasurer; G.P. Harris, S.D.; J.M. Edwards, J.D.; John Swope, tyler; A.J. Leet, chaplain.

Good Templars: W.L. Whitman, W.C.T.; C.S. Evans, W.V.T.; R.B. Trimmier, W.R.S.; W.S. Inman, W.F.S.; A. Johnson, W. treas.; R.H. Stanfield, chaplain; N. McMullan, W.M.; E. Peary, D.M.; J.M. Mapp, P.W.C.T.; meetings, Tuesday night of each week.

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