Below follows the history of Smyrna, The
Jonquil City. (Updated July 11, 2006)
the 1828 discovery of gold in the Cherokee Nation at Dahlonega,
the US Federal Government and the State of Georgia initiated
a relentless series of efforts to remove
the Cherokee from Northern Georgia. These efforts ultimately
resulted in the settling of Cobb County and the subsequent
founding of Smyrna.
until 1832, all of the land that today comprises Smyrna
and Cobb County was part of the Cherokee
Nation. During or prior to 1832, the state of Georgia
surveyed the Cherokee Nation and divided it into land lots
of 160 acres and gold lots of 40 acres. Gold lots were believed
to possibly contain gold. The initial expectation was that
a treaty would be negotiated and finalized between the Cherokee
Nation and the US Government to open the land to white settlement.
October 22, 1832, at the then state capitol in Milledgeville,
a land lottery was held and the Cherokee land was
allotted to the winners without a treaty being in place.
Later that year, the Georgia Legislature went ahead and
claimed sovereignty over all Cherokee Nation land in Georgia
on December 21. The area was then renamed Cherokee County.
settlers first arrived in the Smyrna area to claim the land
they won in the lottery in the fall of 1832. Tensions were
high since the original Cherokee landowners were still living
in the area. It is believed that the Cherokee left the Smyrna
area by 1835.
Thomas Burke established the first church of any denomination
in Cobb County in present-day Smyrna in late 1832. It was
named Concord Primitive Baptist Church and services were
held in a log cabin schoolhouse. It was located at the present-day
intersection of Concord Road and South Cobb Drive at the
Crossings Shopping Center. The church moved to the Mableton
area in 1833. It is now known as Concord Baptist Church
and is located on Floyd Road four miles from its original
size of the new Cherokee County proved to be unmanageable
as a county governmental entity. It was subdivided into
nine additional counties on December 3, 1832. Cobb
County was one of the newly created counties and Marietta
was named the county seat. Cobb County is Georgia's 81st
county. It was named for a famed Georgia Congressman, Senator
and then later, Judge, named Thomas Willis Cobb. Judge Cobb
died in 1830 at the age of 46. Marietta was named for his
1833, Methodist pioneers established a meeting spot near
the present-day downtown Smyrna where traveling ministers
would hold services. In pioneer times, this was also an
important place to meet and socialize since long distances
typically separated neighbors. A brush arbor, under which
people would gather, was built near a fresh water spring
that once ran through the area to identify the meeting place.
1836, the State of Georgia authorized construction of the
Western and Atlantic Railroad from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The railroad ran through the heart of what is now downtown
Smyrna onward to Decatur 19 miles away. The train tracks
are in essentially the same location upon which they were
built more than 160 years ago. Terminus, which later became
Atlanta, had not yet been established.
1838 the Smyrna Espicopal Methodist Church is believed to
have been established. The church is now known as Smyrna
First United Methodist Church. In 1840, the land used as
the Methodist meeting area became known as the Smyrna Camp
Ground. It was available to all religious denominations
for use. Within a few years the camp ground was well known
as a religious center throughout Northern Georgia.
land was donated and properly titled, the Methodists built
a log cabin church in 1846. They also established Smyrna
Memorial Cemetery in 1838. Title was officially granted
to this land in 1848 even though the cemetery is believed
to have been in use for the previous decade. The Methodists
built new and larger churches in 1911 and 1968.
Both the camp ground and cemetery were on Land Lot 522,
District 17, Section 2. That land was awarded to Wiley Flanigan
of Campbell County, Georgia in the 1832 land lottery. He
took possession of the land on July 1, 1843 and later formally
donated some of it for the cemetery and camp ground. Other
donors were erroneously credited with donating the land
in the past. Mr. Flanigan's 10 plus year delay in establishing
residency on his land after the lottery was attributed as
the most likely reason why the vacant land began being used
as the meeting place, camp ground and cemetery.
County's first State Senator, John Gann, built the Gann
House just west of Nickajack Creek on present-day Concord
Road in 1841. It is the oldest remaining building in the
Western & Atlantic railroad was completed through the
area in 1842. Like many towns in North Georgia, today's
Smyrna started out as series of railroad stops with nearby
homes and a few large farms. The area around the current
Smyrna Museum (a replica of the train station demolished
in 1959) was first named Varner's Station. North along the
train track in the current vicinity of Windy Hill Road existed
a train stop named Ruff's Siding. A siding is a short stretch
of railroad track on which a train temporarily parks to
allow another to pass. A mapped location named Fulton
existed in what appears to be the vicinity of present-day
Campbell Road south of downtown.
Woolen Mills opened in 1847. It was one of the first
industrial employers in the county and the neighborhood
that grew around it was named Mill Grove. During the Civil
War the mill made Confederate uniforms. The mill was burned
by Sherman's troops on July 4, 1864. It was rebuilt after
the war and prospered for many years. An October 1889 fire
destroyed most of the facility. It was rebuilt again and
eventually went out of business in 1916. The ruins are now
part of Cobb Heritage Park.
bridge on Concord Road over Nickajack Creek was built
in 1848. It too was burned on July 4, 1864
. It was rebuilt in 1872 using the original stone support
footings shown in the photo below. The bridge was upgraded
in the 1950s and renovated in 1999.
railroad helped establish a permanent location for what
became Smyrna and started it on its way from a frontier
village to a growing community. Smyrna's first brick building,
a school named the Smyrna Boy's Academy, was constructed
on property formerly owned by the Methodist Church in 1849.
It was later known as Smyrna Academy.
service was established along the railroad track in 1851.
The Ruff family purchased the existing grist mill near the
covered bridge in the 1855 and renamed it Ruff's mill. They
also purchased the adjacent large home.
Civil War began at Ft. Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina
on April 12, 1861. On April 23, Georgia Governor Joseph
E. Brown established an officer's training camp at Smyrna
Camp Ground. It was selected because of its easy rail access.
The training camp was named Camp Brown. The nearby Smyrna
Academy was also designated as a training facility for Confederate
soldiers. Volunteers quickly signed up after the Governor's
important historical fact of the time to remember was that
Americans in 1861 did not identfy themselves primarily as
Americans. They were far more likely to first identify
themselves by their state of birth (i.e. Georgians, New
Yorkers, Texans) and secondarily as a citizen of the union
of states. Today's unifying belief that we are Americans
first was cemented in the public's mind later in the century.
unit that trained at Camp Brown became known as the Fourth
Brigade, First Division of Georgia Volunteers under the
command of General Phillips of Marietta.
War battles in the area took place in the first week of
July 1864. On July 2, Confederate General Johnston withdrew
from Kennesaw Mountain south towards the Smyrna Camp Ground
and to the Nickajack Creek area four miles to the west.
The Battle of Smyrna Camp Ground took place on July 3 and
the Battle of Ruff's Mill at Nickajack Creek occurred on
July 4. Most of the buildings in the area were burned by
Sherman's troops. Notable exceptions were the Smyrna Academy
which served as a Confederate and Union hospital, Ruff's
Mill, the Ruff family home and the Gann House.
then withdrew to the Chattahoochee River and the Smyrna
area was temporarily occupied by Union troops. The Union
troops moved out to Vinings Station (now Vinings) and Mableton
on July 8, en route to Atlanta, and east to Sope Creek and
Roswell on July 12. Click here
for a listing of local Civil War markers.
maps show that Varner's Station was renamed sometime before
to Neal Dow. Records from the Marietta Journal show that
Ruff's Siding was being called Ruff's Station in 1869.
was incorporated as a municipality by the state legislature
on August 23,1872. The boundaries extended one mile in every
direction from the Smyrna Academy. Incorporating legislation
named John C. Moore Mayor (Intendent). Four aldermen were
also named: E.D.L. Mobley, W.R. Bell, W.L. Davenport, and
G.P. Daniel. The city was incorporated a second time in
1897 reducing the city limits from 1 mile to 1/2 mile but
most early records were destroyed in a city hall fire in
name Smyrna was selected by the city's Founding Fathers
from the Bible - a common practice in 18th century America.
It was the name of one of the churches established by the
Apostle Paul in present-day Turkey. The ancient Ionian seaport
of Smyrna was also the birthplace of the famous Greek poet
Homer in the ninth century BC.
Baptist Church of Jesus Christ was organized on August 30,
1884. The church is now known as First Baptist Church of
Smyrna. The congregation built a white wooden church in
1886 and then another church from Stone Mountain granite
in 1924. The 1924 "Rock Church" is now used as
a chapel. The current 1,400 seat sanctuary next door was
dedicated on December 9, 1961.
history says that the jonquils, today's official city symbol,
were introduced to Smyrna by Samuel Taylor and his wife
who moved here from Atlanta in 1883. The Taylors purchased
80 acres of land on Atlanta Road south of its present-day
intersection with Collier Road. Four other families - Crow,
Ray, Eubanks and Anderson - purchased the adjacent 270 acres
of land around the same time. This area became known as
CREAT Wood (CREAT formed from the first letter of the families'
last names). This is where the name for the Creatwood neighborhood
built in the 1950s originated.
Taylors had a son who lived in Spokane, Washington. He sent
his parents a burlap sack from there with what are believed
to be the area's first jonquil bulbs. The Taylors shared
the bulbs with friends and neighbors. The flowers quickly
multiplied and came back every year with very little care.
Thus began the tradition of planting jonquils in Smyrna.
The Taylors' Victorian-style home and 80-acre estate were
sold to Dr. James Brawner in 1907 for $7,000 and they moved
to Spokane to join their son.
The 1890 census recorded 280 Smyrna residents. In 1896,
the Locust Grove School opened as a one room, 16 x 18 cabin
that served all school grades. It was later renamed Fitzhugh
Lee School and expanded many times over the years. It became
the first high school in the Cobb County public school system.
the first part of the 20th century, Smyrna continued to
grow and the new technologies of the time, such as electricity,
telephones and motor vehicles, were quickly adopted by the
local citizenry. The Gautschy-Cano house, with its unique
German-style architecture, was built on present day Atlanta
road in 1900. The Atlanta Northern Railway established trolley
service to Marietta and Atlanta in 1905. AT&T opened
a phone office in 1905 to serve 21 customers. Smyrna's first
bank, Smyrna Bank, was chartered in 1911. The Smyrna Academy
High School sometime on or before 1915.
1908 Dr. Brawner, a mental health visionary of his era,
opened the Brawner Sanitarium on the former Taylor estate.
It was a world-class treatment facility for people suffering
from mental illnesses and alcohol/drug addictions. His famous
13,000 square foot hospital opened on the property in 1910.
Its treatment regimens were modeled after successful European
hospital programs where he had studied psychiatry. Patients
were both the "rich and famous" as well as the
common man. Dr. Brawner, and the later renamed Brawner Hospital,
were standard setters in raising the bar of mental health
care in the South. Both were also instrumental in changing
the public's perceptions of mental illness and setting higher
expectations as to how it could be best treated.
Road, then US Highway 41, was paved in 1926. Electricity
and phones were common in most city homes by then. The city's
population passed 1,000 by the 1930s.
most remembered physician, Dr. W. C. Mitchell, opened his
medical practice in 1933. He practiced for 48 years until
he retired in 1981. For many years he was the only doctor
in the area. Dr. Mitchell passed away in 1988 at the age
Women's Club opened the city's first public library on September
15, 1936 in the former home of pioneers Mr. and Mrs. Thomas
Hill. In 1937, 18 local ladies established the Jonquil Garden
Club and adopted the now familiar green and yellow used
by the city today as the club's colors. GB's place, a popular
diner downtown, also opened in 1937. It served up its last
dish in 1974.
US Highway 41, which originally went through downtown Smyrna
as Atlanta Road (then also known as Dixie Highway) was rerouted
in Marietta to its present location on Cobb Parkway in 1939.
the most part, Smyrna remained an agricultural area until
the 1940's. The economic profile of Smyrna dramatically
changed when construction began in 1942 on the Bell Bomber
aircraft plant a few miles north in Marietta. Thousands
of new wartime jobs were created. Production began in the
spring of 1943. Employees, many of them from Smyrna, produced
663 B-29s for the Army Air Corps. The plant closed immediately
after the war.
Fanny's Cabin, a famous Southern-themed restaurant, opened
in 1941. By 1945 it had established itself as a place to
see the famous movie stars, sports figures, politicians
and other celebrities of the day. Its famous visitors not
only signed the guest book, but left behind many autographed
photos. The restaurant operated until 1994. Its 1890s
cabin and 1940s terrace room were moved downtown in 1999
and now serve as the Smyrna
Welcome Center - with the old photos on display. The
trolley service ended on January 31, 1947. A section of
the original trolley track that ran down Atlanta Road is
on display in the Smyrna Museum.
1946, Smyrnans made history when they elected a woman mayor,
Pace Pruitt. During the war, she managed the cafeteria at
Bell Bomber. Mayor Pruitt served two terms and focused her
administration's efforts on improving the city's infrastructure.
After leaving office she was appointed chairwoman of the
Cobb County Board of Zoning Appeals.
1950s were a period of rapid growth for Smyrna. The population
mushroomed from 2005 residents in 1950 to more than 10,000
at the decade's end. The Bell Bomber plant, which closed
in 1945, was reopened as Lockheed Georgia in 1951. The resumption
of aircraft production created thousands of new jobs and
a high demand for new housing.
Campbell High School, home of the Campbell Panthers,
opened in 1952 with the merger of Smyrna High School and
Fitzhugh Lee High School. It opened with a total of 425
students in grades eight through eleven. In 1953, one of
the first African-American, middle-class neighborhoods in
Georgia was built at Rose Garden off of Spring Road.
Farms was redeveloped and opened as Belmont Hills Shopping
Center on November 18, 1954. At the time, the 50-acre retail
strip mall with 2500 parking spaces, was the largest shopping
center in the South. A large housing development
was also built nearby off of then Cherokee Road (now Windy
Hill Road) with streets named after cities in California
- the home state and corporate headquarters of Lockheed.
nearly doubled in size during the 1960s when the population
grew to 19,157. A new 4,000 square foot public library opened
in 1961. It was built at a cost of $54,000. It was later
expanded in 1969 and 1973. Cobb Center Mall, which featured
the first suburban Rich's department store, opened on South
Cobb Drive in 1963.
Junior High School opened on Ward Street just before the
start of the 1963-1964 school year. It closed as Nash Middle
School in 1989. F.T. Wills High School, home of the Wills
Tigers, opened next door in 1967. For the next 22 years
there was a great rivalry between Wills and Campbell high
schools until Wills closed in 1989 (see below). It was not
uncommon for 5,000 people to attend the annual cross-town
football classic every fall. As baby boomers entered their
40s and grew wealthier towards the late 1960s, construction
began on Bennett Woods, Smyrna's first large, prestige neighborhood.
growth slowed in the 1970s as the population increased by
1,155 to 20,312. The current main post office opened in
1970 and the city celebrated its centennial anniversary
on August 23,1972. Griffin Middle School, one of the first
schools specifically designed for the then new middle
school pod concept, opened on August 28 before the 1972-1973
school year. One of the most memorable events of the decade
occurred during the winter of 1973. On January 7-8 a fluke
series of winter thunderstorms deposited 2 ½ inches
of rain on the area that tuned to solid ice as the temperature
hovered at 32 degrees. The result was The Great Ice Storm
of 1973. Thousands of trees in the city were felled
by the weight of tons of ice, roads were covered with four
inches of solid ice and electrical power and phone service
were not fully restored for almost two weeks.
1970s also saw the Atlanta Road business district go into
decline. Nearby Cumberland Mall, which opened on August
8, 1973, lured customers from downtown and Belmont Hills
as "mega-mall shopping" became the retail norm
of the 1970s and 1980s. Cobb Center also declined as it
was unable to compete against the three times larger Cumberland
Mall. At the time, Cumberland Mall was the largest mall
in the United States at 1.2 million square feet and the
only mall in Georgia with four anchor stores - Davison's,
Rich's, JC Penney and Sears.
June 3, 1974, 100-bed Smyrna Hospital admitted its first
patient. Adventist Health System purchased the hospital
in 1976. It became known as Emory Adventist Hospital in
1995 as part of a a joint venture between Adventist Health
System and the famed Emory University Medical Center.
January 12, 1982 a rare daytime snow storm now known as
Snowjam '82 struck the area. Meteorologists had forecast
possible light snow for that afternoon and in typical Atlanta-area
fashion the population ignored the warning. Virtually all
previously documented significant winter storms had occurred
after nightfall. That afternoon however, 6 to 8 inches of
snow fell within a couple of hours and shut down the city
as commuters fled home. Hundreds of thousands of cars were
stranded on freeways around Atlanta. Spring Road, Atlanta
Road and South Cobb Drive were impassible for several days
until the snow melted and abandoned cars were claimed by
Smyrna Historical & Genealogical Society was chartered
on May 17 1985. Charter members were former Smyrna Mayor
Harold Smith, Betty Smith and Emmett Yancey. The first meeting
was held March 27, 1986 with 18 people in attendance. Its
official publication, Lives & Times, was first
published in March 1986.
further suffered when a Georgia Department of Transportation
(DOT) road-widening project resulted in the demolition of
much of the area, which by then had become an eyesore. However,
out of this decline emerged a plan to revitalize downtown
and transition Smyrna to an upscale, high-growth area. Max
Bacon, first elected mayor in 1985, was one of the key driving
forces behind the revitalization plan. Mayor Bacon is now
serving his sixth 4-year elected term.
renewal plan wisely hinged on developing public service
centers and green space enveloped by livable neighborhoods.
This was very different from typical redevelopment plans
in other cities that focused on retail centers, which usually
began to fade after 10 years. By then, Smyrna was all too
familiar with famed shopping centers that had begun to fizzle
- Belmont Hills, Cobb Center, Cumberland Mall - and therefore
properly planned for a sustainable downtown that was not
dependent on retail.
new development was named The Village Green. With
a new library planned as a cornerstone of the project, The
Friends of the Smyrna Library
organization, also commonly known as FOSL, was founded on
June 1, 1990. It has since developed into one of the largest
and most active Friends chapters in Georgia and the
Southeast. FOSL has made tens of thousands of dollars of
donations to the Smyrna Public Library as well as implemented
many celebrated literary and cultural programs since its
completion of the Village Green project in 1991 heralded
the beginning of a new era for Smyrna. The project
included a large community center and a 28,000 square foot
public library. The buildings were designed in a unique
and eye-catching Williamsburg style with a modern touch.
The project also included a large public green space with
project won national awards and accolades when opened to
the public. It also jump-started redevelopment in the adjacent
neighborhoods. Other government additions to the Village
Green complex that followed within a few years were a new
City Hall, Police Headquarters and Fire Department.
Blizzard of 1993 began late on the evening of Friday
March 12, 1993. The Smyrna area experienced 50 MPH howling
winds and record snowfall that drifted in some areas of
town to three feet by morning. Meteorologists later called
it the storm of the century.
saw the closing of Wills High School and the beginning of
an interesting legal controversy and school name-changing
saga. During the 1980s, high school enrollment in Smyrna
shrunk to the point that the Cobb County School Board decided
that two high schools were no longer needed. Wills High
School was closed at the end of the 1988-1989 school year.
Its student population was divided between Campbell and
Osborn high schools with the majority of students assigned
to Campbell. The name of Campbell High School was then changed
to Smyrna High School and Campbell's mascot, the Panther,
became the Spartan.
descendants of Orme Campbell, for whom Campbell High School
was named, filed suit in court after the name change. They
argued before the court that one of the conditions of the
original land donation upon which Campbell High School was
built was that it would always be named for the family's
patriarch. They won the suit and the name was restored to
Campbell High School. The court's ruling did not apply to
the mascot however, which remained the newly named Spartan.
the 1997-1998 school year, Smyrna's high school population
had swelled due to an unforeseen boom in Smyrna's development.
Ironically, Campbell High School was then too small for
all of the students in the area. The previously closed Wills
High School and adjacent Nash Middle School (also closed)
were renovated, merged, reopened and renamed Campbell High
School. The former Campbell High School on Atlanta Road
then became Campbell Middle School. Newsweek Magazine recognized
Campbell High School in 2005 for having one of the largest
and most successful International Baccalaureate programs
in the country.
remnants of Hurricane
Opal passed through Smyrna on October 4-5, 1995. It
was the first time in recorded history that sustained tropical
force winds from a hurricane were measured for extended
periods of time (6+ hours) in the city. Gusts were measured
up to 69 MPH. 400,000 people in the western Atlanta suburbs
were left without electricity, including most of Smyrna.
Smyrna Museum had its grand opening on April 25, 1999. It
was built to house the large collection of the Smyrna Historical
and Genealogical Society. The building was designed as a
replica of the 1910 Smyrna Train Depot which was demolished
in 1959. The Smyrna Welcome
Center opened next door on the same day. The welcome
center is made of two rooms that were moved for the former
Aunt Fanny's Cabin restaurant - the 1890s cabin and the
1940s terrace room.
late 1999, TRC Garrow Associates conducted an archaeological
survey of Smyrna Memorial Cemetery, which located 395 previously
unknown graves. This brought the decedent total to 638.
The Smyrna Memorial Cemetery Association has since placed
numbered granite headstones on these unknown graves.
2001 the Silver
Comet Trail opened. It was built upon a former railroad
bed of a passenger trail named the Silver Comet.
Seaboard Air Line Railroad operated the Silver Comet
from 1947 to 1968. The paved bicycle and walking path initially
extended 33 miles from Smyrna to Rockmart. It was later
extended to the Alabama state line at a total length of
57 miles away. When ultimately completed, it will run from
Birmingham to Downtown Atlanta.
Twentieth Century Veterans Memorial Park at the Village
Green was dedicated on October 12, 2002. It honors the memory
of those Smyrna residents who both served and died in the
US Armed Forces in the last century. Also that October,
the acclaimed Market Village opened. This live and work
development features luxury townhomes with upscale shops
2005, a major archeological discovery was made on Oakdale
Road when the only known remaining Civil War
famed style of fortification, were uncovered. They were
built in July 1864. The city is working to preserve this
area as a historic site.
City voters approved a historic $20 million parks expansion
in 2005. Just outside the city limits, 2005 saw Cumberland
Mall begin a $65 million renovation and the ground breaking
for a $300 million Cobb County Arts Center three and a half
miles from downtown.
the 15 years after the opening of the Village Green, thousands
of new homes were built at prices that reached up to $1
million. Older neighborhoods were renovated and once shabby
apartments were converted to highly desirable condominiums.
Plans were announced in 2005 to redevelop Belmont Hills
as a live and work community.
population in early 2006 was estimated at 50,000.
is important to note that with the rapid growth the area
has enjoyed in recent years, measures are being taken to
ensure that Smyrna's historical sites will not be lost.
years after pioneers established the log cabins and farms
that became Smyrna in the early 18th century, the city today
consistently ranks as one of the most desirable areas in
Metro Atlanta to live and raise a family. Please check back
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