In 1825 the Indian Springs treaty was made whereby Georgia secured from the Creek Indians the vast tract of land lying between the Flint and the Chattahoochee rivers. Troup County, one of the five made from this territory was opened for settlement in 1827. Many stories had gone into Greene, Wilkes, and other older counties, of the fertile soil, the virgin forests, the wild game, and the friendly Indians, so many settlers traveled by wagon, or on foot, into this new country, and came into possession of land by a lottery grant, or by purchase from some fortunate grantee.
These early pioneers began building sturdy log houses, cutting the logs from the forest and hewing them with a broad axe. Some of these early houses were built with lofts reached by ladders in order that the women and children could escape from wolves while the men were working in the fields and forests. These early settlers were soon joined by other pioneers, many from Virginia and the Carolinas, for after the Revolution many pioneers were seeking land grants, wherever they could be obtained.
From September of 1824 to December of 1825, LaFayette was a guest of the American nation, and during this time for two weeks he was the guest of our Governor Troup of Georgia. So great was the appreciation of his services to the nation and the admiration of his ideals, that when this small settlement decided to incorporate the community, in a town meeting called for the purpose of naming the town on motion of Julius C. Alford, it was named by a unanimous vote LaGrange, in honor of the estate of LaFayette in France.
The selection of the site for the county town, or county seat, devolved upon the five judges of the Inferior Court: James Culberson, Samuel Reid, James Maddux, John E. Gage, and Whitfield H. Sledge. Samuel Reid, who lived near Whitfield Crossing, favored a site near Mountville; John E. Gage, who was interested in the promotion of the town of Vernon on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, favored Vernon as the county town. The Inferior Court being unable to agree on either site finally agreed to place the county town about half way between the two contesting communities, and the final selection was land lot 109 in the 6th land district. This lot was drawn in the state lottery at Milledgeville by Bailey Reed, a citizen of Oglethorpe County, on May 21, 1827, who sold the lot to Buckner Beasley for $300..00 on February 15, 1828, and Beasley in turn sold it to John Pinckard for $500.00 on February 28, 1828, and Pinckard sold it to the Inferior Court of Troup County for $1,350.00 on March 5, 1828.
LaGrange was incorporated on December 16, 1828, and in the same Act of the legislature was created the county seat of Troup County. R. A. Lane, James Simmons, John Herring, Dow Perry, and Howell Jenkins were appointed as commissioners of the town. In 1852 the addition of an Intendant, or mayor, was made, and the number of commissioners reduced to four besides the Intendant. The duties of this body were to enact laws for the town government, and they were empowered to restrict, prohibit, or regulate the sale and distribution of all distilled spirituous and intoxicating liquors within the corporate limits of LaGrange; they were also to prescribe the penalties for the disobedience of any laws of the town.
LaGrange, being the county town, was the scene of the first Superior Court, which was held in a log house on the site of what is now known as the Graves Swanson place. Judge Walter T. Colquitt presided over the court, Noah Johnson was the clerk, and Daniel S. Robertson was the sheriff.
In 1829-30 the court house was built in the center of the present Court Square, and the business part of the town was built on the four sides of the square. Among the early citizens, who carried on their business in small wooden stores and offices, are found the following names: John E. Morgan, James and William Redd, Sampson Duggar, Rufus Broome, Fears and Saffold, James M. Beall, Amos J. Persons, Joseph Poythress, Bennett M. Ware, Samuel A. Bailey, Evans and Thompson, Wood and Harvey, Bogart and Forbes, Walker and Smith, Collin Rogers, Lewis Hines, John B. Strong, W. C. Thomas, and many others whose names have vanished. The first blacksmith shop was owned and operated by John (Jack) B. Strong, a great uncle of Mrs. R. H. Park, and his family lived in one of the first frame houses of the town, situated where the present Colonial Hotel now stands. Another of the early frame houses was that of James Turner, the grandfather of Mrs. John D. Faver, and the same old house is now used as the home of the nurses of Dunson Hospital.
From the Indians who lived across the Chattahoochee, these earliest settlers bought corn, peas, chickens and eggs. The Indians usually were friendly and would often come into the homes of the settlers and ask for food, offering baskets and moccasins for sale. However, sometimes they were rude and had to be driven from the homes. While the cession of the territory by the Creeks included the provision for transportation of the Indians to some place beyond the Mississippi, many of the dissatisfied and rebellious braves gathered beyond the Chattahoochee, and lived by pillaging from the nearest settlers. This pillaging and the stealing of cattle by the Indians became so intolerable, that the settlers after one particularly vicious raid, pursued them across the river and burned their village. In the chapter on Troup County Military will be found the story of the “Burnt Village,” taken from White’s Historical Recollections.
According to John T. Rutledge, who spent his boyhood days in this community, one of the interesting divertissements of the time was that of deer hunting. The hunters started the dogs in the Tanyard branch swamp (junction of Hill and Greenville streets to the south), and the dogs pursued the deer across the present Court Square towards the McLendon branch north of town and then on towards Yellow Jacket Creek, the hunters shooting them from the various stands. One of these stands was situated at the southwest corner of Court Square, where the A. & P. store is located. Mr. Rutledge related that he had often seen as many as sixteen deer passing this point.
Many of the pioneers from the earlier settlements were people of education and property, and they brought with them into this wilderness, tools, cattle, slaves and household furnishings. Almost immediately they began to plan for schools and churches.
The title to real estate in land lot 109, or the original LaGrange, was vested in the Inferior Court of Troup County on March 5, 1828, and before any property was conveyed by them, a sub-division was made by the county surveyor, Samuel Reid, the grandfather of Mrs. J. B. Strong. While the property may have been bought some time prior to the date of the deeds, the first recorded deed given by the Inferior Court was to Rufus Broome on November 16, 1830, for a portion of the block on the south side of Court Square; the second to James Herring on May 15, 1831, for a portion of the Baptist church block; the first residence deed was issued to William A. Redd, for a part of the middle block north of Haralson Street and on the same day a deed was given to the Baptist and Presbyterian churches for a lot on the west side of Bull Street.
On the west side of the present city in land lot 110, the first sale of the private sub-division made by James S. Park was made to Julius C. Alford on March 13, 1830, for the property of LaGrange College hill, and the second to Gen. Hugh A. Haralson for the present McLendon place on April 1, 1830. In land lot 116, which is south of Broome Street, the property was sub-divided by John E. Gage, and his first recorded sale was to Joseph Poythress on February 5, 1830, for the present post-office lot, and the second to James and William Daniel for another portion of the same block on February 25, 1830. Most of the lots in the residence section of the town were deeded in 1831 and in 1832, and later.
The lot where Hillview Cemetery is now situated, the eastern half of number 21 Commons, and the lot now occupied by John D. Faver at 406 Broad Street, which was the southwest corner of number 11 Commons, were both reserved for school purposes by the Inferior Court in the subdivision, the first named lot for Troup County Academy, and the second for LaGrange Female Academy. The central square was reserved for a court house, and the lot whereon the present city hall stands, number 24 Commons, was reserved for a jail lot by the same officials.
Mrs. M. J. Morgan, who attended the LaGrange Female Academy, then called the Stanley School, related many years ago an occurrence that took place while she was a student there: “There was an Indian alarm, and such a panic, I have never seen before or since. The school was dispersed in all directions; the town in an uproar, horror-stricken, expecting to be massacred by the Indians who were reported to be swooping down upon us. What a merciful providence that arrested the calamity.”
Mrs. William H. Cooper, a woman of great culture and piety, taught a small school at her home which was located in a grove in the rear of the Lewis J. Render home. Afterwards she built a small schoolhouse near by. Mrs. Cooper was a Miss Fall and her father was an eminent physician and author of several medical books.
Mrs. Thomas A. Boddie, who was a student of LaGrange College when it was known as Montgomery School, gives us some interesting sidelights on these early times in Miss Belle Boddie’s ably edited notes published in the LaGrange Graphic in 1928. The campus on Broad Street was large, and many magnificent forest trees flourished there. The school building was built of wood and was large and rambling. She spoke of the children who accompanied her to school, she and her sister, Anne Elizabeth Smith, and her step-sister, Sarah Stembridge, were joined a little further down the street by Joe and Mary Eliza Colquitt, Achsah Turner, Mary Cade Alford and her sister Margaret, or Pony, Anna Morgan, Ophelia and Elmira Wilkes, and Martha Beall. The Morgan and Wilkes girls had an understanding that when one party went ahead of the other, that party was to place a pebble on General Edward’s gate-post. 0 mores, 0 tempora. Time passes and the beautiful gates disappear, but the same little human episodes appear throughout history.
The original limits of LaGrange were the bounds of the land lot on which it was located. In 1856 the limits were extended, and were the circle of one mile radius from the center of Court Square. The next change was made on January 1, 1920, and the limits were extended to a two-mile radius and to include all of Southwest LaGrange limits, wherever exceeding the two-mile radius. This added all of the Callaway Mills in the southwestern part of the city, and the Dunson Mills on the eastern side of the city to the corporate limits of LaGrange.
The earliest record of any fire protection was in 1857, when Waters B. Jones, Robert F. Maddox, Friend O. Rogers, Burrell B. Cook, John C. Curtright, Thomas Scott, Albert E. Cox, J. B. Morgan, Morris Berringer; Daniel McMillan, C. D. Burks, and Divany A. Kidd, were chartered by the General Assembly of Georgia, and organized under the name of “The Diligent Firemen” with the usual exemptions from street tax and the like. In 1890 a volunteer fire department was organized under the leadership of Robert J. Guinn, Sr., as chief, and this volunteer organization served the city for several years.
In 1908 a paid fire department was organized with C. W. Corless as the fire chief and a total personnel of three; but the present department consists of fourteen men with modern appliances for fire-fighting, including two 750-gallon pumping engines, one hose and ladder truck, and one chemical engine for oil and gas fires.
In 1887 a street railway was incorporated by F. M. Ridley, J. P. Thornton, F. M. Longley, and G. E. Dallis. The railway was laid from the railroad station to Main Street and to Court Square, thence down Broad Street to the junction of Ben Hill Street. The vehicle of locomotion was a muledrawn car, which was a great pleasure and convenience to the college girls. On one occasion one of the students entered the car while the driver was absent, probably in a flirtation with some girl. The sagacious mule, deciding that it was time for the return trip, started towards town with the one passenger and no driver. The college hill had not been graded at that time, and as there was no one to apply the brakes, that student had a most thrilling ride, until she and the mule were rescued on Court Square. The street railway was originally intended to extend some distance on the Vernon Road, and make a circuit of the city, but the plan was never completed, and the railroad was later removed to make way for paved streets.
In 1845 the population of LaGrange was about 1500, of which about 500 were whites and about 1000 colored. In 1933 the population has increased to about 21,000. This increase is largely due to the wide expansion of the textile industry. The railroads, the banks, and the newspapers have contributed much to the commercial development of the community.
The steady growth of LaGrange is indicated by the large sums of money spent for building operations. The sum spent for private enterprises, residences, and business buildings, totaled $3,498,000.00 within the last decade. The city of LaGrange has spent more than a million dollars in the improvement of city properties, more than doubling in value the school buildings, and adding to the gas, electric lighting, waterworks system, and the erection of a city hall. LaGrange now has sixteen miles of paving on streets, and one hundred miles of paved sidewalks.
The earliest hostelry of LaGrange, of which there is any record, was the Howard Tavern, which once stood on the site of the First Baptist Church. It was the stage coach stop in LaGrange until 1855, when the church was built. It was operated by Greenberg G. Howard. The LaGrange Hotel was a wooden structure on the east side of Main Street, that was finally razed to make room for brick structures. The New LaGrange Hotel, at one time called Hotel Andrews, was destroyed by fire in 1931, and occupied a place in the same block. It was the principal hotel for many years.
The Park Hotel is the oldest of the present hotels. The interior has been remodeled several times to keep it up to date. The Terrace Hotel, built by R. O. Pharr, and the Colonial Hotel, built by the Misses Young, are all that can be desired in comfort and convenience.
The building trades were ably represented in the early days by Cullen Rogers, James Culberson, Edward Broughton, and Benjamin Cameron; at a later date by H. C. Butler, Pike Brothers, H. W. Caldwell, and the colored contractor, John King; and at the present by Daniel Lumber Company, and Newman Construction Company, and a host of private builders and contractors.
The wholesale grocery business is a more modern development of the LaGrange territory. The Dixie Grocery Company, afterwards Jones-Knight, and the Daniel Grocery Company made ventures in this line. The LaGrange Grocery Company, under the management of Max Hagedorn, and Culpepper and Clark, a firm composed of W. T. Culpepper and Hardy Clark, are the principal factors in this trade at the present.
The Swift Company, which succeeded the Troup Company, are manufacturers of fertilizers, and have a wide field of patronage.
The textile industry is a vital commercial factor of the commerce of LaGrange, and includes the total of 150,000 spindles within the city limits, representing an original investment of more than $15,000,000.00 in addition to their working capital. These plants are the LaGrange Calumet, Dixie, Unity, Elm City, Dunson, Unity Spinning, Hillside, and Oakleaf, and the Valway Rug Mills. With this industry are associated the names of Barnard, Murphy, Truitt, Edmondson, Dunson, and the financial genius Fuller E. Callaway, and many other citizens.
The financial interests of LaGrange were cared for by the First National Bank, afterwards the Bank of LaGrange, and the LaGrange Banking and Trust Company. The present institutions are the LaGrange National Bank,
the Industrial Loan and Investment Company, the Home Building and Loan Company, the Franklin Savings and Loan Company, and the Family Finance Company.
The fraternal and social organizations of LaGrange are represented by the Masonic fraternity, the Odd Fellows, the Elks, the Red Men, the Junior Order, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Woman’s Club, the Highland Country Club, and a host of smaller organizations.