The city of West Point was originally an early and important trading post on the east bank of the Chattahoochee and was called Franklin by the early settlers. Some of the earliest settlers were John H. Broadnax, Thomas Coker, William Coker, Joseph and John Williams, John Phipps and A. Cox. In 1829 Phipps, Williams and Cox built the first store at the top of a hill, but moved in 1830 and built a log store on lower ground nearer the river. The principal business at that time was with the Indians, who were thickly settled on the western side of the river. During 1830 and 1831 Littleberry Gresham, John C. Webb, Robert and E. G. Richards, Benjamin Rhodes, H. F. and Thomas Erwin, opened business houses on the east side of the river. Peter Dudley built and kept the first tavern near the old toll bridge. William Coker built the second tavern, and after his time Mrs. Reid kept an excellent tavern on the Schaefer corner.
In 1831 the population of the settlement of Franklin numbered one hundred, and the amount of business was estimated to be from $40,000.00 to $50,000.00, showing a thriving trading center even in those early days. The surrounding country soon became settled with sturdy farmers, who felled forests, built substantial homes, and raised splendid crops from the virgin soil.
The city of West Point was incorporated originally as the town of Franklin on December 26, 1831. Dr. G. W. Hill went to Milledgeville, the capital of the state at that time, for the purpose of furthering the incorporation, and it is believed that he suggested the name of Franklin. The charter of Franklin Academy was granted at the same session of legislature. Under the act of incorporation the following persons were appointed commissioners of the town: Charles R. Pearson, William Atkins, Robert M. Richards, Thomas B. Erwin, and John C. Webb. On December 24, 1832, the name of the town was changed by legislative enactment to the town of West Point. The cause of this sudden change of name of the town was that the adjacent county of Heard had named their county seat “Franklin,” and there was much confusion in the transmission of mails.
Captain J. W. F. Little, in an article which appeared in the LaGrange Reporter in 1878, said: “No positive facts can now be obtained as to why the name of `West Point’ was chosen. It is said that this is the most western point of the Chattahoochee River and possibly that was the reason. It was certainly not because it was the western terminus of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, for the town was named sixteen years before the enterprise was projected.”
The original limits of the town of West Point included land lot 283 and the fraction 318 in the 5th district. These limits were extended by legislative enactment on December 26, 1835, to the present size of the city: that is to include land lots 283, 284, and the southern half and the northwestern quarter of 285, and the fractions 316, 317, and 318 in the 5th district east of the river; the fractions, 57, 58, and 59, in the 16th district west of the river. In the same act of extension of limits, the following commissioners were appointed: Charles R. Pearson, Beaman Martin, Lawrence Gahagan, Green W. Hill, and Hutchinson Burnham. These commissioners were to hold office for one year and chose one of their number as Intendant. Also in the same enactment, Abner McGee, George Whitman, Edward Hancock, John Scott, Sr., Francis M. Gilmer, Nimrod C. Benson, John C. Webb, and Charles R. Pearson, were authorized to build a bridge across the Chattahoochee at any point within the limits of incorporation.
In 1836, the Montgomery and West Point Railroad was chartered, and many citizens subscribed to the stock. The trains of this road entered West Point in 1851. In 1838 the West Point Land Company was chartered, and Thomas Winston was chosen president. A period of inflation followed, subdivisions were laid off, lots were improved and sold at large profits, but unfortunately this dream of West Point as a future metropolis vanished and many investors lost money. During this period of development in 1838, the authorized toll bridge was built at the foot of Jackson Street. The bridge was built by Horace King, at that time a slave of Mr. Godwin of Columbus, the contractor of the project. The bridge was 652 feet in length and cost $22,000.00. The lumber for the project was sawed in Heard County by Nick Tompkins, and rafted down the river. This bridge was burned by Colonel LaGrange of the Federal Army on April 17, 1865, just after the battle of Fort Tyler, and was rebuilt in 1866.
The completion of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad into West Point in 1854 was the last necessary factor in the development of the city as a real cotton market. As early as 1851, 28,000 bales were brought from the surrounding country, hauled in wagons, some as much as seventy miles.
After the Montgomery and West Point Railroad entered the city in 1851, business began to increase on the west side of the river, and when 1856 had arrived, nearly all the business section was removed to that side. In the decade from 1850 to 1860, the West Point market was supplied with wheat, corn, and bacon, and it was not until 1861 that any corn was bought and shipped from other markets to the city.
On February 10, 1854, the town of West Point was chartered as the City of West Point, and one of the first enterprises of the new city was a plan for a good hotel, and during 1856-57 Tim and Terry Collins built the Chattahoochee Hotel, which still maintains its excellent standard of hostelry under the name of Charles Hotel.
At the outbreak of the War Between the States, West Point gallantly espoused the cause of the Confederacy, and the West Point Guards tendered their services on April 2, 1861. The close of the war found West Point sacked and burned, the people without money or credit, but with indomitable energy and industry and perseverance, which has always characterized
her citizens, they began to rebuild what had been destroyed. The toll bridge built in 1838 and the railroad bridge finished in 1854 were uselessly destroyed by the Federal vandals. West Point was the first city in Georgia to be relieved from military control after the war.
West Point is situated in the midst of splendid manufacturing interests. Within a seven-mile radius are to be found Lanett, Langdale, Shawmut, Fairfax, Riverdale, and the Utilization Plant. While all these plants are in the state of Alabama, they are owned by the West Point Manufacturing Company with their central offices in the city of West Point. This chain of mills was organized and in a large measure financed by West Point citizens, among whom may be found the names of Huguley, Atkinson, Lanier, Trammell, Scott, Johnson, Lovelace, Walker, Miller, and many others.
The sewerage system, water supply, fire and police protection, and the public schools, are unsurpassed. There are churches of every denomination, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Woman’s Club, and near by a country club. The boy and girl scout councils are nationally known, and they have one of the best equipped camps in the country.
Among the handsome public buildings of the city may be mentioned the spacious auditorium, the city hall, the Magnolia Club, the Hawkes Library, the handsome new High School, several new churches of outstanding capacity and beauty, and a number of well-equipped business structures. The West Point Iron Works and the Batson-Cook Lumber Company are numbered among the successful contractors of the city. The annals of the city and the surrounding territory are well edited in the West Point News by Tipton Coffee and his sons.