CHS students learn about population changes in Bartow from BHM


The Bartow History Museum helped students at Cartersville High School see how national occurrences and trends have affected the local area where they now live. 

Tanya Hyman asked Dr. Joshua Graham, manager of programs at the museum, to do a presentation to six of her environmental science classes Friday on how the population of Bartow County has changed throughout the years. 

"I thought it would be cool to see the way our local population has changed instead of just looking at other countries and stuff," Hyman said. "When they see a picture of something that actually happened here, they don't necessarily think about it because they always study it from a national perspective or a global perspective. And when they see a picture, it takes them a minute to connect, 'Oh, that's right here.' They don't immediately put that together."

Graham said he wants students to realize that history shows what's the same and what's changed throughout the decades.

"Part of our mission at the history museum is making sure we help make history relevant and help educate the community, and there's no better way of doing that than to be able to talk to her students because they are our community," he said.

Graham began his presentation with information about the population growth in Bartow County in light of what was happening in the country at the time. 

Bartow County experienced a population boom after both World Wars, especially after the second one, when the baby-boomer generation was born, he said.

"And our boomers live up to their name," he said. "We have a huge population growth up to our 2016 stats."

He also said the county is fortunate that it can track its population growth and change in demographics through the years.

"It's hard in the South because a lot of Southern cities and states lost information pre-Civil War so it's pretty nice to have this," he said. 

The increase in property values in the county since the 1800s was another topic Graham mentioned.

"In 1850, we have 1,712 dwellings," he said. "This is shacks, houses, apartments, whatever someone is going to be living in — 1,712 dwellings in Bartow County, and it's worth $1.77 million in that era. Now, in the 1860s, we already have a real estate value of $3.4 million so you can see from just this 10-year period there's a huge growth."

He attributed the growth during that span to cotton, which "became a huge source of income" in the county.

But the county had "actually a drop" in total home units and total value from 1860-80 because of the toll the Civil War took on Bartow County, Graham said.  

Cassville was the county seat and the largest city in Bartow County before the war and was a "booming, booming place," with two schools, 17 lawyers' offices and several doctors' offices, he said. 

"After the Civil War, two buildings [were] left standing," he said. "So it completely decimated Cassville."

The seat of government was moved to Cartersville "mainly because of their railroads," according to Graham.

The 1869 Courthouse was built close to the railroad tracks for convenience, but it proved to be too close when the 200 to 350 trains that came by it every day in the 1880s and 1890s ended up stopping court proceedings.

That resulted in the Gold Dome Courthouse being built in 1903 a little farther away from the tracks, he added.

Graham also touched on the mills and mill villages that "brought a lot of life to the city" of Cartersville.

The Atco mill village opened in 1903 and had its own shops and doctor, plots for gardens, tennis courts and swimming pools. Mill workers made tennis and baseball popular during that time.

The population continued to grow as the county moved into the 20th century. 

In 1970, there were "just over" 10,000 housing units in Cartersville, and there was "pretty rapid growth" from then until the 1990s, Graham said. 

But the last decade of the century saw a "huge boom" due to Shaw Industries — now the county's largest employer with just under 2,000 employees — having a major presence and doing a lot of building in the '90s, he said.

Public utilities — hospitals, fire stations, police departments and jails, electricity, plumbing and sewage, public schools, garbage dumps — become an important factor any time there's a rapid growth in population, Graham said.

"What you'll find is there's a boom in population, and then five to 10 years later, the public utilities will catch up to it," he said.  

He discussed the 200-bed Humana Hospital, one of the first major hospitals in the county, and a few smaller clinics as well as power and telephone lines that went through entire county "a lot later than you'd think." Some places in Bartow didn't get phone service until the Vietnam War, he said.

Education has "always been a huge push for Bartow County," and population figures are important for making decisions about school systems, Graham said, noting Bartow actually had three school districts for a while — the county, Cartersville City and Adairsville City.

"The state uses population demographics to decide school districts, and that's an ongoing process that's still happening," he said. 

Though Brown v. the Board of Education ended racial segregation of schools in the mid-1950s, Cartersville "doesn't integrate completely until 1968," Graham said. Summer Hill, the only school blacks could attend up to that point, was closed, and students were integrated into Cartersville High School.

Graham also talked about Cartersville's first fire truck — a horse-drawn wagon — and the seven firemen that manned it and how the railroad tracks caused problems getting to fires when trains stopped.

Another major project that brought people to Bartow County was Allatoona Dam, which was built in late 1940s and finalized in 1950, Graham said. 

"According to our local newspaper, it was the first act of civil construction since after World War II," he said. "It was a big deal to have it."

Since there are no natural lakes in Georgia, Lake Allatoona had to be created, and some communities were submerged under it, according to Graham.

"A lot of people who grew up in Cartersville have heard that there's cities underneath it," he said. "That's right and wrong. It's not like there are whole buildings underneath the water. There were some communities like Allatoona, Etowah that were flooded over, but the structures were taken down before that happened. But some things like concrete steps can still be seen."

Mining has always been a "huge industry" in Bartow County, and in the early 1800s, a lot of people moved to the area to mine baryte, lead and lime, Graham said.  

Farming and agriculture have been "sort of the backbone" of the county, Graham said, but from 1945 to 2002, the number of farms decreased, primarily due to the development of fertilizers and pesticides during the Green Revolution.

As a result, more acreage could be farmed by fewer people, and the number of acres being used for growing was declining because farmers were getting a much higher yield per acre, he added. 

Hyman said she thought Graham's presentation was "great."

"I think he hits on a lot of the same terminology that we've learned in this unit and a lot of the topics that we will cover in our next unit," she said. "I just really think it's important to make it relevant, like he said, so that [students] don't just think this is something so academic and beyond. I think it's something that's useful to know."