"Kingston has a lot of history," said Larry Posey, Kingston resident and treasurer of the Etowah Valley Historical Society. "I know there was a chief financial officer at Barnsley Gardens [Resort] some years ago. He came from South Africa to Barnsley Gardens, helping them with their golfing, and he was interested in Kingston's history. And, at that time, we brought him down and were trying to explain to him the Barnsley/Kingston connection. And he said his wife later came down to Kingston to see the history and she returned to their home and said, 'Well, where's the history?' because there's not very much visible evidence of the historical events that occurred here.
"I know the Etowah Valley Historical Society was instrumental in compiling a list of endangered historical sites. ... The Railroad Y and the De Soto Hotel are two endangered sites [in Kingston] listed on that report, and there have been a lot of attempts and events that have threatened those two areas. Fortunately, the Pecchios are in the process of restoring the De Soto Hotel, which requires a lot of funding."
These two entities will be among those on display during the EVHS' summer meeting on Aug. 12, which will highlight the history of Kingston, particularly its connection to the Civil War. Open to members, non-members also can attend by obtaining a EVHS membership -- $15 for an individual and $20 for a family. Those wanting to attend need to register by Aug. 10 by calling the EVHS office at 770-606-8862.
The program will begin at 6 p.m. at the Kingston Station Depot Cafe -- 14 E. Railroad St. -- with a Southern buffet dinner catered by the Governor's House and a PowerPoint presentation by the cafe's owner, Charlie Pecchio.
"We will talk about the historic buildings in Kingston, and obviously Kingston has lots of history," Pecchio said. "Per capita, it has probably the most history of any place in Georgia. So those buildings that still exist -- especially the Stationmaster's House, which is pre-Civil War, and the downtown buildings, some of which were begun before 1900 -- I think are significant buildings that need to be preserved.
"And we wanted to talk about our plans for those buildings, including the De Soto Hotel and the Stationmaster's House, and what we're trying to do through Community Catalyst, which is a nonprofit, to try to restore those buildings and redevelop Kingston's downtown."
Following Pecchio's address, participants will observe nearby structures, such as the Railroad Y, De Soto Hotel, Stationmaster's House and the restored Rogers-Johnson-Lee-Graves House that now serves as a bed and breakfast inn. The program will conclude with a tour and refreshments at the Kingston Woman's History Club Inc.'s Museum.
"I think the people who attend the [meeting] and visit the Railroad Y area will have a greater appreciation for that piece of real estate that really was instrumental in establishing the town of Kingston," Posey said. "It's a piece of real estate that a lot of people do not realize exists today. They're not aware of the background or the history of that area. ... It created a lot of commercial activity before the Civil War, in fact population increased over 1,000 people, which made it a very large population center along the W & A Railroad.
"In fact Godfrey Barnsley had a newspaper clipping in one of his coats that Clent Coker was able to get," he said, referring to the shipping and cotton merchant who is best known today for his Adairsville estate, which has been transformed into Barnsley Gardens Resort. "[Coker] found this article that said that Kingston was under consideration to be the Georgia capital. Because of that economic commercial activity taking place and the large population, I guess it was an attractive place to establish a capital, but of course that never occurred."
In his research of the Railroad Y, Posey discovered many interesting stories pertaining to the Civil War. Constructed between 1849 and 1852, the "Y" enabled trains to turn around more efficiently and quickly than a turnstile and it connected the Rome Railroad to the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which was extending to Chattanooga, Tenn.
One of the "Y's" famous happenings revolves around James Andrews and his accomplices, who were trying to disrupt a key supply line of the Confederacy in April 1862. After stealing a Confederate train named the General at Kennesaw, they planned to destroy the railroad tracks and telegraph lines en route to Chattanooga, Tenn. Their plan was spoiled, however, when a southbound freight train decided to help pursue the General, traveling in reverse from south of Adairsville to catch Andrews north of Ringgold.
"During the Civil War, the Andrews' Raiders were delayed in Kingston for one hour and there was a lot of drama associated with that delay," Posey said. "The Railroad Y also played a part during the Civil War [in] the Battle of Allatoona Pass.
"It enabled Gen. [John] Corse's units that were stationed in Rome to speedily re-enforce the federal garrison at Allatoona Pass. Had it not been for the Railroad Y enabling those Rome units to travel by train to Allatoona Pass, they would have never arrived at the battle site in time to help the fort here," he said, referring to the Oct. 5, 1864, battle that occurred nearly a month after the fall of Atlanta when the Confederate Army tried unsuccessfully to destroy the Union's supply line, the Western and Atlantic Railroad at Allatoona Pass. The battle consisted of 5,301 soldiers -- 2,025 Union and 3,276 Confederate -- and resulted in 1,603 casualties.
Also tied to the railroad is Stationmaster's House, a three-room structure built by the Rome Railroad that Pecchio's Community Catalyst Corp. plans to renovate when funds are available.
"The Stationmaster's House had a telegraph in it, so a lot of messages were sent from there before and during the Civil War," Pecchio said. "And during the war when [Union Gen. William T.] Sherman had his headquarters there and other Union officers had headquarters in that area, they stayed in various houses there and also used several of the buildings as headquarters. And a lot of folks think this particular house was used as an office by those soldiers and by General Sherman and that's why he didn't burn it [and] it was left standing.
"It looks today just as it looked in the picture in the National Archives from 1864. So we have the picture from the National Archives showing that white house just the way it looks today. It's really amazing that it's lasted that long and when you go inside, a lot of the interior is still original. [During the tour] they'll be able to go inside. They have to walk carefully because some of the wood in the flooring has rotted, but they will be able to walk through."
Once funding is obtained, restoration work will begin on the Stationmaster's House, with one of the needed projects being the replacement of some of the original flooring's rotten boards. CCC also plans to build a Civil War museum adjacent to the house to highlight the Union and Confederate soldiers' contributions.
"Obviously Kingston is where Sherman planned his notorious March to the Sea, which is not in great favor with Southerners. However, it is a significant part of our nation's history," Pecchio said. "So we feel like this was a significant building in that plan and the march was launched right from there, from that area in downtown Kingston.
"So we think it would be a good thing to do to actually restore the building to what it was at that time and also to have a museum that would actually commemorate both the Union and Confederate soldiers that lost their lives during the war and would allow young folks to better understand the conflict and put it into perspective in terms of the history of our country."
Along with the Stationmaster's House, Pecchio purchased the entire block of the De Soto Hotel -- comprised of five buildings, one partial structure and two lots -- in 2008. Even though the first building, Kingston Station Depot Cafe, has been restored, further development has been halted due to the lack of a sewage system in the town, he said.
"It's a great little city, and it could be a wonderful destination for people to come and learn about history," Pecchio said. "It's quiet. It's serene, and it's beautiful. It's a great place for people to bicycle. The park is really a nice venue, and we felt like at some point in time in the future -- although I'll never fully retire -- I could actually have businesses down there and we could spend time in downtown Kingston, working and playing with our neighbors."