Happy 181st Birthday, Dade County!

Editor's Note: The photos in today's column are from the Historical Society's 2019 calender. To find out how to obtain a calendar, please see Donna's endnotes below.

This article is a reprise of an article that was written in 2013 just as Dade County was to have its 176th birthday. Having the same birthday as the precious Baby Jesus is not a bad thing for Dade County and it also makes it easy to remember just when Dade was created.

It took three tries to make a county west of Lookout Mountain a reality. It was tried in 1835, again in 1836, and finally passed in December of 1837 and was signed into law on Christmas Day by Gov. Gilmer.

Lest you think that I carry all of this information around in my head: I don’t. I happened upon this information in a book at the LaFayette library that was penned by a native son named Stephen Dennis Neal. The title of his book is A Proud Little Town: LaFayette, Georgia 1835-1885. He is an attorney who lives and works in Washington, D.C., but loves his hometown enough that he spent mountains of time researching the 350-page, extremely well-documented book. He is also close enough to the National Archives to make use of their vast volumes, which I envy.

The Easley Plantation, 1900. Other photos are (above) the old Dade jail, 1975; below, right, the Oddfellows Building, 1975; andbelow left, courthouse, 1975.

Our library was given a copy of Neal’s book and as I always do when I see a book about northwest Georgia, I checked to see what nuggets I could find about Dade County or Trenton or any of our old-time politicians. I didn’t find much in the index but a quick look through the book brought me to the “feud” in the legislature over which county (Walker or Dade) would get the monetary appropriation for a proposed road across Lookout Mountain. Dade was the beneficiary of that money. I can’t tell you the exact date because I am working without a net, so to speak, and I didn’t make copies of those pages, but it was long before there was an idea of a Civil War.

As you may or may not know, until the removal of the Cherokee Indians became an act of law, there was only one county north of Marietta. It was fittingly called Cherokee County and covered all the modern-day counties of north Georgia from the current Cherokee to Dade. Neal states that “during the first years of Walker’s existence, the principal local political issue was how the size of the vast county might be sensibly reduced, so that the county’s farmers would not have to travel so far . . . to attend court sessions, sue to collect debts and register deeds. . . .”

The first effort to create Dade failed on Nov. 24, 1835. The Georgia Senate met as a committee of the whole to consider a bill to divide Walker County into two counties. Senator Samuel Fariss had been the original petitioner on Nov. 4 and tried again on Nov. 25, when he urged reconsideration of the previous day’s vote. The motion passed. The Senate Journal does not show the outcome, but it obviously failed. One reason that it may have failed was that an opposing bill from Floyd County was introduced during the same week to create Chattooga County from Walker. That legislation did not pass either. It sounds as if the local political leaders wanted action but were not together on what they actually wanted.

In 1836, Senator Fariss tried again to form a county west of Lookout Mountain. To quote Neal, “It would be many years before a regular mail route across Lookout Mountain was considered feasible.” I guess it has always been easier for our local residents to get their mail via Tennessee. This attempt to create a county from Walker failed, too. As did another proposal to create Chattooga County. The Senate was willing, but alas the Walker members of the House of Representatives were not. Maybe they didn’t agree because the idea had not come from them, but from politicians in other parts of Georgia.

State Senator Samuel Fariss made one more attempt in 1837 to initiate the legislation to create the northwestern county that we know as Dade. The proposal was read on Nov 14, again on Nov. 21, and was read again on December 13 and passed by a vote of 37 to 35. The bill was finally passed by the House of Representatives on December 23 and “assented to by Governor Gilmer on Dec. 25th.”

Chattooga was created the following year in 1838. Whitfield did not emerge until after a failed attempt in 1851. I was interested to learn that Chattooga was the name of the town of LaFayette before it was renamed. That made me understand why the old school in LaFayette (which General John Brown Gordon attended as a child) was called Chattooga Academy.

Happy birthday to Dade County on her 181st birthday! May her future be prosperous and her citizens continue to enjoy the independence that our geography affords.

Note: The Dade County Historical Society in cooperation with the newly-formed Trenton-Dade Historic Preservation Commission is proud to announce the limited issue of the second Dade County Historical Calendar for 2019. Two hundred copies have been created and may be purchased for $10 each. You may purchase the vintage calendar at either the County Commission office or the Dade County Public Library.

The Historic Preservation Commission members also have copies for sale. So if you see Rex Blevins, Audrey Clark, Cindy Hill Richie, Sarah Moore or me, please consider getting a copy from one of us.

The pictures included this year are: the Courthouse (1975), Gross Mercantile (1960), the Nesbitt or Riordan House in Cloverdale (1960) photo by Patsy McKaig, The Cole Plantation in Slygo (1859), Dade County Jail (1975), Isaac Houston Wheeler House one block south of the square (1890), Sitton’s Mill (1938), the July 4, 1945 Telegram from Harry Truman, The Easley Plantation House (1900), John L. Case Mercantile which burned in the 1950’s (1920), the Oddfellows Building (1890), the Oddfellows Building (1975) and Rising Fawn School (1930s).

The Easley Plantation house photo shows the house with traditional antebellum style. The house on Highway 11 which today is owned by Fred Thomas was once two stories, but a long-ago owner removed the second story. I would make a guess that there was a leaky roof or rot of some kind and in order to save any of the

structure, it was probably just easier to remove the top floor. It was remodeled again by Fred and the late Carol Thomas within the last 20 years.

Donna M. Street


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