Old Van Wert, First Seat of Paulding County
Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes inhabited this area long before the white man came here, possibly centuries before. The Tribes contested to see which would have control of the area, and the Cherokees won. In 1832 when the Federal troops forced the Indians westward on what became known as their "Trail of Tears," nine counties were made from the Cherokee Nation lands. Van Wert, created from the village the Indians had satirically called "Cleantown," was made the county seat of Paulding at the home of James M. Nettles on December 27, 1838, when an election precinct was held and a law passed establishing the village in this capacity. Thus, Van Wert, was created in 1832, and was incorporated in 1838. The next day, December 28, 1838, the Williams Academy, Inc., was established. The newly created sites were named for Issac Van Wert, John Paulding, and David Williams, the captors of Major John Andre, an accomplice of Benedict Arnold. These men served as commissioners in 1870: John R. Scurry, H. W. Allen, S. B. Pearce, Charles T. Parker (who would become the first mayor of Rockmart upon its being chartered in 1872), and Rufus P. Heslip. From the book, PUBLIC LAWS - Cities and Towns, published in 1870: "Sec. 4. Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the commissioners so appointed or elected shall, as soon as convenient, appoint one of their number president, and shall also have power to appoint a marshal, a treasurer and clerk, all of whom shall be severally sworn faithfully to discharge the duties required of them as president, commissioners, marshal, treasurer and clerk, to the best of their ability, during the time they hold their appointment”. The Georgia Archives list other first settlers: Burton Crabb, Wiley Barber, Emory Kingsberry, and J. C. York. The first store was built by John Crabb, who later became a captain in the Confederate Army, heading the 1st Calvary. A courthouse was built, also a jail, and several businesses sprang up, including two drug stores and four saloons. Beautiful homes, many two-storied, and one or two hotels were erected. Ninety-one original lots, ranging in price from $2.12 to $299.00 went on sale September 5th and 6th 1837. John A. Jones bought for $80.00 the first lot that was offered for sale. Jones, who moved here with his large family from Milledgeville where he practiced law, traded a fine horse for a choice piece of land, struck gold on the land, and accumulated a sizeable fortune. "White's Statistics of Georgia," published in 1849, said: "Population of Van Wert…100" "Population of Paulding County...4,439". "Gold had been found on the Jones Plantation." "Six barrels of corn average yield per acre; wheat, 12 bushels to the acre." "Little attention was paid to education. Roads were badly neglected, and there were few bridges." A Baptist church was chartered in 1840, and in 1846, a Methodist church (which still stands) was organized in 1846, and there was a Masonic Lodge.
Van Wert is credited with having the first running water for any town in Georgia. The waterworks were installed without the use of a single iron pipe. Huge logs, bored out in the center, fastened together on the outside, and coupled to smaller ones, furnished the necessary conduits. The two brothers who instituted innovation were said to have paid a total of $300.00 or $100.00 per mile for their efforts. The system, crude as it was, served the community well. Some of the logs are still in existence.
Slate was discovered in 1849 on the Joseph Blance place, and in 1850 mining was begun by Welsh settlers who were skilled in slate quarry work. Thus was started the longest lasting industry in the Van Wert-Rockmart area, as now, in 1975, a product for roofing is still being manufactured from material found at the sites of the early slate quarries. Polk County was created December 20, 1851, from parts of Floyd and Paulding. Cedartown was named seat of Polk, and Dallas became the seat of Paulding County. Van Wert's star began to wane. Van Wert is known today as a suburb of Rockmart."
WATERWORKS PIPE FROM VAN WERT
Donated to the Paulding County Historical Society
By: Bobby and Barbara Lyle
In Memory of: Lawrence Lyle
Cherokee Nation 1830 Map
Van Wert; Noted evangelist Sam Jones pastured historic church.
First published in the Rockmart Journal on Oct 24, 1941,
and J. R. Radford, former resident of Polk County, was listed as author.
“How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood.”
It was this sentiment that urged me on a recent Sunday morning to visit again the little town of Van Wert in Polk County, for it was there that I spent at least four years of my childhood.
They were formative years between 10 and 14 that mean so much to every boy. And I was learning not much from books, for opportunities for attending school were very limited, but learning much of life from everything about me. The greater part of the time I had a job of some sort, but still had plenty of time to play.
Van Wert, when I arrived there in the beginning of 1870, had four or five general stores, two barrooms, a blacksmith shop, two church, two lawyers, two doctors and a livery stable. And in addition to all this she had “great expectations” for a railroad was to be built from Cartersville, some 20 miles away, and Van Wert would be its terminus.
About two years later the railroad did arrive, but to the utter chagrin and disappointment of Van Wert, the terminus of the road was a mile away, near Euharlee creek, and on a spot that had been a cornfield. And there a new town sprang up like a mushroom, so that in less than a year Rockmart was definitely on the map with a population greater than Van Wert’s.
Rockmart has continued to grow, more perhaps in the last 20 years than in the 108 preceding years.
This was not the first time Van Wert had suffered a great disappointment for when Polk County was created in 1851. Van Wert was the original county. I know nothing, of the reasons why the county was moved to Cedartown, nor just when it was done. It happened several years previous to my residence at Van Wert.
But, Van Wert must not be forgotten because of several remarkable people connected with its history, and also for its unique water system. Once while I was living there I had seen a piece of timber six or eight feet long lying about the school play ground. I observed that a hole had been bored in each end and apparently all the way through. My youthful curiosity made me inquire what it was meant for, and this is the story told me:
It was very difficult to get a well in town or elsewhere in that section that would afford water year round. There was plenty of water in the spring and early summer, and the same wells would be entirely dry in the fall and early winter. (I think there was only four wells in the town at the time I lived there that afforded water the year).
So, it was said that two Irishmen, brother, had built a wooden aqueduct to bring from a spring on the side of a mountain two or three miles away. The process was simple. Cutting some straight poles from the forest they would with long augers bore from each end until the holes were all the way through, then placing these timbers end to end and covering them with they brought fresh clean water into town.
The system had been abandoned before I lived there.
Van Wert should also be remembered as a place where Sam Jones, the great preacher and evangelist, preached his first sermon after he joined the Georgia Methodist conference. This writer was living there at the time. And it should also be remembered that Sam Jones was followed at that church by another young preacher who became almost as famous as Jones. That preacher was Dr. James. W. Lee.
It is just about 100 miles from Monroe to Van Wert and when we arrived I found myself somewhat confused about the direction and location. The highway was entirely new to me where it entered the town. But I soon discovered we were near the Methodist church and visited there first.
The home that my father had built was nearby and looked natural enough, but there were only two other housed that I could positively identify; these were the Kingsbury and Dr. Pearce homes. I could not ever tell just where the business part of town as I knew it was located; weeds, grass, bushes and trees covered the ground in the directions of the old schoolhouse and playground. And worst of all I couldn’t find the old road that lead to the little creek not far away where I first learned to swim.
Altogether the scene was a quite real illustration of Goldsmith Deserted Village.
So we turned our car to Rockmart, for I had reason to love Rockmart too. I had worked there a few month in 1873 for J.M. Arrington and S.K. Hogue. Their stores were in the same building. Then my father moved back to Walton County, and carried me with him.
Built in 1876 I was called back to Rockmart by Mr. S.K. Hogue, to take care of his drug store and the Rockmart post office in the same building while he taught school. I had a vision of the future of Rockmart and Van Wert, which I hope will someday come true. Rockmart will continue to grow; other industries will move in; in ten years maybe earlier, she will have a population of 10,000 or more.
Then the question of desirable residence sites will be uppermost in the minds of man. The better class of residents will want to get away from the business and industrial centers. The logical move will be in the direction of Van Wert and Van Wert will make an ideal residence section.
It is on higher ground than Rockmart; further from the creek, which I once saw turn into a mighty flood carrying away the bridge and doing considerable damage to nearby buildings, the mountain between Van Wert and Rockmart would shelter Van Wert from the cold west winds in the winter. Rockmart should enlarge incorporated limits and take Van Wert in, but let it retain its name as a section or suburb of Rockmart. A few fine homes built there would do wonders in attracting people to Rockmart for business or industrial pursuits. I have no person interest in Van Wert’s real estate, and maybe I am just dreaming; but if I were living at Rockmart I would buy a lot at Van Wert.
So here’s to the past generation; the bare foot boys who romped with me over the hills; knew all the swimming holes in the creek, killed snakes along its banks, and dared the edges of the cliffs above the slate quarries. If any of you are still living I salute you. And to the newer generation of Rockmart who has come upon the stage. I speed you my good will with the hope that your years may be passed with honor to yourselves and blessings to other.
Van Wert Methodist Church
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