29 June 2010

Book Review: "History of Atlanta, Georgia"

History of Atlanta, Georgia: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers is a book edited by Wallace P. Reed and published in 1889 by D. Mason & Co. of New York. Ancestry.com digitized and placed it online as part of their subscription service about five or so years ago. Google digitized it in 2006.

The preface written by Mr. Reed tells of the time in Atlanta's history:
THE fact that Atlanta is comparatively a young city will doubtless lead many to the conclusion that her annals are short and simple, and in such shape as to give a historian very little trouble.

It did not take long for the author of this work to find that it was a more difficult matter to obtain the facts and figures illustrating the growth and progress of Atlanta than would have been the case if he had attempted to write the history of a much older city. The presence among us of many of the old pioneers and early settlers, strange to say, has heretofore stood in the way of a systematic record of the city's onward march. Various suggestions, made from time to time, in regard to the organization of a Historical Society met with but little favor. Few citizens recognized the benefit of such a society, when they and their neighbors recollected nearly every important event that had occurred since the settlement of the place.
Mr. Reed goes on to state that he conferred with nearly all of the older citizens while compiling information for the book and obtained access to about twenty years' worth of files from the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer, as well as other newspapers. Mr. Reed believed that Atlanta's history was unique among the South because "The rapid growth of the city before the war; its rough experience between contending armies; its heroic defense in a siege of forty days; its occupation by Sherman; its complete destruction by his troops; its rebuilding; its active part in reconstruction, and its solution of the material, economic, and educational problems, incident to all cities, cannot fail to interest thoughtful readers."

The first few chapters, consisting of less than ten pages, deal with Atlanta's early history and removal of the Cherokees. Chapter 4 details the early white settlers. Noted settlers from 1844 to 1850 are listed. Chapters 5 and 6 are about the municipal history leading up to the Civil War. Chapters 7 through 13, well over 100 pages, are all about the Civil War and Reconstruction. Chapter 14 is again a municipal history leading from the war period to the then present time (1888). Law, medicine, education, religion, the press, banking, the railroad, trade, and manufacturing are discussed over the next several chapters. Each one including sketches of the individuals prominent in those areas.

Part II contains fifty more biographies. Some surnames are Adair, Calhoun, Goode, Inman, Lochrane, Norcross, Powell, Smith, and Van Winkle. This is but a small fraction of the names included in this section and especially this entire work. Illustrations regarding more than 40 individuals are included as well.

I've read most, if not all, of this book on Ancestry. Pages here and there in conjunction with research, and I do agree with Mr. Reed -- "it cannot fail to interest thoughtful readers."

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