Head, a local historian of the 1862 rail chase involving Union raiders and The General and The Texas locomotives, spoke about what he believed were the lesser known aspects of the chase, such as how Bartow County had the greatest amount of activity during the chase as well as the greatest amount of railroad track involved: 42 percent of the total.
Head also gave guests a brief history lesson on how The General came back to Georgia after 90 years of being displayed in Chattanooga, Tenn.
In the early 19th century, Head explained, merchants were looking for faster ways to move their goods to export markets such as Europe. Businessmen in the South began building a railway linking Memphis, Tenn., to Chattanooga, Tenn., and then to Atlanta and later Augusta, where the Savannah River would move the goods to Savannah itself. Two railroads began working in Tennessee and Georgia. However, as construction began to wrap up, representatives in both states realized they had not made plans to link Atlanta and Chattanooga.
“So Georgia was just completing this project. They, Tennessee, had finished their project,” Head said. “Now we were in north Georgia and said, well, if you will pass an act, Tennessee, we’ll finish construction, and they were delighted. But we wanted something in return.
“We wanted 40 miles of right of way and 12 acres of land in Chattanooga, and that’s where Union Station was built and designed. So for 90 years, The General was sitting on our property.”
Before Head gave his talk, United Community Bank President Gary Floyd remarked on the city’s recovery after the January tornado. He said the way the community banded together was something other communities hoped to emulate.
“We have 114 other locations and several of those locations have contacted me over the last several months asking questions concerning our town, our leaders and our prospects for the future,” Floyd said. “Yes, they would love to be in our position. Now, they don’t want a tornado, but they do want the belief their community would pull together for each other.”
Adairsville school representatives also spoke, quickly highlighting upcoming events. Christy Ridley, a teacher at Adairsville Middle School, announced this year’s Pink Out at Adairsville High School, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 25. Participants are asked to wear something pink and the event will spell out the word “cure.” A new event, a 5K run, will follow Oct. 26 at 8 a.m.
AHS Principal Bruce Mulkey also spoke on his school’s student media project, which broadcasts the school’s sports events online. The same program, he said, also broadcasts graduation. Mulkey hoped a class focusing on broadcasting could start next year.
As he concluded his talk, Head challenged the local businesses and governments to work together for the next Great Locomotive Chase project.
“We have bragging rights. We need to be aware of them. I’ve told you what they are, so now I’m going to leave you a Texas-size challenge,” he said. “We need to band together in this county. Adairsville needs to lead the way. Cartersville needs to help. We need to get together. We need to work with Tellus. We need to bring The Texas to Bartow County.”