I love coming across old books, especially if they are about Georgia and even more so if they feature Dalton and Whitfield County in some way. Someone recently gave me an old textbook titled “Geography of Georgia." The book is so old that the picture of Stone Mountain on the cover doesn’t have any rebels carved on it yet. It’s an entire textbook just about Georgian geography.
Do they even teach that much about Georgia these days? It’s a 1961 third edition based on a 1950 original and a 1958 reprint. The update includes information from the 1960 census. It was published by the Harlow Publishing Co. based in Oklahoma City and Chattanooga.
In a preface, author Edward S. Sell thanks some of the folks that helped make the book possible by providing information or photos. It gives some insight into lesser known organizations in the state that existed then.
For example, thanks is given to director of the Georgia Agricultural Extension Service. And there’s the conservationist of the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture. These are a couple of places your tax dollars go to that help agriculture be the No. 1 business in Georgia even if you never personally use those services. At that time the State Department of Geology produced a publication called “The Physical Geography of Georgia” that was consulted for this textbook. Other contributors included the Public Service Commission, the State Highway Planning Commission and the Georgia State Chamber of Commerce. Delta Air Lines also gets a thank you for help on the chapter on transportation.
Other contributors can be found in the list of picture acknowledgements. Thanks is given to the Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Rome and Savannah chamber of commerces for providing photos. There is also the Georgia State Chamber of Commerce as well as the Georgia State Department of Commerce that contributed. You can never have too much commerce. And speaking of commerce, private corporations like Delta, Lockheed and the Seaboard Railroad also pitched in for the school kids.
The contents page runs through the areas the book covers starting with history and overviews of land and water, soils, climate, population and agriculture in general. Then it goes through specifics like cotton, corn, fruits and nuts, farm animals and poultry, minerals, forests, transportation and industry.
Overall, this book promises a good snapshot of Georgia ... from 60 years ago. The introduction to the book talks about Georgia’s mild winters, long growing seasons and plentiful rainfall and how where we live greatly influences how we live. Georgia’s climate ranges from the (occasionally) snowy mountains in the north, through the Piedmont of the middle of the state to the flat farmlands down south and the sub-tropical coastal climate around Savannah.
It even talks about how some factories are moving south because operating costs can be less here due to the climate. The intro also covers soil, soil quality and soil erosion. That’s a problem that’s plagued Georgia since almost the beginning. Cotton really takes the nutrients out of the ground and that can lead to soil erosion. In 1960, the state was still working to educate and switch farmers over to modern agricultural methods that would improve the soil for crops and livestock.
Following that is a brief history of the state and I learned a few things I didn’t know. Gen. Oglethorpe, who founded and first settled the state, bought the land from the Indians wherever he started settlements. He made treaties with various Indian tribes including the Cherokee, as the original land grant from England included our area. The first mention of what directly affects us is in this history as it states that Minister George Whitefield came to Georgia in 1738 and preached to the settlers and the Indians. Whitfield County is named for him (the spelling has changed to reflect the pronunciation). Another interesting fact is that from the establishment of Georgia, the thirteenth colony, in 1732 until 1747, slavery and rum were both outlawed. Only after Oglethorpe returned to England did the laws change.
Breaking down the state
Following are colorful maps showing different breakdowns of the state such as elevation, topography, towns and cities and different soil regions. In case you’re wondering, in this book we are in the Valley Region of the northwest and on the soil map we are in the Limestone and Valley Region.
In a brief section on the Valley Region the book describes the area as having valley floors between 600 to 800 feet above sea level while the mountaintops are from 1,000 to 2,000 feet high. The valleys were formed from the different types of rock that form the foundation. Limestone and shale areas, which are easily eroded, form the valleys. The mountaintops are hard rock and in the middle are sandstone and sandy shale. The mountains here are the tail end of the Appalachians that go all the way up into Maine. The section states that legumes grow well in the limestone-based soil, legumes being things like clover, beans, peas and alfalfa.
For river flow, Whitfield County is on the watershed divide between the Chattahoochee River to the south and the Tennessee River to the North. The dividing ridge runs up near Varnell. Mill Creek, Coahulla Creek and the Conasauga River flow south and eventually southwest on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
In the next section dealing with soils and soil erosion, our Valley Region is described as having, among others, silty clay loams and clays, silty clay and clay subsoils. I’m getting the idea we have a lot of clay around here.
The subsoil's color comes in varieties from gray to yellow to — surprise! — red. And the surface drainage is described as good to “excessive," but it doesn’t say what “excessive” means. Soil erosion has been a major concern in the state's history with the high rainfall in our hilly region. They used to plow up and down the hills but have finally switched to contour plowing. In this 1961 textbook they show where farmers are still planting rows of kudzu to help with soil erosion in the fields. There’s also a picture of a bulldozer in nearby Chickamauga Creek clearing out the stream bed to make for less flooding and a better channel. I don’t know about the guy on the tractor but that creek still floods.
Regarding temperatures and how they affect our area, there are several maps to convey that info. At that time the average temperature in January in Whitfield County was about 41 degrees, and in July about 78 degrees. The average date for the first killing frost for Whitfield County was Oct. 25, but when it came to the last killing frost in the spring Whitfield County is divided into three regions! These dates range from April 5 to April 15. And the growing season here is over 200 days with over 50 inches of rain annually. In the population chapter Whitfield County is shown as having gained population from 1950 to 1960 while about half of the counties lost population.
In general agriculture in 1961, cotton is no longer king as poultry production outranks it in income. Machinery was growing on the farms, as the text points out, that by 1960 horses and mules were rapidly disappearing from the farms as work animals. The book also points up the growth of electricity on the farms and that TV antennas can now be seen on many farmhouses allowing the farmer and his family to be just as well informed as “his city friend." One map shows that 1,000 acres of farmland in Whitfield County at the time were planted in wheat.
Closer to home
In the industry section, Dalton and Whitfield County come into play. Whitfield County shows up on a map as one of the “industrial counties." There’s a map specifically for chenille manufacturing. A handful of counties have one company. But Whitfield County stands out with 49, and four cotton mills. And Whitfield also shows up on maps featuring freezer locker plants (for flash freezing foods) and meat curing plants.
The chapter on Georgia towns and cities features Dalton in the medium-sized cities category, being towns at the time that had between 10,000 and 20,000 citizens. Dalton is described as being 710 feet above sea level and having a 1960 population of 17,868.
It is (as you already know) the county seat of Whitfield County. It’s pointed out that the city was first called Cross Plains in 1837 and then Dalton in 1847. In a note that seems an understatement now, it is described as being best known for being the center of the tufted textile industry and other textiles.
It then relates the story of the industry beginning in 1900 when “a young farm girl," Catherine Evans, sold a hand-tufted bedspread for $2.50. As other Dalton women joined in, by 1920 the tufting art had become “quite popular” in the area. The book then points out that machinery does the work these days. And in a nod to Dalton Utilities, it states that Dalton buys electricity and natural gas and then resells to customers in the area. Under the counties, the list of products for Whitfield are listed as: cotton, corn, hay, rugs, bedspreads, hosiery, tiles, chairs, bricks and talc.
All in all, we make a pretty good showing in the “Geography in Georgia” textbook of 1961!
Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.