The Rockmart Journal – 1975
Submitted by Wanda Crabb Pannell
“National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution. DAR PROGRAM 3.
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, 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.”
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 bu. to the acre.” “Little attention paid to education. Roads 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.”