John McDoanld a British official. One British officer described McDonald in his journal as “a worthy gentleman of whom the
(Cherokee) Nation at large spoke well. McDonald had lived among the Cherokees for several years and was married to a
In time Daniel Ross married McDonald’s daughter Mollie, and their oldest son was named John.
Around 1797 McDonald built a large log home at a gap in Missionary Ridge, and after John Ross’ mother died a few years
later he spent much of his time there with his grandfather.
In 1813 Ross became an adjutant second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the war
against the Creek Indians in Alabama.
A U.S. post office was established at the McDonald house in the gap in 1817. The office was designated as “Rossville” and
John Ross was the first postmaster.
Around this time he established a ferry and trading post on the Tennessee River on the site that eventually became Chattanooga.
After the death of his grandparents, John Ross sold his interest in the house,
but from this time forward it became commonly known as the John Ross House.
In 1828 the politically adept John Ross, the “Mysterious White Bird” who
couldn’t speak the Cherokee language, was elected as their principle chief.
In 1833 Walker County was established from a division of Murray County.
Walker itself would later be divided to also form Chattooga, Catoosa, Dade and
part of Whitfield County.
In that year a young Scottish trader named Daniel Ross was travelling down the Tennessee River and
was taken prisoner by the local Indians, a band of pro-British Cherokees.
The Chickamaugas, as they were known, intended to execute Ross, but he was spared at the request of
This website created on 06/16/2008 for the City of Rossville Georgia. History of Rossville
Copyright 2008 - 2012 City of Rossville GA. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
Walker County Messenger
Cherokee Chief John Ross, 1790-1866 The centennial of any
city is quite noteworthy for the things that happened during
the span of 100 years.
The city of Rossville has that century of history and more.
Before the city was incorporated by an act of the Georgia
General Assembly on Aug. 25, 1905, the history of the
settlement once known as Poplar Springs spanned back
another 120 years.
That was to 1785, when the area was primarily home to the
Cherokee Indians, and white settlers were still quite sparse.
Most citizens of Walker County felt the Union Army could be kept at bay in Chattanooga.
A prescient few, however, sensing the coming storm, took up their valuables and joined refugees
moving far south.
The John Ross House was used as a hospital for both armies at various times.
Rossville became the collection point for the Federals retreating from the Battle of Chickamauga.
One Federal infantryman stated in his post-war memoirs, “We
carried (our colleague) back to Rossville and left him in the old
Ross House. The house is still standing there yet. I have visited
it since the war. It is one of the landmarks of the war.”
In the spring of 1862 several of Andrews’ Raiders, the Union
spy group of 22 men that stole “The General” locomotive and
drove it from Kennesaw to Ringgold, were captured on
Lookout Mountain by a posse formed at the John Ross House.
Andrews and seven of his men, including a Union sergeant-
major coincidentally named Ross, were eventually hanged by
the Confederacy for treason.
The war effectively destroyed most of Rossville, and the
settlement languored into the early years of Reconstruction.
Some of the refugees who went to South Georgia remained
there, where the war’s hand had merely glanced and the
Federal “occupation” was less harsh.
The 1835 the Treaty of New Echota ceded all Cherokee lands in the east to the U.S. for $5 million
and “comparable land in the west.”
Chief Ross led those Cherokee who did not support the treaty and who wanted to stay in the area.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably toward them, but Ross’ former commander, now
President Andrew Jackson, wielded his power to ensure the removal of the Cherokee.
Despite tireless efforts on the part of Ross and others to avoid removal, the Treaty of New Echota
was finally enforced.
On Dec. 5, 1838, the last Cherokee emigration left for the West along the Trail of Tears.
After 1838, white settlers began a slow but steady flow into Walker County, many of them with
tracts won in the Georgia Land Lottery of 1832.
Thomas McFarland was a surveyor for the state assigned to the Rossville area. He bought an
unwanted title for land on which the John Ross House stood, became postmaster, and established
his family prominently in Rossville.
Chief John Ross
By the 1880s businesses and homes began building Rossville back up, and by the turn of the century it was again a bonafide
small town, with nearly 20 residences and a store.
In 1905 the city was incorporated and Peerless Woolen Mills was established. It was one of several textile mills that would
transform Rossville into a modern city.
Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker recently came across a document, while cleaning out his grandparent’s old house, that showed
they purchased it for $1,000 in 1915 from Richmond Hosiery Mill.
By the 1950s Peerless would become the largest single-unit mill in the world, leading America’s dominance of the textile market.
In November 1922, construction on the new South Rossville grammar-high school began. Nearly all of Rossville’s voters
approved an $80,000 bond issue to help pay for it.
A 1923 article in “School & Home” magazine praised it as one of the most notable buildings in Georgia. “The top of the main
part of the building is a great roof garden, with capacity to seat 1,700 people,” the article said. “The view... is most beautiful
John Ross House restored
In 1936 controversy abounded when John Ross House owner Gordon McFarland contracted to build a filling station in front of
The Daughters of the American Revolution, a former mayor, and the City Council all fought to prevent the construction.
A newspaper editorial stated, “Mere preservation of the house and grounds in their present state is not enough.”
But by the mid-1950s the house was sandwiched in by modern businesses and was in much disrepair.
The Chief John Ross House Association was formed and soon a campaign to restore the house was in full swing.
The restoration plans included dismantling and rebuilding the house about 150 yards toward Missionary Ridge, still on
the original site of the Ross homestead.
This was accomplished in 1962.
According to Larry Rose Sr., today’s association president, one mystery often debated among historians is the “Spirit
Room” on the second floor, which originally had no door or windows.
Rose says rumors of a secret passage also abounded through the years. During the move of the house a trap was
discovered and a short passage explored, but it could not be determined that it led anywhere.
Jewel Stafford’s account of Rossville history pores through city records kept since 1905. In her foreword she writes,
“A city history is much like a family history... The reader should accept the facts whether they are palatable or not.”
Indeed much of the city’s history revolves around two families — the Hutchesons and McFarlands — and how their
impact brought Rossville together like a family.
The records show the struggles of early Rossville’s mayoral administrations to combat the universal urban problems
inherent with transportation, sewerage, commerce and the like. “It hasn’t changed much in terms of the types of
things a mayor deals with,” Mayor Johnny Baker said.
Rossville grows up
Johnny Baker was a young boy during World War II. He remembers pastimes like riding his bicycle to Lake
Winnepesaukah. “That was the event — we’d spend all day there.”
He’d also help farm the vegetables on the family’s land and other small plots around town. “I could get a dollar for a
basket of okra at the Peerless Grocery — big money for a kid back then,” Johnny said.
Johnny’s dad worked at the Peerless Service Station, which had a lively retread tire business. “He’d drive all over to
pick up tires — Summerville, Trion bring them back for retreading and deliver them back the next week.”
Johnny accompanied him many times in a curious mode of transport. “We called it a Skeeter. It was a Model ‘A’
flatbed with a John Deere umbrella clamped to the dash to keep the sun out. It was little more than a seat and a gas
tank — no doors.”
Emma Connally remembers the days when you could buy a movie ticket, a drink and huge bag of popcorn at the Ritz
Theater — all for 50 cents. She also recalls going down to watch the polo games on the Army post in Fort
Oglethorpe. “They played in the field in the middle of Barnhardt Circle,” she recalled. She also recalls the many
independent mobile businesses — the coal man, the ice man, and one fellow who sold tacos for 5 cents.
“The coal man had a horse, and wagon that he filled at a depot in Chattanooga with coal from the mine up near
Whitwell,” recalls Fred North, brother of former Rossville Mayor Bill North. Fred, who like Emma now resides at the
South Rossville Senior Village (his old school), says he enjoyed his days of learning there. “But before school started
each year, my mother would buy two pairs of overalls for each of us,” Fred relates. “She made our shirts out of nice
material and would make us wear a danged tie with those overalls!”
Larry Rose remembers that firecrackers weren’t always illegal in Georgia. “In the early ‘50s we could go buy them at
a little stand out at South Crest Street and Highway 27.”
Rossville City Council member Nathan Bain recalled that Reeves Grocery and Restaurant across from the high school
was a popular hangout. “They had pinball machines and other stuff for kids to spend money on,” recalls Nathan.
“We’d meet there to take our girls to the dance.”
Other Rossville places for high schoolers were Houston’s Drive-In on the east side of U.S. 27 and another further
south on the other side owned by Jimmy Lusk.
“There was a mix of students from Rossville, Lakeview and Chattanooga Valley,” said Nathan, adding that the
competition often led to races and games of “chicken” in Chickamauga Park.
Johnny Baker went to work for Coca-Cola in 1958, and eventually was running the sales route through Rossville.
He said it took him a long time to convince Principal Hines to go with Coke instead of RC Cola at the high school.
Johnny continued, “Mr. Fowler, the next principle, had to deal with a new state law that said soft drinks weren’t
allowed to be sold in school cafeterias. But the revenue really helped the school, so Mr. Fowler knocked out a wall
behind the machines and turned them around so the drink sales wouldn’t be in the cafeteria.”
Rossville boomed during the war, as Peerless was the primary
manufacturer of blankets for the armed services.
Marie Allen, another Senior Village resident, said that during the war
scarcity of men meant that even some of the heavy jobs at Peerless
had to be performed by the women. “Those blankets were heavy,
and pulling them down off the rollers was hard work,” she said.
Peerless Woolen Mills had more than 3,000 employees in the 1950s,
and every person you talk to that remembers their time there will tell
you, “We were one big family.”
“Every Christmas the Peerless gym would be filled with toys,” recalls
Johnny Baker. “And every child whose parents worked at the mill
would receive two or three really nice toys. They weren’t junk,
either — these were toys that my parents couldn’t afford to buy at
John L. Hutcheson Sr., who was known by the Peerless employees as “Uncle Johnny,” was often present.
“He would be there every year he could,” recalls grandson Frank Hutcheson, now the president of Rossville Development
Frank, who grew up on the family farm in Happy Valley and graduated from McCallie, agrees he’s a country boy with a
city education. He began working at the mill at age 19, starting his education of the family business on the “bull gang”
which loaded and unloaded the trucks. “Then I worked in different departments to learn what was going on, and also
started half-days in the office to learn that end,” he said.
Hutcheson remembers hearing that his grandfather, mill founder John L. Hutcheson Sr., was good to his employees but
was very businesslike. “If he came upon someone doing something he didn’t like, he’d fire them. Usually the person kept
their job because he wouldn’t think to enforce his decision.”
Sports were big with the Hutchesons, and Peerless fielded several top-notch teams, notably basketball and baseball.
Johnny Baker’s dad was an ace pitcher who won hundreds of games for the Peerless baseball team. The big rivalries in
the baseball league were between Peerless, Combustion, Volunteer Ammo, and a team fielded by tow truck manufacturer
Holmes Co. called the Wreckers.
Peerless sponsored some Golden Gloves boxing competitions in the years after World War II, and Bill North used to
referee some of the matches.
“You can’t separate sports and Rossville,” said Nathan Bain. He remembers the Peerless basketball team playing the
Harlem Globetrotters many times in the 1950s. “And it seemed like the more sports you played, the better your job at
Peerless was,” he said.
Doris White began working at Peerless in 1951 and by 1962 she was secretary to the wool buyer. “My brother worked at
Peerless and was on the basketball team. He encouraged my husband and I to move from Sand Mountain, Alabama, to
Rossville.” And a good move it was for Doris. “I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had and the friendships I’ve
made in Rossville and Walker County for anything,” she beamed.
Johnny Baker remembers that the whistle at the mill could be heard all the way out to where his family lived on Park City
“The old whistle’s still there, and if they were to blow that thing today I wonder just how many people would show up.”
Arguably the most significant event in the city’s history is the massive fire that destroyed a third of the 1.5-million-square-
foot Rossville Development Corp. complex in the former Peerless plant.
In June 1967 a late-night blaze at the mill facilities grew to become one of the largest industrial fires in U.S. history.
Frank Hutcheson remembers exactly where it started. “It was in the Heritage Quilts factory, second floor of the No. 4
mill,” he recalled. A shorted-out electrical transformer caused the huge fire, leaving 1,400 workers at least temporarily
jobless and caused nearly $20 million in total damage.
Tragic circumstances like failed sprinklers, limited water pumping capacity for the fire companies, and the mill’s wooden
floors — soaked for years with wool lanolin and machine oil — contributed to the fire’s spread.
“The mill had its own fire brigade at the time, but communications weren’t as good as we’ve got today — no walkie-
talkies and such,” said Albert Hall, who now works as the maintenance shop supervisor for Rossville Development Corp.
Rossville Fire Chief Bill Eaves was a volunteer firefighter then and remembers coming home from the Kiwanis Club Horse
Show at the football field that night. “There was a great glow and smoke in the sky, so I came by the fire station,” said
Eaves. “We didn’t have much in the way of equipment back then — maybe six bunker coats and pairs of boots. One of
the two trucks was an old ’38 GMC.” Fire companies from cities as far away as Rome, Ga., answered the call for
According to a Chattanooga Times article the next day, Chattanooga’s fire companies weren’t initially called since their
department policy was to not move equipment outside the city limits. They eventually came, and Frank Hutcheson
remembers lending a hand to a Chattanooga company. “They were going to pump water out of the lake down here, but
couldn’t get their pump primed. I revved their engine so they could do that, then later the hose broke.”
“This fire burned so intense that some bystanders expressed fear that the world was coming to an end,” remembers Eaves.
“It took three days to get it mostly under wraps,” he said. “There were cleanup crews and mill workers spraying stuff
down for the next week as debris was pulled out.”
The most amazing statistic from the fire was that there were no fatalities. The extent of the casualties was one broken arm
and some blistered heels.
Rossville was renowned for its clothing stores, which attracted shoppers from Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain among
other places. “In the years before the war, some of the nicest shops in the area were right
in downtown Rossville,” said Bill North
Marie Allen remembers dances in the gym across from the mill for years. “It had beautiful hardwood floors. Even my kids
went to sock hops there.”
Doris White left Peerless in 1962 to work for Quilted Textiles Corp., which moved up to Polymer Drive in Chattanooga
after the 1967 fire. “I worked there for just a few months, but my heart was in Rossville, so I took a standing offer job at
Rossville Federal.” Doris, who was 1984’s Walker County Citizen of the Year, retired from the bank’s latter-day
incarnation, Banker’s First, in 1995.
Doris fondly remembers Mrs. June Miller, who started the Rossville Professional Women’s Club and was instrumental in
getting a public library started. “She was librarian for 25 years, and helped get the funds from the state to build the library
we have today in 1985,” Doris said.
The history of the textile industry in America is a big part of the history of Rossville. It goes from the industrial revolution
blossoming of one of the country’s most stable and lucrative product types into its heyday as a world leader in
But Rossville, like so many other towns built up around one industry, felt the inevitable downsizing of nearly one million U.
S. textile jobs in the last forty years.
Rossville has the kind of history that seems to cast a shadow across modern suburbia, one that might make people
consider how swiftly and fiercely small-town America has disappeared. But there will always be the history and heritage,
and for a season the living memories of those who have been part of the Rossville “family.” That seems a strong
foundation on which Rossville can continue building its
* “The Rossville Area in Walker County, GA — From the Earliest Times to the
Present” by E. Raymond Evans.
* “History of Rossville — 1905 to the Present” by Jewel Stafford
(published locally in 1982 by the Rossville Professional Women’s Club)
1785 – Daniel Ross captured by Cherokees near present-day Chattanooga.
1797 – Ross’ grandfather, John McDonald, built house on site that eventually became city of Rossville.
1814 – Ross fought the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend with Gen. Andrew Jackson.
1815 – Ross established a trading post, on the Tennessee River, that became known as Ross’ Landing,
1817 – U.S. post office established and designated “Rossville.”
1828 – Ross elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
1833 – Walker County established, with courthouse at Crawfish Springs.
1838 – Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears.
1861-65 – Civil War ravaged the South and Rossville.
1880s – Rossville began building up again.
1905 – City of Rossville incorporated on Aug. 25. Peerless Woolen Mills opened.
1923 – South Rossville consolidated grammar and high school opened,
1950s – Peerless Woolen Mills became largest single-unit mill in the world. Company merged with Burlington Industries.
1962 – Burlington closed Peerless after vote to unionize.
1967 – Fire ravaged Rossville Development Corp. mill complex.
1987 - Fire burns entire block of downtown Rossville.
2007 - Frank Hutcheson sell the Peerless Mill Complex
Notable in 1905, the year Rossville was incorporated
* In Berlin, Isadora Duncan opened the first school of modern dance.
* The Painesville, Ohio, Telephone Co. transmitted a music recital to 1,000
* In Pittsburgh the first nickelodeon movie theater opened. The concept grew
* Popular actors were first used to advertise a product, Murad Cigarettes.
* George Bernard Shaw’s play, “Man and Superman,” opened on Broadway.
* Max Weber wrote “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,”
challenging Karl Marx’ “Communist Manifesto.”
* Photography, printing, and mail combined in the year’s fad — picture
* A small advance that holds: the fountain pen adds a pocket clip.
* Albert Einstein’s “Special Theory of Relativity” is published.
Do you remember?
... The last days of streetcars in Rossville?
... The Peerless Inc. store?
... The mill events at the Hutcheson property on Chickamauga Lake?
... Houston’s Drive-In on Highway 27?
... “Uncle Johnny” Hutcheson?
... when the John Ross House was moved?
... The widening of U.S. 27?
... The JoAnn Shop? Personality?
To the early - pioneers of the City of Rossville, Georgia, who came into the area to build and make their homes, build roads, carry on
commerce, establish churches and schools, and establish superior civilization within the city.
To the later - present day citizens of the city, who have contributed, and are contributing their time and energies to the progress,
improvement and to the advancement of our city.
To the future - citizens of the city the citizens of tomorrow, children now or yet unborn, who must in the future wield the helm and
guide the ship and shape the destiny of the city, this history is reverently dedicated.
August 25, 2005 the City of Rossville, Georgia, celebrate its 100th birthday. Still young enough to look confidently towards the
future, yet old enough to claim a worthy past.
One day as I was sitting in the Rossville Library going through some old records of past events I rediscovered a book entitled “THE
HISTORY OF ROSSVILLE” written by Mrs. Jewel Stafford, dated 1982.
I contacted Mrs. Stafford and she invited me for a visit to her home. During my visit we spoke of her book and she related to me the
I contacted Mrs. Stafford and she invited me for a visit to her home. During my visit we spoke of her book and she related to me the
joy she had in writing it. As she said in her book “this has been a work of love”. As we spoke, I told her of my desire to have a
recorded history of our city from the Incorporation in 1905 to 2005 for the 100th year anniversary.
In 1982, Mrs. Stafford had a similar idea that motivated her to write the first and last recorded history of Rossville. She said in her
book “This project was my idea on the behalf of the Rossville Business & Professional Women’s Week Celebration”. She went on to
acknowledge other members that contributed their time in putting the research into print. Named were Bettye Dunwoody, National
businesswomen’s Week Chairman, Doris White and Mrs. June Miller, Club Historian.
Mrs. Stafford seemed delighted that someone had taken an interest in her work. I told her that my intent was to record the main
events during each Mayor’s term of office from 1909 to 2005. As we spoke she got up and left the room, returning with the draft
copy of her book and notes she had used during the in preparation. She said “here take them and use them as you see fit”.
Much of this book is copied from Mrs. Jewel Stafford’s History Book of Rossville dated October 1982. I do not attempt to take
credit but to give credit for the work she has done.
Mrs. Stafford’s book is no longer in print. It remains in a special section of the Rossville Library along with other magazine and
newspapers as archives.
Within the pages of this book one can take a glimpse of what country life was like for the early settlers. A bit of history of the area
as Spanish explorers came to this land inhabited by Indians. A story of a young Scottish orphan for which Rossville got it name. A
brief history of Thomas Gordon McFarland who came to Rossville, Georgia, raised a family and left many descendants to carry out
the family tradition. The industrial growth when in 1905 John L. Hutcheson, Sr., of Sweetwater, Tennessee established the Peerless
Woolen Mills. A time line of events during each Mayor’s term of office from 1909 to present as recorded in city records.
Lloyd Nathan Bain
January 1, 2005
In compiling a history of the City of Rossville, I have proceeded on the idea that a city history is much like a family history. It is, in
fact, a history of a very large family where everyone is more or less acquainted with each other. The reader should accept the facts
of any history whether they are palatable or not.
In a history of this nature it is possible to deal in details to a much larger extent than is possible in other histories and the readers will
discover that we have taken advantage of this possibility. You will also find articles, which may have no historical value to the
reader; this was done because of general interest.
COUNTRY LIFE ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
SOCIAL – CLOTHES – AMUSEMENT AND ENTERTAINMENT
CONVENIENCES AND INCONVENIENCES
Written by Jewel Stafford
Man has a very strongly marked social instinct. Whether at work or at play he has always enjoyed the association of others. They
seem to flock with others more often than remain alone. This proclivity has a marked effect on their lives and customs. Of
necessity a man’s working hours often isolate him, but when the time permits he likes companionship of others.
The countryman was necessarily more secluded than his city cousin. His work called him apart from others. During his working
hours he was alone and only had his thoughts for companionship. The urbanite, on the other hand, worked much of his time in the
company of others with whom he could discuss the events of the day and other matters. The ruralist was; therefore, more secluded,
distant, non-communicative and inclined to take council with his own thoughts. He lived close to nature, associated with the Great
Open, and was influenced by the wildlife around him. He would take note of the movements of the winds and clouds and this would
be his main topic of conversation. He was an early riser, rarely did he fail to be up and doing by four in the morning, winter and
summer. His thrifty wife prepared breakfast by lamplight. The children were all seated around the table to partake of the morning
meal; there was no second meal for late sleepers. It was not unusual to find eight to twelve children in each family.
Someone once said that “mother” is the sweetest, dearest work in our language. Maybe so, but it seems to me that “motherhood”
should be ranked at least second. Motherhood, implies not only a willingness to bear children and rear children, but indicates an
inward feeling of real duty to do so, a sense of duty performed. The word seems to imply a plurality, and not simply duality. It
implies an obligation and indicates some sacrifices of concrete things; but in the sense of duty well done, it fully repays all sacrifices.
Roman history contributes an incident furnishing a striking example of the high esteem in which motherhood was held among the
ancients. It relates that, upon a time, a bevy of matrons of the upper class was assembled at the home of one of their number, when
it happened, that they were discussing their jewels. Each one, of course, was showing with pride some valuable personal ornament
and giving its history, all except one, who, sitting somewhat apart from the others, seemed to take little interest in the conversation.
At length someone asked her to show her jewels, whereupon she stepped to the door and called into the room two chubby, sun-
tanned, and dirty boys; throwing her arms around them and implanting kisses on their cheeks, said, “These are my jewels”.
Excuse this disgression and I shall return to the subject. The morning meals would consist mainly of hot biscuits, ham, bacon or
chicken with gravy, eggs, butter and syrup, and coffee. The mother knew from experience what it took to feed her family.
Ten or twelve growing boys and girls, besides the husband would consume nearly a bushel of hot biscuits, and there would be very
little left over for the dog.
The noonday meal, or dinner, as it was called on the farms of our fore parents, was served at 11:30 a.m. This meal consisted of one
or more vegetables in season, with a generous slice of boiled meat, a huge “cobbler” pie made from some of the orchard products,
corn bread and buttermilk. The buttermilk had been cooling since early morning in the cellar or springhouse. If a visitor happened in,
some extra dish would appear on the table.
There were never any elaborate preparations, made for the evening meal (supper) and this meal was always served before dark.
Fresh cornbread might have to be made but the other food was “left-overs” from noon.
The farmer, being an early riser was likewise early to bed, often before dark. The day’s work done, horses fed, hogs slopped, and
wood chopped, he was ready to rest his tired limbs.
The children, having completed their evening chores, would engage in some simple game for a short while, and they too, would be
ready for bed by dark. Last of all, the wife, after seeing that all was well with her brood, would be ready for some rest after sixteen
hours of activities.
On Sunday mornings the father would rise at the usual time, but the wife and children would have the luxury of thirty minutes extra
sleep. After the morning meal was over everybody donned his or her “Sunday” clothes that had been laid out the night before for the
special day of the week, Church. Everyone would go, not from necessity, but for pleasure. The family had been isolated for a
week, so there was a hungering to see friends and neighbors, as well as to engage in worship. There was a hustle and bustle to get
ready in order to be on time for church.
Transportation to church was the two-horse wagon filled with chairs. Everyone except the oldest boys rode in the wagon; they
would go by horseback hoping that they could pick up a neighboring swain to mount behind them for a ride to the church. Naturally,
there had been some advance notice to the girls in a bashful, shy way. Everyone liked to arrive at the church about thirty minutes
before service time in order to learn about community happenings, sicknesses, marriages, etc. Most of the conversations were about
The service was always a spiritual one. The preacher’s prayers, exhortations and sermons were convincing and he held his audience
in rapt attention to the last word. The crying baby did not interrupt either the preacher or the people.
The afternoons were spent reading and visiting. The children would enjoy the freedom of the woods or the “old’ Swimming Hole”.
Sunday was no time to do any work.
CLOTHES: The clothing of our forebearers was quite different from that to which we are accustomed. The mode changes from
year to year. At this period of time it was necessary to wear home made cotton clothes. Most men and boys wore homemade
cotton pants and coats. Sunday wear was an especially nice piece of material used for the father and the boys.
Feminine clothes have undergone the greatest evolution. In these early years the skirts were very large at the bottom and narrowed
sharply to the waist; hoops were worn under the skirts. The skirts were about three yards around the bottom. The ladies were really
fond of ribbons. Their waist, chest, arms or hair was sure to be adorned with fancy ribbons. Wide brimmed straw hats decked with
ribbon and artificial flowers were their headdresses. Later came the “bustle” fad. This was a “spring-like” arrangement placed at the
back near the hips, which made the skirt stand out at this point.
After the “bustle” came the slitted skirt and finally the short skirt so familiar to us today. The evolution from the hoop skirt to the
short-skirt takes in the whole gamut of possibilities…. a complete evolution.
AMUSEMENTS AND ENTERTAINMENTS: There were few amusements or entertainment in the life of our forebearers. Every
day was a workday. There were houses and barns to be built, fields to be cleared, rails to be split and fences built and a hundred
other duties to be performed. Almost every farmer “knocked off” on Saturday at noon so they could go hunting or fishing.
CONVENIENCES: There were few conveniences in the homes, even among the upper class, both in town and country. The log
houses generally consisted of two large rooms and a hallway between, and a back room, which was used for a kitchen and dining
room. One of the large front rooms was kind of a parlor where company was entertained. It contained among other furniture two
beds, one that was to be used for company. The other large room also contained two beds besides a trundle bed, which was pushed
under the large bed during the day and at night was drawn out to be occupied by two or three of the smaller children. There might
be a bed upstairs in the attic, to which the larger boys ascended by means of a ladder nailed to the side of the house and entered
through a trap door. It was the custom of the father to call these boys down from their perch every morning about four o’clock to
build a log fire before the rest of the family arose.
At first there were no stoves and the cooking was done at the fireplace. An oven with biscuits would be placed on a bed of red-hot
coals and a lid placed on the oven with other hot-coals on it. The mother always sat at the head of the table; the father sat next to her
followed by the oldest boy or girl and so on to the foot of the table. The small children sat on a bench behind the table.
The first school in north Georgia was for the Daniel Ross children living with their McDonald grandparents in what is now know as
the John Ross House, others besides the
Ross children were asked to join the group for private tutoring. The Ross children went on to higher education.
The early settlers built their homes in the vicinity of a natural spring of water. The barn and other out-houses were built at a distance
from the house. Often the wife would have to go half a mile to the spring or branch to do the family wash. The members of the
family did not expect an elaborate dinner on wash days as the greater part of the day would be spent at the spring.
INCONVENIENCE: The early settlers had no lamps for light as a rule. Very few had candles. They used pine knots for lights.
Later the tallow candle made its appearance and people began to use that light on special occasions. The first lamps used were brass
lamps with round wicks and no globes. They smoked terribly and the unpleasant odor from them was sickening. Later the small
glass lamps with globes came into use which I am sure was a great improvement.
In those days when there were few conveniences about the home the housewife was literally going from before daylight until dark.
There was always something to be done.
Breakfast over and the men folks off to the fields, the wife must lose no time if she was going to have everything ready for the noon
meal. First there were several cows to be milked, then the milk had to be strained and placed away for cooling. Next the dishes
from breakfast had to be washed as well as the milk vessels. Following this was the churning, molding of the butter and arranging
the milk in a cook place for the noon time meal. Next came the bed making, the house sweeping, the dusting and other little things to
Before she hardly had these chores finished she was preparing to gather her food for the noon meal. She would make a visit to the
garden for some vegetables, another trip to the orchard for fruit for that delicious “cobbler” and various collections to add to the mid-
day meal. All this gave her many weary steps.
The following incident really happened: The husband with his helpers, had hurried away after a hardy breakfast to the field where he
was busy trying to put his crop in good shape. His wife, such as one I’ve just described, in the meantime was doing her best to do
all her various household duties so as to have all ready for his return at dinner hour.
She had reached the churning duty and was busy at the well house. The husband appeared to get some tools he had left. Seeing his
wife finishing the churning, washing and salting the fine yellow butter in a large bowl, he noted her flushed face and a rather worried
look. He paused a moment and remarked that she looked like a peach and that he knew she could make the best butter of any woman
in all the countryside. That was all, he hurried away, but that was enough.
His wife was happy. She forgot her worries, her steps were brisker, her smiles were radiant and her appearance denoted happiness
all that day. At dinner hour she wore a freshly ironed apron and displayed a bouquet of extra nice flowers on the table. Could we
accept his remarks as a compliment today?
HISTORY OF ROSSVILLE
Historians tell us at one time this area was level with the surrounding mountains. The artifacts from ancient mounds are in the
museum at the University of Tennessee. The fossilized marine life specimens prove that water washed through, carrying away softer
soil sections, leaving the mountains and limestone ridges.
In 1540, DeSota, the Spanish explorer with conquest and colonization in mind, passed through this wilderness, then inhabited by
Indians. More than a century later, France claimed title to all of the land drained by the Mississippi River. In 1760, a small band of
hunters led by Elisha Walden explored the mountain later known as Lookout.
The Cherokee Indians occupied 40,000 square miles of land, which is now part of Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee,
Virginia, and Georgia. Our area was the last released by the Cherokees to the white man.
HOW ROSSVILLE GOT ITS NAME
In 1785, a young Scottish orphan on board a boat from Baltimore to this region to exchange merchandise for furs was captured by
the Chickamaugus Indians. Mr. John McDonald, Assistant Superintendent of British interest and a Scottish trader pled for his life.
John McDonald’s wife was Anna Storey, a half-breed Cherokee. So much interest was taken in this young man, Daniel Ross, that
he was invited to remain with them and establish a trading post.
A year later, Ross married Mollie, daughter of his rescuer, John McDonald and his Cherokee wife. Their marriage was the first to be
recorded in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Daniel and Mollie Ross had nine children, John being the third child and the oldest son.
The date of his birth was October 3, 1790 at Turkey Town on the Coosa River opposite the present Centre, Alabama.
For forty-five years Daniel Ross, highly respected by Cherokees, carried on his business.
In 1797 John McDonald built his home now known as the John Ross House. Daniel and Mollie were living at the time near the foot
of Lookout Mountain on Chattanooga Creek. In 1803 because of the death of his mother, John Ross, with his brothers and sisters,
came to live with his McDonald grandparents in the house which later look his name.
Before John McDonald’s death in 1824, followed a year later by his wife, Anna, he gave over all the Trading Post rights to John
Ross. The business his brother Lewis and a partner, Timothy Meigs. The business located on the Tennessee River at the present
Market Street Bridge was known as Ross’ Landing.
Missionaries played an important part in the Cherokee history. One was employed to teach in the Ross home. John Ross took the
faith of the Methodist, was a Mason, and was a man of wealth, education, and refinement. He was one-eight Cherokee and seven-
eight Scottish. At the age of nineteen was sent with an important message by Colonel Jonathan Returu Meigs to the Western branch
of the Cherokee Nation in Arkansas. He served under General Andrew Jackson in war against the Creeks, Senator to the National
Council of the Cherokee Nation, October 26, 1818. Served as President to Senate until 1826. The following year, he was President
of the Convention, which adopted the Constitution for the Cherokee Nation. From 1828 until the removal of the Indians from this
territory in 1837, he remained Chief of the Eastern Cherokees. From 1839-1866 until the time of his death he was principal chief of
the United Cherokee Nation. John Ross’ wife Quatio died on the Indian “Trail of Tears” to the west. She was buried at Little Rock,
Arkansas. He fought in vain to hold this, their native land.
John Ross’ second marriage, seven years later, was to Mary Bryan Slaper of Wilmington, Delaware, daughter of Quaker merchant of
Philadelphia. His death was in 1866 while on a business trip to Washington, D.C. for his people.
The McFarland brothers, X.G. and Thomas, were sent by the State into this area in 1832 to survey for the ninth district of Walker
County. Three years later theey returned to make this their permanent home.
In the 1830’s the Central of Georgia Railroad was built from Savannah to Macon with 191 miles of iron track. It was named the
largest railroad in the world under one management. In 1901 the Central of Georgia bought the Chattanooga Rome and Savannah
Railroad which connected Chattanooga and Carrollton, passing through Rossville. This Railroad was built in 1885.
In 1837 a Post Office was established named Rossville, honoring John Ross, the first postmaster, serving about 1819. Mail was
brought by stage coach which traveled from Nashville to Augusta, Georgia and delivered about every two weeks. Chattanooga was
then called Ross Landing and few that lived there came to Rossville for their mail.
In 1860 this voting district covered fifteen miles. At the election for secession out of more than 100 votes only one was cast in favor
of secession, but when Georgia seceded, nearly all in the section went with her. There were nine Rossville boys enlisted, two
During the Civil War most of the families living here went to South Georgia, since Rossville was the center of activities of both
armies. Nearly everything was destroyed. In 1879 businesses and homes began to rebuild and by 1900 there were 17 residences,
one brick store, the Dave Hixson Store.
Back Ground Picture of Poplar Springs, area for which the city was once named.
In 1893 a charter was granted for a Masonic Lodge, there were ten charter members.
The City of Rossville today is no longer an industrial dominated community, but diversified in many fields of industries and
commercial establishments. The Peerless Woolen Mill is closed, and along with it other related industries have gone. There are a few
industries left but nothing like it was in the past. Some of the old established business still exists, such as Sherrill’s TV, Brody’s
Jewelry, Best Jewelry, Rossville Bank, Brock Insurance, Roy’s Restaurant, and Dream Cream to name some. After a fire that
destroyed nearly a block of downtown a large part of downtown has been replaced with a strip mall. The fine clothing stores that
once made Rossville the place to shop, such as Hixson’s Men Store, The Jo Ann Shop, Vassey’s Men Store, and Personality and the
LaDean have long been closed. They have been replaced with Pawn shops, Second Hand Merchandise stores, and Mom and Pop
business with few exceptions. The Mayor and City Officials struggle daily with ways to attract new business to the community.
Rossville’s Oldest Family
The descendants of John Buie McFarland constitute one of the pioneer families of the City of Rossville.
John Buie McFarland
1845 – Sept 20, 1885
When the ideals of people is epitomized in an individual, and that individual is a true son of the “Old South”, and the father of three of
the first four mayors of Rossville, and one who was a man of vision, standing unflinching for the development of the highest
standard of citizenship and a supporter of all movements for progress – it is eminently fitting that Thomas Gorden McFarland, should
be featured in the “History of Rossville”.
This is a brief history of Thomas G. McFarland who came to Rossville , Georgia, raised a family and left many descendants to carry
out the family tradition. He was the son of John Buie and Sallie Ann Gorden McFarland, of Cumberland County, North Carolina.
The McFarlands were of Scotch parentage.
In the year 1832, Thomas Gorden and Xanders Gorden McFarland, young surveyors, were sent, by the state, to what is now
Rossville, Georgia known then as Cherokee county, to survey and did survey the ninth district and fourth section, now Walker and
Catoosa counties. They met Chief John Ross and became friends. In 1835 they returned bringing another brother, Columbus
Duncan, to settle. They engaged in the mercantile business, selling goods to the Indians and the few white settlers.
Thomas Gorden McFarland bought the John Ross House from a Rev. Scales, who had won it in a land lottery. Chief John Ross had
established a post office in his home, so when Thomas G. purchased the house he continued the postal service in his home for many
years, but eventually the service was discontinued. During a part of this discontinuance an office was established on the Tennessee
side called Divine, which in turn was abolished and Rossville again took its place.
The three McFarland brothers lived in the John Ross House until Thomas G. married Elizabeth Anderson of Sequatchie Valley,
Tennessee. He and his bride lived in the John Ross House. To this union were born six children: Josiah Anderson, First mayor of
Rossville, 1905-1909; John McNair, Mayor, 1909-1910: Thomas Foster, Mayor, September 1911-1912; Martha Jane, Sallie Ann and
John McNair McFarland is the only bachelor mayor since the city was chartered.
When in 1861 the battle raged, a part of the John Ross House was used for hospital purposes to both the Northern and Southern
soldiers. It was for this reason the John Ross House was no burned during Sherman’s march to sea.
Elizabeth McFarland, like many southern women, helped to nurse the sick and wounded, until she became ill with camp fever.
Thomas G. was very depressed over the death of his wife. Late in 1863, with his six motherless children it was necessary, for their
protection, gathered his few remaining slaves and started the long wagon trek to Thomas County in the southern part of Georgia.
The cannons roared so near he hastily gathered family possessions together, plus food and clothing to carry them through.
The McFarland Family returned to the area soon after the Civil was ended. In the spring of 1876, on a bleak cold day, he came face
to face with what remained of his home and land. He was no longer a young man when he realized he was burdened with security
debts to the men he had befriended, many of whom the war had impoverished. Thomas G. was forced to sell 640 acres of his land
here to pay those debts.
Several years before his death Thomas Gordon McFarland divided his land between his five children, lots were sold, still the growth
of Rossville was slow, someone conceived the idea of bringing industry to the village, John McNair McFarland gave land for the Park
Woolen Mills. These lots were at the corned of Chickamauga and West Gordon Avenues.
The largest and most cherished gift that members of this McFarland family gave was in the form of money left by the wills of John
McNair McFarland and Mattie McFarland Thomas for aid in building a new Methodist Church in Rossville. The church was to be
known as Thomas Gordon and Elizabeth Anderson McFarland Memorial Methodist Church, the parents of the donors. The new
church was built on the site of the Thomas Gordon McFarland family cemetery on the hill overlooking the City of Rossville, and is
the same site where the McFarland United Methodist is located now. Before the church could be built, the remains of those who
were buried there were moved to a new family plot in the Forest Hills cemetery.
The descendents of Thomas Gordon McFarland sold the John Ross McFarland home to Neal and Preston Morgan, after having
owned it for more than 100 years. The Morgan Brothers later sold it to the John Ross Association. The association moved the house
to its present location.
Other families living in Rossville at the time it was chartered, on record, were: W.D.B.Chambers, Harbart Cook, S.F. Blaylock, Ernest
Cook, Henry Stanley, C. E. Cooper, J. P. Hixon, Joseph Au, Wiley Wall, R.B. Stegall, Alex Martin, T.H. Fowler, John McClain, J.B.
Henderson. I am sure there were others; any omission is not intentional
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History of Rossville
Incorporated August 25th 1905
1905 - 2005
Last Updated 07/23/2015