SOME BRIEF HISTORY AND REMINISCENCES OF TRENTON
BY JOHN L. CASE
TAKEN FROM THE DADE COUNTY TIMES, 1938
On December 21, 1840, Salem was made permanent county seat of Dade. The incorporated limits embraced all the land purchased by the County’s Inferior Court for said seat. The same act incorporated the town, giving five commissioners to be elected.
One year and one day after passage of this act another was passed changing the name Salem to Trenton , making no other changes whatever. There were church and camp grounds in the state bearing the name, hence, the change.
But why Trenton? Neither tradition nor history tells us. It had been customary in the early days to name new towns after some battle of the Revolution. It is this scribe’s guess that our Trenton was named after the Battle of Trenton, as maybe were the many other Trentons. Lexington, Kentucky, and Lexington, Virginia, were both named after the first battle of the Revolution, Lexington.
The town was incorporated in 1854 with the following commissioners: James M. Hill, Robert L. Hawkins, Horace Lindsey, William C. Sharock and Manoes Morgan. Its charter was repealed in 1859, rechartered in 1872, incorporated as a city in 1935 and has been the City of Trenton ever since, with I. H. Wheeler its first mayor.
An act in 1857 created Trenton Male and Female Academy. The Trenton Lodge was incorporated in 1853-4. This lodge bought the academy in 1858, and owned it since.
The Presbyterian Church was built in 1859 and was incorporated the same year.
For a certainty, Trenton has had three jails and three courthouses. The present jail and courthouse are modern and practically new (1938).
The courthouse and all records with the jail were burned by Union soldiers during the Civil War, as we Emanuel Mann’s dwelling and storehouse, located on about the same spot where my store now stands.
There is some evidence that Dade had a courthouse burned prior to 1854.
Robert and Ben Hawkins built in 1852, or there about, the storehouse in the north part of public square now known as Case and Cole store building. These same men a little before this time, built the dwelling just north of this store, and known now as the Tatum dwelling. On the south central part of the square stands the Old Drusilla Taylor dwelling, and tradition has it that this is really the oldest building in the town.
Some other old buildings standing all remodeled and renovated, are: The Webb Taum old home where Dr. Humphreys lived long ago, the B. F. Pace dwelling on Sulphur Springs Hill and the Bell House, now owned by I. H. Wheeler, often was fictitiously referred to as the “Belly” House. The J. G. Jacoway home, one-half mile north, was built and occupied by him in 1858. The B. F. Pace tan yard was constructed before the Civil War; Case and Cole’s Yard, later. W. I. Price’s dwelling stands on the old Pace yard site. In the early days these Tan Yards did a big business; much finished leather was shipped.
The first gin in Trenton and Dade was built and operated by James A. Case in the early 1880’s. The gin was run by horsepower, the bailing done by manpower. This scribe lost gallons of sweat, as a lad, working in this old gin.
The railroad reached Trenton just prior to the Civil War days. This fact, together with its physical location, made the town not only lively, but a very strategic point during this war, especially so in the months of August and September, 1863, just prior to the Battle of Chickamauga. The railroad was first known as the Will’s Valley; later as A & C, Alabama & Chattanooga; changed in 1877 to Alabama Great Southern.
The bulk of the army of the Cumberland, under Rosecrans, was in Lookout Valley on September 4, 1863, wrote his chief of staff, J. A. Garfield . Rosecrans headquarters was in Trenton, September 6, to the afternoon of September 10, when he moved to Chattanooga, upon its evacuation by the Confederate forces. While in Trenton, he and his staff occupied the E. Mann home; later burned, as above related.
The battle of Trenton, Georgia, took place in the morning of August 31, 1863, according to the writing of Lieutenant Colonel Abernathy of the Eighth Kansas, between 60 men of the 4th Alabama Calvary, stationed at Trenton and 30 men from the 1st Tennessee Calvary, U. S. Outnumbered and about to be cut off from the Sand Mountain Pass he was supposed to guard, they retired, he writes, leaving one of the enemy known to be badly wounded.
Here is Major General Negley’s description of Trenton, written to a fellow officer 73 years ago: “Trenton is situated in Lookout Valley, Dade County, Georgia, a rich agricultural district; 25 miles long, averaging two miles wide. Forage and farm products in abundance. A small spring at Pace’s Tan Yard. A small creek runs through Trenton. The village is small, about 100 tenements and 300 souls”.
The “boom days” of 1889 is another epoch in Trenton’s history. During this period many new dwellings were built and several remodeled. The Case House, a four-story, 60-room hotel and store, was built situated where McBryar Bros. Store now stands. Shortly after the World War this building, along with the post office and some other buildings went up in flames. Several subdivisions were plotted and sold. Some lots sold many times, each sale resulting in a profit to the seller. Street lamps lighted the principal corners of the town; went out with the Boom. This Boom, though it left some considerable money in the town, was, on a whole, of lasting benefit.
Most of the time since the Civil War, the county’s weekly paper has been located here. Through the years several changes in name and editors were made. During one year, 1888, three different editors were at its head; T. A. Haverton, John Hancock and B. T. Brock. The present paper, Dade County Times, occupies its own building, in west Trenton.
The school pupils of Trenton have been most fortunate in being able to attend through the years, as now, good schools. Some of the old teachers coming to mind, were, Patterson, Loomis, Miller, McTeer, Morris, Sutton, Pennington, Wood, Watson bros., Wilson and Sweatnam.
Some of the old merchants: Bob and Ben Hawkins, E. Rodgers, Rus Taylor, Morgan & Jacoway, E. Mann, J. C. Smith, A. Brown, James A. Case, T. H. B. Cole, J. A. Cureton, Dr. Ketcherside and Leroy Case.
Some lawyers: John G. Jacoway, E. D. Graham, R. H. Tatum, Dr. J. T. Lumpkin, Jacoway bros., J. P. and W. U.
Some doctors: Humphreys, W. E. Brock, J. W. Russey, Max Corput, J. R. Brock, E. B. Ketcherside, T. J. Lumpkin, Donnelly and R. B. Cuthbert.
Besides practically a new courthouse and jail, Trenton has a new grammar school, a commodious gymnasium, (thanks to WPA), four churches (three almost new), lights, water, and on the public square, concrete curbs and sidewalks, just finished. We have a modern gin and large lumber plant.
Trenton’s stores, shops and garages are up-to-date in their respective lines. But this is history in the making and I am not expected to expand further.
The present Trenton is something of a “melting pot,” but if you have not in your veins too much of that Virginia aristocrat, John Hancock, you would enjoy living here. (Used by permission, HISTORY OF DADE COUNTY GEORGIA, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, 1981.)