From our famous textile heritage, to The Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel, to Emery Street School, and everything in between, Dalton is full of rich and fascinating history.
Several organizations in Dalton are working hard to preserve and uncover our history while also simultaneously trying to discover what our present and future identity should be. I have the honor of working for one of these organizations, the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau. I hope you will read and share this article, research the things that you're interested in, and make plans to embark upon the historic learning opportunities that we are surrounded with!
Disclaimer: Every single historic site in Dalton is not mentioned in this list and the sites mentioned are not ranked in any particular order, they're all equally awesome.
1. The Western & Atlantic Tunnel Tour and Museum at Tunnel Hill
Construction began on the tunnel in 1848, during which time the population of Tunnel Hill grew to supply accommodations to railway workers. The tunnel, which spans 1,477 feet, was dug through the base of the Chetoogeta Mountain.
On May 9, 1850, the first Western and Atlantic train passed through the tunnel and the new town of Atlanta became one of the railway's major hubs.
The tunnel became part of several historical events during the Civil War (one of which was the Great Locomotive Chase), before heavy railroad traffic and larger train cars getting stuck in the tunnel led to the building of a larger parallel tunnel, ending the use of the tunnel in 1928.
The tunnel faced possible destruction from 70 years of neglect until, in 1992, steps were taken to preserve it. After a lengthy period of restoration and rehabilitation, the tunnel was opened to the public in 2000, just in time for its 150th anniversary.
2. The Clisby Austin House
Built in 1848 by the house's namesake, the Clisby Austin House is a prime example of the antebellum style of architecture. It has experienced several interesting events since its construction, primarily during the Civil War.
The house served as a hospital during the battle of Chickamauga. It was here that Confederate General John Hood was sent to recuperate after the amputation of his leg, which accompanied him along his journey (so it could be buried with him in case he died). The leg is buried near the house. The house also served as headquarters to William Sherman during the Battle of Dalton and it has been said that Sherman planned the Atlanta Campaign here.
The Austin family cemetery is located on a hill across from the house. Rebecca, mother of Clisby, has the only remaining headstone. It is believed that as many as 17 family members are buried there.
3. Tufts of the Past - Textile Heritage Self-Guided Tour
Dalton is wildly famous for our textile heritage. The self-guided tour can be downloadedhere.
4. The Dalton Distillery Tour
Dalton Distillers, LLC uses a family secret recipe of Real Georgia Moonshine that's over 100 years old. The Distillery offers tours to customers interested in learning more about their history and moonshining process.
5. Dalton Ghost Tours
Thrilling guests with their original Dalton ghost walk, haunted pub crawls, special events, paranormal celebrity appearances, private tours, and workshops since 2003.
6. Bandy Heritage Center History Museum
Through traveling exhibits, temporary gallery exhibits, on-line exhibits, educational programing, summer workshops for teachers, and other events, the Bandy Heritage Center encourages learning about Georgia's rich history and culture.
The Emery Center, formerly Emery Street School is located in Dalton, Georgia, its mission is to promote awareness of African American culture and heritage. This museum is mind-blowing! So much content has been preserved to tell the history of the African American culture and heritage in Dalton. If you have never visited the Emery Center, please make it a point to do. I have so much respect for everyone involved in this institution.
8. Old Federal Road Driving Tour
In 1805, the U.S. and Cherokee established the Treaty of Tellico to build the Federal Roadthrough Cherokee territory. Driving the route takes about three hours. The audio CD tour may be purchased at the W&A Railroad Museum.
9. The Huff House Tour
This antebellum home was the headquarters of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston during the Civil War in the winter of 1863-64. It was also the site where Gen. Patrick Cleburne proposed arming slaves in exchange for their freedom to alleviate the manpower shortage facing the Confederacy.
Mrs. Lida E. Huff bought the house in 1890. At that time, the house faced the RR tracks (the Great Locomotive Chase passed by here in 1862), but approximately 18-years later Mrs. Huff had the house turned around so it would face the street like the newer homes on Selvidge. They accomplished this by placing the house on a turnstile powered by mules. The home stayed in the Huff family until 1971.
It has since been used as an office building. The Boring and Hill families donated the Huff House to the WMHS August 2013. The WMHS plans to restore the building and use it as a museum focusing on the house’s history.
10. The Hamilton House Tour
The oldest brick home in Dalton, Hamilton House was built by John Hamilton around 1840. During the winter of 1863, when Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of Tennessee occupied Dalton, Brig. Gen. J.H. Lewis headquartered here. His tent near the Spring House was the location where battle strategy was discussed and implemented. Guided tours offer an in-depth look at the history behind the house.
11. The Blunt House
An 1848 home of Dalton's first mayor, postmaster and religious leader, the Blunt House is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first two-story house built in Dalton.
12. Prater's Mill
Built by Benjamin Franklin Prater in 1855, the water powered mill was originally fitted with the latest in grain cleaning, grinding and sifting machinery, all powered by the Coahulla Creek. The grounds host the Prater's Mill Country Fair every October! Fishing is permitted in Coahulla Creek. A nature trail provides a walkthrough of the area, and with a donation, the grounds can be reserved for private use.
13. Dug Gap Battle Park
These breastworks were built by Civil War soldiers during the Atlanta Campaign and feature a scenic view from the top of Dug Gap Mountain hiking trail that overlooks the Dalton area as well as the Georgia mountains.
14. Civil War Driving Tour
Take a guided driving tour with the "War Comes To Dalton" Civil War driving tour. Whitfield County is home to a rich Civil War heritage. This area felt the war's impact almost from the beginning of the conflict, thanks largely to the presence of a main north-south rail line: the Western & Atlantic.
During the early years of the war, Whitfield County witnessed the famous Great Locomotive Chase along with more customary sights such as troop trains and supply shipments puffing along the tracks. The area later became a hospital zone for Confederate wounded, using hospitals, churches and private residences to provide these medical services and eventually creating the need for a military cemetery.
The driving tour highlights the opening action of Sherman's Campaign. For sale now in The Dalton Freight Depot Welcome Center in historic Downtown Dalton, and the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center in Tunnel Hill. For more information or to order your copy, call 706-270-9960.
15. Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway
From the historic Praters Mill grist mill to the Cohutta Fishery to the top of Fort Mountain, a drive along the Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway affords a view of northwest Georgia natural beauty and historic sites.
16. Confederate Cemetery and Memorial Wall
This cemetery has 421 Confederate and four "unknown" Union soldiers. The recently discovered names of the Confederates are engraved on the Memorial Wall. The cemetery entrance is across from West Hill Chapel.
17. The Dixie Highway of Dalton
The Dalton GA U.S. 41 Dixie Highway ran right down Hamilton St. in Downtown Dalton, as we know it now. There are currently several things in the works to continue preserving and promoting the Dixie Highway of Dalton. Stay tuned!
Thank you to everyone who has fought hard in many ways to make and preserve the history of our great town of Dalton.
"History is not was, it is." -William Faulkner