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Chattanooga History 2
(Reconstruction through The Great Depression)
About North Georgia

Chattanooga - America's Scenic City

Chattanooga History 1815 through The Civil War
Chattanooga History 2 Reconstruction through The Great Depression
Chattanooga History World War II through modern day

Courthouse, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Courthouse, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Thanks to Tennessee Governor William G. Brownlow the state was third in the nation to ratify the 14th Amendment (July_18, 1866) quickly ending its "Reconstruction." While much of the state to the west was strongly against the measure, many in the Chattanooga area were greatly relieved by the governor's quick action. As did the other major cities in Tennessee, Chattanooga experienced a dramatic increase in African-American population. When the federal army left the state in 1866, many Blacks felt as if they were better protected in the larger cities.

With available transportation, abundant natural resources nearby, and an increased labor force thanks to the migration of African-Americans, Chattanooga quickly rebuilt itself as an industrial center, specifically, iron and steel. Additionally it became a processing center for the agricultural products grown in the fields of east Tennessee and north Georgia.

Robert Cravens returned to Chattanooga after the Civil War. With Cravens House and his iron business destroyed, near financial ruin, and nearing the age of 60 he began anew, rebuilding an empire of iron. He introduced coke-fired iron processing to the area in 1868. Located near the natural resources needed to make iron, and later, steel, Chattanooga grew on the strength of its production. The charcoal and coke-fired smelters that turned out 150,000 tons of iron in 1870 were producing 1.8 million tons of pig iron in 1890. By 1890 there were machine shops, boiler shops, plow makers, stove works, and at least 2 pipe manufacturers within the city limits, and the city was known as the "Pittsburgh of the South."

On June_9, 1867, the First Congregationalist Church of Chattanooga became the first church in the South to welcome both black and white members. Along Railroad Avenue warehouses began to serve the growing railroad traffic in the 1870's and 1880's. The area known as Warehouse Row is a remnant of these buildings. A Yellow Fever epidemic in the city in 1878 claimed nearly 400 lives and was part of a much larger epidemic that claimed more than 5,000 lives statewide.

The wounds of war began to heal on what would eventually become the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park (info). In Chattanooga, Point Park, Cravens House, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge (more) formed the core of the park. The Lookout Mountain Hotel sat atop the imposing mountain south of downtown.

Chattanooga goes Democrat
Fires Black City Employees
Some time ago the Democrats elected the municipal officers of Chattanooga, Tenn., for many years one of the few, and perhaps the leading Republican city in the South. The result, for our people, is that every Afro-American connected with the city government of Chattanooga has been dismissed. A number of clerkships and a fire company lost. And yet there are those who prate about the friendship of democracy for the race.
Cleveland Gazette
Page 2, April 22, 1893
One means of transportation to the top of the mountain was the Incline Railway (completed 1895), a railroad that has been known as America's Most Amazing Mile. When this marvel was introduced, it competed with another inclined railroad and two other area railroads for traffic to the top of Lookout Mountain. The others were quickly forced out of business. Today the attraction is owned and operated by the city of Chattanooga. It carries passengers from the St. Elmo district to the top of Lookout Mountain and back again, affording visitors a dramatic view of the city and surrounding area.

Floods and fire did little to discourage the city after the Civil War. By 1900 the city had become a major southeastern rail center and a hub for the warehousing and distribution of cotton and other agricultural products. Market Street was the center of the city and Erlanger Hospital had been treating patients for less than 10 years. In February, 1899, a thick blanket of snow covered the city in the worst snowstorm for more than 100 years.

After the turn of the century Chattanooga's African-American population began to gain some economic strength, although generally relegated to second-class jobs in this segregated society. White reaction to this strength frequently took the form of lynching (death by violent means, not just hanging). On January_23, 1906, Nevada Taylor, who was white, claimed she had been assaulted in St. Elmo, then a suburb of Chattanooga. When a black man, Ed Johnson, was arrested two days later a white mob stormed the St. Elmo's jail. Johnson had been moved to a Nashville jail. On March_19, 1906, Johnson was lynched by a angry crowd of whites because the U. S. Supreme Court had stayed the execution. President Theodore Roosevelt called the "contemptuous of the (U. S. Supreme) Court." St. Elmo Sheriff Joseph Shipp served 90 days in a federal prison for contempt of court and return a hero in the eyes of white Chattanooga.

Chattanooga began building a dam on the Tennessee River in 1905 (completed 1913). Completed in 1913 the Hale's Bar dam would become part of the TVA in 1933. Work on the Chickamauga dam in 1936. The Hales Bar dam was replaced by the Nickajack Dam in 1967. The city's Terminal Station opened its doors in December, 1909. About the same time an old friend of the city returned to Union Station--The General, whose appearance in Chattanooga would set off a dispute with its northern neighbor, Nashville for some 50 years.

City of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1917
Chattanooga, Tennessee during World War I.

The entry of the United States into World War I in 1917 had a dramatic affect on the city thanks to the men being trained a few miles south in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Chattanooga was the nearest city and men from the camp were frequent visitors. However, prior to the end of the war in 1918 an outbreak of Spanish Influenza changed things dramatically. Movie theaters and pool halls were closed, as were other popular gathering places. The war ended in November, 1918, and the epidemic continued until February, 1919.

Starting in 1920, and continuing until World War II, the agricultural economy weakened, in part due to the destruction of the cotton crop because of the boll weevil. Another factor adding to the plight of area farmers was overproduction (they added equipment and improved technology during World War I).

In the 1920's the way Americans traveled began to undergo nothing less than a revolution. The automobile began to play a larger role in the day-to-day lives of most people, and two families were set to take advantage of the change. Leo Lambert, a spelunker with a knack for promotion finds a beautiful 145' underground waterfall that he names for his wife. Further up the mountain, Frieda Carter develops the unusual formations at the top of Lookout Mountain. Generation after generation return to Chattanooga to see the tourist attractions they promoted, Rock City and Ruby Falls (site).

The industrial portion of Chattanooga's economy began to feel the effects of The Great Depression in 1930 and would not return to the pre-Depression production levels until 1942. The creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority by Franklin Delano Roosevelt on May_18, 1933 led to the control of flooding that devastated the area on a regular basis.

Adolph Ochs, who was managing editor of the Chattanooga Times and publisher of the New York Times died in Chattanooga from a cerebral hemorrhage. The noted newspaperman had played a key role in Chattanooga, organizing land for the U. S. to purchase to built the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. Ochs was also a founder of the Associated Press.

Chattanooga History 1815 through The Civil War
Chattanooga History 2 Reconstruction through The Great Depression
Chattanooga History World War II through modern day


Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Chattanooga History 1815 through The Civil War
Chattanooga History World War II through modern day
Cravens House
Incline Railway
Lookout Mountain
Point Park
Rock City
The General

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