The Cartersville and Van Wert Railroad Company, chartered in 1866, was planned as a 45-mile rail connection between the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Cartersville and the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad at Prior, near the Georgia/Alabama border.
Van Wert, a former town about a mile southeast of Rockmart, was a slate quarrying center. Established in 1838, it was the county seat of Paulding County before Polk County was carved from Paulding and Floyd counties in 1851.
By 1870, only fourteen miles of broad-gauge track from Cartersville to Taylorsville had been put into service. In October of that year the name of the unfinished line was changed to Cherokee