Etowah Railroad

Old iron furnace on Etowah River near Cartersville

Built by industrialist Mark Anthony Cooper in 1858-59, the Etowah Railroad connected Cooper's ironworks and flour mills with the Western & Atlantic Railroad near Emerson. About four miles long, the line ran along the north bank of the Etowah River in the area that now lies between U.S. 41 and Allatoona Lake. The railroad ceased operation after Federal troops destroyed the ironworks and mills on May 22nd and 23rd, 1864.

Cooper and his partners Moses Stroup and Leroy M. Wiley acquired the charter for the Etowah Railroad Company in December of 1847, well before the W&A was completed. The new company was authorized to build a railway up the river to Canton, and even as far as the gold mining town of Dahlonega. Investors for the ambitious project could not be found, however, and only the section to the ironworks was ever put into operation. Cooper had to pay $40,000 of his own funds for its construction.

Today the railroad has been gone for well over a century but a couple of sizeable reminders of its history can still be seen. Alongside the U.S. 41 crossing of the Etowah are the tall stone piers of the W&A bridge, where the Etowah Railroad connected with the larger line. Upriver near the foot of Allatoona Dam is the massive Cooper furnace, a stone pyramid that produced iron for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Yonah, a small locomotive operated by the Etowah Railroad, played a role in the Great Locomotive Chase as it was the first of three steam engines to pursue the General.


Area map showing railroad location.

1863 timetable from Hill & Swayze's Confederate States Rail-Road & Steam-Boat Guide. Online at Internet Archive here.


Suggested Reading:

Mark Cooper Pope III with J. Donald McKee. Mark Anthony Cooper; The Iron Man of Georgia: A Biography. Atlanta: Graphic Publishing Company, 2000.



Note: Photo at top of page is from R. H. Haseltine, Iron Ore Deposits of Georgia, Bulletin no. 41, Geological Survey of Georgia, 1924. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey.

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