American Indian farmers cultivated the land near Kingston for nearly a thousand years before settlers began to encroach on the area in the 1820’s. Cherokee mined saltpeter (an ingredient in gunpowder) near the town and sold it to both British and American buyers as early as the War of 1812.Named for Judge John King from Augusta, Georgia, (Timeline of Augusta history) the area was taken by the settlers during the sixth Georgia Land Lottery in 1832. After the removal of the Cherokee on “The Trail of Tears,” Kingston became a boom town, thanks in part to the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The city of Rome, Georgia decided to add a spur from the main line. A rail yard was built to handle the switching just west of the railroad depot in downtown. This became a major source of employment for the city. Nearby warm springs also created a tourist industry that helped to support the four hotels downtown. By the time the railroad came through cotton production was on the increase, and the town also had a flourishing cotton market.
During the “Great Locomotive Chase” Andrews’ Raiders were forced to wait for an hour in the Kingston rail yard while several southbound freight trains from Adairsville cleared the track (some sources say one; these sources are wrong). Four minutes after The General left Kingston’s yard the original crew arrived on the Yonah. To continue the pursuit they took the William R. Smith, a locomotive owned by the Rome R.R. instead of negotiating the complicated rail yard.
|The town of Kingston, 1864. Harper’s Weekly|
Kingston played host to General William T. Sherman twice. During theAtlanta Campaign, Sherman marched into Kingston on May 19, 1864, expecting to find Joe Johnston, who ended up in Cassville, a short distance away. Saltpeter from the old Cherokee mine was so important to the South during the war that the loss of the mine to Sherman’s troops was considered significant. The corps of Generals James McPherson and George Thomas regrouped just west of town that night. Resting for a few short days, the 100,000 man Union Army moved south towards Dallas from Kingston. Over the next several months Union and Confederate cavalry met on 8 occasions in this area. When Confederate General John B. Hood began his abortive Nashville Campaign after his defeat at Atlanta, Sherman returned to Kingston. It was here that he received approval on November 8, 1864from Ulysses S. Grant to begin his “March to the Sea”. Although Atlanta is frequently cited as the start of the March to the Sea, it is Kingston that deserves this “honor.” On the morning of November 12 the Yankees left Kingston and would emerge six weeks later along the coast south of Savannah, Georgia. In 1865 the last of the active troops in Georgia were surrendered here.
The town, destroyed by Sherman before the “March to the Sea”, was rebuilt during the reconstruction of North Georgia. With its central location and excellent transportation facilities the city was used as a post-war food distribution center. People from Rome and the surrounding area would travel here to receive food allotments.
The significance of the railroad to post-war Kingston cannot be overstated. The trains would stop at the downtown railyard and passengers and crews alike would walk to nearby churches. Fame came to the ministers of these churches as churchgoers spread the word about them. Regulars would often take an excursion to the town from Atlanta just to hear these men speak. In 1911 the city suffered through a major fire.
Time was not kind to the city. With the passing of the railroad as a major form of civil transportation, and bypassed first by the national automobile routes and later by the interstates, the town is no longer an internationally recognized center, just an agrarian town on the outskirts of Cartersville.
The Kingston Rail Yard is now a city park. The only remaining original portion of the railyard is the southern entrance. The base of the original depot can still be found near the present tracks near the gazebo in City Park. A Civil War Museum sits near the park, and is opened on request.
Directions – Kingston is 11 miles northwest of Cartersville, Ga. on Georgia Highway 293.