Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Marietta But Were Afraid to Ask

Scarlett was in Marietta when Rhett's urgent telegram came. There was a train leaving for Atlanta in ten minutes and she caught it.” --Gone with the Wind, Chapter LXI

'I do business in Marietta, a lot of business,' he [i.e. Frank] said.” --Gone with the Wind, Chapter XXXV

I won't lie to you, people. Before I joined the Gone with the Wind discussion group on Yahoo about two years ago, I only had a hazy recollection of Scarlett returning from Marietta to find Melanie dying and an even hazier idea of where the said city was on the map. (In my defense, I live across the pond. Also, on good days I know enough geography to find the bus station in the morning. On bad days...well, let's just say those are better left undiscussed, and leave it at that.) But, as you'll see after the jump, I largely recovered from my ignorance, and Marietta, Georgia will be the first in our series of posts documenting the places mentioned in Gone with the Wind.

Probably named after Mary Moore Cobb, the wife of the US senator in whose honor Cobb County itself was christened, Marietta was established in 1833. The days of its antebellum history were largely uneventful, but marked by steady growth, especially after 1845, when the Western & Atlantic Railroad united it to Marthasville (soon to become Atlanta).

You can see the impact railroad expansion had in the development of cities in the brief history of Atlanta Margaret Mitchell sketches in Chapter VIII of Gone with the Wind. One of the railroads that practically created Atlanta (and the one from which the city also got its name) is the railroad that gave Marietta its initial boost and connected it to the rest of Georgia, via Atlanta. When MM says, “From the old city of Augusta, a second railroad was extended westward across the state to connect with the new road to Tennessee.”, what she had in mind was the joining between the Georgia Railroad (the railroad from Augusta, completed in 1845) and “the state railroad” (aka the W&A Railroad), whose southern end was in Marthasville/Atlanta and that was completed to its northern terminus, Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1851.

By 1861, Marietta had already become a popular summer resort among the Southern elite. It was custom for wealthy people to stop for a few weeks in Marietta on their way to or from other fashionable resorts like Saratoga or Virginia Springs. The war only put a temporary stop to that. Marietta was occupied by Sherman's forces in 1864 and most of the buildings in its central square were burned to the ground. However, the city pulled through, and we can actually see the two main ingredients of its postbellum recovery in the above paragraphs quoted from Gone with the Wind.

Frank Kennedy had business in Marietta, a lot of business, like he says, because business was budding in Marietta after the war. By 1885, Marietta had countless mills for cotton, paper, flour, lumber and marble; and had factory and machine works that set it apart from the impoverished countryside and ensured its prosperity.

But one branch of business was especially successful: the tourist business. Hotels flourished, and among them one who dated back from before the war: the Kennesaw House, that has a very interesting history, and survived to this day. Scarlett could have actually stayed there (*cough* were she a real person, that is).

Not only had Marietta regained its status as the summer resort of choice for people in the South, it also became a popular location for Northeners. This is how the city was advertised in a 1885 brochure issued by the W&A Railroad (you did not think all that train talk was for nothing, did you now?):
"To the inhabitants of the region south, desirous of escaping the extreme heat and the malarial influences which are so deleterious to health during the summer months, there is no better resort than MARIETTA; while those who would seek refuge from the chilling blasts and snows of the North and West find this a delightful 'Halfway place' between the rigors of the winter climate of their homes and the enervating warmth of Florida, during the early winter and early spring. In fact, MARIETTA has for some years past been the winter residence of a number of northwestern people."
       --excerpted from Marietta, the Gem City of Georgia As a Summer Resort*
Its other advantages include the “splendid atmosphere, pure water, lovely scenery, and associations with a resident population noted for culture and refinement.” This was probably the reason Scarlett was in Marietta in the autumn of 1873 (though we can safely wager that associating with a population noted for its culture and refinement, however embellished that description might be, had not been her main incentive). In a year marked by the tragedy of Bonnie's death, taking the remaining two children away from Atlanta for a while was probably a good idea. And one can always assume Ella was a sickly child.

And, finally, as a mere plot device at that point in the book, Marietta works better than Tara for at least one reason: the frequency of trains to and from Atlanta, “half a dozen” each day, as the W&A booklet insists. Not only that it was easy for Scarlett to catch a train, but she would have reached Atlanta in less than an hour.

*Most of our information, as well as the pictures, come from this 1885 brochure Marietta, the Gem City of Georgia As a Summer Resort (one of the finds, that yes, made me squeal with excitement. Because I am a dork). The New Georgia Encyclopedia has a very nice article on Marietta as well. 


  1. Very well done ladies! I really enjoyed it. I can't say that I ever thought of Ella as sickly, I see her more as just over shadowed by her younger sister. Not to say that she wasn't but I just see her as being the ignored giddy child. But I really enjoyed all of the discussion and everything really adds to the depth of the book. And to think that the ladies working at the GWTW in Mueseum didn't known until Corn pointed it out that Scarlett had ever been in Marietta.... :)

  2. Haha, well, I was almost like those ladies (except for the part with "working at a GWTW Museum in *cough* Marietta", of course ;). I can't really remember, but I think it was Corrin who first made me wonder "Yeah, what the hell was Scarlett doing in Marietta?"

    As for Ella, yeah, I don't think a tendency to get sick was her main characteristic, but considering that Frank was rather sickly and that Scarlett drank/was not in tip-top shape during her pregnancy with Ella, I don't think it's too farfetched either.

  3. If you are a dork then so am I...because I spazzed a little when i read this too :) This blog is excited about it!

  4. This blog is fun! I went to Marietta last November for the GWTW re-premier. The little old town square area where the GWTW museum is located is really cute.

    PS, hope you don't mind my linking this blog to my Vivien Leigh/Laurence Olivier blog and the facebook fan page. :)

  5. Kendra, thanks so much! I love the vivandlarry blog. It was actually what first gave us the idea to start a Gone with the Wind blog, so yeah, you're pretty much our blogging idol.

  6. Great research, ladies! I had no idea Marietta was such a popular tourist destination in the 19th century, but it all makes sense now. Scarlett wanting to take the children and get away from the toxic atmosphere in the house after Bonnie's death.

    I think she was likely there for about a week before Rhett's telegram came based on this line from the book:

    "What's the matter with her? I didn't know she was ill. She looked all right last week. Did she have an accident? Oh, Rhett, it isn't really as serious as you--"

    It's plausible Ella was sickly, but I don't think we can assume she was. I always just had the impression she was the forgotten middle child who acted silly to try and get some attention, the poor girl. MM didn't even give her any speaking lines in the book!

  7. Kendra- yes, thank you so much! As Bugsie says, we're big fans of yours-- we idolize vivandlarry like, well, like Scarlett idolized Ellen. :) So thank you so much for your kind words!

  8. Below is a link that might be of interest to you ladies. Like some other readers, I asked the question "what the hell was she doing in Marietta?" The paragraph below the link may provide the answer.

    "To the west of the city, near the base of Kennesaw Mountain, a 'Dr. Cox' offered treatment with his 'water cure.' Although visitors described it as 'invigorating,' most probably just came to get away from the bug-infested coast and to enjoy the good food; however, by 1861 Cox began what would develop into a substantial tourist industry. "Dr. Cox" was a real medical doctor, named Dr. Carey Cox, and practiced what is known as homeopathic medicine today. The Cobb Medical Society recognizes him as the first physician."

  9. Scarlett and the homeopath! I am willing to wager money that that was a fun encounter. "WATER? You think I am going to buy WATER? Dilu-what? I see. Well, I'll give you a cent, you can shake it and then it's as good as a hundred non-diluted dollars. Mmm, deal?"

    On a more serious note, thanks for the link! It does add a nice detail to both the history of Marietta and the potential reasons for Scarlett's sojourn there.


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