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In Their Own Words

October 21, 1847

Description of Early Atlanta

William N. White, a recent graduate of Hamilton College in New York, had just arrived in Atlanta to open a school. In his journal, he wrote the following description of the rapidly growing town:

“… The city now contains 2,500 inhabitants [actually less]; thirty large stores; to hotels, that would accommodate 150 each; three newspapers; and two schools, one of them taught by a gentleman, and the other by a lady, who teaches A, B, Cs; 187 buildings have been put up this summer within eight months, and more are in progress. The woods all around are full of shanties, and the merchants live in them until they can find time to build. The streets are still full of stumps and roots; large chestnut and oak logs are scatter about, - but the streets are alive with people and the stores full of trade and bustle. Not a church has yet been built, though the Baptists, Methodists and Episcopalians each have one ready to raise in a short time. Preaching is held in the railroad depot, and in the school-houses or ‘academies’ - as they are called.

“… Nearly half the population are northern men. Board is cheap, only $8 a month, and three scholars in the higher branches would board me for a year. There are lots of children, who I am assured would go to a school worth patronizing, and from what I can see I am sure with a good building, in a very short time I could make a thousand dollars a year. But there is the difficulty, the only building I can get is a miserable shell of a thing without ceiling, and it cannot be finished this winter. I have been to all prominent men of the place, who promise their influence, and those who have children, their patronage… .

“There are several beautiful springs in the village and the water is good; - the land is rolling. there are not 100 negroes in the place, and white men black their own shoes, and dust their own clothes, as independently as in the north… . Carpenters get but ten shillings a day here, and labor commands about the same price as at the north. Tuition is $12, $16, $24 and $32 a year, according to what they study. I have been here two days and am becoming quite an old settler. The people here bow and shake hands with everybody they meet, as there are so many coming in all the time that they cannot remember with whom they are acquainted… .”

Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of original 1954 volume), Vol. I, pp. 248-249.