Local News

November 11, 2012

Civil War anniversary: The Dalton Academy

The earliest educational facility built in the Dalton area was a log schoolhouse constructed in 1843 when the village was still known as Cross Plains. A few years later, the history of the Dalton Academy began.

On March 5, 1849, Edward White of Dalton deeded the southeast corner lot at Thornton Avenue and Waugh Street to John Hamilton, Ainsworth E. Blunt and J.S. Waugh as trustees to erect a common school.

Not long thereafter, during 1851-1852, an impressive two-story red brick school house was constructed on this lot and chartered as the Dalton Academy. The Baptist congregation of Dalton had just completed a large two-story sanctuary on the lot adjoining the academy. It faced south fronting the new courthouse which was then under construction.

In the newly created county of Whitfield (organized in 1852), Dalton was given the distinction of becoming the county seat. The future looked very bright for the young city and a first-rate academy was ready to educate the young men of Dalton.

During the 1850s the Rev. A.J. Johnson, Mrs. Armstrong, Mrs. Banner, Mr. Nelson and several others taught various classes at the academy. On April 25, 1857, Rufus K. and Timothy Ford brought a suit for $415 against the trustees of the academy to recover funds due them for work done during its construction. Sheriff Moses G. Collins seized the academy property and sold it at public auction to a consortium of local businessmen for $555 to settle the debt. A new board of trustees was then appointed.

In 1860, Lewis D. Palmer, a teacher from Richmond County and a family friend of Judge E.J. Tarver, was invited to come to Dalton and take charge of the Dalton Academy. He accepted the invitation and ran a very prosperous school for a little over a year. By 1861, a lot of changes were taking place. Georgia seceded from the Union and preparations got under way to raise an army for the defense of the newly established Confederate States of America. The old Dalton Guards were being reorganized and many of the older boys who attended the academy dropped out to join the Guards. The military spirit and excitement became so intense that Palmer simply closed the academy. The Dalton Guards quickly left Dalton and became a part of Phillips Legion.

By Feb. 8, 1862, however, another school was being advertised to open for classes in the Dalton Academy building under the care of the Rev. Dr. Adolphus Spalding Worrell. Other schools were opening as well. Amanda A.M. Ford opened a select female school in the Methodist Episcopal Church, also known as the Thornton Avenue Methodist Church. The classes being taught that spring of 1862 were cut short when the Dalton Academy, the Methodist Episcopal Church and a host of other buildings were confiscated by the government and converted into hospitals for the Confederate Medical Service.


Academy teachers

There were a number of teachers who served at the Dalton Academy during her first two decades, but the war and closing of the school displaced them. The teachers of the Academy included:

Lewis D. Palmer was born in Richmond County on July 27, 1834. He graduated from Emory College at Oxford, and began his teaching career at Green Cut in Burke County. He married Mary Barton Sims in 1856 before moving to Dalton in 1860. He left Dalton during the war returning shortly thereafter. No record of military service by him is known to exist. The North Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical Association was organized in Dalton and had its first fair in 1868. Palmer was one of the organizing directors.

In 1870, he was bookkeeping for a manufacturing firm here. On July 22, 1872, sadness beset the family with the loss of their 11-month-old daughter, May. She was buried in West Hill Cemetery. In 1876, Palmer and his family moved to Wilmington, Calif., but returned east to work in the Methodist Publishing House in Nashville by 1880. He became business manager for the Nashville Christian Advocate.

After retirement, Palmer became a real estate agent in Nashville. His wife, Mary, passed away on May 1, 1888, and was buried beside her daughter in Dalton. Mr. Palmer married again in 1891 to Kate C. Cooper in Nashville. On March 22, 1911, at the age of 76, Palmer died and was brought back to Dalton and buried beside his first wife and daughter.

Adolphus Spalding Worrell was born in Newton County,on March 3, 1831. In 1844, he was converted to Christianity, and in 1850, he felt the call to preach. In 1855, after receiving an A.B. degree with honors from Mercer University, then located in Penfield, Worrell journeyed to Clinton, Miss., and taught Latin and Greek at Mississippi College.

In 1856-1857, he taught Greek and Hebrew at Union University at Murfreesboro, Tenn., before returning to Mercer University, where he graduated in 1858. In late 1862, he came to Dalton to teach in the academy but after it closed in the spring of 1862, he took a position as acting chaplain with the 34th Georgia Volunteer Infantry and served without pay or commission through December of 1862. After severing his ties with the 34th, he moved to Atlanta and began publishing and distributing of The Soldier’s Friend, a religious publication which he printed at his own expense.

He lost most of his personal property in Nashville when it was overrun by Union forces. Becoming financially strapped, he petitioned the Secretary of War J.A. Seddon for a commission to serve as chaplain of the hospitals in Atlanta. He received a commission as captain on January 26,1863, and performed his duties tirelessly until tendering his resignation May 1,1864, citing matters of conscience. Later that year, he married Mary L. Sheed in Sweetwater, Tenn. He was a man who held strong opinions on right and wrong, who believed in divine healing and who traveled widely for several years preaching constantly before settling in Louisville, Ky. In 1904, he published “The New Testament Revised and Translated” from the original Greek language. The latest edition of the A. S. Worrell Bible was reprinted in 1957 and is still available for purchase. On July 31, 1908, he passed away and is buried in Louisville with a beautiful monumental headstone marking his grave.

Amanda Ann Martha Ford was born in Alabama on Nov. 7, 1838. She was the daughter of Martha and Rufus K. Ford who settled in Dalton in the 1840s. In the early 1860s, she was teaching school in the Methodist Episcopal Church, sometimes referred to as the Thornton Avenue Methodist Church or the Methodist Congregational Church which was located on the southeast corner of Thornton Avenue and West Morris Street. She apparently moved her classes to the Dalton Academy after it was vacated by Palmer and Worrell. To further validate this assumption, on Nov. 3, 1863, she received payment of $175 from Maj. W.F. Ayer, Post quartermaster of Dalton, for rent of the academy for use as a hospital from July 15 to Oct. 31, 1862. In March 1862, post surgeon F.H. Evans reported he was still renting the academy at the same rates. The Methodist Episcopal Church where she had been teaching before was also converted into a hospital and was rented at the rate of $15 per month. On Feb. 15, 1866, she married William R. Guthrie, a veteran of the war. In 1870, they were living in the Tunnel Hill District and by 1880, made their home on a sizeable farm in East Armurchee in Walker County.

In  spring of 1862, the academy, the Baptist church and the courthouse were rented by the Medical Department and became the Oliver Hospital complex, the first of its kind in Dalton. In the spring of 1863, two new hospital buildings were erected on property belonging to Mrs. Rachael Hamilton located just north of the city limits. The Oliver Hospital and the Cannon Hospital that had been occupying the W&A Hotel were moved into these new facilities.

In May of 1863, the Stout Hospital was established in the academy. Evans reported it had a patient capacity of 120 that was to be increased to 370 by setting up tents in the chestnut grove between the academy and the courthouse. At least 13 buildings in Dalton and about half that many in Tunnel Hill were rented for hospital purposes. All but one were removed from Dalton and Tunnel Hill prior to the Battle of Chickamauga.

During the Union occupation of Dalton, the chestnut grove became a camping ground for the soldiers in blue. No doubt they occupied the academy, as well.

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