Discover Downtown Dalton
Woodland Indians and Creek Nation held the area of present-day Dalton, Georgia until the mid 18th century, when the Cherokee pushed the Creek to the west and south. The Cherokee Indians called the mountains of north Georgia their “Enchanted Land” until their forced removal in 1838, in a tragedy known today as the Trail of Tears.
By the time the last Cherokees had left, work was underway for a railroad, the Western and Atlantic, to join the Tennessee River with the Chattahoochee River. In 1847, the newly renamed railway was defined as a mile radius from the city center – the Western and Atlantic Depot. The final segment of this pivotal railway was completed in Tunnel Hill, Whitfield County, Ga. in 1850. A second railroad, the East Tennessee and Georgia was completed in 1852.
With the invention of the automobile, a cottage industry arose in the homes along “Peacock Alley”, U.S. Highway 41. Running from Copper Harbor, Michigan, to Miami Beach, Florida, the route ran on paved state roads. It was designated in 1925 and signed in 1926. Women would sell quilts to drivers along this popular north-south route. From this early origin, the carpet tufting industry grew in Dalton. Today, Carpet Mills remain major area employers.
During the Civil War, Dalton saw its first action during the Great Locomotive Chase, on April 12, 1862. More than a year later, on September 19–20, 1863, massive Union and Confederate forces battled a few miles west of Dalton at Chickamauga, and later at Chattanooga. The war came to Whitfield County in the spring of 1864. The battle of Rocky Face Ridge and Dug Gap began on May 7, 1864, and ended when General Johnston completed his withdrawal from Dalton on May 12. The last campaign of the Confederacy, John Bell Hood’s Nashville Campaign attacked a Union blockhouse in Tilton before passing through Dalton and heading west. The U.S. government recently declared Dalton and Whitfield County to have more intact Civil War artifacts than any other place in the country. Also of interest is the site of the historic Western & Atlantic Railroad Station; one of the few still standing and restored to its original architectural state, this site is now the Dalton Depot Restaurant. The steel center marker for the original surveying of the City of Dalton is still inside the depot.
Dalton is often referred to as the “Carpet Capital of the World”, home to 150+ carpet plants. The industry employs more than 30,000 people in the Whitfield County area. More than 90% of the functional carpet produced in the world today is made within a 65-mile radius of the city.
The agglomeration of the carpet industry in Dalton can be traced back to a wedding gift given in 1895 by a teenage girl, Catherine Evans Whitener, to her brother, Henry Alexander Evans, and his bride, Elizabeth Cramer. The gift was an unusual tufted bedspread. Copying a quilt pattern, she sewed thick cotton yarns with a running stitch into unbleached muslin, clipped the ends of the yarn so they would fluff out, and finally, washed the spread in hot water to hold the yarns by shrinking the fabric. Interest grew in young Catherine’s bedspreads, and in 1900, she made the first sale of a spread for $2.50. Demand became so great for the spreads that by the 1930s, local women had “haulers”, who would take the stamped sheeting and yarns to front porch workers. Often entire families worked to hand tuft the spreads for 10 to 25 cents per spread. Nearly 10,000 area cottage “tufters”–men, women, and children, were involved in the industry. Income generated by the bedspreads was instrumental in helping many area families survive the depression. Chenille bedspreads became amazingly popular all over the country and provided a new name for Dalton: the Bedspread Capital of the World.
When a form of mechanized carpet making was developed after World War II, Dalton be came the center of the new industry due to the fact that specialized tufting skills were required and the city had a ready pool of workers with those skills.
By the 1970s manufacturers had begun to develop techniques to move from plain tufted carpet to sculpted carpet. Improved patterning, stain and wear resistance, and colors have made today’s tufted carpet the choice for functional carpet for the vast majority of homes and moved woven carpet to a decorative role.