Kennesaw Mountain
Administrative History
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Creation and Early Years of Kennesaw Mountain NBP


Some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain took place on June 27, 1864, when the Federals made a determined assault on the center of the Confederate line. A portion of this attack was directed at a salient defended by Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham, in an area that became known as Cheatham Hill. Despite their best efforts, the attack failed and the Federal forces suffered heavy casualties. Among the dead was Col. Dan McCook, commander of the Third Brigade, Second Division, Fourteenth Army Corps.

After the war, survivors of this brigade established the Colonel Dan McCook Brigade Association in memory of their fallen commander. To honor the sacrifice that he and other fellow soldiers had made, the association decided to acquire the land at Cheatham Hill where Colonel McCook had fallen. In December 1899, Lansing J. Dawdy, a veteran of the 86th Illinois who had fought at Cheatham Hill, returned to Cobb County and on December 26 he purchased from Virgil Channell a 60 acre tract which included the Federal and Confederate trenches and the intervening land over which the Federals had fought. [2]

On February 15, 1900, Dawdy conveyed the land to Martin Kingman and John McGinnis who, in turn, transferred the 60 acre tract to the Colonel Dan McCook. Brigade Association on August 13, 1904. According to the deed, Kingman and McGinnis had been acting on behalf of the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Association, a non-profit organization, chartered under the laws of the State of Illinois, that had been established for the purpose of erecting a monument or monuments on the property in memory of those who had fought and died there.

With this goal, the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Association began a fundraising campaign. A letter, sent to surviving veterans of the 85th, 86th, and 125th Regiments, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company I, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery, the 22nd Indiana Regiment Volunteer Infantry and the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, asked them to contribute at least one dollar in memory of their fallen comrades. It soon became apparent that the amount of money required for a monument was beyond the Association's means, so it enlisted the aid of the State of Illinois.

When sufficient funds were acquired, the Association contracted with McNeel Marble Company of Marietta to erect a large monument of Georgia marble on the spot upon which the Federal assault had peaked. The cost of the project was $25,000. The architect was James B. Dibelka and the sculptor was J. Mario Korbel.

On June 27, 1914, the 50th anniversary of the battle, the monument was unveiled. Many civic and patriotic organizations, including the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Marietta Chamber of Commerce participated in the ceremony. Also in attendance was the Governor of Illinois, many prominent citizens, and a large number of veterans. In order that the veterans could have a souvenir of the occasion, many bullets that had been picked up on the battlefield were scattered over the Cheatham Hill area.

Several smaller markers were also erected during this period on the spots where Capt. Neighbors, Capt. Fellows, and Sgt. Coffee fell mortally wounded, and on the site where Dan McCook's Brigade formed for the assault. Another marker was placed at the entrance to the tunnel near the Illinois Monument. The tunnel was to have been used to undermine and blow up the Confederate works, but the Confederates withdrew before it was completed.

In subsequent years, local citizens volunteered to take care of the property. On June 8, 1922, the first resident caretaker, Rev. J. A. Jones, was appointed by the Battlefield Association. His duties were to maintain the grounds around the monument. As compensation he was allowed to occupy the site and cultivate parts of the reservation provided it did not interfere with access to the monument. He received no salary. Jones served as caretaker until March 1926.


In 1916, the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Association realized it could not afford to restore the battlefield as it had planned and wrote to the Secretary of War and offered to deed the 60 acres that it owned at Cheatham Hill to the U. S. government. The Secretary of War, however, could not accept the property without Congressional authority. Accordingly, Rep. Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois introduced legislation that would make acceptance of the gift possible. On February 8, 1917, Congress passed the bill authorizing the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Site. Transfer of the property, though, was delayed until clear title to the land was established in 1926.

The legislative effort did not end with passage of the 1917 bill. Subsequent legislation on April 5, 1926, authorized an inspection of the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield to determine the advisability of commemorating it by the creation of a national memorial military park. [3] The three man commission, composed of an officer of the Army Corps of Engineers and one veteran each from the Union and Confederate armies, met and organized in Atlanta on June 25, 1926. After an exhaustive examination, during which they also studied the battlefields of Lost Mountain, New Hope Church, and Peachtree Creek, they reported unanimously in favor of Kennesaw Mountain. They recommended that the park should be at least 1,050 acres and include Big and Little Kennesaw Mountains and the saddle between them. An appraisal by the Atlanta Real Estate Board fixed a price of $307,550 on the property because of development that had already taken place in the area. Certain parts of the slopes of Big Kennesaw had been laid out in building lots and 130 of these lots had been provisionally sold for $350-$ 550 each. Tracts adjoining Highway 41 were also viewed as having value for development of housing subdivisions. Working through the Marietta Chamber of Commerce, the commission obtained options on some lands to run for one year. [4]

Based on the commission's findings and recommendations, legislation was introduced on December 7, 1926, for the creation of a national memorial military park in the vicinity of Kennesaw Mountain that would include the Cheatham Hill tract and additional lands. Similar bills were introduced for the next nine years, but each time they failed to gain the necessary support for passage.


In the meantime, the transfer to the government of the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Site, consisting of the 60 acre Cheatham Hill tract, was completed in 1926 when the problems with the title were resolved. The site was placed under the jurisdiction of the War Department and its administration became the responsibility of the quartermaster office of the Fourth Corps Area, Atlanta. It was under the immediate supervision of the Superintendent of the Marietta National Cemetery. But very limited funds were available for improvement or maintenance and little was actually done with the site for a number of years. When the Acting Inspector General made his first inspection on June 8, 1931, he found that there was no caretaker for the site and that no work had been done by the government. He recommended that a caretaker be appointed; that the site be surveyed and marked; that the Illinois monument be cleaned and repaired (it had been damaged by vandals); and that fencing be put up around the site. [5]

In response to these recommendations $500 was allocated for the care of Kennesaw Mountain NBS during fiscal year 1932. With this money, the Quartermaster was to hire a part-time caretaker and prepare an estimate for the surveying, fencing, and other repairs. An additional $500 was to be used for repair of the Illinois monument. As it turned out, only $400 was necessary and the other $100 was used for grounds improvement. Subsequent plans included the construction of a new approach road and fences and a gate. [6] In June of 1933, the Inspector General made a second inspection of the site and found that Benjamin F. Jones, son of the Rev. J. A. Jones who had worked for the battlefield association, had been appointed as caretaker, his compensation being a residence and 30 acres to farm; an entrance road 3/ 4 of a mile long had been constructed from John Ward Road and passed between the old Channell house and barn; and that a three-strand barbed wire fence had been erected on the south, west, and part of the east boundary of the 60 acre tract. His recommendations included completing the fencing; building a better road; clearing the underbrush around the monuments and trenches; and a partial restoration of the trench system. [7] But before the War Department could do any more work, Kennesaw Mountain NBS was transferred to the Department of the Interior under the provisions of Executive Order 6166, dated June 10, 1933. The transfer was effective August 10, 1933, and the National Park Service assumed the responsibility of administering the site.

On June 26, 1935, the effort to create a national military park was finally successful with the establishment of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Under the provisions of this bill, the park was to be expanded to include Big Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw Mountains and other significant portions of the original battlefield. The Secretary of the Interior was ". authorized to accept donations of land, [and] interests in land, buildings, structures, and other property ." provided the purchase price was reasonable. If the price was too high, condemnation proceedings could be utilized to acquire the land. An appropriation of $100,000 was designated for implementing the act: $70,000 for land acquisition and $30,000 for development.

The bill had been sponsored in Congress by Representative Malcolm C. Tarver and Senator Richard B. Russell and represented the culmination of more than two decades of work. Plans for development of the new park called for winding trails and drives, the erection of monuments, the conservation of natural resources, and general beautification of the area. There was also the possibility of connecting the site with the Peachtree battle site by means of a proposed federal road in east Fulton County. [8]


The Kennesaw Mountain NBS that had been created in 1917 and transferred to the NPS in 1933 consisted only of the 60 acre tract at Cheatham Hill. The intent of the 1935 legislation was to expand the park to include the mountain and other significant segments of the original battlefield. Accordingly, the government set out to acquire these pieces of land with $70,000 specified for land acquisition.

By October 1935, the NPS had assigned an engineer, Olinus Smith, to the task of appraising and acquiring land. Three survey teams began making topographical maps of the proposed park. By December approximately 6,000 acres had been mapped and 5,000 had been appraised. [9]

With news of the government's interest in acquiring land, real estate promoters persuaded some owners to sign with them for the sale of their property. The promoters set high valuations on the land hoping to make a good profit. Smith reported that his efforts to obtain options on the lands were hampered by such schemes which resulted in prices as high as $76 per acre. This was more than the government was willing to pay and there was some concern that the acquisition plans would be canceled since there was a reluctance to buy any land if the expense meant that acquisition of what was considered the minimum amount to justify a park was not possible. In addition, the $70,000 was to be used or obligated by June 1, 1936, but in January little of it had actually been spent. Representative Tarver was so concerned that he asked the subcommittee on appropriations for an extension. [10]

Among those eager to represent the landowners' interests was William Tate Holland, a man who would figure prominently in the story of land acquisition at Kennesaw Mountain. In 1935, Holland offered to be the representative to the government for land purchases. He disagreed with the government's policy of contacting owners directly. He claimed that they wanted to deal through him. But Smith asserted that this was not true and urged that Holland not be used as an intermediary. He also disputed Holland's assertion that the land had suburban development potential. [11]11 Because of such disagreements, acquisition of land for Kennesaw Mountain NBP proved to be a long and litigious process. Many owners expressed their desire to sell but stated that they could not afford to under the terms of agreements they had entered into with real estate brokers; in most cases, the realtors charged a 10% commission fee. There was also the problem with the prices. As a solution, the government initiated condemnation proceedings against several parcels of property.

Primary among these parcels was approximately 450 acres of land on Big and Little Kennesaw Mountains owned by the Kennesaw Mountain Association, an organization of investors chartered in Delaware in the 1920s, whose president was William Tate Holland. The association had issued at least $70,000 in bonds and made plans to build a hotel on the mountain and develop the surrounding real estate. It did manage to build a rough road up the mountain, but when the group experienced financial difficulties the Cobb County Superior Court ordered its holdings placed in receivership. For this reason, representatives of the association's bondholders saw the creation of the national battlefield park as a way to recoup some of their losses.

By December of 1936, the government had initiated condemnation proceedings against 11 parcels of land, eight belonging to the Kennesaw Mountain Association. In January 1937, a federal jury in the U. S. District Court fixed a sale price of $30 per acre on the first parcel of 53 acres. The owner had wanted $60 per acre. With this addition, and other uncontested sales, the government had been successful in acquiring approximately 600 acres. [12]

In February 1937 the hearings began for the condemnation of the 450 acres owned by the Kennesaw Mountain Association. The court appointed a three member board of appraisers to set a valuation on the land. Charles Brown represented the government; Thomas W. Jackson represented the landowners; and Gordon F. Mitchell was appointed as a neutral party. [13]

In the meantime, controversy arose over the issue of the land acquisition. While the owners tried to hold out for a higher price, local citizen groups urged reasonable valuations and cooperation with the government because of the potential long-range benefits they saw coming from the creation of the park. Each side had its proponents and self-appointed appraisers who determined widely varying values for the land. One group of Atlanta realtors placed a value of $115,000 to $180,000 based on alleged mineral deposits and the potential for residential development. But a citizens group from Marietta found that the land was only worth $5 to $35 per acre, while another group of realtors claimed the land was unproductive and only worth $10 per acre. [14]

In March 1937, the court appointed board determined its valuation. In a split decision, Jackson and Mitchell represented the majority and set the value at $85,000, or approximately $211 per acre. Brown, though, dissented from that view. and claimed the land was worth $15,000 or $37 per acre. These findings were reported to Judge Marvin Underwood. If the government accepted the assessors' decision the court would rule, but if rejected the decision would be left to a jury. [15]

The government considered $85,000 too high and the issue became stalemated while a court date was set for final resolution of the matter. One attempted compromise proposal, suggested by U. S District Attorney Lawrence Camp, was that the mountain area be excluded from the park. But Representative Tarver explained that all the land necessary in the minimum area for the park must be acquired before any development could take place. The mountains were considered the minimum area. [16]

Aware of the government's need to acquire its land, the Association attempted to capitalize on the situation. It now claimed that the property represented a $200,000 investment on the part of the bondholders and that they were entitled to a fair return. It also implied, in letters to Tarver, that it might sell the property to someone other than the government who would be willing to pay even more for it. [17]

Advocates of the park continued to work to counter such moves. One attempt to resolve the issue was Cobb County Attorney James V. Carmichael's proposal to file suit against the Association and ask the federal court to dissolve the injunction, imposed by the county court when the Association went into receivership, that prevented the county from collecting property taxes from the Association. If successful, the county could then sell the property for $4000 in back taxes. The proposal was never acted on, though, and the government decided to proceed with its condemnation suit before a jury. [18]

Finally, on July 21, 1937, the case went before District Judge Samuel H. Sibley, who was acting in Underwood's absence. After two days of hearings, the jury fixed the value of the land at $9000. Association landowners claimed it was "a miscarriage of justice" and Holland vowed to appeal the verdict. But until such time as a new trial might take place, the government could proceed with the park's development. [19]

Following this verdict, the court also concluded several other condemnation suits. Mrs. Colleen Reed Guthrie was directed to accept $35 per acre for her 110 acres. She had originally asked $150 per acre. Two consent verdicts fixed a price of $737 on 43 acres owned by Mrs. Sallie Ashley and $1400 on 40 acres owned by the Kennesaw Mountain Association. [20]

In August 1937, the Association filed a motion for a new trial to set a valuation on its mountain property. It claimed that the first verdict had been contrary to the evidence and the law. But instead of granting a new trial, Judge Sibley raised the price from $9000 to $16,000. A new trial would be ordered only if the government did not consent to the new price. The government, though, indicated it would comply with the new order. [21]

Refusing to accept this new decision, Holland announced his intention to appeal once again. He asserted that the land had cost $72,500 in cash and bonds and that $28,202 had been spent on the mountain road. He contended that the bondholders should receive their original investment and expenses. [22]

Holland's appeal was denied and a final judgement for $16,000 was ordered by the court. Still, Holland would not give up and attempted to have the case heard before the U. S. Supreme Court. But the Court refused to review the case. On May 31, 1939, the District Attorney's office announced a hearing to decide distribution of the $16,000. Holland continued to protest despite the community's overall support for the decision. [23] In one final attempt to overturn the $16,000 judgement, a group of bondholders, including Mrs. Stella T. Rambo (Holland's aunt), Mrs. Mary T. Holland (Holland's mother), George M. Brown, and Dan Y. Sage filed a petition for intervention in the U. S. District Court. They contended that true title to the mountain property rested with the bondholders themselves. Consequently, the government's condemnation proceedings against the land that named the Association as the defendant should be declared "null and void." They asked that the previous assessment be set aside. The court dismissed the intervention suit and when the decision was appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals it was upheld. [24]

Despite its difficulties with the Association, the government's land acquisition program proceeded on other fronts, although lack of adequate funding continued to be a problem. By January 1939, approximately 1920 acres had been acquired but projections estimated that to include all of the essential area of the battlefield would require acquisition of 3000 to 3600 acres. The initial appropriation of $70,000 was nearly spent and there was no additional money available. National Park Service officials expressed their concern that key pieces of property would remain outside of the park boundaries and could potentially be lost. [25]

Representative Tarver, who had been closely following the progress of land acquisition, expressed this concern in Congress. House Bill 4937, calling for acquisition of additional lands for Kennesaw Mountain NBP, was reported on favorably by the Interior Department. On August 9, 1939, the Third Deficiency Appropriations Act ( H. R. 7426) was passed by the Congress. It provided a blanket authorization under which the Secretary of Interior could acquire additional lands "to protect the symmetry of the park area." To do this $55,000 was authorized. [26]

In anticipation of the additional money, Olinus Smith began acquiring options on land to the west of the mountains so that the National Park Service could implement its plans to build a new road from the Dallas highway to Cheatham Hill. [27]

Even with the additional $55,000, the NPS was forced to be selective in its acquisitions; it was still not enough money to buy everything. As a result, purchases were limited to only those areas considered the most historically significant and least expensive. This consisted primarily of the ridge lines where earthworks had been built and still remained. The Interior Department justified its decision based on the following reasoning: the ridges were the most important portions of the battlefield; buying the ridge lines would include all of the most significant entrenchments; it was believed that the intervening lowlands would remain in a cultivated state and so the historic scene would remain undisturbed; not buying the lowlands would avoid having to displace 16 families and their property would not be removed from the tax rolls; the ridges were the least productive areas and thus less valuable; maintenance of ridges would be cheaper; and, perhaps most importantly, the ridges cost less. [28]

Because the $55,000 had to be obligated by June 30, 1940, government lawyers recommended that blanket condemnation proceedings be instituted for acquisition. A declaration of taking would be filed for those tracts where prices were negotiable. [29] In July 1941, the last condemnation suit was settled when 290 acres, which included federal trenches in the northwest portion of the battlefield, were acquired. With this acquisition, the park's size increased to approximately 3000 acres. [30]

Amazingly, though, the litigation concerning the land acquisition was not over yet. Mrs. Rambo, Mrs. Holland, George Brown, and Dan Sage filed one last suit claiming that they, as true owners of the land, had not been served proper notice when the government initiated condemnation against the Association. As a result, they did not consider themselves legally bound by the judgement. The court disagreed and on December 14, 1945, ordered that the $16,000 be paid to the receivers representing the Association, as appointed by the Superior Court of Cobb County. The acquisition of Kennesaw Mountain NBP was finally a closed case. On October 25, 1947, the Secretary of the Interior declared Kennesaw Mountain NBP officially established. [31]

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Last Updated: 01-Sep-2001