This week, 158 years have passed since the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, a harrowing skirmish between the Confederacy and the Union that serves as a cornerstone of Cobb County history. Locals might be keen to learn that June will held another important anniversary for the site: the founding of Kennesaw Mountain Park.
The creation of the park had been in the works for a long time. In 1899, Illinois veteran Lansing J. Dawdy purchased 60 acres at Cheatham Hill, which included many historic earthworks. To further preserve the site, it was given to the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Association in 1904. With support from the State of Illinois, the veterans of the association were able to erect the Illinois Monument in 1914. The dedication was held on June 27, 1914 — 108 years ago in June. The Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Association hoped the park could be transferred to the Federal Government, a goal which was accomplished in 1917 with the creation of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Site. The park was placed under the War Department (a predecessor of the Department of Defense).
The War Department did very little work on the 60 acres, and it was disappointing that Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Site did not include the famous mountain. In 1933, the park was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service. On June 26, 1935, the park’s enabling legislation was passed by Congress. This act also changed the name to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Kennesaw Mountain was one of the first three parks to be given the designation “National Battlefield Park,” a title chosen to highlight the historical and recreational aspects of the park. The title would not be used for another park site until 2009.
The enabling legislation is considered the park’s official founding, though it would take until 1937 for Kennesaw Mountain to be included as part of Kennesaw Mountain NBP. In that year, 450 acres belonging to the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Association — a different organization than the veteran’s group two decades before — were condemned after several years of court cases. The association would continue to challenge the ruling until after World War II.
Now that Kennesaw Mountain was part of the National Park Service, the park had to be made ready for visitors. Even though the Great Depression had been plaguing the nation for several years, a way to develop the park was found. The Civil Works Administration, part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, laid the groundwork for future plans. Another New Deal organization, the Civilian Conservation Corps picked up where the CWA left off. In 1938 a CCC camp was established at the park and named Camp T. M. Brumby (or simply Camp Brumby) in honor of a popular Marietta mayor. The camp was located east of the mountain along Kennesaw Avenue.
One of the park’s priorities was creating a Visitor Center. The Hyde House, built in the 1890s, was chosen for the task. The house was located where the main parking lot is today. The house was open to the public on June 25, 1939. On that historic day, Lucinda Hardage and Carol Northcutt raised the U.S. flag. Lucinda Hardage was a witness to the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and Carol Northcutt was a young girl at the time. She returned to the park in June 2019 to raise the flag for the Battle Anniversary, and she passed away last year at the age of 90.
The Hyde House remained the park Visitor Center for twenty-five years, and many Cobb County residents have fond memories of the house. In 1964, it was torn down to make way for a new Visitor Center. That building was expanded in 1999 and continues to serve hikers and history buffs today.
Since Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park was established 87 years ago, it has been the defining park of Cobb County. While the park’s facilities have changed greatly, the mountain and battlefield itself are now forever preserved for future generations.