One day several years ago, Jim Perkins and a friend were walking in the wooded area around Chamblee Methodist Church on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road looking for evidence of the Roswell Railroad.
Jim, who wrote Past Tense for many years and became our unofficial Dunwoody historian, was gathering information for an article on the Roswell Railroad. It just so happens that Michael Hitt, Roswell police officer and historian, and a friend were in the exact same area that day. Michael was researching a book on the Roswell Railroad, which eventually led to a very detailed map of the railroad and its surrounding features. The two discovered that day that they had something in common: they both loved history and they both wanted to learn as much as possible about the path of the Roswell Railroad.
Just in case you are new to Dunwoody, I’ll give you the basics of the Roswell Railroad. It ran from Chamblee, through Dunwoody, and on to Roswell, stopping just short of the Chattahoochee River. According to Michael Hitt, the Roswell Manufacturing Company was behind the efforts to have a train run from Roswell to Atlanta, in order to get their goods to the buyers. Preparations for the railroad began before the Civil War, but didn’t resume right after the war. The train actually began service in 1881, and it continued service until 1921. The train connected to existing service already available from Chamblee to Atlanta.
Jim and Michael were part of a great historical find in 1994, when two narrow gauge railroad ties were found in Dunwoody at the location of a new Boston Market Restaurant. Two more railroad houses once stood in this location, like the one which is still next door. Jim had asked the construction workers to let him know if they found any historic relics on the site. One railroad tie is on display at Bulloch Hall in Roswell and the other is at the Cheek Spruill Farmhouse.
Michael Hitt is retired now, but his interest in history continues. He has made four historical maps available, each one with illustrations by Chuck Brown. These are poster size maps, with great detail and a lot of historical information on each one. The Roswell Railroad map shows the path the train followed from Chamblee to Roswell, including places that exist today so you will know exactly where it was located.
From this map you will know that the train used to pass right behind the Arby’s on Savoy Drive, that the train ran right through the heart of Dunwoody along present day Chamblee Dunwoody Road, and that when you pass Sharon Community Church on Dunwoody Place the train ran right behind there.
The other maps include The Cherokee Lands Map which shows where the Cherokee roads, trails and settlements were. The Entrenchments Map shows where Union and Confederate forces were located during the Civil War. It also shows where a mile and a half of entrenchments were prepared by Confederate soldiers. These entrenchments can still be seen if you know where to look.
The final map is Roswell, Georgia, 1864 and shows the location of all the historic homes, businesses, churches and cemeteries as they were in that year just before Union forces arrived.
These maps are available for $20 each at Bulloch Hall, the Roswell Visitor Center, and in the Visitors Center at Island Ford Park in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Each one contains a wealth of history and detail to take you back in time. There was a whole lot going around here in the last 200 or more years that we might not know about if it were not for historians like Jim Perkins and Michael Hitt.