In those days Cobb County (where Smyrna is located) was equally divided between the Cherokee Indians and the State of Georgia but in 1831 all the land was deeded to the State of Georgie after a settlement was reached. By 1832 pioneers had started to settle in the area where a campground was established for all denominations to worship. Soon the campsite became the center of the religious and social life of the entire surrounding area which was later to become the City of Smyrna. In 1838 the Methodist Church was organized from this campground.
In 1836 the construction of a railroad was started through Cobb County which played a significant role in the development of the town. By its completion in 1842, the Western and Atlantic Railroad started its change from a small frontier village to a town with a growing community. The railroad was known by several different names, Ruff’s Siding, Varner’s Station, Ruff’s Station, and Neal Dow before 1872 when it became the Western and Atlantic.
In 1872 the town was incorporated and named Smyrna with a population of 300 residents and high expectations of rapid suburban development. The railroad was instrumental in establishing a permanent location for the city and work for the townspeople. Factories and gristmills established in the 1840s also played a prominent role in the growth of the community. By the end of the 19th century, however, Smyrna had become a primarily agrarian community with an economy based largely on agriculture.
The first brick building in Smyrna was erected in 1850. Originally a boy’s academy called the Smyrna Institute; it was later used as a hospital, a house of worship, and a training school for officers. After General Sherman razed Cobb County to the ground in 1864, it was the only building that was left standing on the site of the old Masonic Lodge on West Spring. The award-winning Market Village, a mixed-use development and vibrant part of Smyrna’s revitalized active downtown, today stands on this site.
In 1972 Smyrna was incorporated as a municipality by the State of Georgia with boundaries extending one mile from the Smyrna Boys’ Academy in every direction. The first election was held in 1973.
The Aeronautics Industry
The coming of the aeronautics industry to the area in the post-World War II period is what finally generated enough sustained growth for Smyrna. The Bell Bomber plant situated nearby produced B-29 bombers for the war effort and became a catalyst for growth. In 1951 the plant was reopened by Lockheed. In the next two decades, the population grew from 2,005 to 20,000 in 1970.
Aunt Fanny’s Cabin
The unique restaurant, Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, was founded by Isoline Campbell MacKenna Howell in 1941. In 1948 it was taken over by Mrs. Marjorie Bowman and Harvey Hester under whose guidance the restaurant became famous throughout the country and attained status as a favorite dining spot among celebrities for its authentic southern cuisine and rustic cabin atmosphere. After 5 decades of successful operation, it was closed in 1992. The city of Smyrna purchased the original cabin in 1999 and had it moved to Atlanta Road to become the new Smyrna Welcome Center. During the years of its operation over five decades, the restaurant was visited by famous movie stars, politicians, sports figures, and celebrities who signed the guest book and left behind autographed photographs. Many of these were obtained by Smyrna and today grace the walls of the Welcome Center.
The social center of Smyrna is the Market Village that sits beside the Village Green. The Smyrna Public Library is situated here. The city-owned library is the only one of its kind in the state of Georgia. The Village Green is also home to a lively and thriving community center.
Between the Village Green and the Market Village is the 20th Century Veterans Memorial and the sidewalks of the new downtown are paved with bricks that have come to be known as “Smyrna bricks”.
In the 1990s Smyrna reinvented itself with the help of an aggressive program for urban renewal directed by its progressive-minded mayor, Max Bacon, and a dynamic city council. Between the years of 2000 and 2012, the city grew by 28% and is historically the fastest growing city in the State of Georgia.
The Cox/Armstrong Civil War Collection was installed in 2013 with select items in three displays gleaned from the collection of Gerald Cox. The displays can be viewed at the Smyrna Public Library, City Hall, and Brawner Hall.