Mark Cooper’s Friendship Monument

Attendance at the Cartersville Bluegrass and Folk Festival yesterday allowed me to take these pictures of a monument to an event in local history. Mark A. Cooper of the nineteenth-century Etowah Iron Works was apparently a popular fellow, so much so that some thirty-eight people pooled their resources to bail him out after the panic of 1857. He was able to repay his creditors three years later, and in thanks paid for a monument to their generosity, which stands in downtown Cartersville, flanked by two Georgia historical markers.

More information may be read at the Visit Cartersville website:

In 1831 Mark Cooper and a friend, Charles P. Gordon, called the first convention to publicly consider building a railroad in Georgia. Cooper and Gordon were from Eatonton, Georgia and both were elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1833 where they continued their efforts. As a result, the state owned Western & Atlantic (W&A) Railroad was completed in 1850 connecting Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Cooper had moved here in the early 1840’s and established a thriving iron production and manufacturing enterprise just south of Cartersville at the town of Etowah called the Etowah Iron and Manufacturing Company. But the iron and other goods produced at Etowah were about two miles from the newly completed W&A Railroad. So in 1847 the Etowah Railroad Company was incorporated to transport the goods to the main railroad. Cooper’s business partner couldn’t pay his share of the tracks and Cooper bought him out. In 1857 Cooper was $100,000 in debt and the Etowah Iron and Manufacturing Company was auctioned. Cooper bought the company back with a $200,000 note to be paid in three years. The 38 friends whose names appear on the Friendship Monument today endorsed the note. By 1859 Cooper paid off note and in 1860 paid tribute to his friends with the erection of the Friendship Monument on the Etowah Town Square.

Along came the Civil War, and Etowah gained prominence as a manufacturing center for the Confederacy. Eventually the Confederate Government bought and operated the iron works. A major target of the Atlanta Campaign, in May, 1864 troops under General William T. Sherman destroyed everything there except the Friendship Monument. It stood a silent sentinel to a lost cause for sixty-seven years. Then a movement began to dam the Etowah River and build a lake for flood control. The town that was Etowah would be flooded by Lake Allatoona. In 1927 the Friendship Monument was moved to downtown Cartersville to escape. Cartersville hosted a grand ceremony, and the Friendship Monument was unveiled by Mark A. Cooper’s great-great grandson Mark Cooper Pope, then three years old. By the 1960’s the town of Cartersville decided it needed more parking spaces and no longer wanted the monument. The Corps of Engineers said they had a lovely place for it on a knoll overlooking Lake Allatoona where Cooper’s Etowah used to be. So the monument was moved again.

In the mid-1990s people started talking about moving the monument back to Cartersville and the talk spread to Atlanta where Mark Cooper Pope lives. Pope wanted the monument back in Cartersville, too, and generously lent resources to make it possible. In 1999, in conjunction with the Cartersville Sesquicentennial Celebration, the Cartersville City council approved moving the Friendship Monument back downtown and named the square where the monument would be placed “Friendship Plaza.”

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