Ringgold thrives but retains hometown charm

Ringgold thrives but retains hometown charm

September 18th, 2011 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Glimpse 2011

Cody Peeler watches the breakaway competition from under the bleachers during a Georgia high school rodeo being held at the Charles Davis Cattle Company in Ringgold, Ga.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Before Ringgold, Ga., was incorporated, travelers heading through the community had to pass through the gap in the mountains known as Taylor's Crossroads -- the road owned by Cherokee Chief Richard Taylor.

More than 150 years later, Ringgold is still in the heart of a major passage. It's directly off Interstate 75, and locals will tell you it's maintained a Southern, small-town charm.

"We like to think of Ringgold as everyone's hometown" said Ringgold Councilman Randall Franks.

Ringgold offers a variety of unique shops, local diner favorites like Aunt Effie's restaurant and peaceful nature trails.

Historically, the area is known for the Battle of Ringgold Gap, during which a Confederate victory stalled the advance of the Union Army.

Ringgold was the end of the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase, when James J. Andrews, a Union civilian scout and part-time spy, hijacked a locomotive known as "The General" and a few rail cars north of Atlanta. Andrews and his men raced north, damaged the railroad tracks and cut telegraph lines between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Pursued by the train's conductor, the crew made it close to the Tennessee border before they ran out of fuel and abandoned the locomotive two miles north of the Ringgold Depot. All of them were caught by Confederate soldiers and some of them were hanged as spies.

Today, Ringgold is still recovering from a disastrous EF4 tornado that swept through the town on April 27. Locals say the area started to make a comeback after the annual 1890s Day Jamboree in late May attracted hundreds to the area.

Businesses near the Ringgold Depot -- which offers local music nearly every second Friday and Saturday of the month -- were untouched by the storm.

John Pappas, left, and Jack Manis join other volunteers to set up over 850 flags honoring deceased veterans throughout the city of Ringgold, Ga., in preparation for Memorial day.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

AT A GLANCE

• Population: 3,580

• Best things to do: The Nature Trail and Creek Walk along South Chickamauga Creek.

• Biggest employers: Shaw Industries.

• Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 15.

• Landmarks: The Ringgold Depot built in 1849. The Battle of Ringgold Gap Confederate Park. The Wedding Chapel, where thousands of couples have married. The Whitman Anderson House, a privately owned home that served as headquarters for Ulysses Grant after the Battle of Ringgold.

• Date founded: 1847 and named for the Mexican-American War hero Maj. Samuel Ringgold. He was killed in 1846 at the Battle of Palo Alto.

• Historic information: Ringgold was the home of Cherokee Chief Richard Taylor, who helped settle the area. Taylor's crossroads and Taylor's Ridge were named after him.

• Most-famous residents: Confederate Capt. William J. Whitsitt; W. Trox Bankston, a legislator and founder of several Georgia newspapers.

• Unique traditions: The 1890s Day Jamboree is a fair hosted annually at the end of May. About once a month, several downtown shops stay open late for Girl's Night Out -- an event that draws women from across the area.