LaGrange, the seat of Troup County, is located approximately sixty miles southwest of Atlanta in the foothills of the western Piedmont. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the city's population is 29,588.
LaGrange was settled by people largely from eastern Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Antebellum Troup County was the fourth-wealthiest in Georgia and fifth-largest slaveholding county. Slaves—skilled artisans, craftsmen, and engineers—provided the basis of that wealth and the labor to tame the frontier quickly. Many well-to-do planters lived in town and had diversified economic interests. More than 100 Federal- and Greek revival–style mansions had been built in town by 1860. LaGrange's native son, the historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, wrote in Life and Labor in the Old South that such places as Troup County "never knew a rough regime," even when west Georgia was a frontier.
LaGrange became a center of commerce, transportation, and education for west central Georgia. The first school, Troup County Academy for boys, was followed by three female colleges: LaGrange, Southern, and Brownwood.
In the Civil War (1861-65) more than eight companies of men left LaGrange for the various fronts. Militia and state guards also saw duty, some at Chickamauga, others along the Atlanta and West Point railroads, and some in minor battles, such as Philpot's Ferry and Fort Tyler, in Troup County. A company of women, named the Nancy Harts in honor of Nancy Hart, a Georgia heroine of the American Revolution (1775-83), formed for home defense. LaGrange was a Confederate hospital zone, refugee center, and magnet for political and military leaders and their families. Confederate president Jefferson Davis was frequently in LaGrange. The town was invaded on April 17, 1865, by a Union detachment led, ironically, by a man named Colonel Oscar H. LaGrange. The federal troops burned most factories and some stores, destroyed the railroad depot and tracks, and cut the telegraph lines.
In May 1865 Union general Emory Upton (whose later works were the basis of U.S. military policy and tactics) came to LaGrange to arrest Benjamin Hill, a member of the Confederate Senate, at his home, Bellevue. At the same time Upton captured Stephen Mallory, Confederate secretary of the navy. Many prominent figures of the 1800s began or had careers in LaGrange, including A. O. Bacon, Logan Bleckley, Alfred H. Colquitt, Albert H. Cox, William Dougherty, Blount C. Ferrell, John B. Gordon, Daniel N. Speer, Linton Stephens, and W. O. Tuggle.
The 1880s through World War II
LaGrange received national acclaim in World War I (1917-18). In all five Liberty Loan Bond Drives, LaGrange and Troup County were said to be the first in the nation to oversubscribe their quotas, doing so on the first day of each drive.
Post-World War II
After World War II (1941-45), which found LaGrange citizens in every theater of the war, growth began again. Industrial diversification, beginning about 1968, was one factor. Fourteen Fortune 1000 firms maintain substantial facilities in LaGrange. Another factor has been contributions made by the Callaway Foundation, created by Fuller E. Callaway Jr. and Alice H. Callaway in 1943, which enhance the city's quality of life. LaGrange has amenities not found in similar-sized towns: two art galleries, a symphony orchestra, a ballet company, an opera company, an airport, a television station, an archives, two colleges (LaGrange College and West Georgia Technical College), and thirteen recreational centers with facilities for every sport. Awards in the year 2000 included the Intelligent City of the Year award of the World Teleport Association, Georgia City of Excellence, and Government Technology Leadership Award. Every home has free Internet access provided by the city.
Historic venues in LaGrange include several National Register districts and homes, including the boyhood home of renowned artist Lamar Dodd. Bellevue, former home of Benjamin Harvey Hill and now home of the LaGrange Woman's Club, is the city's only National Historic Landmark structure. Hills and Dales, designed by Neel Reid in 1914,
LaGrange is home to several annual festivals and events. The nationally acclaimed, award-winning Azalea Storytelling Festival is held in early spring, while the Hydrangea Festival occurs in May or June. The city celebrates Independence Day each year with its Sweet Land of Liberty parade.
LaGrange also works to help establish friendship and understanding between the United States and other nations through its three sister cities: Aso, Kumamoto, Japan; Poti, Republic of Georgia; and Craigavon, Northern Ireland.
Forrest C. Johnson III, Histories of LaGrange and Troup County, Georgia, vols. 1, 3, 5, and 7 (LaGrange, Ga.: Sutherland–St. Dunston Press, 1987-96).
Glenda Major and Forrest C. Johnson III, Treasures of Troup County: A Pictorial History (LaGrange, Ga.: Troup County Historical Society, 1993).
Travels through Troup County: A Guide to Its Architecture and History (LaGrange, Ga.: Troup County Historical Society, 1996).
Forrest Clark Johnson III, Troup County
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.