A Recap of the Past 13,000 Years
The area known as Vinings today may have first been traveled by nomads thousands of years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age. Artifacts from that period have been found in other parts of Georgia.
There is ample evidence of Vinings-area inhabitants during the Woodland and Mississippian eras, roughly from 1,000 B.C. to A.D. 1600. These populations suffered tremendous losses in the mid-1500s after European explorers, beginning with Hernando de Soto’s expedition, unintentionally introduced fatal diseases such as smallpox.
Those who survived, and their descendants, eventually formed the Native American groups we know as the Creek and Cherokee. Generally speaking, Creeks lived on the present-day Fulton County side of the Chattahoochee River and to the south, and Cherokees lived on the Cobb side and to the north.
Through the early 1800s, Europeans and their descendants continued to settle in the interior of the United States, pushing the country’s border westward. There was constant and increasing pressure on Native Americans to move even further west, away from the encroaching white population.
By mid-century, the U.S. and Georgia governments had driven all Indians out of Georgia, taken away all their land in the state, and redistributed it to white settlers via a series of land lotteries from 1805-1835.
One of the lucky winners was a man named Hardy Pace from Putnam County, about 90 miles southeast of Vinings. He is thought to have amassed – through lotteries, trades and purchases – thousands of acres between present-day Buckhead and Smyrna.
In 1839, Western & Atlantic Railroad track was being laid between Chattanooga and Atlanta, which was then just a frontier with a few railroad employees. Pace likely realized that Vinings (then called Crossroads) would become a construction hub for the railroad, and he settled there.
Pace already owned and operated a ferry (Pace’s Ferry) across the Chattahoochee, and soon owned a grist mill, an inn and tavern, and farms. This area became known as Paces Crossroads, but the name would change again, thanks to the coming railroad.
One difficult and time-consuming part of constructing the railroad was a rail line bridge around what was then called Pace’s Mountain. The Western & Atlantic assistant engineer who was responsible for this job was a young man named William H. Vining.
The job soon became known as Vining’s Bridge. The men who came to work on the job lived in a settlement called Vining’s Camp. And, after the railroad was operational, the depot built at the tracks was named Vining’s Station.
In the summer of 1864, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops marched toward Vinings. Their goal was to destroy the Confederacy's supply line in Atlanta: the railroads. Pace, then age 78, left town.
Union troops arrived on July 5. For the next 11 days, Gen. O.O. Howard used the Pace house as his headquarters while Sherman made plans and federal troops made advances into Atlanta.
Pace died late that year. He and his wife, Lucy, are buried in a family cemetery on top of Vinings Mountain.
After the war, Hardy’s surviving son Solomon returned to Vinings and built a new house, thought to be on the same site as his father's home. This is the Solomon and Penelopy Pace House that stands on Paces Mill Road today.
During the time of post-war Reconstruction, the Western & Atlantic Railroad built five open-air pavilions along its rail line to encourage Atlantans to venture out of the city. One of these pavilions, built at Vinings in 1874, became quite popular as a day-trip and special event destination. Train riders would disembark at Vining’s Station and walk the short distance to the pavilion for picnics, concerts, dancing and socializing.
The Old Pavilion was saved from demolition in 1996 and moved a few blocks to the Pace House property.
In 1904, at the dawn of a new century, a small one-lane bridge was built across the Chattahoochee River to replace Pace’s ferry. In that same year, the unincorporated Cobb County community on the northern end of the bridge was officially recognized as Vinings.