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Rome's Underwater Archaeology

In July of 2004, archival research was conducted as part of an underwater archaeological investigation and training project undertaken in Rome, Georgia. The project was conducted by Marine Archaeological Research (MARC) and Conservation team of Pompano Beach, Florida for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division (DNR). The principal investigator was Mr. Jason Burns, Underwater Archaeologist, DNR. The research was conducted at local museums, libraries, government agencies, and through interviews with local knowledgeable persons.

The primary focus was on the maritime history of the area including steam driven paddle wheelers, maritime commerce, and associated development along river banks. The MARC team was looking for underwater archaeological features around the confluence of the Coosa, Etowah, and Oostanaula Rivers.

Following the research, dives were conducted during the During the dives, remote sensing and hands-on evaluation were used to locate and identify sites. The remains of the Dixie and two wharfs were located and recorded.

To learn more about the dives in Rome contact Jason Burns from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division at 912-598-3346.

Surveying the Coosa & Etowah Rivers

Dive crew on the
Etowah River

Iron from the Dixie steamboat on the riverbank

The cribbing of a wharf can be seen just under the water's surface.

This drawing, by Kurt Knoerl of M.A.R.C., shows the detail of the wharf cribbing.  Cribbing was used to hold rocks which acted as the pier for the wharf.  There were at least two wharfs at the confluence of Rome's three rivers: the Coosa, Etowah, and Oostanaula.

This map shows the four underwater archaeological sites that were surveyed during the Summer 2004 dives.

If you are interested in getting involved with north Georgia's underwater archaeology contact the newly formed North Georgia Underwater Archaeology Society.  Click on their logo to learn more at www.nguas.org.

During the dives the Florida-based Marine Archaeological Research and Conservation group provided training to interested divers.  Click on their logo to learn more at www.marinearchaeology.org.



The Dixie Steamboat

Rome, Georgia was once a commercial shipping port using steamships to move goods and people between Rome and Gadsden, Alabama. The ships unloaded their cargo for distribution by the Rome Railroad. These flat-bottomed, shallow draft vessels plied the waters of the Coosa and Oostanaula Rivers from the mid 1840s until the early 1900s.

One such vessel was the Dixie. It is believed that Francis M. Coulter built the Dixie sometime between 1855 and the 1880s. It is certain that his son, Herbert Coulter served as her captain. The Dixie would have carried cotton, passengers, lumber, machinery, beer, and other spirits, essentially all the stuff necessary for a thriving community.

The Dixie met her end in the Coosa River in 1914, when, while tied to the Myrtle Hill Wharf, the vessel caught fire. Supposedly the cook’s fire got out of control. Everyone got off the ship and it was cut free from the wharf. She drifted downstream to her current resting place against the bank. Here she burned to the waterline and was abandoned. At some point the engines were pulled from her with a crane, and all that remains are the wooden timbers of the ships bottom. The ship’s remains still show the blackened charcoal of her fiery demise.

Dixie Steamboat text courtesy of Bob O'Daniels



Historical Figures of Rome


Robert Battey


Ellen Axson Wilson

One of Rome's first and
finest surgeons.  During the Civil War, Rome was best known as a hospital area for wounded soldiers.  This dedication to the medical field has endured into present times.

  Married to President Woodrow Wilson, Ellen Axson Wilson was very active in promoting civic responsibility while she was First Lady.  She died in 1914 and was buried in Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, GA.

Colonel Daniel Mitchell

One of the founders of Rome.   Mitchell is credited with
selecting Rome as the name of the new city. 

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Rome Area History Museum

305 Broad Street, Rome, Georgia 30161

Phone: 706-235-8051   |   Fax: 706-235-6631   |   email: info@romehistorymuseum.com

Last Updated: 08/21/2006