Located in northern Floyd County, Floyd Springs was a thriving community in the mid-nineteenth century. A small plaque in the graveyard of the Floyd Springs Methodist Church reads “Alexander H. Stephens Spoke Here Sept. 1860 against Secession.” Stephens later served as Vice President of the Confederate States of America. Augustus Wright, a prominent local judge and U.S. Congressman, invited Stephens to speak to a crowd of several hundred to urge restraint in relations with the Federal government.
The bountiful water supply and thriving farms in the area served as a magnet not only to the troops of both sides but also to bands of “Independent Scouts” and guerrillas that roamed the northwest Georgia area. These groups were made up of deserters and renegades from both sides. After the passage of the armies, they found it easier to prey on local citizens than to face enemy fire.
One of the most infamous of these bands was headquartered near Floyd Springs and was led by John Gatewood, an illiterate Tennessean with flowing red hair and “the conscience of a rattlesnake.” Gatewood’s original reason for taking up the guerrilla life was to avenge the death of his father, who had been murdered by Federal troops. He was rumored to have ridden with the notorious outlaw Champ Fergeson until a falling out over loot forced him to move his band south into Georgia.