Aerial view of businesses along Johnson Ferry Road, looking southeast, Cobb County, April 21, 1988. This has the intersection with Ga. 120 (Upper Roswell Road) in foreground looking southeast along Johnson Ferry Merchants Walk is on the right side of the street.
Photo: Calvin Cruce
Photo: Calvin Cruce

Actual Factual Cobb: How did Johnson Ferry Road get its name?

Howdy! This is "Actual Factual Cobb," and thus is much better than the rest of the Internet. In this column series, I — Ben Brasch — will keep rootin' for answers and tootin' news about Cobb County from questions you ask until the esteemed AJC fires me upon realizing how much of the newsroom's coffee budget is expended on me.

Michael Martin had a question about how some roads in Cobb County got their names. He specifically asked about Johnson Ferry Road. And I'm sure glad he did.

First of all, there's no need to be possessive; it's just "Johnson Ferry Road" and not "Johnson's Ferry Road."

Now, onto history. The road is named after a (guess what?!) ferry that ran across the Chattahoochee River. That ferry was operated by William Johnson.

It's unclear where Johnson was born, said Christa McCay, collections manager at the Marietta Museum of History. But it is clear that he died in Cobb in December 1879.

Actual Factual Cobb: How did the county's cities get these crazy names?

He was buried near a Baptist church about seven or eight miles from Marietta on Roswell Road, McCay said, referencing a newspaper story from the time.

But that wasn't Johnson's final resting place.

A week later, "Johnson's grave was not in that neat condition which it was left ... Spades and shovels were wielded by strong arms, and ... when the coffin was reached, it was found that the body of Mr. Johnson was missing," according to a Dec. 18, 1879, story from the Marietta Journal that McCay found.

Actual Factual Cobb: Atlanta invasion fear led to a 10-foot-wide city

So the man who Johnson Ferry Road was named after had his body stolen from his coffin.

"It is believed that his corpse was sold to a medical college somewhere around Atlanta for students to dissect," McCay said. "Grave robbing was not uncommon at that time, since the idea of donating one's body to science had not been done."

The oddity of this road doesn't stop there.

As recently dug up by this newspaper's professional thorn in the side, the feud between Cobb and Fulton counties over this roadway once inspired someone to fire a gun.

Actual Factual Cobb: When will Noonday Creek Trail reach Woodstock?

In a June column entitled "Surprise! Braves traffic ‘plan’ sticks it to neighbors," Bill Torpy brought us back to the mid-1990s when Cobb widened its side of Johnson Ferry Road to six lanes. Cobb suggested Fulton do the same, but Fulton didn't want to invite all that traffic.

Nayef Haddad, Fulton's traffic head at the time, "cut the green light for incoming traffic from 2 minutes to 50 seconds, creating massive tie-ups on Cobb’s side of the river," Torpy wrote.

Stadiums, politics, money: Why Cobb County will have a historic 2017

So, basically, Cobb had its own version of Bridgegate.

This all came to a head in 1997 when someone, as Torpy wrote, "fired a couple large-caliber bullets into the traffic control box in violent protest."

There you have it, Michael. I'm sure you were expecting grave robbing and firearms, right?

I, Ben Brasch, am a reporter with the AJC. To submit “Actual Factual Cobb” questions, contact me at ben.brasch@ajc.com or on Twitter at @ben_brasch, or via the form below.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X