Georgia Railroad and Banking played big role in city's history

Georgia Railroad and Banking Co., seen in 1889, contributed to the building of the Augusta Canal and put Atlanta on track to becoming the state capital.

It began as a company to build a railroad, but at the end of the tracks, it was a bank.


Georgia Railroad and Banking Co. was one of the oldest and most prominent companies in the state, one that loaned Augusta leadership and invested it with much respect.

The company's history is filled with names now prominent in the area: Phinizy, Blanchard, Thomson and Claussen.

Georgia Railroad Co. was born Dec. 21, 1833. Two years later, after an act of the state Legislature gave it banking powers, the company changed its name to Georgia Railroad and Banking Co.

It started out as a railroad with the charter opportunity to add banking facilities. The first train moved out of Augusta on company tracks in 1837. By 1842, the railroad extended to Madison, and by 1845 to Marthasville -- now called Atlanta.

Throughout its history, the bank played prominent roles in Augusta and Georgia.

The company contributed to the building of the Augusta Canal. By stretching the railroad to Atlanta, it helped set that city on course to become Georgia's eventual capital and the Southeast's trading nexus.

During the Civil War, its railroads carried Confederate soldiers to battle. From the Confederate Powderworks at Augusta, company railroads carried nearly all the gunpowder made for the Confederacy.

About 1890, Georgia Railroad Bank was formed as a subsidiary of the company to avoid taxation.

In 1986, First Union acquired the company and assumed its downtown high-rise on Broad Street. Wachovia took over First Union's title, and today the bank is part of Wells Fargo.