Traditionally considered part of northwest Georgia, Bartow County is now included in the Atlanta metropolitan area, mainly in the southeastern part near Cartersville, which has become an exurb more than 40 miles (64 km) from downtown Atlanta on I-75. It has a sole commissioner government, and is the largest county by population of the few remaining in Georgia with a sole commissioner.
Bartow County was created from the Cherokee lands of the Cherokee County territory on December 3, 1832, and named Cass County, after General Lewis Cass (1782–1866) Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, Minister to France and Secretary of State under President James Buchanan, who was instrumental in the removal of Native Americans from the area. However, the county was renamed on December 6, 1861, in honor of Francis S. Bartow because of Cass’s support of the Union, even though Bartow never visited in the county, living 200 miles (320 km) away near Savannah all of his life. Cass had supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty, the right of each state to determine its own laws independently of the Federal government, the platform of conservative Southerners who removed his name. The first county seat was at Cassville, but after the burning of the county courthouse and the Sherman Occupation, the seat moved to Cartersville, where it remains.