Exploring Northeast Georgia – Summer Nights & Movies under the Stars – Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia

Summer Nights & Movies under the Stars

Kitty Stratton

In the high heat of the summer months along with cool creeks and watermelon, homemade ice-cream and fireflies, I think of cool movie theaters and resting long enough to escape the soaring temperatures.

Have you ever stopped to think how many movies have been made in your own backyard? Not literally, of course, but in our North Georgia mountains. On a quick look on the internet for movies made in Northeast Georgia, the majority have been made in Rabun County. I counted seventeen but there may be more than that.


The Disney movie “The Great Locomotive Chase” released in 1956 was filmed in North Georgia and North Carolina, using the now abandoned Tallulah Falls railway.

This Walt Disney adventure movie was based on a real Great Locomotive Chase that happened in 1862 during the Civil War. Fess Parker starred as James Andrews the leader of a group of Union soldiers. The group led by Parker, go behind Confederate lines disguised in everyday clothing and steal a Confederate train north of Atlanta. The adventure gathers momentum as they drive the locomotive back to the Union army in Tennessee.

The Great Locomotive Chase is a great family movie to watch and sit back and relax with a big bowl of popcorn, watch out for local Northeast Georgia scenery and teach the kids a little history along the way.

Other family movies made locally in the area include the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie, Foxfire. Jessica Tandy won an Emmy Award for her performance in the movie.


Jessica Tandy plays the part of Annie Nations, an older Appalachian woman who has spent her whole life living in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Her husband, Hector, played by Hume Cronyn, although passed away for five years, is still very much in her thoughts.  John Denver, who plays their country music singer son, Dillard Nations, is trying to convince his mother Annie to sell the farm and move to Florida and live with his family. Annie has to decide for herself.

Before Foxfire became a movie it was a play based on the Foxfire books written by Susan Cooper and Hume Cronyn. The movie captures forever the timeless plight of the people of Southern Appalachia. Does a rural mountain family keep a family home place or move away in the name of economic progress?  Annie Nation’s decision is heart rending.  Does she stay in her log cabin on the land, in the mountains that she and husband, and generations before them, worked so hard for or does she move away from all that she has ever known and loved?

Other movies filmed in Rabun County, may not be for the whole family to watch.  The 1976 movie, Whiskey Mountain by William Grefe, features a group of motorcyclists on a treasure hunt who are terrorized by a gang of murderous psychopaths.

The 1976 film Grizzly was filmed in Clayton. The movie is about a fifteen foot tall Grizzly bear that creates terror in a National Forest setting. The movie cast had many local residents in supporting roles, including Catherine Rickman, who played one of the victims. Catherine was the daughter of Frank Rickman.

Frank Rickman (1924-2004) played a large part in bringing the movie industry to Rabun County.  For further reading about movies filmed in Rabun County visit the Rabun County Historical Society website http://www.rabunhistory.org  and reference Frank Rickman and the role he played in bringing the movie industry to Rabun County.

Exploring Northeast Georgia – Who was William Bartram? By Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia

Who was William Bartram?

Kitty Stratton

Living in Rabun County you may have come across a trail marker for the William Bartram Trail. But who was William Bartram and what was he doing in Northeast Georgia in 1775?


William Bartram

William Bartram was born in Kingsessing outside of Philadelphia on April 9th, 1739.  He had a twin sister named Elizabeth. They were raised in a Quaker family and their father John, was America’s first professional botanist. William’s role model was his father and he was fortunate enough to be able to accompany his father, at the age of 26 on a trip to explore the wilds of Florida.

At that time Florida was newly acquired by Britain from Spain. As the King’s Botanist, John Bartram was commissioned to explore the flora and fauna of Florida. William and his father travelled to Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah and Augusta and then boated up the St John’s River in Florida.

Researching the life of William Bartram shows a man who was never content to work indoors. He loved the out of doors and exploring. He had many talents including writing and drawing and authored the book, “Travels”, which is still purchased and read today. He is known for his detailed descriptions of his natural surroundings as he travelled through the newly discovered southeastern areas of North America.

William Bartram and his father have been credited with discovering and naming the Fraser Magnolia.  The Fraser Magnolia grows in a very small range in the mid-south Appalachian Mountains.  The Bartrams named the tree after a well-known Scottish botanist, John Fraser.

Bartram Magnolia

Fraser Magnolia discovered in 1775 by Bartram

As a result of William Bartram’s well documented travels throughout Northeast Georgia we have a detailed account of the areas he visited. The Bartram trail covers 36.5 miles in Northeast Georgia and is well marked with historic markers such as this Historic Marker located on Warwoman Road, 2.7 miles east of Hwy 441 near Warwoman Dell.


We know from Bartram’s account of his travels that he crossed the Chattooga River and followed Warwoman Creek. He then headed through Courthouse Gap and followed Stekoa Creek to nearby Clayton.  He then headed north through Rabun Gap. While reading accounts of his travels we realize that his journey was not without fear and difficulties.  When we place his travels in the timeline of history we see that 1775 was just prior to the start of the Revolutionary War but also more importantly for Bartram, riding alone on horseback, this was a time not long after the Cherokee War which ended in 1761. The war had severely damaged the Cherokee Nation. Bartram was well aware of the bitterness the war had caused between the Cherokees and frontier settlers.


Bartram Trail in Northeast Georgia

Today, we might look back at William Bartram’s travels through Indian territories during war-torn times as risky at the least, especially on a mission to collect flowers and plants. However when we read the account of his journey in his book, “Travels”, we realize that he was well aware of the dangers ahead of him. However, history tells us that he was friendly and had a very deep respect for Native Americans.

William Bartram died at his home near Philadelphia on July 22nd 1823.