Exploring Northeast Georgia – Soapstone Ridge Stone Wall – Kitty Stratton

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I am drawn to the mystery of ancient stone walls.  My roots are Irish and British and I grew up climbing on stone walls as a child.  I miss the ancient history of Europe but  the Americas  also have  ancient history.  I’m just not so sure that we have our historical timelines correct.

I have visited stonewalls all over Northeast Georgia, Fort Mountain near Ellijay has a very visible stone wall around part of the summit.  There are stone walls in Habersham County and also near Toccoa in Stephens County.  These are the ones I know of and I am sure there are many more.

Native Americans did not traditionally build stone walls, but left magnificent mounds and other artifacts so we could learn more about their way of life and who they were.

Soapstone Ridge

But who built the stone walls and why?  They are usually located on top of a ridge or mountain, maybe as a lookout for strangers or enemies. 

The section of stone wall on Soapstone Ridge is in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management area and not easy to find.  Don’t expect directions or signs, it has basically been ignored by  historians probably because they aren’t able to fit it into our historical timeline. 

A section of the  stone wall on Soapstone Ridge

It is hard to believe that this line of piled rock is accidental, other photos show a distinct line of rock descending down the mountain.  The wall was hard to find and during our hike we passed the location and it was only on our return that I had a strange feeling about the pile of rocks on the side of the barely used path we had followed.  After climbing over the rocks to the edge of the ridge is when we saw a very distinct wall snaking down the mountain. 

Wall descending from the summit of Soapstone Ridge

I like to believe there was a settlement on this ancient ridge and now all we can see is the ruins of a bygone age.   Future generations would appreciate and benefit from understanding our collective ancestry.  How hard could it be to protect this site and supervise  archaeological excavations to see what we could find under this tumble down pile of stones?   We may be amazed! 

Exploring Northeast Georgia – Byron Herbert Reese Farm – Kitty Stratton

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Writing and poetry live long after people have gone.  The Byron Herbert Reese Farm is a beautiful Memorial to the poetry & writing of Byron Herbert Reese.  Reece was born in Union County near Blood Mountain on September 14, 1917, and lived only to the young age of 40.  He was a literary genius and a humble farmer who loved the mountains and valleys of Northeast Georgia. 

His old homeplace lies about a mile north of Vogel State Park and has been lovingly preserved.   It was in 2004   that the family farm was purchased by Union County and leased to the Byron Herbert Reese Society, who over the years created the museum and interpretive center, now  open to the public.

The walking trail that meanders  around the old family farm has beautiful carved rock inscriptions of Reece’s poetry. 

I Know A Valley Green with Corn – Byron Herbert Reece

Not able to linger and read and fully experience the depth of his poetry  I was inspired to purchase the book Mountain  Singer  by Raymond A. Cook  – Poetry and Biography of a Hill Country Genius.

WINTER SOLSTICE

As well as the beautifully engraved stones of Reece’s poetry there is a living history showing examples of the farming life in Northeast Georgia during the early 1900s.   Adults and children alike will enjoy the farm displays and live farm animals.   The farm includes  a chicken house, spring house,  smokehouse, corn crib and restored barns.  While visiting we were able to see sheep, hens, and donkeys. 

Spring House

Before leaving this beautiful place take a moment to visit the gift shop and picnic area.  For events there is a creek side amphitheater, events can be viewed on the website.  http://www.unioncountyga.gov/reecefarm/

Alec Mountain – Habersham County Georgia – Ancient Stone Walls – Kitty Stratton

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Exploring Northeast Georgia

Alec Mountain Stone Circle – lost in time.

Kitty Stratton

How many civilizations have lived in the Sautee Nacoochee Valley area? We know the Cherokee lived here along with other Native American tribes including mound builders, but these ancestors weren’t known for building rock walls and rock structures like those you find in ancient Europe. 

Lost in time, not far from the Sautee Village area there is an ancient stone structure on private land that I was lucky enough to be invited to visit with a friend doing research. It was a beautiful day, and I was filled with excitement and anticipation to finally see this structure I had read about.

The structure had at one time had interest and recognition but because our “experts” in archaeology and history can’t seem to place this and other stone walls and structures in Northeast Georgia into our classic textbook historic timeline it has basically been ignored.

Phillip E Smith, an Archaeologist, visited Alec Mountain in 1956 and at that time the stone circle was a

Tourist attraction. He drew this sketch, showing placement of excavations.

Stone Structure on Alec Mountain – Sketch by Phillip E Smith – Archaeologist

Why have we not respected the treasures of our past? This amazing archaeological site has been left to disappear back into the earth, covered with leaves and no effort made to understand the culture that labored to place these heavy stones on top of each other in a large oval shape for some purpose.  Who were these people? Was it built in the same era as the mysterious stone wall that encircles part of Fort Mountain near Ellijay, Georgia?   Were the same people, the same culture responsible for a stone wall built on top of Soapstone Ridge in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management area near Toccoa?

I wish I had the ability to see deep below the piles of leaves and brush to understand the layout of this structure and maybe somehow discern it’s purpose.  I took photographs but they don’t do this historic structure justice. One could argue that it was randomly placed rocks but I doubt Phillip E Smith would have made an archaeological sketch of randomly placed piles of stones.

                     A Section of Alec Mountain stone circle on the southwest side of the outer wall

The question remains, whether the generations who come along behind us care enough to preserve and understand the meaning of this place before it becomes lost in time. 

Fort Mountain, Georgia

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By Kitty Stratton

Fort Mountain, GA.

By

Kitty Stratton

Long before I hiked the mesmerizingly beautiful trail to the summit of Fort Mountain, I had read about the legends and the disappointing lack of historical evidence regarding the age and builders of the ancient stone wall that zig zags in a serpentine type fashion for 850 ft just below one side of the summit.

So many questions and really no answers!  The information sign near the wall briefly covers the Cherokee legend of the moon eyed people or Prince Madoc of Wales as possible builders. 

Stone Wall information panel at Fort Mountain

When dealing with mysteries I like to look for coincidences or similarities and having grown up in England, the wall did somehow remind me of the rock (or stone walls) of England, Ireland or Wales.  But the question remains, “why?”  Why would a tribe or culture build a wall around a partial side of a summit of a mountain in Northeast Georgia?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Fort Mountain, GA. Section of ancient stone wall.

If they lived behind the wall for protection, it did not seem the ideal place for a winter home, with maximum exposure to the elements of freezing snow or rain & high winds.  I did not see an obvious water source at the top of the mountain or anywhere to grow crops. 

Were they may be protecting the mountain for some reason?  Who was protecting whom from what?  In my limited findings from internet research I did discover that there is a creek called Goldmine Creek in Fort Mtn. State Park.  Placer Gold was panned from this and maybe other creeks on Fort Mountain years ago.  Apparently, there is a reference to a large vein of gold on Fort Mountain by the United States Geological Survey when they visited in 1906. A mine was being worked in 1906 when they visited but just a few years later when they came back the mine was shut down.  Another question looms, why was the mine shut down?

After reading through the  Archaeological survey –  ABORIGINAL STONE CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE SOUTHERN PIEDMONT BY PHILLIP E. SMITH MARCH 1962  https://archaeology.uga.edu/sites/default/files/lab-series/uga_lab_series_4.pdf   some interesting findings stood out.

According to the report  throughout the length of the wall there are 19 pits.  I was excited by this revelation until I read on and discovered that excavations in and around a couple of these pits did not produce any artifacts or burials.  The author of the survey felt that these pits were possibly made by gold diggers or vandals.  At the end of the survey very little conclusion is drawn, except that there is a true similarity to other Stone Forts in the southeastern states.  One of the best preserved stone forts, not mentioned in the survey is the Old Stone Fort  on the Duck River near Manchester, Tennessee.

Regardless of what my explorations of Fort Mountain reveal I am now a dedicated enthusiast of exploring more Stone Forts  and look forward to sharing more articles  on this subject!