Exploring Northeast Georgia
Who was William Bartram?
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 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.
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.
Exploring Northeast Georgia
Our Wild and Scenic River
The Chattooga River or Tsatugi named by the Cherokees marks the border between Rabun County in Georgia and Oconee County in South Carolina. This area was well known to the Cherokees. There was a village named Chattooga Town close to the meeting point of the Chattooga River and the West Fork of the Chattooga River. A census taken in 1721 shows roughly ninety people living in the Chattooga Town village.
Dugout Canoe from the Chattooga River
On display at the Oconee Heritage Center in Walhalla, South Carolina is a 32 ½ foot Native American, dugout canoe, discovered in 2004, which has been carbon dated from the late 1700’s. The canoe was made using iron tools and constructed using Southern Yellow Pine.
The fifty mile Wild and Scenic Chattooga River begins at the base of Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers, North Carolina. It descends rapidly until it flows into Tugaloo Lake in Northeast Georgia. The Chattooga is well known for its abundance of whitewater rapids and waterfalls.
At the headwaters of the Chattooga River, weather and terrain conditions combine to create a high rainfall of more than eighty inches a year, creating a rich moist atmosphere. This creates one of the most biologically diverse regions in the nation. These lush forests are home to eastern hemlocks, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, ferns, trillium and lady slipper, to name a few.
Boulder with Inscription
On May 10th 1974 Congress designated the Chattooga River a Wild and Scenic River. A boulder, shown above, commemorates this designation at the parking area near the Highway 76 Bridge. Very few rivers have been awarded this designation. The Chattooga is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the Southeast. The Wild and Scenic designation is a result of the outstanding scenery, geology, biology and recreation of this remote and primitive treasure.
The Chattooga River at Bull Sluice
This article is dedicated to my brother Tom Green who passed away on April 12th 2015.
. Exploring Northeast Georgia
Georgia’s Newest State Historic Site.
By Kitty Stratton
Hardman Farm is the newest jewel in the crown of Georgia’s State Historic Sites. The Hardman House sits in the beautiful Nacoochee Valley with a view of the area’s well known gazebo atop an ancient mound. This area is ripe with history and one of Northeast Georgia’s most beautiful landscapes. The mountains in this area are some of the oldest in the world.
The gazebo atop the Indian Mound was built by the first owner, Captain James Nichols. The mound was excavated in 1915 and there was evidence of approximately seventy burials. The artifacts that were found are on loan to the Smithsonian Institution. It is probable that the mound predates the Cherokees and dates back to the mound builders. One piece of pottery from the valley floor is on display at the Pottery Museum in Sautee.
The Hardman House is amazing in that it has been lovingly preserved for over one hundred years without much change to the original structure. The Italianate style house was built in 1870 by Captain James Nichols, who lived in Milledgeville with his wife and family. The family suffered during the civil war and Captain Nichols, a civil war veteran, recovering from malaria needed a quiet and peaceful place for his family to rest and recuperate. The beautiful waterfall near Unicoi State Park, Anna Ruby Falls was named after Captain Nichols only daughter Anna Ruby. She and her father rode horses over their large estate and enjoyed rides to the Anna Ruby Falls area.
The second family to own the house were the Hunnicutts who lived there during the summers from 1893 to 1903. Dr Lamartine Griffin Hardman was the third owner of the Hardman House and owned it from 1903 to 1999 at which time the family donated the house, farm and land, including the Indian Mound to the Georgia State Parks system. Dr Hardman had been Governor of Georgia from 1927-1931 and spent many summers with his family at their beloved Nacoochee Valley home.
The tour includes a look at many of the original outbuildings including the separate outdoor kitchen building, servant’s quarters, a spring house, carriage house and the large barn that housed the Nacoochee Dairy operation from 1910 until the mid-1920s. Visitors will learn how the milk was processed and transported from the Nacoochee railway station.
The Hardman House and outbuildings are open to the public four days a week on Thursdays through Sundays with tours currently at 10am, 12.30pm and 3pm. The tour lasts for one and a half hours and includes an extensive history of the house including the many outbuildings. The Indian Mound is not available for tours. Reservations for guided tours of the house and outbuildings are recommended. Visitors must be accompanied by park staff when inside buildings. Group reservations are required and can be made by calling 706 878 1077.
Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and older), children 6-17 $7.00 and younger than 6 is $3.00. Entrance to the property is off of Hwy 75 coming into Helen on the right just past the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 75. The visitor’s center is in the red brick building when you first turn in at the property.
More information about Hardman Farm and scheduled events can be viewed at the following website, http://gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm
Exploring Northeast Georgia
Many visitors to Northeast Georgia may unintentionally bypass some of the area’s hidden treasures as they move rapidly northwards up the 441 corridor. Almost hidden away in a quiet neighborhood of Cornelia. overlooking the area from an 1,830 feet elevation the Chenocetah Tower is a surprising structure.
The tower was constructed in 1937-1938, and built by local craftsmen, who used native granite to build the fire tower and entrance columns. Chenocetah Tower was constructed on top of Chenocetah Mountain located on a 472 acre tract of land. In 1820 the property had been owned by Caleb Griffin and at that time Chenocetah Mountain was named Griffin Mountain. There had also been a wooden tower before the current stone tower and the mountain had once been named Tower Mountain.
The inside of the tower is not open to the public but includes a wooden observation room that can be reached by climbing a spiral metal staircase. For those who have viewed the surrounding area from the observation room the panoramic views are spectacular.
In June of 1984 the tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The tower has been protected and in 1985 the Chenocetah Conservation Corps was formed. The goal of the Corps is to “preserve and maintain the scenic beauty of the Chenocetah Tower area”.
From 1938 to 1971 the tower was used for fire observation. For a period of time from 1971 to 1986 the tower was inactive when the Forest Service began to use aircraft to watch for fires on public lands. From 1986 to 2000 the tower was reactivated by the Georgia Forestry Commission to serve as the only stone fire tower in the state of Georgia.
From 1999 to 2000 the tower benefited from a restoration project implemented by the U.S. Forest Service. The slate roof was replaced, along with windows and the stone structure was cleaned and sandblasted
I was fortunate enough to visit the tower on a beautiful cool, January Sunday when the sky was clear and blue and true to the meaning of Chenocetah, which means “see all around” in Cherokee, the views of the surrounding landscape and especially Lake Russell were truly awesome.
According to information in the USDA Forest Service brochure, “A History of Chenocetah Tower”, the tower area has one of the largest stands of Rhododendron minor in the nation and there is a Rhododendron Trail from Chenocetah Tower to Lake Russell.
Thanks to a unique partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the The Chenocetah Conservation Corps the Tower and surrounding area are lovingly protected and maintained.
Giving Thanks in the Oldest Church Still In Use In
For generations the families of Northeast Georgia have been worshipping and giving thanks in churches tucked away in mountain valleys and perched on hilltops with their church spires gleaming in the autumn sunshine. The sight of a pretty white church against a background of flaming autumn colors and the church spire silhouetted against a sky the bluest of blue can bring words of praise to young and old.
Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Clarkesville established in 1838 as Grace Protestant Episcopal Church is a treasure tucked away in the heart of Clarkesville. It is believed to be the oldest church building of any denomination still in use in Northeast Georgia.
To better understand the history of this beautiful, old church, learning more about the history of Clarkesville is essential. Clarkesville was one of the first major resorts in Northeast Georgia. Many families would come from the swampy lowlands of Georgia and South Carolina, where yellow fever and other diseases were rampant. They would spend the summers in the cooler mountains and stay for sometimes as long as six months. Some of these families owned large plantations around Savannah and Charleston and would bring servants with them and some built summer homes in the area. A large number of these summer visitors were either Episcopalian or Presbyterian.
Desiring a place to worship Grace Protestant Episcopal Church held a service for worshippers for the first time on October 28th 1838. The first Rector came from New York State as a missionary. The Rev. Ezra B. Kellogg held Episcopal services twice a month in the Methodist Church building which used to stand where the old Clarkesville Cemetery is today.
In 1839 the acre lot where the present church building stands was purchased and $1,335.00 was raised to fund the construction. Construction was slow and records indicate that rainfall was so low that year, the water-powered saw mill on the Soque River could not operate.
Amazingly, the Grace Church building frame structure, remains essentially unaltered today. It is described in the church website history as “a superb example of Greek-Revival architecture, characterized in front by tall pillars and a portico. It is the second oldest Episcopal Church building in Georgia”.
The Civil War era had a damaging effect on the life of Grace Church. Many of the families who supported the church were financially destroyed by the war. The church dwindled in size and was reduced from a parish church to a mission. Fortunately some of the summer visitors settled permanently in the area. One of the main families were the Kollock family, ancestors of the well-known and beloved artist John Kollock. In 1853, the Chapel of the Holy Cross on New Liberty Road in Clarkesville was located on Kollock Land. For families who were unable to make the four mile trip traversing primitive roads to Grace Church in Clarkesville, monthly services were held at the Holy Cross location. In the early 1900’s Holy Cross was demolished due to deterioration of the building. Today the Holy Cross property, given to the church by the Kollock family, is used as a cemetery.
Grace Church has had a long and interesting history. In 1951 MGM repaired and repainted the building for the use of the church in the opening scene of the movie “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain”. Many factors have contributed to the long life and growth of the church, including the addition of the Calvary Church congregation which moved from Cornelia to Clarkesville. The Cornelia building was sold to provide funds for major structural repairs to the Clarkesville building in the early seventies.
For a more detailed and extensive history visit http://www.grace-calvary.org
Covered Bridges in Northeast Georgia
Covered bridges are not always easy to find when you’re travelling through the beautiful mountains and valleys of Northeast Georgia, some of them are tucked away in remote locations and some of them are sadly long since gone. At one time, Georgia had more than 200 covered bridges and today there are less than twenty remaining.
The few that are left are scattered throughout many Northeast Georgia counties. In the Sautee Nacoochee area Stovall Mill Covered Bridge has been well preserved. The bridge (no longer in use) spans Chickamauga Creek and was built in 1895 by Will Pardue. At one time there were mills on Chickamauga Creek owned and operated by Fred Stovall, Sr. These mills are long gone but the covered bridge, named after Mr Stovall is a living reminder of the history of the people and places of the area.
To visit Stovall Mill Covered Bridge head north from Sautee on Hwy 255.
Prather Bridge covered bridge is sadly gone and all that remains are the rock pillars. Prather Bridge spanned the Tugaloo River between Stephens County Georgia and Oconee County South Carolina. The photo of the bridge in this article was the fourth bridge constructed at this location by the Prather family.
The Prather family built the first bridge in 1804 but it washed away and was replaced in 1850. The fate of the second bridge has varying stories, one being that it also washed away, but another story tells that the bridge was burned in 1863 during the civil war. This bridge was replaced in 1868 and lasted until 1920 when it too was washed away. The final bridge was destroyed by fire in 1978.
Watson Mill Bridge has been described as one of the most picturesque state parks in Georgia, Watson Mill Bridge has the longest covered bridge in the state, spanning 229 feet across the South Fork River. Built in 1885 by Washington (W.W.) King and famous covered-bridge builder Horace King. Watson Mill Bridge State Park is located northeast of Athens near Comer, Georgia in Madison County.