. Exploring Northeast Georgia Hardman Farm Georgia’s Newest State Historic Site. By Kitty Stratton


.  Exploring Northeast Georgia

Hardman Farm

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.

2015-03-25 13.27.52

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.

2015-03-25 13.32.39

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.

2015-03-25 13.37.41

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.

2015-03-25 13.50.00

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 Chenocetah Tower By Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia

Chenocetah Tower

Kitty Stratton

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.

Chenocetah Tower

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.

Chenocetah Tower historic marker

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.

View of Lake Russell from Chenocetah Tower

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 Northeast Georgia


Giving Thanks in the Oldest Church Still In Use In
Northeast Georgia

Kitty Stratton

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.

Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church, Clarkesville GA.

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”.

Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church Historical Marker

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 – Kitty Stratton


Covered Bridges in Northeast Georgia
Kitty Stratton

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.

Stovall Mill Covered Bridge

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.

Prather Bridge - Toccoa GA

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.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park

The Quanassee Path Hayesville, North Carolina – Kitty Stratton


The Quanassee Path
Hayesville, North Carolina
Kitty Stratton

IMG_1873 (1)e

The town of Hayesville has a strong connection with the Cherokee history and culture of North Carolina. Many organizations have worked together to create a well-marked path through the town of Hayesville so visitors can fully experience the varied exhibits and archeological sites.
There are five sites to visit on this two mile Cherokee History Trail. The first site located on the main road entering Hayesville is The Cherokee Homestead exhibit, where visitors can view authentic replicas of summer and winter houses and artwork depicting the Cherokee way of life.
The second site to visit is The Clay County Historical & Arts Museum where visitors can see a life-sized figure of a Cherokee woman basket weaver. The rest of the exhibit includes tools, pottery, baskets, leather clothing and moccasins. Call ahead for opening times 828 389 6814.
The third site on the Quanassee Path is The Cherokee Cultural Center, in the Moss Memorial Library which was created in 2013. The center has books, maps and Cherokee art. The exhibit includes baskets, darts, ballsticks, musical instruments and small replicas of the seven Cherokee clan masks.
Moving on to the fourth site along the Quanassee Path visitors will reach the Spikebuck Mound and Quannasse Village site. There is a marker at the site describing the village. The Spikebuck Mound existed before the first European explorers arrived in the 1690’s. Quanassee Village was home to several hundred people but by 1721 it was a small Cherokee town.
The fifth site is the Cherokee Heritage Trail, the .3 mile Spikebuck Connector Trail which follows along beside Town Creek. The trail meanders through areas of native trees and plants. Plans are to add more native plants that were used by the Cherokee for food and medicine. Markers will be placed to identify these plants of interest along the trail.





Kitty Stratton


Petroglyphs or rock carvings can be found all over the world.  We are fortunate in N.E. Georgia to have a well preserved collection of petroglyphs at Track Rock Gap close to Blairsville GA.  Track Rock is considered one of the most significant sites of Native American rock engravings in the Southeastern United States.

Track Rock Gap is situated near Blairsville, Georgia in the Blue Ridge Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.  The site has been well taken care of and a trail leads up from a small parking lot to the huge soapstone boulders that contain over a hundred carvings of different shapes and figures.


Boulder at Track Rock showing carved symbols

As far back as 3600 years ago Native Americans were using the soapstone at Track Rock to make bowls and other items.  Starting around AD 1000 different Native American Tribes have carved figures and symbols in the soft soapstone.  It is likely that the Cherokee people carved some of the images.

Some of the stories handed down over the years, linked to Cherokee legends, give various ideas for why the carvings are at Track Rock.  Some of the stories indicate that the carvings on the stones are Hunter’s carvings.  Other stories tell of a great flood that left the rock soft and the animals left their tracks on the soft stone.  Additional stories tell that the Track Rock area was the dwelling of a Great Spirit.

Regardless of which story or combination of stories tells the truth of Track Rock, it is obvious that it was a special and sacred place to the people living and passing through the area.  It is also very possible that the rocks were used to commemorate battles between warring tribes.  South of Track Rock Gap at Slaughter Gap near Blood Mountain there was a battle between Creek and Cherokee Tribes.



Regardless of how or when these carvings were made they should be preserved for future generations.  For more information on the area and a map to find Track Rock visit the USDA Forest Service website. There are pages with photographs of the boulders and maps that explain the different symbols and possible meanings of the drawings.  A wealth of excellent information can be read about Track Rock at http://www.fs.usda.gov

Hernando De Soto in Clarkesville, Georgia – Kitty Stratton



Hernando De Soto in Clarkesville, Georgia.

 Kitty Stratton

It was the year 1540.  King Henry VIII of England had just married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.  It was the age of exploration.

Hernando De Soto had been born in Spain in 1496.  He was destined to become one of history’s famous explorers and Conquistadors.  Conquistadors or conquerors were soldiers and explorers who served the empires of Portugal and Spain. They colonized a large part of the world during the 15th,16th & 17th centuries.  Their goals were to conquer territories and open trade routes.

Fortunately for De Soto, he had acquired a large fortune from his part in the Spanish Conquest of the Inca Empire in South America.  He was famous as a negotiator, soldier and horseman but was also unfortunately known for his brutality.

The fortune he made in South America financed his explorations of the southeastern states of North America.  However the planned trip cost him heavily and he was highly motivated to recoup his losses by discovering gold in “La Florida”.  He was given the governorship of Cuba by the King of Spain and was expected in return to colonize North America for Spain.

When his party left Havana, Cuba, De Soto had recruited 620 volunteers for the planned four year exploration.  They loaded no less than nine ships with armor and heavy equipment, large quantities of livestock, including 237 horses and 200 pigs.

The entourage arrived at Charlotte Harbor, Florida and proceeded northwards. De Soto’s travels were well documented for the time.  There are several different recorded eye witness accounts of his explorations.

Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto

The records of his travels are fascinating and his group travelled through Florida, up through Georgia, North & South Carolina, Tennessee and further west.

De Soto was definitely in Georgia, but did he pass through Clarkesville, Georgia? There is a marker near the Courthouse in Clarkesville that states.










2014-01-26 18.14.43

De Soto died in the Spring of 1542 from a fever.  He was, however, the first European to cross the Mississippi River.  No gold was ever discovered on the expedition but the legacy of the accounts of his travels are documented and stored online as a living history for generations to come.






By Kitty Stratton

After a week of freezing temperatures and snow in January, Northeast Georgia was blessed with a day of clear skies and warm sunshine.  I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon taking a tour of the Tugaloo Corridor area in Stephens County.  My tour guide was Joe Ferguson, Chairman of the Stephens County Foundation.

We visited many sites in the Tugaloo Corridor between historic Traveler’s Rest site and Yonah Dam, but the main area of interest on this particular day was the Tugaloo Bend Heritage Site.

2014-01-31 17.22.29

Tugaloo Bend Heritage Site opened to the public beginning March 1st 2014, and is open from 8:30am to 5pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday afternoons.  Groups can be scheduled by appointment. Volunteers will be available to orientate visitors to the different trails available. Amenities include a handicapped accessible nature trail, restrooms, a classroom pavilion and parking lot.

The highlight of my visit to Tugaloo Bend Heritage Site was hiking the approximately 1 mile loop River Trail that can be accessed by a short walk from the parking lot past a wetland area with an active beaver dam into a quiet & peaceful pine forest.  The trail loops along the banks of the Tugaloo River which flows quietly beneath its surprisingly high banks.  The trail is well marked with green painted trail markers on trees and the terrain is flat and surprisingly dry.  For those of us who appreciate a less strenuous hike the trail is perfect.  Opportunities for viewing wildlife are plentiful, especially along the duck pond edge of the trail.

2014-01-31 16.28.20


After attending a volunteer orientation and excellent slide show in early January I came to learn that the vision of Tugaloo Bend and preservation of the Tugaloo Corridor had started back in the late 1990’s. Channing “Billy’ Hayes, Jr. was the owner of the 87 acre “Tugaloo Bend Farm” and had decided to sell this property but wanted to see the land preserved and protected from future development.  The main part of the story of the Tugaloo Bend Heritage Site starts with the creation of the Stephens County Foundation and a collective desire to give back to the community.

The vision of the foundation has been preservation, education and recreation.  The Tugaloo Bend Heritage site is for the community and area visitors.  Visitors will have an opportunity to come to a quiet and beautiful location to enjoy the natural surroundings and hike the different trails.

Directions to Tugaloo Bend Heritage site are as follows.  From Toccoa head north on Prather Bridge Road from the intersection of Tugalo St and Prather Bridge Rd (at the First Baptist Church) go 7 miles until you see the Tugaloo Bend Heritage site on your right.  The facility is located on Yonah Dam Rd which curves to the left just before you cross Prather Bridge into South Carolina.

For further information or to schedule a group outing contact, The Stephens County Foundation, 706 282 7636.   More information about the Tugaloo Corridor project can be found at http://www.tugaloocorridor.org




Kitty Stratton

Travelling through the small towns of Northeast Georgia there are many roadside markers that historically connect our communities.   Recently when visiting Historic Traveler’s Rest located off of Highway 123 close to the South Carolina state line I saw a marker explaining the route of the old Unicoi Turnpike.

I wanted to know more about the Unicoi Turnpike and discovered that the word Unicoi means “white” in Cherokee, possibly meaning that this was a road built by white settlers in the area.  The turnpike part of the name referred to the gates along sections of the road which were simply, very long poles serving as gates.  The pole would be moved away when the traveler paid the toll to the landowner for using that section of the road.

Who were the people who used the Unicoi Turnpike?   History tells us that in 1813 the Cherokee people signed a treaty to allow the Turnpike to cross the Cherokee Nation but long before the Turnpike was built the route had been used as a pathway before White settlers came to the area.   After the Turnpike was built drovers would herd cattle and other livestock from Georgia on up into Tennessee.   Traders used the roadway to transport animal furs and deerskins.

Wagons usually travelled around twenty miles a day and so there was a need for rest stops. Traveler’s Rest was one of these stops along the Turnpike and there will have been many others.  Sometimes families would open their home to travelers for room and board.

2013-12-01 13.50.23

Traveler’s Rest Historic Site off of Hwy 123 located east of Toccoa.

The turnpike was completed in 1819 and provided a wagon road northwest through Georgia from Traveler’s Rest  passing close by Toccoa Falls, heading towards Clarkesville, crossing the Soque River at some point and passing through Sautee, Nacoochee valleys and Helen.  There are a few sections of the original Turnpike visible near the Nora Mill just south of Helen.  The turnpike followed the main road through Helen but there were no bridges and the Chattahoochee River had to be forded.


2013-12-01 13.53.06

Historical Marker outside of Traveler’s Rest Historic Site off of Hwy 123 located east of Toccoa. 

Crossing the mountains must have been a hardship for these early travelers.   The Turnpike crossed the lowest point of the mountains ten miles north of Helen at Unicoi Gap at an elevation of 3000 ft.  It is hard to imagine the arduous climb they had to endure with wagons and livestock, especially with days of rain and mud.  Descending the other side of the mountain the wagons had no brakes and to avoid rapidly sliding down the mountain, they would attach large logs to the back of the wagons to slow them down as they eased down the steep and primitive roadway.

What I had not realized after living in Northeast Georgia for more than 30 years was that there are still sections of the Unicoi Turnpike still visible and looking much as they would have done hidden away in our National Forests.  There was recently an excellent article in the Toccoa Record, “Retracing the Unicoi Turnpike” by Angie Ramage.  This article does an excellent job of telling the story of the Unicoi Turnpike and there are great photos of well-preserved sections of the historic roadway.



A Georgia Historical Marker along the Unicoi Turnpike outside of Helen, GA.

For further reading on the Unicoi Turnpike, Matt Gedney has written a very interesting and informative book called, “Living on the Unicoi Road”.

The Art of the Dulcimer – A Mountain Tradition – by Kitty Stratton


The Art of the Dulcimer – A Mountain Tradition

 Kitty Stratton

Northeast Georgia is part of the Appalachian Mountain region and has a strong and rich heritage dating back to when its coves and mountains were first settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants. When these immigrants arrived they brought with them strong traditions of storytelling, folklore and music.

Their music was rooted in English and Scottish ballads and Irish reels and one of the main instruments used to play this music was the violin or fiddle.   As time went by it became difficult to find violin makers in the Appalachian Mountains and a need for an easier to make string instrument gave birth to the Appalachian or Mountain Dulcimer.

There is no previous recorded history of a dulcimer anywhere else in the world although it is related to other diatonic fretted string instruments.  It is even possible that its roots date back to the mediaeval psaltery a stringed harp-like instrument.

Today the dulcimer is regaining popularity and there are many, delightful recordings of music played on the dulcimer.  Some of my favorite music played on the dulcimer are the old time hymns.

I recently had the opportunity to take some beginning dulcimer lessons.  I had not yet purchased a dulcimer, thinking it might be wise to wait and see if it was a fleeting whim or a true interest.  On a beautiful winter morning I traveled over to Helen to the Smithgall Woods State Park to take my first mountain dulcimer lesson.

2014-02-01 17.44.00

Gwen Aumann, our dulcimer teacher for the afternoon has, “Discovering the joy of the Dulcimer”  written on the top of her business cards.  After 3 hours of her kind and patient instruction and hearing myself and the rest of the small group of beginners actually playing, “Boil them Cabbage Down” and the lovely hymn, “Nothing but The Blood of Jesus”, I felt I had truly discovered the joy of the dulcimer.  The dulcimer is not a difficult instrument to learn to play and there is definitely a feeling of joy playing with others.

To my surprise, Gwen had dulcimers for rent, for those not quite ready to make a financial commitment.  I was especially delighted by the “cardboard” dulcimer she had brought along as a loaner.  The sound it produced was very pleasant and I proudly headed home, with my very own cardboard dulcimer for a week!

2014-01-29 16.25.26

I had signed up for two lessons and will probably end up purchasing my own dulcimer. Gwen gave us good sound advice on the different types of dulcimers that are available for sale.  Depending on the sound you are looking for you will want to ask what type of wood a dulcimer is made from.  A cherry wood instrument will produce a brighter sound than say a walnut which is mellower. Dulcimers can vary tremendously in price, from something cheap you could purchase on EBay for example to an expensive performance dulcimer.

For anyone interested in learning to play the dulcimer either individually or in a group, email Gwen Aumann  Gwen.aumann@yahoo.com  you will definitely not be disappointed and you will discover the joy of playing the mountain dulcimer.