Exploring Northeast Georgia Meaders Family Pottery By Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia
Meaders Family Pottery
Kitty Stratton

If you’re interested in Georgia’s geology, then you probably already know that the soils of the Piedmont are a rich red color for which Georgia is famous. The red coloring is a mixture of kaolinite and halloysite and of iron oxides. This mixture, weathered over time, yields a clay rich soil that has been the foundation for a northeast Georgia tradition of folk pottery.
On a recent warm spring evening, Annette Meaders Boswell & her husband Mike graciously took me on a tour of the land across the road from their home place where a lone chimney and the ruined pottery shop buildings and wood fired kiln are reminders of a rich family history of pottery making. The ruins are located close to where her great grandfather, John Milton Meaders had built his home in 1876.

Meaders family Pottery

 Ruins of Old Meaders Pottery Shop

Annette shared wonderful stories from her childhood of growing up watching the pottery being fired. Firing the kiln was a big event in the neighborhood. Annette described it as somewhat of a “carnival event” with folks gathering around. The kiln would be fired with slats from local sawmills and the flames would be visible for miles around as they fed the fire to reach the required 2500-degree temperature for firing the pots. Times have changed since then and now more modern methods are used for creating decorative pottery. Back when her great grandfather John and her grandfather Cheever Meaders were making pottery there was a need for the large pots to preserve and store foods, such as beans, kraut, syrup and churns for making butter. This was before modern canning methods and glass jars were available.

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A mixture of new and old pots

Although Annette & Mike have not carried on the tradition of making pottery for a living, Mike has constructed a small kiln where they can fire their own pottery. In the photo above on the right is an example of a piece that Annette made with handles and bunches of grapes on the sides. The other pieces in the picture are some old pots that they discovered buried on their property. Annette kindly explained to this “pottery novice” that the old jugs with the two lip handles were for storage, such as pickled beans. The taller jugs with the two ear type handles were for pouring and storing syrup.Old wood fired Kiln.JPG

Photo of an Old Kiln

Annette took the time to explain to me the labor intensive process they had used to make these large clay jugs. It fascinated me that she can pick up a jug and tell me which one of her family members had made the piece. Close to the old kiln is what looks like an old heap of dirt but as we walked closer Annette began to dig with her hands between the briars and weeds. She would hold up shards of pottery and continue her stories, showing me examples of terms such as “tobacco stain glaze”. For a novice of pottery terms, I leaned many things, including that the jugs had to be glazed before firing so that they would hold liquids.

Annette Meaders Boswell holding shards of pottery.JPG
Annette Meaders Boswell holding shards of pottery

Although the old ways of making pottery have been replaced by more modern methods, the history lives on in documentaries and books. Clay in the Blood: The Meaders Family Folk Pottery Tradition is a DVD featuring footage from the original Smithsonian film documenting Cheever Meader’s traditional way of making North Georgia pottery and the last known taped interview with the late Lanier Meaders. It was produced in 1996. To hear a 2002 interview with Annette about the history and legacy of her family’s generations of pottery making visit youtube.com and follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5JM9343rEI

Exploring Northeast Georgia Cigar Box Guitars By Kitty Stratton



I wasn’t expecting a March snow storm on the evening I drove over to meet Mike & Annette Boswell. Their warm and welcoming home was a pleasant contrast to the cold and blowing snow outside. Mike is tall and friendly and his wife Annette is someone you feel you’ve known all your life. Annette is related to the Meaders family of White County and the story of generations of her family’s pottery making is a story for another time.

I was instantly fascinated by the selection of handmade cigar box guitars that were lining the couch in the living room. Each guitar is different and many have stories to tell. Mike does not claim to be a musician but he does know how to build a cigar box guitar.


He started making these individualized guitars back in 2014 after he had seen some examples on Pinterest. Cigar boxes and boxes in general are something Mike likes to collect and he and Annette enjoy “yard sale-ing” together when they get the opportunity.

Mike generously took the time to show me each guitar individually and to point out different materials he had used for each one. It would be hard to say which was my favorite but I definitely fell for the slide guitar mounted on an old ironing board. He even took the time to play a You Tube video for me, of their friend, playing Amazing Grace on this particular guitar. I had never heard Amazing Grace played quite like that and it was beautiful.


I asked Mike about the history of cigar box guitars and he told me he had seen very old etchings with the guitars in them. They may have originated from the Mississippi delta where music was a way of life and an escape from the pain of poverty. Musicians would create a guitar from whatever they could find, a cigar box, broom handle and some wire could make a makeshift guitar.

It would be hard to include every photo of every guitar that Mike had to show me. Each one was unique in its own way and they are for sale, starting at around $150. Mike puts an average of six hours into making each guitar and the only things he orders are the pegs and strings. The selection of guitars is wide and varied, from guitars made with mule hangs, to sling blades and hat molds, Mike’s ingenuity and creativity seems to have no limits. Twenty-two rifle shells for fret markers and nails for bridges, are some of the ideas that make Mike’s cigar box guitars so unique. I was amazed at the guitars made from bed pans, especially when he plucked a few strings so I could hear the deeper sound of the notes coming from this most unusual instrument!


Mike likes to call his art a Cigar Box Ministry. He and Annette shared with me that they have shared his guitars in outreach programs to help troubled youth. If you want more information or would like to buy a cigar box guitar you can call Mike Boswell at 706 878 9279.

Exploring Northeast Georgia Fort Hollingsworth White House By Kitty Stratton



To describe Fort Hollingsworth White House as anything but a Georgia state treasure and national treasure would be wrong. This building has stood the test of time since 1793 and Willette White Mote who was my guide for part of an afternoon certainly agrees that this property should be cared for and protected for many generations to come.

Not only was Willette my guide but she is also one of many generations of the White family who still own and lived most of their lives on this beautiful North Banks County property. Wilette’s great grandfather, Joshua White was the first member of her family to purchase the property and create additions in the 1860’s. One of my first questions was to ask her why the property was named Fort Hollingsworth White House. She explained that Joshua White had added a dog trot or covered walkway to the property and rooms off to the side of the original fort. While walking through the dog trot I was fascinated to see the original logs with axe marks still visible and the white chinking between the logs was the original white clay used from the creek across the road.


Fort Hollingsworth White House  - Kitty Stratton.JPG

Fort Hollingsworth White House

With Dog Trot to the left and original fort to the right.

Jacob Hollingsworth was the original builder of the fort in 1793. He was a pioneer from North Carolina, who was granted land in North Georgia after the revolutionary war. Unfortunately after they settled into the fort they found out they were across the line, agreed upon in a treaty with the Cherokees. The Cherokee people in the area did not appreciate this disregard to the terms of the treaty and Hollingsworth and other families found themselves in a position of having to defend themselves.

The original fort had no windows downstairs except for a small one next to the chimney built from local field stone. Families in the area would seek protection in the fort during troubling times. By about 1796, conflicts with local Indian tribes were no longer a concern and the string of frontier forts were no longer necessary. The forts soon became log farmhouses. The “Four Mile Purchase” of 1804 was created when the Cherokees ceded a strip of land four miles wide (from the Habersham – Banks County line on Baldwin Mountain, to Line Baptist Church on old Hwy. 441) and 23 miles long extending from Currahee Mountain to the head waters of the South Oconee River. A line of felled trees twenty-feet wide marked the line, which became a “no man’s land.” The United States agreed to pay the Cherokees $5,000 and $1,000 per annum for the property rights.

Fort Hollingsworth White House fireplace - Kitty Stratton.JPG

Fort Hollingsworth original fireplace.

In the time period between Hollingsworth and the White family John Lane was an early owner of the fort. He was killed in the civil war not long after purchasing the property. The property was divided between John Lane’s sisters and so the story comes round to Joshua White, whose wife was a sister of John Lane. Although John Lane was killed and buried in Tennessee there is a memorial to him on the grounds of the property.

Fort Hollingsworth White House is located off of Highway 441 between Baldwin and Homer. The address is 2307 Wynn Lake Road, Alto, Ga. 30510. For more information you can visit the website at www.forthollingsworth-whitehouse.com.  Although the property is not open on specific days you can email to fort@forthollingsworth-whitehouse.com  or call either 706 244 1239 or 706 499 8579 for more information or to arrange a tour.  Fort Hollingsworth-White House looks very much today as it did in the 1860’s. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Exploring Northeast Georgia – Memories of a Mountain Shortline Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia – Memories of a Mountain Shortline

Kitty Stratton

On an unseasonably warm, sunny December day I had the pleasure of sitting down with Emory Jones, author of books including, Distant Voices, the history of the Nacoochee Indian Mound and The Valley Where They Danced, an historic novel set in the background of the Nacoochee Valley, along with David Greear, photographer and author, both local residents of White County, to hear about their recently released DVD, a documentary called, “Memories of a Mountain Shortline – A History of the Tallulah Falls Railroad” which they produced in cooperation with the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center.


Emory Jones & David Greear 2015 Memories of a Mtn. Shortline

Their enthusiasm for the project is contagious and after speaking with them both I immediately went home and sat down and watched the DVD. Having lived in Rabun County for a number of years, many of the names and faces on this DVD were familiar. I would love to mention all of the names involved in the creation of this documentary but there may be too many and I apologize for any omissions.

My challenge today, is how you begin to describe a fifty six minute documentary that is so full of history and stories, in a short article. I will try to hit the highlights but watching the DVD will be a gift to yourself and your family or friends. From the start of this collection of memories, with the sound of the lonesome train whistle in the background and the touching dedication to Dess Oliver (1937 to 2015), longtime teacher at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School, whose commitment to the preservation of the history of the Tallulah Falls Railway made the documentary possible, the viewer will be captivated.

For fifty four years, the “Old TF”, as locals called it ran fifty eight miles from Cornelia to Franklin, North Carolina. The documentary not only includes the history of the railway but also stories of Tallulah Falls, Clayton and the long gone town of Burton which lies under the waters of Lake Burton. Many Rabun County lake property homeowners will enjoy hearing the history behind the construction of the damns and lakes in the area. As Emory Jones put it, “the hardest part was finding a stopping place”, and condensing more than fifty hours of information into a DVD just short of an hour. The documentary is a wonderful collection of historical photographs, including images of some of the fifty eight trestles that were built on the “Old TF”. There are images of trestle collapses, including the 1898 Panther Creek incident and the 1927 Hazel Creek trestle accident. Dess Oliver describes construction of these trestles based on his deep knowledge and understanding of the early engineering techniques that were utilized so many years ago.

Rabun County residents will especially enjoy the colorful interviews with local residents, such as Doris Welch, who describes being a child growing up in Mountain City when the train came through and catching candy and chewing gum (a rare treat back then!) thrown to them from the train.  Barbara Taylor Woodall tells a wonderful story of the “slowness” of the train and Paulette Carpenter shares a detailed memory of the train stopping to help put out the fire at the old Lakemont school building. Doug Bleckley shares memories of the role he played in the Disney moved, “The Great Locomotive Chase”, which utilized the Tallulah Falls Railroad for the film in 1956.

So many of the memories of the Tallulah Falls railroad are stored in the minds of the people who lived to see the trestles and stations, tracks and engines. This documentary has captured these memories at an important crossroads in time. Several of the people involved in the history provided for this DVD are no longer with us.

John Kollock, (1929-2014) left many treasures for Northeast Georgia in his art and writing, but he also filmed “The Last Run” of the “Old TF” in March 1961 on 8mm filmed which was digitized and clips are included in the DVD.  Rutherford Ellis (1928-2015), Railroad Historian, shared his rich knowledge of the origins of the Tallulah Falls railroad for this DVD.

As I mentioned earlier so many people are involved in contributions to this rich, historical documentary. Brian Boyd, Director of Communications at Tallulah Falls School, author and historian contributes his detailed knowledge on the “impact”, the railway had on the surrounding area. Paige Spivey with Rabun Gap Nacoochee School discusses, “The Mystique of the Tallulah Falls Railroad”.  Kay Carver Collins, Rabun County Historical Museum, discusses the impact the railway had on bringing jobs to local people. A popular job was to cut crossties, which were constantly being replaced. Workers would be paid fifty cents each for a crosstie. Also cutting firewood and leaving it by the tracks was another popular job. Many residents remember the train catching the woods on fire when a spark would fly from the fireboxTFRR DVD insert 11_30 (1).jpg

A review of this delightful DVD would not be complete without mentioning the support of Piedmont College, The Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University, Burton Rabun Real Estate Company and many others. To order a copy of the DVD online visit www.yonahtreasures.com and look under the bookstore tab for Emory Jones. The DVD is also for sale at local area merchants.

Exploring Northeast Georgia Traditions of the Past Appalachian Christmas By Kitty Stratton


Exploring Northeast Georgia

Traditions of the Past

Appalachian Christmas


Kitty Stratton

Times have changed but the excitement children feel surrounding Christmas is timeless. Reflecting back to a simpler time when Scotch-Irish pioneers brought Christmas traditions with them from their homeland, money was sparse but church and family dominated people’s lives.

Stockings may not have been as full of the latest and greatest toys but for a child growing up in the 1800’s in the Appalachian Mountains, a stocking crammed with apples, oranges, stick candy and maybe a few Brazil nuts was surely a treat!

Appalachian Christmas Stocking.jpg

Music was an important part of Appalachian family life.  At Christmas time families gathered around fireplaces and listened and sang to the fiddle tunes. The Christmas Carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is rooted in Appalachian Mountain tradition. Families would celebrate “Old Christmas” on January 6th, which was the final day of the twelve days of Christmas.

Before December 25th 1752 Christmas was celebrated on January 6th.  Then in Britain and America the new Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 making Christmas Day December 25th.  Some mountain communities continued to celebrate Old Christmas as well as the new Christmas Day, resulting in a twelve day celebration.

Old Christmas Day was celebrated quietly, with church, simple family meals, reading from the Bible and stockings with fruits, nuts and candy. On Old Christmas Eve, Appalachian families believed that farm animals bowed their heads in prayer in their stalls.


Irish and Scottish settlers brought fruitcake, also known as Scotch whiskey cake or Twelfth night cake to the Appalachian region. It is traditionally made of fruits, nuts and whiskey. Fruitcake is a tradition that continues today in many homes throughout the country.



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Homes were decorated with whatever natural materials were available, such as holly, nuts, berries, evergreens and pinecones.  If the family had room for a Christmas tree it was simply decorated with paper or popcorn strings and homemade decorations.  Cookie dough ornaments and gingerbread people were popular and sometimes figures or dolls were made of yarn or straw.

Many of the gifts under the tree were carved wooden toys or corn husk dolls. Most gifts were handmade, knitted socks, gloves, hats or gifts that were carefully sewed or embroidered.

For most families Christmas Day was a day for feasting and sharing preserved fruits and vegetables, fresh game and baked pies and cakes. Several weeks before Christmas women would start baking and preparing for the Christmas meal.

An old Irish tradition that we still practice today is the placing of a lighted candle in the window of a home on Christmas Eve. The candle is a symbol of the welcoming of Mary and Joseph in their search for shelter.

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