Tag Archives: © Brian Brown/Vanishing Media

Abandoned Gold Mining Tunnel & Machinery, Helen

White County was an important center of gold mining and this abandoned tunnel and equipment along the Chattahoochee at Helen are remnants of the boom era of the late 19th century.

The Plattsburgh Mining Company of New York was involved in the area, most notably with the England Mine.

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Martin House, Circa 1876, Sautee-Nacoochee

This was built by the original owner of Nora Mill, John Martin, and was later owned by the Hardman and Ivie families. It once served as a boarding house/hotel and is now home to an antique mall.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Nora Mill, Circa 1876, Sautee-Nacoochee

Built in 1876 by John Martin, a gold miner who decided to stay in the valley, Nora Mill got is present name when purchased by Dr. Lamartine Hardman around 1903. He christened it Nora Mill to honor the memory of his sister.

Instead of the typical water wheel usually associated with milling, Nora Mill utilizes a turbine, fed by a raceway, and gravity, to grind the grain. The 1500-lb. French Burr millstones have been turning out product for nearly 150 years.

In the early 1980s retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ron Fain leased the mill from the Hardman family and thereafter revived it. His family continues to operate it to this day. The third and fourth generation of the family (Joann Fain Tarpley and husband Rich) run it today.

Tommy Martin has been the manager for many years and is glad to talk about the process and the history of the mill with visitors. His enthusiasm for the place certainly makes you want to return again and again. He told me that the corn meal is popular far and wide, and that Shaquille O’Neal had recently placed a large order for his new restaurant in Los Angeles.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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Nacoochee Depot, Circa 1913, White County

Though it has been moved and reduced in size, this depot is an important survivor of the Gainesville & Northwestern Railroad.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District,  National Register of Historic Places

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Nacoochee Mound, White County

This gazebo-topped mound at the edge of the Nacoochee Valley near Helen is one of the most iconic and most-photographed locations in Georgia. But much of what you know about it may not be true. For starters, it isn’t the original mound, but a reconstruction completed after an archaeological excavation. There were at least a dozen such mounds in the Nacoochee Valley at one time, but as the land was converted to agricultural use, all but this one were destroyed. Traditionally, it was believed that this was a relic of the Cherokee, and a Georgia historical marker at the site still makes this case, but research now invalidates this. The confusion can likely be attributed to the long held myth of star-crossed lovers Sautee, a Chickasaw warrior, and Nacoochee, a Cherokee chieftain’s daughter. Supposedly, they fell in love after a chance meeting and sought refuge on adjacent Mt. Yonah. When Nacoochee’s father became aware of the relationship, he ordered Sautee thrown from the mountaintop while his terrified daughter was forced to watch. She then jumped to her death and locked hands with the dying Sautee at the bottom of the mountain. The legend maintained that they were buried together in the mound.  Great story, but almost certainly a myth. Instead it is believed to have been used by a South Appalachian Mississippian tribe, between 800-1600 AD/CE.

If you’ve seen the mound, you might be surprised to learn that it’s nearly 40 feet in height. The average visitor sees it from the roadside and because it sits in the valley, it doesn’t seem that tall. The beautiful gazebo was placed atop the mound by James Hall Nichols after he purchased the property, probably circa 1870. And while a gazebo doesn’t belong on a burial site of this nature, Nichols’s interest in its proximity to the house he was building and the view it afforded likely saved it from the fate of the other mounds in the Nacoochee Valley. A 1915 excavation revealed that there were 75 burials in the mound, confirming the connection to the Mississippian culture. It’s also referred to at the Sautee-Nacoochee Mound.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Crescent Hill Baptist Church, 1871, Sautee-Nacoochee

This church was built by Captain James Nichols as Nacoochee Presbyterian, soon after he arrived in the valley and built West End. Freedmen were welcomed as early members. It served the Presbyterians until moving to Nacoochee Institute in Sautee in 1903. It is one of the most visually appealing churches in the area and remains an active congregation.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Old Sautee Store, Circa 1872

One of the most popular attractions in the Helen area, the Old Sautee Store has been in business since the 1870s. A well curated collection of early general store memorabilia gets the attention of visitors upon entering.

A market next door serves baked goods and hand-crafted sandwiches.

 

Sautee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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