Tag Archives: Helen GA

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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West End, 1870, & The Hardman Farm, Sautee-Nacoochee

West End, one of the finest Italianate houses in Georgia, was built by Colonel James Hall Nichols (1834-1897) upon his arrival in the Nacoochee Valley from Milledgeville in 1870. Nichols, who married Kate Latimer of Summerville, South Carolina, in 1856, served in the Confederate Army and was elected captain of the Governor’s Horse Guard in 1862, eventually attaining the rank of colonel. When he returned to Middle Georgia after the war, weak and in declining health, he learned that his wife Kate S. Latimer Nichols had been raped by two Union soldiers. This would affect her mental state for the rest of her life. While convalescing at the White Sulphur Springs Resort near Gainesville, Colonel Nichols became enamored of the Nacoochee Valley and began purchasing large tracts of land in the area. He named the property and house West End, for its location in the valley. Nichols was primarily a gentleman farmer by this time and owned several businesses, including Nora Mill. The mentally incapacitated Kate was lived out her days in an upstairs room, unwilling to face the outside world. Anna Ruby, the only child of the Nichols to live to adulthood and namesake of the nearby Anna Ruby Falls, told friends her mother was dead, as to deny her existence and her mental illness. Colonel Nichols had her committed to the State Lunatic Asylum in the early 1890s and she remained there until her death.

Original section of the Unicoi Turnpike, located near the main house

The property was sold to Atlanta entrepreneur Calvin Welborn Hunnicutt (1827-1915) in 1893. Hunnicutt, also a Confederate veteran (organized the Fulton Dragoons) and Fulton County commissioner, was a very successful businessman in postwar Atlanta, owning a plumbing business and stove works. The family never lived in West End but kept it as a retreat and vacation home. The Atlanta Constitution called him Atlanta’s oldest pioneer citizen upon his death. He had been in the city since 1847, when it was still a small village known as Marthasville.

Game lounge

The final owner of the West End property was Dr. Lamartine Griffin Hardman (1856-1937) who purchased it in 1903 and renamed it Elizabeth on the Chattahoochee, in honor of his mother. Hardman was the the son of a physician and a longtime physician himself who was also involved in numerous successful businesses. He joined his father’s practice in 1890 after study in New York, Pennsylvania, and London. He came to the Nacoochee Valley from Harmony Grove (present-day Commerce) and within a few years married the much younger Emma Griffin of Valdosta, whom he had courted for many years. He served in the Georgia House for eight years and sponsored a bill that created the State Board of Health. He also served for a year in the Georgia Senate and then made two unsuccessful runs for governor. He was finally elected to the state’s highest office in 1927 and served two terms.

Greenhouse

Spring House

Gas House

Servants’ quarters and smokehouse

Carriage House

Dairy Barn, built 1910 as the centerpiece of Dr. Hardman’s Nacoochee Dairy

Corn Crib No. 1, built in the 1870s

Corn Crib No. 2

Gear House, where riding gear was kept for convenience. A covered 8-foot-deep cistern was discovered during renovation, and was probably originally used to collect water for the farm’s horses.

General Store

Caretaker’s House (Minish Family Home)

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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