Tag Archives: Native Americans in North Georgia

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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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA, Sautee-Nacoochee GA

Rock Hawk Effigy, Putnam County

From the Rock Hawk website: It is not known who built the Rock Eagle or Rock Hawk Effigies, nor exactly when or why. The effigies were located on land occupied by Native Americans before early settlers took ownership via treaties and land grants shortly after 1800.

In 1805 Robert White acquired the property where the Rock Hawk Effigy is located through a land lottery but sold it in 1818 to Kinchen Little, who would become one of Putnam County’s most prominent citizens. (Rock Hawk was often known as the “Sparta Road Eagle” or “Little Eagle,” which generally referred to the Little family, but many interpreted this to mean an eagle smaller than Rock Eagle.)

The Rock Eagle Effigy is located at the University of Georgia 4-H Center on US Highway 441 in Putnam County. Dr. A.R. Kelly of the University of Georgia, after at least a couple of years of interest in the local mounds, became involved with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in 1936 to conduct numerous excavations and surveys at Rock Eagle. They recovered small amounts of aboriginal pottery, chipped stone, and daub, which were not considered significant and suggested to many archaeologists and others that the В“cleanВ” mound was used for religious purposes. During that time, the effigy was reconstructed to the 1877 measurements of C.C. Jones. By 1938 the fence, walkway, and tower were added to finish off the preservation of the mound, as it appears today.

At the time that Dr. A. R. Kelly of the University of Georgia and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) were excavating at the Rock Eagle Effigy, a letter dated March 23, 1936 was sent from George A. Turner of the Rural Resettlement Administration to Richard W. Smith, Secretary Treasurer of the Society of Georgia Archaeology concerning a third bird effigy. The letter referred to a map of Putnam County prepared by Turner, which showed the locations of important archaeological sites. In addition to Rock Eagle (“Scott Eagle Mound”) and Rock Hawk (“Sparta Road Eagle”) he identified the following mound, which became known as the Pressley (Presley) Mound: “No.3, Northwest of Eatonton on the Eatonton-Godfrey road is known as the old Pressley place. There is, at this time a large pile of rock, and someone stated that this pile of rock was once in the same shape of the Scott Eagle Mound but was destroyed by moving part of the rock. Indian relics have been found near this location.

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Filed under --PUTNAM COUNTY GA--

Rock Formations, Fort Mountain

As you make your way up the short but vigorous trail to the top of Fort Mountain you will encounter scattered rocks of varying sizes. It helps you aunderstand the availability of material that lead to the construction of the rock wall the mountain is known for.

It has an otherworldly feel and I found it as fascinating on a recent trip as I did when I visited as a child.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --MURRAY COUNTY GA--

Rock Wall, Fort Mountain

Located near the summit of Fort Mountain, the rock wall which gives the mountain its name remains a mystery. Its origin has been attributed to everyone from Hernando de Soto to the Cherokee. The de Soto connection has long been disproved but the specific use by the Cherokee is still being researched. Some believe it was ceremonial while others consider it territorial.

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Filed under --MURRAY COUNTY GA--

Chief James Vann House, 1804, Spring Place

James Vann (1765, or 1768-1809) was the son of a Cherokee mother, Wa-wli, and Scottish father, Clement Vann. By 1800  he became a principal leader of the Cherokee, due to his wealth and influence as a tavern keeper and trading post operator. This home, completed in 1804, served as the seat of his 1000+ acre plantation. Diaries of Moravian missionaries at Spring Place indicate that Byhan and Martin Schneider were instrumental in the construction of the home.  Sometimes described as a “hard drinking business man”, Vann nonetheless encouraged cultural and educational opportunities for the Cherokee, largely through his assistance in the establishment of the Moravian mission and school at Spring Place. Vann was murdered in 1809, presumably as retaliation for killing his brother-in-law in a duel the previous year. His son Joseph later inherited the house, which in 1819, hosted President James Monroe who was traveling from Augusta to Nashville

The Chief Vann House, as it’s commonly known, is a state historic site today, but beware, it has very limited hours and is closed during part of the year.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --MURRAY COUNTY GA--, Spring PLace GA

Indian Spring Hotel, 1823, Butts County

The first section of the Indian Spring Hotel was built as an inn by William McIntosh, who operated it with his cousin Joel Bailey. McIntosh, a half-Scot half-Native American and the cousin of Governor George M. Troup, was Chief of the Coweta band of Creek Indians; he was also the owner of over 70 slaves. The two-story addition which gave the hotel its present appearance was completed in 1825, the year McIntosh signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, ceding much of the historically Creek lands to white settlers. His role in this treaty, viewed unfavorably by a majority of Creeks, lead to McIntosh’s subsequent execution. The addition included a tavern known as the Treaty Room and a large ballroom. Significantly, the McIntosh Inn is  the only known antebellum mineral springs hotel still standing in Georgia. Mineral springs resorts were as popular in Georgia in the 19th century as coastal resorts are in the modern era. In 1850, the property was purchased by the Varner family, who owned and operated it as the Varner House, a nationally famous resort. The Varner descendants sold it to J. H. Elliot in 1953. Today, the Indian Spring Hotel/Museum is open on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BUTTS COUNTY GA--, Flovilla GA, Indian Springs GA

New Echota, Gordon County

In 1819, the Cherokee began meeting at Newtown, Georgia, where the Coosawattee and Conasauga Rivers meet to form the Oostanaula. They changed the name to New Echota in honor of Chota, Tennessee, and established it as the national capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1825. It was the only national capital ever located within the boundaries of present-day Georgia. The capital was moved to Red Clay, Tennessee, in 1832 after Georgia began passing laws to abolish the Cherokee government, against previously established treaties. In 1835, Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot signed the Treaty of New Echota without the support of Principal Chief John Ross, surrendering Cherokee lands for a territory in the west. The Cherokee government protested this decision until 1838, when President Martin Van Buren ordered the army into the Cherokee lands. Thus began the infamous Trail of Tears. Once they were in the Indian Territory, the Ridges and Elias Boudinot were killed by a group of men who had been opposed to removal. Beginning in the 1950s, the state of Georgia began reconstructing the capital as the New Echota State Historic Site. It is also a National Historic Landmark.

Cherokee Nation Council House

The Council House was the center of power in New Echota, essentially the capitol building of the Cherokee Nation. A bicameral legislature was adopted. The National Council (Lower House) met on the first floor of the Council House, with four representatives from the eight districts of the Cherokee Nation. These representatives elected the National Committee (Upper House), which met on the second floor. The National Committee elected the Principal Chief, Vice-Principal Chief, and Treasurer. While the Cherokee were in Georgia John Ross served as Principal Chief.

Cherokee Nation Supreme Courthouse

Beginning in 1823, the three judges of the Cherokee Supreme Court met annually in October to hear cases that had been appealed in the lower courts.

In 1960, this structure, based on a description by Dr. Benjamin Gold, was built to replicate the original court house built in 1829. It also served as the community schoolhouse when court wasn’t in session.

Cherokee Phoenix Print Shop

Sequoyah developed the Cherokee syllabary between 1809-1824. With the help of Samuel Worcester and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Elias Boudinot obtained a printing press and created a typeface in Sequoyah’s syllabary. On 21 February 1828, the first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix [ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅᎯ] was published at New Echota, with Boudinot as its first editor. It was the first newspaper published in the United States in a Native American language. The Cherokee Phoenix has been revived and is now published electronically.

Georgia realized the power of the newspaper among the Cherokee. As a result, they made new laws against whites working with the Cherokee. The Georgia Guard later attacked the office and destroyed the press.

Samuel Worcester House, 1827

The only structure original to the property at New Echota is the home of Samuel Worcester (19 January 1798-20 April 1859), the missionary who came to the capital with his wife Ann in 1827. The Worcesters established a mission and school and Samuel also served as postmaster and worked with Elias Boudinot on the Cherokee Phoenix. He was a tireless advocated for the Cherokee. His arrest by the state of Georgia in 1831 for failing to obtaining a work permit to work among the Cherokee lead to the historic Worcester v. Georgia (1832) case in the United States Supreme Court, which was decided in his favor, though President Andrew Jackson and Governor George Gilmer ignored the ruling. He was pardoned by Governor Wilson Lumpkin but by 1836 was living in the Indian Territory. Worcester later translated the Bible into Cherokee.

Vann Tavern

Relocated from present-day Forsyth County to New Echota in 1955, this was built on Chief James Vann’s   Chattahoochee Plantation in 1805. Its original location is now under the waters of Lake Lanier. Vann (1765-1809), the son of a Scottish father and Cherokee mother, was granted the right to operate a ferry on the Chattahoochee as part of the Treaty of Tellico and his tavern was the first stop for travelers heading west of the river. It was but one of many of his enterprises; he was among the wealthiest men of the Cherokee Nation who had great influence on the culture in his short lifetime. He was a leader of his people, as well, forming a triumvirate with Major Hicks and Charles R. Hicks.

Cherokee Middle Class Farmstead

Unlike Western tribes, who lived in tipis, the Cherokee originally lived in log roundhouses. Later, as they began to assimilate to the colonists who were encroaching upon their homeland, they employed the common vernacular styles of the era. This re-creation of a middle class Cherokee farmstead looks much like that of the early settlers of North Georgia.

This authentic rough-hewn farmhouse was relocated from elsewhere in Gordon County.

Corn was of great importance to the Cherokee; corn cribs were found on nearly every farm.

Barns and smokehouses were also typical of the common rural architecture of Georgia at the time.

Flower gardens were also a common feature of middle class farms, for their beauty and the abundance of pollinators they supported.

Cherokee Subsistence Farmstead

In the countryside beyond New Echota, large numbers of subsistence farms made up the bulk of the Cherokee Nation. The houses were usually utilitarian and quite small.

A corn crib was nearly always present, but smaller than the one seen on the middle-class farmstead.

This is a recreation of a stable common on subsistence farms.

National Historic Landmark

 

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Filed under --GORDON COUNTY GA--, Calhoun GA