Why You Want to See More of Sautee Nacoochee and the Surrounding Region
This is a special place. The fertile and well-watered valleys at the intersections of the Chattahoochee River, Dukes Creek and Sautee Creek held immense beauty in the deep past, and still do today. Beginning roughly 2000 years ago, a relatively large population of Native Americans chose to live in these valleys surrounded by forested hills and abundant wildlife. The Nacoochee Mound, an iconic landmark set in what they called the “Valley of the Evening Star” is now visible near the intersection of Georgia highways 17 and 75. The mound was a central feature of their community, and it is central to ours today.
In the early 1800s, small groups of white settlers came here following ancient trails along the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1822, two larger groups that included as many as 60 families arrived from the North Carolina counties of Buncombe, Rutherford, and Burke. They brought the skills, tools, materials, livestock (and slaves) to form an almost self-sustaining, plantation-like community. Two of the prominent leaders, Major Edward Williams and Methodist circuit riding minister John Richardson, came with their families. Major Edward built his original house, named Starlight, in the 1820’s, and a reconstruction of the home and the original 1870s barn remain on the site today. The Richardson-Lumsden home, built near Duke’s Creek in 1833, is still standing and may be the oldest existing structure in White County. Both of these houses had running water and were considered extremely modern in their day. For many years, all the big houses in the valleys were homes belonging to these two families.
The Williams and Richardson families bought large tracts of land. They, and many of their tenants and other land owners loved the land and kept it in the family, as many of them continue to do today. Echoes of the Carolina Low Country remain. As a cultural example, E.P. Williams, the son of Major Edward, built a traditional Big House and assorted barns and outbuildings typical of Low Country cotton and rice plantations, which depended on the labor of enslaved African Americans. In addition to a large agricultural operation, E.P. Williams had an extensive industrial complex on Sautee Creek, a brick production operation at the foot of nearby Mount Yonah, and he built the White County Historic Courthouse. The names of these early settlers are still names one sees and meets here today.
These tours reveal both ancient and modern stories of Sautee Nacoochee. Two millennia of Native American life were followed by two centuries of rapid change—people growing food, mining gold, lumbering the great trees, enduring slavery, the Civil War, reviving agricultural wealth, weathering the Great Depression and more war, and lately, developing tourism. Railroads, automobiles, telephones and tourism have changed how life is lived here, but what hasn't changed is the deep sense of a community that treasures its people and the rich, beautiful land.Read More