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The Track Rock Terrace Complex

In mid-July, a member of the Unicoi Turnpike Preservation Association,  telephoned me after reading an article that I had written in the Examiner. That particular column was about archaeological sites in western North Carolina.  He was also a member of the Towns County, GA Historical Society.  The Union County-Towns County line runs across the peak of Brasstown Bald Mountain, which contains Georgia’s highest elevation.  Brasstown Bald is immediately to the east of Track Rock Gap. The outdoor enthusiast was primarily interested in what I knew about the use of the Unicoi Turnpike during the Trail of Tears Period (1836-1838.)  The Unicoi Turnpike was a 19th century road that improved an ancient Native American trade path between the headwaters of the Savannah River in northeast Georgia and the confluence of the Tennessee and Little Tennessee Rivers near Loudon, TN.  He wanted to know if I thought it was used to move Cherokees to prison stockades in the summer of 1838. I wanted to talk about the evidence that I had found which indicated that Spanish explorer, Juan Pardo, had used the Unicoi Trail in 1567. I thought perhaps Spanish Jews had followed the trail to settle the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains.  He was only mildly interested that subject, and was primarily focused on preserving the sections of the Unicoi Turnpike that might have been traveled by Cherokees. The Unicoi Trail was outside the Cherokee Nation in 1838, when thousands of Cherokees were being deported.  I told the local historian that I had read some accounts where Cherokees living outside the boundaries of the “Nation” had escaped federal troops by...

Native American History of Towns County, Georgia

The Hiwassee River Valley of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee played very important roles in both Native American history and the Early Colonial Era. In 1562, Captain René Goulaine de Laudonnière led a party of French Huguenots up the Savannah River and then westward on the Unicoi Trail to the Nacoochee Valley and what is now, Towns County. The Frenchmen developed friendly relations with the Apalachee and Itsati Natives, who then occupied the region. He named the Appalachian Mountains after them. For the next 200 years, the majestic scene of the Nantahala Mountains overlooking the Hiwassee River graced French maps, adjoining France’s claim to the Southern Highlands. Although most tourist-oriented literature describes the aboriginal occupants of Towns County as being Cherokee, the Cherokee Alliance did not even claim the northeastern tip of present day Georgia until 1717. However, the Cherokee tribe occupied what is now Towns County longer than any other county in Georgia; roughly 1715-1838. Until 1793, what is now the western boundary of Towns County was the official western boundary of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia. After 1793, the eastern edge of the county was the eastern edge of Cherokee territory in Georgia. Most of Towns County’s archaeological sites were covered by Lake Chatuge in 1942. It was a rushed, private sector, war-time project. Village sites and mounds were destroyed without professional archaeological study. Prior to public improvements being constructed in the Brasstown Valley, the Georgia DOT and DNR did contract with private archaeological consultants during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Copies of these reports can be obtained from the respective agencies. Towns County is located...

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