We were in the foothills of the Appalachians the other day, and had the thrill of seeing the start of the Appalachian trail. Now wouldn’t that be a trip – walking from Georgia to Maine? I would do it, of course, except for the lack of hair dryers along the trail. (Please don’t write and tell me they have hair dryers conveniently located at each rest stop. Leave me my fantasies.)
At the same time, we saw the Amicalola Falls, supposedly higher than Niagara, but much much narrower. A small bridge goes right across it and it’s gorgeous! (Not Snoqualmie either, but a beautiful setting.)
We were staying in the town of Dahlonega, which has a very wild-west feel for a reason. It was the site of America’s first gold rush, in 1829. (Ironically, DeSoto marched through here because he too heard rumors about gold, but he was too impatient to find it.) That discovery caused a major problem for the Cherokee Indians, who happened to be occupying the land where the gold was found. They had a very large territory by treaty, extending from part of Georgia into Alabama and Tennessee. But we all know how those treaties worked out for them. A view of Dahlonega, including a current protest against a natural gas pipeline:
The name “Lumpkin” turns up around Georgia a lot. You notice it because it is such an ugly name, but you remember it because he was the governor who – despite a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States – determined that the Indians really needed to move to Oklahoma and get out of the way of the gold. That was after he had their territory shrunk to a fraction of its original size.
You have to wonder how much more those Indians could have done to be accepted. They were living in the white man’s style of house, dressing like them, deriving a written alphabet and translating the Bible, publishing their own newspaper, setting up a government with a executive, legislative and judicial branch modeled on that of the US, becoming Methodists (no offense, Methodists) and some were even Masons (no offense, Masons).
But no, they were ripped from their homes and put in stockades before being marched to Oklahoma in the fall and winter. Can’t imagine walking there in the spring (yes, take offense, Oklahoma) but this cruelty killed about 4,000 on what is now known as the Trail of Tears.
Here are some shots of New Echota, the Cherokee capital in Calhoun, featuring old and reconstructed views of this Indian city. It would have looked identical to every one town in Georgia at that time as all signs of authentic Cherokee culture must have been well hidden.
Since then, we have seen other landmarks on the Trail of Tears, and will see more along our path.