Known locally as “The Boils”, this natural Eden is an oxbow of House Creek, a tributary of the Ocmulgee River near the Wilcox-Ben Hill County line, which has been protected by the Fuller family for the better part of two centuries. There are several other well-known boils in this area, including Oscewicee [pronounced ossi-witchy] Springs and Lake Wilco. None of these are open or accessible to the public, though Oscewicee Springs once was. Elizabeth Sizemore recalls another site north of The Boils, Poor Robin Springs near Abbeville.
In South Georgia, the term “boils” is commonly used to describe natural springs found in creeks, rivers, oxbows, and swamps. Water rises rapidly from an underground fissure and appears to be bubbling or boiling. With an average temperature of 68-70°F year-round, unaffected by the air temperature, they are warm in winter and famously cold in summer.
Native Americans would have been the first humans to appreciate these mystical places, using them in much the same ways we use them today. They were likely sacred to the tribes who knew them, both for their beauty and their unique qualities when compared to other aspects of the nearby terrain.
One of their most appealing features is the clear water which gives them a blue appearance, looking more like a tropical sea than a Coastal Plains swamp. Since tea-colored or muddy waters are the norm in these parts, they really stand out. I have treasured memories of swimming in these places as a young man, especially on holidays when we’d float watermelons near the sides to keep them cool.
In the 1940s, biologist Brooke Meanley did fieldwork here, some of which eventually appeared in his book, Swamps, River Bottoms & Canebrakes. Local farmer and naturalist Milton Hopkins and renowned woodcarver C. M. Copeland were also regular visitors for many years, welcomed enthusiastically by “Uncle Guy” Fuller. Hopkins made detailed observations on local birdlife and C. M. Copeland ventured into the surrounding swamps and collected cypress knees to use in his carvings.
The site was documented by David Stanley for the American Folklife Center circa 1977, as well. Some of his notes and images can be found in the Library of Congress.
I’m grateful to Ken Fuller for allowing me to photograph this incredibly special place and to share it with you. My father and I really enjoyed our last visit here, as we do all our visits with Ken and family.
We saw some amazing trees.
This view from the House Creek “side” of The Boils, along with Ken’s lifelong memories of the place, was ample reward for our hike.
[This replaces a post by the same title originally published on 19 February 2019.]
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 planter, tavern keeper, trading post operator, and general entrepreneur. In fact, he was thought to be the wealthiest of all Cherokee.
This home, the first of brick construction in the Cherokee nation, was built between 1804-1806. It served as the seat of James Vann’s extensive plantation on Diamond Hill. It was called the “Showplace of the Cherokee Nation”. Its success was dependent upon the labor of over 100 enslaved people, who were housed in 42 dwellings on the property. Vann was known to be quite cruel to his slaves, or to tolerate cruelty among his overseers, and this is rightfully reinforced through interpretation at the property today. Sometimes described as a “hard drinking business man”, he nonetheless encouraged cultural and educational opportunities for the Cherokee, through his assistance in the establishment of the Moravian mission and school at Spring Place. James Vann was murdered in 1809, presumably as retaliation for killing his brother-in-law in a duel the previous year. He left his home and property to his son Joseph (often referred to as Rich Joe). Joseph was also a Cherokee chieftain. An overnight visit by President James Monroe, traveling from Augusta to Nashville in 1819, was indicative of the prominence of the family and the quality of the house.
It is believed that a man named Vogt [possibly James Vann’s brother-in-law Charles Vogt] and Dr. Henry Chandlee Forman were involved in the construction of the house.
Diaries of Moravian missionaries at Spring Place indicate that Byhan and Martin Schneider were also instrumental in the construction. It incorporates both Federal and Georgian design elements.
A Moravian settler named Robert Henry Howell is believed to have been the brick mason. The stylish interior elements were added during the ownership of Joseph (Rich Joe) Vann and may have been the work of John and James McCartney. Further documentation of this is needed.
After the Cherokee were driven west on the Trail of Tears, the house was sold and over the next century would have 17 different owners.
By the time Dr. J. E. Bradford, who had purchased the home in 1920, sold it to the Georgia Historical Commission in 1952, it was in a state of serious disrepair.
An historically accurate restoration of the interior began in 1958 and was completed circa 1964.
The Slave Experience at the Chief Vann House
The historic site uses three-dimensional models and the words of Moravian missionaries to interpret the slave experience at the Vann House. North Georgia was not a stronghold of slavery, so the example of the Vann plantation is exceptional. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, focuses on this subject, and incorporates previously overlooked primary sources.
While the kitchen is very stylized and includes typical interpretive aids related to work, it stands out for the figures representing specific slaves who lived on the property along with brief anecdotes about their lives. The Moravian missionaries wrote in the their mission journal on 25 November 1810: “...a person named Patience caused us to feel much pity. She arrived in Charleston with some other Africans some years ago in the wintertime and afterward came to Vann’s plantation barefooted. She lost both of her feet because of the frost and now has to scoot on her knees…”
Though the Moravians frowned upon individual members owning slaves, the church could purchase and assign them to missionary families as needed, and their views were ultimately aligned with those of other whites of the time. A middle-aged woman named Pleasant (1758?-1838) was purchased in April 1805 by the Home Church in Salem, North Carolina, and came to Spring Place to serve the missionary couple John and Anna Gambold. She was pregnant at the time. On 21 December 1805 Christian Lewis Benzien wrote to the Unity Elders Conference of the Moravian Church: On Sept. 29 on the way to Spring Place [Pleasant] gave birth to a mulatto infant which was baptized in Spring Place on October 20 with the name Michael…“
Michael was given the honor of learning to read and often read the Bible to the Cherokee children at the Moravian school and was highly regarded by his owners, but typical of teenagers, he grew restless. In 1819, at the age of 14, he ran away from the Gambolds and when captured was sold away from Pleasant.
Reconstructed Historic Structures of Chief Vann House State Historic Site
To illustrate the contemporary vernacular architecture that would have been present on the Vann property, the Georgia State Parks division has reconstructed representative structures from the area, and built at least one from the ground up [kitchen], for this purpose.
The vernacular architectural forms and the use of available material are representative not only of the Cherokee of the area but of the increasing numbers of white settlers, as well.
This single-pen log house was originally located on Dunbean Hill on the Old Federal Road between Jasper and Tate. Dunbean Hill was named for Charles “Tsali” Dunbean, a Cherokee who was forced to relocate to Oklahoma in 1838 during the Cherokee Removal. It is thought that he was the builder of the cabin, which would likely date it in its original form to the mid-1830s. The Dunbean Hill property was purchased in 1862 by Stephen Kirby who established the first school in Pickens County, known as Kirby Academy. Around 1870, Kirby expanded the cabin to accommodate his growing family.
Former Congressman Ed Jenkins discovered the log cabin among the ruins of a burned out house on Dunbean Hill and gave the remains to Tom Quinton, a Jasper County Middle School teacher, who restored it for future use as an educational site. After Quinton’s death, the cabin was moved to this location.
Nice views of Settingdown Creek, an historic tributary of the Etowah River can be had from Poole’s Mill Park. The name of the creek is officially Settingdown, but variants over time include Settendown [most commonly], and Sitting Down. In his landmark book, Georgia Place Names, Kenneth Krakow wrote: [It] was called this because [Chief Setten Down] allowed some of the white settlers to “set down” and live peaceablynear his village. The village called Settendown was located on this stream, four miles northwest of Cumming.
Little is known of the creek’s Cherokee namesake, Chief Setten Down. According to the book Cry of the Eagle: History and Legends of the Cherokee Indians and their Buried Treasure by Forest C. Wade: He had a home on the south side of Settendown Creek in the present Matt community about one mile from Matt on the Matt and Cumming Highway. The chief was named after the creek on which he lived. Chief Settendown had three sons. Two were named Nickel and Tassel Sucker, and the name of the third is yet to be discovered by the author…The chief and his group were one of the many small tribes that comprised the whole of the Hightower Indians.
Shaking Rock Park is a fascinating natural area located within the city limits of Lexington that is named for a 27-ton rock that could be shaken with one hand while remaining in place, before the elements shifted its balance [likely the 1886 Charleston earthquake]. It still maintains a precarious perch albeit aided today by some sort of mortar.
The random field of mostly egg-shaped granite boulders comes into view at the crest of a fairly low hill and defines the trail to come. It’s a fairly easy walk and other than the presence of large roots in places, has few obstacles.
Archaeological evidence suggests that before European habitation, the site was used by Cherokee and Creek peoples as a campground.
In 1968, Shaking Rock became a public park thanks to the efforts of the Lexington Women’s Club.
Judge Hamilton McWhorter was the last private owner, and three of his heirs, Mrs. Andrew Cobb Erwin, Mrs. Sallie McWhorter, and Thurmond McWhorter, made the public transfer possible.
Depending on where one stands, the namesake rock’s appearance can vary greatly. Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with graffiti at the site.
Shaking Rock Park is an excellent natural resource and is free to explore.
This structure, built of local stone by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, marks the entrance to the limestone cave which gives the community its name. Two million gallons flow daily from the source, which has been a landmark since long before the establishment of the town in 1832.
In 1931 Dr. J. B. Rolater deeded the cave and 29 adjacent acres to the people of Cave Spring for use as a public park. In the early days local residents were allowed to tour the cave for free, while tourists were charged ten cents.
Rolater Park Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This hand-hewn cabin was built by Avery Vann, Jr., (1770-1845). Vann, a Scottish trader who married a Cherokee woman, was the brother of Cherokee Chief James Vann and his prominence in the area led to its designation as Vann’s Valley.
For many years, the structure was hidden within the walls of the old Webster-Green Hotel in downtown Cave Spring. When the hotel faced eminent demolition in 2009, the Cave Spring Historical Society led the effort to save the cabin and their work revealed this important aspect of Georgia history. After extensive research and careful restoration, the cabin was opened to the public in 2016. It is believed to be the second oldest extant Native American two-story residential structure.
The vernacular Greek Revival main house of the William S. Simmons Plantation, along with the adjacent Vann cookhouse, are two of the oldest extant brick structures in Floyd County. I was invited to photograph them earlier this year by owner Kristi Reed and am so glad I finally got to experience the charms of this important property, which continues to be a working farm. Kristi is very passionate about the Simmons Plantation and much of the following history is taken from her research. [PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND IT IS CLOSELY MONITORED FOR TRESPASSING]
Hidden in plain sight at the edge of downtown Cave Spring, the circa 1845-1847 landmark is built of handmade brick [18″ exterior walls/14″interior walls] and contains nine rooms, some of which retain hand-painted frescoes original to the house. It has also been known as the Montgomery Farm or Montgomery House, for subsequent owners.
As historically important as the main house, the double-pen brick cookhouse behind it was likely built no later than the mid-1820s by David Vann. Its initial use is not known, but considering that Vann was a wealthy planter who owned as many as 13 slaves, it is possible that it served as a slave dwelling before being relegated to use as a kitchen upon construction of the Simmons House. Vann, who was born at Cave Spring [Vann’s Valley] in 1800, was a member of one of the most prominent families of the Cherokee Nation and had a plantation house here preceding the Simmons house. [An interesting aside: Vann was the great-uncle of American humorist Will Rogers].
David Vann was a Cherokee sub-chief and after forced removal/relocation to the Indian Terriotry [present-day Oklahoma] on the Trail of Tears, later served as Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation. He was murdered by a group of “Pin Indians” at Salina, Indian Territory, on 23 December 1863 and was buried at Haner Cemetery in Murphy. According to the Encylopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, the derogatory term “Pin Indians” was applied by Treaty Party Cherokees to hostile, pro-Union Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole during the Civil War. The Pins were identified by cross pins worn on their coat lapels or calico shirts. They were disproportionately full bloods, wore turbans, adhered to the long-house culture, and were politically opposed to the frock-coated mixed-bloods who adhered to Southern white cultural norms and belonged to the Knights of the Golden Circle.
This mounting block is perhaps the most important surviving contemporary relic of Acorn Bluff [Lockchau Talofau], Chief McIntosh’s property along the Chattahoochee. A tablet near the stone notes: Hewn from West Georgia Limestone, the McIntosh Stone represents a significant time in the state’s history, as well as that of Carroll County. Chief William H. McIntosh of the Lower Creek tribe had the stone carved to help guests mount horses and board carriages here at Lockchau Talofau- or Acorn Bluff- his home on the Chattahoochee River.
The stone remained on this site from the time of McIntosh’s death in 1825 until 1916, when Carroll County Times editor J. J. Thomasson conceived the idea of relocating it to the campus of the Fourth District Agricultural and Mechanical School- today the University of West Georgia.
Seeing the stone’s historical significance as a local and Native American artifact, Thomasson lobbied Preston S. Arkwright, president of Georgia Railway and Power Company [now known as Georgia Power], which owned the land at the time, for permission to move it. Arkwright agreed.
In the summer of 1916, Thomasson enlisted the help of J. H. Melson, president of the Fourth District A. & M. The two men, along with several others, retrieved the stone in a horse-drawn wagon. According to the book From A & M to State University: A History of the State University of West Georgia, the stone became the cornerstone of Adamson Hall, a new women’s dormitory. It later was moved to a prominent area along Front Campus Drive from where it inspired West Georgia College’s logo that was used in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2017, the University agreed to loan the stone to the county for display here at McIntosh Reserve.
A circa 1839 dogtrot house originally built in Centre, Alabama, is located here for illustrative purposes. It is said to be very similar to Chief McIntosh’s home.
It was moved to this site and reconstructed between 1987-1994.