ETOWAH MOUNDS OFFER A LOOK INTO ANCIENT AMERICAN HISTORY
Two Friends United After Fifty-+ Years Tour Cartersville Site

THE ONLY REMAINS FROM DESTROYED ETOWAH CITY ARE THESE IRON WORKS RUINS
Not Only Did Sherman’s Troops Pass Here, But Lake Allatoona Finished The Job

By Robert Latimer Hurst

The invitation to Cartersville, Georgia, came as I prepared to visit Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bishop in Tucker, Georgia. Many will remember Mrs. Bishop as the former Joanne Lott, the daugter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Joe Lott of this city. She has served as my main source on a biography of the late Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Pafford Miller of Waycross, Baxley and Waynesville, North Carolina. That manuscript is now being reviewed by Joanne and other members of the Pafford family.

The call from the Jameson Inn here credited to a former classmate was something of a surprise.I had not seen him since our days at Georgia Teachers College in the early 1950s. He was the one at GTC with the convertible, an item which marked him for immediate popularity, especially on week ends. But Don had something else going for him. His personality drew people to him. Smiling, always there to help, he could easily be described as the "best friend." And he, together with Chris Trowell, who has retired from his South Georgia College teaching position, could be classed as my two “best friends.”

Here Don was, with his wife Jean, and driving a new convertible as if 50 years meant nothing, and we took up where we had left off in 1953. The years melted away, and I took him up quickly on the invitation to be their guest in Cartersville. "Bob, you gotta come up here. I want to show you the Etowah Mounds," he had said, knowing how much I enjoyed Georgia history. That was Temptation #1. Temptation #2 centered around Red Top Mountain, Lake Allatoona and its dam; Temptation #3 was the in-depth visit to the Corra Harris farm in Bartow County. Mrs. Harris is the author of "Circuit Rider's Wife," from which the 1951 film "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" was based.

Seeing the world's first Coca-Cola Wall Sign, painted in 1894 by a Coca-Cola syrup salesman, on the side of Young Brothers Pharmacy in Cartersville was an entirely new experience. This display marked an epoch in advertising marketing and the coming of billboards.

Though Jean and Don tell me that on some days one finds the Etowah River clear, the day we visited the Etowah Mounds this bordering river, moving rapidly, appeared soupy thick with the red clay so famous in North Georgia. The swiftness became most noticeable when one heard the many Canadian geese honking in dismay because the currents were carrying them much further than they desired to go. After working hard to scramble back onto the banks, these long-necked birds shooked themselves and ambled into a pasture, disdaining the river which had drawn them here in the first place.

Archaeologists inform that the Mississipean Culture probably ended its days in what is now Bartow County. One of the great cities was located near Cartersville at the juncture of the Etowah River and Pumpkinvine Creek. Now named "Etowah Indian Mounds State Park," the 54-acre area consists of seven mounds, borrow pits, plaza and portion of the original village and a museum. These moundbuilders, living here in about 950 AD, had moved east from what is now Mississippi, introducing greatly advanced agricultural techniques, government, religion and commerce in their path. These travelers were not alone, for along the way, they met and worked with the Woodland Indians and the Mound Builders from Ocmulgee.

Although for various reasons the other civilizations faded away, the Etowah site grew, as one can tell by the artwork and pottery, which progressed from that lacking detail to pieces with elaborate designs. As growth continued for these villagers, the ruling family saw the need for defense perimeters. But by the time Hernando deSoto marched through in 1540, this culture was in its decline and, finally, abandoned.

Creek, Cherokee and white settlers used the term "Hightower," possibly a translation from "Itawa" or "Italwa," which means "city," when referring to this now vanished community. "Etowah" is a corruption of this word, it is believed. Though the original location was deserted, a Cherokee village, naming itself after the Etowah Mounds, established itself here. By the early 1800s, the only traffic seemed to be the caravans transporting saltpeter to Savannah from the nearby beds on the Hightower Trail. Then, in 1838, the land was purchased by Colonel Lewis Tumlin, whose family held this property for 125 years.

Purchased by the State of Georgia in 1953, this historic site was declared the "most threatened in the nation." With this label attached to the property, a great preservation effort took place, and those archeologists who are studying this locale now agree that not only one but also several moundbuilding cultures could have flourished here.

Twelve-Thousand-Acre Lake Allatoona, with miles of hiking trails, picnic areas and four marinas, spreads itself haphazardly all over the terrain. Though for security reasons guests cannot walk on the dam today, the view from the bluff above the waterway is quite impressive. Lake Allatoona, actually built by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, surrounds Red Top Mountain State Park on three sides. When the lake was formed shortly after World War II, it blanketed much of the area's history, covering the old Hightower Trail, which was a main artery for Cherokee Indian and early settler travel. It is interesting to note also that Lake Allatoona forms the original bed of the Etowah River, with steep cliffs found under the water; the southern border was once known as the "greenbelt," an area of neutrality established between the Creek and Cherokee nations assuring that a member of either tribe could travel this strip without fear of reprisals from members of other tribes.

The U.S. Corps of Engineer Visitor Center at the top of the dam stresses regional history and natural resources with displays and exhibits. As early as 1830, Etowah, an industrial center surrounded by an agricultural community, flourished here until General Sherman burned it during his Atlanta Campaign; now, Etowah is resting beneath the waters of Lake Allatoona. The only visible remains of the town are the Cooper Furnace, a remnant of Mark A. Cooper's iron empire. The site was famous as supplier of munitions to the Confederacy; this reputation made it a prime target for Sherman's troops in 1864.

Other Cartersville “Temptations” will be revealed in a future story.


 

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