“History is a story written by the finger of God.” C. S. Lewis
I never questioned its significance, until one day I stopped at a railroad crossing to wait on a train. The sign with the horses pulling a wagon caught my interest. I had been searching for a setting for a novel. Perhaps the history of the old road would provide the details I needed for the story.
My research began by discovering that the Georgia Road, later called The Old Federal Road, was a main thoroughfare through the state in the early 1800’s. It began as a path through Cherokee Indian territory. Later, James Vann, a property owner, cut the road through to the Chattahoochee River.
Settlers, stock men, post riders and others ferried across the Chattahoochee River at present day Flowery Branch at place known as the ‘Federal Crossing’. The landing point located at Vann’s Ferry was part of the Cherokee Nation. Later, it was known as Winn’s Ferry.
In 1817 ferry boats were made of thick wooden planks reinforced with an extra floor and the platform was large enough to accommodate one wagon and a team. A rope that stretched across the river and was tied to trees end to end was the means by which the ferry was pulled to the other side. Some research suggests that the ferry may have been pulled by horses if the river bed was shallow enough, however it is possible that ferry operators used wooden poles to guide the craft utilizing the current. In later years, a system of cables and pulleys may have been used.
Additional facts about the road
Became a stagecoach route between Georgia and Tennessee
Andrew Jackson traveled the road to the war with the Seminoles
Route to The Georgia Gold Rush
Used for the relocation of The Cherokee Nation
The river valley that was the site of Vann’s Tavern and James Vann’s plantation is now submerged under Lake Lanier. The building known as Vann’s Tavern was relocated to New Echota State Park where it can still be seen today.
By the mid nineteenth century parts of The Old Federal Road were abandoned as railroad and steamboat transportation developed. Today the road signs mark the route. A driving tour that originates in Dalton, Georgia is available. The link is posted below. According to Brown’s Guide to Georgia, “the trip from east to west takes about three and a half hours, driving the speed limit and stopping only once or twice.”
As I studied the landmark sign and the site of the crossing, I pictured families of settlers in covered wagons proceeding from the road to a crossing at the ferry. Their destination, farm land where the timber would provide wood for their home, the grasses would feed their livestock. Fertile soil would grow fruits and vegetables to feed their families. Though the roads and crossings were primitive, they provided the means to a better life.
Have you discovered interesting historical facts in your state? I would love to hear what they have taught you about the early years of our country.
One of my favorite movies is Come Back Little Sheba, starring Shirley Booth and Burt Lancaster. The movie premiered in 1952 and earned Miss Booth an Oscar for her performance as Lola, a downcast housewife.
Months ago, Lola’s dog “Sheba” ran away. Having experienced the loss of a pet, I could relate to her sadness. But Lola’s unhappiness runs deeper. Doc, Lola’s husband of twenty years seems like a devoted husband; however she is watchful of him. Through her actions, she shows she wants to guard against any disturbance.
The film opens with middle-aged Lola in her bathrobe, ruffled hair and scratching her backside as she interviews a potential boarder for their home. Marie, a vivacious college student reminds Lola of younger, happier days, and the infant daughter she lost twenty years ago. As her relationship with Marie develops, Lola regains some of her zest for life while entertaining the younger woman and her friends.
Doc, a recovering alcoholic, is celebrating his first year of sobriety. He is troubled about the new boarder until he meets her. She’s charming and attractive. When a star athlete/Romeo comes calling on Marie, Lola welcomes him, mindful that once she was young and attractive. Doc is less friendly. He is protective of Marie and finds her appealing. For him, reminders of the past are of his failure to finish medical school. As the story moves along, we are swept into conflicts of earlier years and the reason for their shotgun marriage.
At one point in the he admits to Lola that “alcoholics are disappointed men.” She immediately takes his statement as regret for having to marry her.
One night Doc discovers Marie’s boyfriend sneaking to her room late at night. It is like a replay of Doc’s past mistakes. He snaps and relapses into drinking.
Stop! Don’t read further if you intend to see the movie.
Lola doesn’t realize that Doc has relapsed until she discovers the liquor is missing, and he hasn’t come home. She calls AA and waits.
Doc steals into the dark kitchen, awakening Lola. In his drunken state, he threatens to harm her. Help arrives, and he is carried to the hospital.
The Turning Point
Her darkest moment occurs when she’s had enough and calls home but her father still refuses to allow her to return. For me, this is the most gripping moment in the story. If you are like me, have the Kleenex handy for a flood of tears.
At this point, Lola must make a choice; sink further into despair or pick herself up and move on. It’s interesting to note that though Lola carries guilt over the past, she does not see the need to change things about herself until after her family’s rejection and Doc’s relapse.
When Doc returns home from the hospital, he is surprised to find Lola there. Humbled, he begs her forgiveness. He is amazed at the change in his wife since his absence. She’s wearing a new dress, her hair is groomed.
Lola admits that she painted the kitchen and bought new curtains. As she is fixing his breakfast, she admits that Little Sheba “isn’t coming back.” In changing her outlook and her appearance, she’s learned to accept her life and her past.
Seven takeaways from the film
- Sometimes people feel stuck in life.
- Coping with loss.
- Some people refuse to change until a crisis occurs
- Doc used alcohol to escape disappointment
- Change though hard, is often necessary for happiness
- Mistakes of the past are not the future.
- Forgiveness is necessary for healing.
There are so many facets to this seemingly simple movie. I highly recommend watching the drama which is available on DVD.
What are some movies that had a profound effect on you? How do you feel you were changed?
A tradition in Dahlonega, Georgia is a festival known as Gold Rush Days. The event, rated as one of the top twenty in the Southeast, is celebrated the third weekend in October when the leaves are spectacular in color.
Years ago as a newbie to the state, I vowed to make the festival an annual tradition. Later, I learned the reason behind the celebration.
The Discovery of Gold
The Gold Rush of 1828, began when Frank Logan, a prospector, found gold at Duke’s Creek, a branch of the Chattahoochee River. Benjamin Parks and others also claimed to have found gold in the area. When newspapers published news of the find, prospectors flooded into the region.
I learned of this fact while researching the history of The Old Federal Road the route by which miners transported the gold. I was shocked to learn most of the gold was found on land belonging to the Cherokee Indians. In 1838, the state seized the territory and the Indians were relocated to Oklahoma.
According to “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills”, gold was typically mined by “deposit mining or placer mining.” Gold that eroded from hills and mountains accumulated in streams and riverbeds. Panned gold is known as “alluvial gold” because it is found in riverbeds.