Monday, November 26, 2012

Hiking in Sope Creek National Park, and more...

Last Tuesday, November 21st, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, was sunny and warm - in the low 70s (21 C) so we decided to go out in the woods to see if we could still find some good autumn  colors, and we did - in Sope Creek National Park.

Several times along the years I had driven over a narrow bridge in East Marietta, Georgia and always wished to explore the creek I had seen below.  I had found out that this stream is called Sope Creek and is part of the Cochran Shoals unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  In 2009 we had hiked along Island Ford which is also in this Recreation Area and I had written a post about it, click here to read it.  The National Park Service maintains some good hiking trails in Sope Creek Park so we decided to wander on them that Tuesday.

We started walking on a large trail which lead us down a slope

and then to a pond.  A previous owner,  John Sibley, had purchased 1,300 acres of land in this area in the 1930s and so the pond is called Sibley Pond.  There is a trail around the pond and a large dock, for fishing I presume.  (Click on any picture or collage to enlarge.)

We sat on the deck for a while and then went back up the trail to do more exploring.  I heard a sound behind me and before I could look back a bicycle had passed by me quickly - the large trails are used as mountain biking trails.

So we decided to walk along a small trail in the woods where biking is prohibited.

This little trail took us up and down.  I was happy to have brought my walking cane along as there were many large rocks.  Before long we could see the ruins of a building among the trees.  There were down a sharp hill and I had to balance myself against the trunk of a tree to take the photos below.

When we entered the park we read the two plaques shown below.  These ruins are what remain of the large Paper Mill  - that was 300 feet long and included several rooms, an office and store room. 

I read that during the Civil War, on July 8, 1864, a detachment of Federal troops crossed Soap Creek, further down the bridge, after firing their rifles.  (Vintage photo courtesy Heritage Sandy Springs Museum.)

Now we could hear the soft sound of rushing water and soon we arrived at the river.  Looking up the river I could see the little bridge where I had crossed Sope Creek several times.

There used to be a covered bridge across the creek, but it was burnt down by arson in the 1960s - such a terrible shame as it must have been a lovely sight over the water.  (vintage photos of the bridge below, owners unknown.)

It would be easy to cross the river by hopping or jumping on the large boulders in the creek, but we decided to just sit and feel the ambiance.

I could see an old stone wall starting at the bridge and going to another sets of ruins.

I took some close-ups with my little Panasonic Lumix camera to get a better look at the ruins down the river.

 I understand that there were several buildings in the area: a paper mill, a twine mill and a flour mill. It was strange in a way to be sitting on a flat rock above the shallow Sope Creek, surrounded by heavily wooded slopes with yellow, rust, red and green leafed trees then watching the traffic crossing the little bridge.  

 The sun was shining through the multicolored leaves and producing delicate colored reflections in the water.

Walking away from the stream was not easy as there were huge roots and rocks on the banks.

The trail going back was heavily wooded but not so steep.

As we came to a fork in the trail we checked the direction plaque, but we still took the smaller trail, the less traveled one...

As we walked up the trail we passed by many large fallen trees.  It certainly would be a bit alarming to be walking here when there is a violent storm, or a tornado.

As we arrived back in the parking lot I noticed two plaques, one giving information on the Chattahoochee River and the other on Sope Creek (click on photos to read.)  The sign on Sope Creek said "...Sope Creek, named for an aged Cherokee Indian who refused to leave with the forced migration of 1838 and was allowed to live out his life here."  That certainly sounded nice, but was it true?  I would have to check this out...

Now comes the part listed as "and more" in my title above ... for the rest of the story which I researched.  To start with, the Park Service plaque is wrong - I was skeptic as to the benevolence of the Georgian settlers in 1838.  John Sibley's property was developed in the 1970s - an elementary school called "Sope Creek Elementary School" was built and many houses were also built within "Sibley Forest."  In 2009 the students of Sope Elementary thought that, for their upcoming International Festival in January 2010 it would be great if they could have a Cherokee Indian come and talk about old Sope (as mentioned in the Park Service plaque.)  They contacted a Georgian historian, Jeff Bishop, who is the president of the Trail of Tears Association, Georgia Chapter.  Jeff researched this Old Sope, whose name had been "Soap" from the Cherokee "Oh Lah" and confirmed that there had been such a man, but he had been forced to go on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma with his family.  Please read Jeff's report here: "Chief Soap": Fact vs. Fiction."

But what makes this story so interesting is that the descendants of Old Soap found out about the legend surrounding their ancestor and the school request.  They traveled to Georgia that January 2010 to talk about their family and Cherokee customs.  They started with a Cherokee prayer and then spent some time with the students.  (Photos courtesy Sope Creek Elementary School.)

Charlie Soap (center top picture) came with his son and grandson.  Charlie was married at the time to Wilma Pearl Mankiller Soap, who had been the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.  She passed away in April 2010.   When I looked at Charlie Soap, I found that he had a strange resemblance to my husband Jim (of course it would be easier to see if he shaved his beard!)  There is a legend in Jim's family that way back there had been American Indian blood.... I tried to find a picture of Jim which might look a bit like Charlie Soap but could not decide on which one to use - so I used them all.  Charlie Soap is on the center left wearing a black leather jacket.  By the way my husband's tee shirt in the top right picture shows the circle which is the seal of the Eastern Band of Cherokee. So this is the rest of the story.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The 1859 Stilesboro Academy

My post below did not update in Google Reader, again - I don't know why.  I can add something to the post though - I found out that on October 24, 2012, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Academy on its list of "2013 Places in Peril."  Now the members of the Stilesboro Improvement Club should get some needed help to maintain and improve this historic building.

100th Chrysanthemum Show in Stilesboro, Georgia

After being away from blog land for a while I have been catching up on my reading of all the new posts of my bloggy friends.  I have not downloaded my Black Sea trip pictures yet.  But I have the pictures, still in my camera, of our latest trip.  We came back at the end of October and when I saw an advertisement for the 100th Chrysanthemum Show in a nearby town on the first Saturday of November we decided to drive there and have a look.

That Saturday, 3rd November, was a warm and sunny day.  It took us about 45 minutes to drive the 20 miles of little country roads to Stilesboro, Georgia - an unincorporated small town near Cartersville in Bartow County.  I found out that the town was named in honor of William Henry Stiles (1808-1865.) Stiles, born in Savannah from an aristocratic family, studied law at Yale then served in the US Congress as a Democrat from 1843-1845.  US President James K. Polk appointed Stiles to serve as a Charge d'Affaires for the U.S. at the court of Emperor Franz Joseph in Vienna, Austria, from 1845 to 1849.   When the 1849 Revolution occurred, Stiles serves as a mediator between Hungarian freedom fighter L.Kossuth and the Imperial throne. Prior to going to the Congress Stiles was a district attorney for Georgia and was assigned the duty to pay off the Cherokee Indians in gold for their land.  Traveling through the northwest Georgia mountains Stiles purchased land and built a plantation home "Etowah Cliffs" on the banks of the Etowah River.  In 1845 the neighboring little town of Stilesboro was named in honor of William Henry Stiles.  He died of pneumonia in Savannah in 1865 and is buried there.

Photo Courtesy Etowah Valley Historical Society

I am ambivalent about the chrysanthemum because it denotes a sad flower to me.  In France the chrysanthemum is considered the flower of the dead.  This started in France after the war of 1918 when it was chosen to flower the tombs of the fallen soldiers, as it flowers in the fall and can withstand some frost.  When we went to France in October-November 2010 my cousin and I went to purchase some chrysanthemums at a local nursery.  There was a large variety to choose from. (Click on the pictures and collages to enlarge them - they look ever so much better.)

There were other flowers for sale, of course, but chrysanthemums were those to buy that "Toussaint" day (day of the dead.)  I decided on pink chrysanthemum pots

and placed them on my parents' grave.  I read that in 2010, 21.3 millions pots of chrysanthemums were sold in France during October-November.

But to get back to this year, we found the historical Stilesboro Academy where the oldest chrysanthemum show in Georgia has been held since 1912. 

As indicated above this was a community-built school house.  It is a Greek revival building with twenty foot ceilings and 12 foot doors made of heart pine

After walking around the building and taking pictures of the large trees on the ground 

and the lovely rural landscape in the back

we entered the Academy and paid our $2 admission.  We looked at the historical displays in the entrance before going to the show.

We read that the three benches on display still bore Federal Troops horses' teeth marks and notches as General Sherman's troops stopped there and used the benches (placed front-to-front and fastened with rope) as feeding troughs in May 1864 during the Civil War.

Once in the show hall we had time to look at some chrysanthemum (mum) displays before the opening ceremonies began.

I had read earlier that in early 1910 sixteen women formed a social club, as it was done then often in the South.  One of the members, Miss Campie Hawkins, had seen mums in a tenant farm and had grown some in her garden.  She then persuaded the ladies of the club  to grow mums as well then have a show, the proceeds of which would be used to improve Stilesboro and the academy.  The first show was held in 1912 and since then this Annual Chrysanthemum Show has been held continuously by members of the Stilesboro Improvement Club.  The opening ceremony started and the Club President, Jan Shepherd,  gave a welcome speech.  It was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a Devotional by Reverend Fisher.  Then there were more remarks by the Program Chairman, Teresa Cook, and music played by Ms. Ann Lowe (shown below.)

Everyone was free then to go around the hall to admire the different varieties of mums.

You can see above the lettered Latin inscription "Deo Ac Patriac" MDCCCLIX  (To God and Country - 1859.)  This was painted by an Englishman in 1859 when the structure was originally built - it has never been repainted.  Legend has it that this was the reason General Sherman did not burn the building during his "March to the Sea" in 1864 because this is the same motto as the West Point Academy, beloved by General Sherman.  There are many flower forms of mums - the different forms and shapes have been categorized into 13 types.  Some have giant blooms, some have florets (petals) loosely in-curved, some have irregular florets, some have long tubular spider like florets.  I admired many lovely types in the hall.

Walking around the hall, I also looked at some old photographs hang on the wall - such as a group of cotton pickers nearby in 1923 (top left) - Etowah Heights, a large house destroyed by fire in 1911 - a midget wedding and Professor Sharpe with his class of 1892 at the Stilesboro Academy.

There were some country displays and a "Quilt Raffle" - I purchased some tickets, but did not win.

Nell Buchanan, the Vice President of the Stilesboro Improvement Club, told me that she baked the three pies above and gave them the names of her sisters.  She graciously let me take her photograph, below.

My husband and I kept walking around the hall looking at individual mums

and at more arrangements like the pretty ones below.

I came closer to the photo showing the lady above but there was no indication as to who she had been.  Here is a closeup of her below.  Addendum October 11, 2016 - Just received a comment indicating that this lady is Cecelia Stovall Shelman, a Southern Lady and lost love of General William T. Sherman.  You can read more about her here.  Thanks for the note.)

Then it was time to partake of the advertized "1951 style" lunch - Brunswick stew,  chicken salad, congealed salad and and assortment of homemade cakes and pies - with soda, iced-tea or coffee.

After lunch I went to take a closer look at old pictures of earlier chrysanthemum shows lining the dining hall.

Then it was time to walk through the tall doors, pass the old benches and the weaving lady and return to our little car.

But I wished to make another stop.  We had passed some cotton fields on our way to the Academy - they were ready to be picked and looked beautiful.  

From a distance it looked as it could have been snow on these fields.  The area was huge and cotton could be seen far and away.

Then we stopped to take a closer look at the cotton. What a beautiful sight this was - lovely, fluffy cotton as far as we could see - it was a splendid image to take back home.

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