Ghost towns pepper the South with history and legend. Some have vanished because no railroad showed up. Some dissolved when the gold left the creek bed. Others were burnt, buried or drowned. The skeletal remains of some can still be found, hiding from the map, sleeping quietly between Southern highways and byways.
Just a short drive from Anywhere, Georgia, a person with a keen eye for the used-up is bound to find a shadow of Once Was. With a little effort, and perhaps some sweet tea and small town conversation, one might even discover a secret or two.
Following is a brief run-down of a just a few of Georgia’s lost and ghostly towns.
Allatoona – The rich history of this ghost town is mostly submerged under what is now Lake Allatoona. In the 1840’s this was a town whose future was lined with gold, Allatoona’s miners and panners were filling their pockets a decade before California’s gold rush started. Just one hundred years later, in the 1940’s, the town was flooded to create hydroelectricity for Georgia’s growing population – which now provides more than $3.5 million to the Federal Treasury each year.
More than 280 drownings have occurred in Lake Allatoona.
Allatoona Pass hosted an all day battle in 1864, near the end of the Civil War. More than 1500 Soldiers, from the North and the South, were killed, wounded or went missing.
The Dried Up
Boneville – Somewhere along U.S. Hwy 78 in McDuffie County is the corpse of what used to be a small resort community. On a summer afternoon in Boneville, in the late 1800s, you would’ve seen local residents, as well as out-of-towners, laughing and splashing in the town pond. You would’ve been able to get off the train here, you would’ve been able to enjoy the comforts of the local Inn and you would’ve seen kids playing and mill workers working. The Georgia Railroad closed the train station in the 1920’s and that eventually led to the drying up of Boneville. “Since that time, Boneville kind of dried up — like bones,” said Jenny Lindsay, the director of the McDuffie Museum. (Augusta Chronicle)
Legend has it that the once quaint and cozy Old Dixie Inn, now in decay, still has regular nightly guests – of the ghostly kind.
Skull Shoals – Before it’s extinction, this was once home to a thriving Native American society, until de Soto’s troops visited in 1540 – bringing with them the diseases that would help eradicate the native population. Skull Shoals was being settled by frontiersmen as early as the 1780’s, and eventually held Georgia’s first paper mill (1811 – 1814). The remains of this community can still be looked at, walked through and wondered about. The area is on the Oconee River, in the Oconee National Forest. The left-overs from this town include pieces of the paper mill, general store, boarding house and toll bridge. There is also a mound complex which has provided artifacts that date as far back as the 1250’s.
Deadly diseases, bankruptcy, devastating fires, convict labor, droughts, damaging erosion and major flooding plagued this area of Georgia throughout it’s history of inhabitation. Some old timers believe that the Creek Indians left a curse to those who stole their homeland.
New Echota – This area was once a Cherokee community called Gansagiyi. In 1825New Echota became the town’s name when the area was re-established as the capitol of the Cherokee Nation – after the former capitol, Chota, was abandoned after being mostly consumed by the waters of Tellico Lake. The residents of New Echota produced the first Indian language newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. In 1832 Georgia’s Sixth Land Lottery awarded this Cherokee land to white settlers. By 1838 the capitol of the Cherokee Nation had been converted into an Indian Removal Fort, under the direction of Winfield Scott. This town was silenced after the U.S. Government was successful in the forced removal of the Native Americans on what became known as the Trail of Tears. The town remained abandoned for more than 100 years until it became a State Park, opened to the public in 1962.
By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from the southeast were removed from their homelands, some forced to walk 800 miles, for six months – many thousands dying along the way. This event opened 25 million acres for white settlement – In the Cherokee language the event is called Nunna daul Isunyi – “the Trail Where They Cried”. It is estimated that 4,000 of the 18,000 Cherokee died on the trail – this is not including casualties suffered by other tribes including the Choctaw, Seminole, Creek & Chicasaw.
White Sulphur Springs –Known for it’s enchanting waters that flowed from natural springs, this was another one of Georgia’s early “resort” towns. Some people believed, and some still do, that these springs had magical healing properties. White Sulphur Springs has even been called the Fountain of Youth. There was a fine hotel, and several cabins, built around the year 1800 – and burning to the ground in 1948. Mostly lost to weeds and brambles now, this was once a lively place of presidential visits, elaborate dinners, early indoor plumbing, and a play place for the upper echelon of the South.
One interesting visitor was John Wallace – the murderer of Murder in Coweta County. He was married to his wife Josephine in the hotel, and spent his honeymoon in one of the cottages.
The Burnt Village of the Muskogee – Okfuskenena was a small Creek Indian town on the western bank of the Chattahoochee River, at the time about 8 miles from LaGrange, Georgia. Previous to 1793, this area was the central point of the Great Muskogee Nation. On the night of September 27, 1793, white renegades waited until the native townspeople were asleep after a traditional Green Corn Dance celebration. The village was attacked, the Natives were killed and the dwellings were burnt to the ground. Today there is a Burnt Village Park in Chambers County, Alabama. However, most of the original site, of the once thriving and peaceful town of Okfuskenena, has been drowned under West Point Lake. There is evidence of stone fences and other artifacts on a piece of land that has become a small island, just a short boat ride from Potts Road Recreational Area in Troupe County, GA.
Archaeological excavations of this site were performed from 1966 – 1969, and never finished. In 1972 the creation of West Point Lake flooded the site of the dead town and severely hampered any further discovery of this community of Creek Indians, relics of their existence or evidence of this mass murder.
The above are just a few of Georgia’s lost and forgotten towns. A Sunday drive with a map and a sense of adventure will offer up many more interesting discoveries if you’re willing to take the backroads – and if you’re willing to listen to the ghosts tell their stories.
- Battle of Allatoona Pass
- Boneville, dried up like bones
- History of Skull Shoals
- New Echota Trail of Tears
- White Sulphur Springs
- The Muskogee People
- Trail of Tears
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