Out and About in Bartow County

Sometimes you can find interesting things in your own backyard.

• Not far from where I live is Rowland Springs Baptist Church. Nearby is the Rowland Springs Estates subdivision. Both of these take their names from a nineteenth-century resort located between them, a historical marker for which I discovered this week on Simpson Circle just before it gets to Harvey Knight Road (marked with a red star on the map). A chapter devoted to the resort and the personal connections made there appears in Ken Wheeler’s forthcoming book, which also deals with the fact that Rowland Springs was largely constructed by slaves, something ignored by the sign.

Google Maps.

Curious about whether anything remained of Rowland Springs resort, I went exploring around the pond, which is indeed approximately one third of a mile east of the historical marker. But I’m afraid that I didn’t find much.

“Rowland Spring,” marked on the southeast of the pond on the map, has had something built around it.  

It appears that the pond is man-made; on the south end of it is a wall, with a spillway over it.

The only evidence of actual buildings may be found on the northwest side of the pond. But I have no idea if these are remains of the resort, or if so, what buildings they might have been. 

Seems an ignominious end to the “most exclusive resort in Georgia”!

• The town of Euharlee may be found about nine miles to the west of Cartersville, in the shadow of Plant Bowen. Euharlee is famous for its wooden bridge, built in 1886 by Washington King, son of freedman Horace King. 

A view of the interior reveals the wooden “town lattice” design. Of course, no vehicular traffic traverses the bridge anymore – the newer car-bearing concrete bridge crosses Euharlee Creek a little further downstream, allowing this bridge to remain as a memento of yesteryear.

More information on the bridge can be read on these two signs. Actually, much of Euharlee is quaint and historic, with plenty of signs like one the above explaining such things as the Lowry Grist Mill, the Lowry Family Homestead, the Granary and Commissary, the Mercantile and Blacksmith shop, and the Black Pioneers’ Cemetery. It’s worth a stop if you’re every passing through. 

• Bartow County’s Confederate memorial still stands on the front lawn of the county courthouse. It has not yet been toppled or even defaced by vandals, although Cartersville has had some pro-BLM protests. It is fairly typical of the sort of Confederate monument one finds in small towns across the South, and includes the usual helping of gaseous nineteenth-century “elevated” diction:

I am no fan of the Confederacy and I do not agree with any Lost Cause idealization of it, but I am still not in favor of taking down this monument. It’s fairly unobtrusive – you don’t even realize it’s a Confederate monument until you get up close to it – and it’s just sitting there; it is not in continuous use to represent Bartow County (unlike, say, Mississippi’s flag or the star of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, both of which have become politically unpalatable). Like other monuments, it does not accurately represent the Confederacy, but it does reflect the era when people wanted to uplift Confederates. In that way, it certainly is “historic.”

Wikipedia.

As you can see, a great surge of monument building took place in the first decade of the twentieth century, I suppose as a result of Confederate veterans dying off. (Jim Crow had been well established by then and I don’t think it was under threat by the federal government – unlike in the the 1950s and -60s, which produced the second blip.) 

However, I would not be against the installation of a plaque explaining this historical context, and suggesting that such lines as “there were men whom power could not corrupt” or “the state has preserved the priceless treasure of her memories” are not to be taken seriously. 

I have stated before that I am in favor of leaving monuments alone, and constructing more monuments to things that we currently approve of. I have not changed this opinion, and I am pleased to note that Cartersville agrees with me in its way. Not far away from the county courthouse is the city hall, and since 2018 its front lawn has featured this sculpture, entitled Pathways to Freedom: A Story in Every Stitch, by artist Przemyslaw Kordys. The nine squares represent different quilt patterns which held coded meanings for slaves traveling to freedom along the Underground Railroad. A nearby plaque explains them. For instance, the square at the top is designated the North Star (“prepare to journey north to freedom”), the square on the far left is called Crossroads (“referring specifically to Cleveland, Ohio, code named Station Hope”), and the square on the bottom is Wagon Wheel (“pack provisions for traveling by wagon”). More information on the African American Quilt Documentation Project of Bartow County, which sponsored this monument, may be read on the website of the Etowah Valley Historical Society. 

I am glad that the Underground Railway existed, and we all ought to know more about it, but this monument proves, in its way, that we are no less prone to mythologizing than ex-Confederates were c. 1910. The idea that quilts were ever used to give coded instructions to runaway slaves, while inspirational, seems to date from the 1990s at the earliest. I am not in favor of taking down this monument either, but we should probably not condescend to the past if we too are going to indulge in expressing things that we want to be true but whose existence is not supported by primary source evidence. I’m pleased to note that even the plaque for this sculpture states that “The patterns in the quilt motif are believed to have been used by enslaved Africans in their escape to freedom. Legend holds the quilt patterns were given code meanings to aid slaves” (emphasis added).

• This ruin, located just north of Kingston, serves as a silent witness to the existence of the Howard Hydraulic Cement Company, which employed fifty men around the turn of the twentieth century. It even provided the name of the local town: Cement, whose charter was repealed in 1995.

• Actually, I wonder, given the spirit of the times, if “Bartow” won’t soon revert to “Cass” – or be named after some other person (or better, thing), given that it was named after Lewis Cass in the first place because, as Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of War, he was in charge of implementing Cherokee removal. (He also turned out to be staunch a Unionist, thus the name change in 1861.)

The Mighty Etowah

Google Maps.

I did something today that I have been wanting to do for a long time: canoe the Etowah River. I was hoping to make it all the way from Cartersville to Rome, but we didn’t get started early enough and so we only made it to Neel’s Landing, where the Etowah meets 411. But it was a highly enjoyable experience, and it provides a completely different perspective on the local topography, one that would have been familiar to Native Americans (or to Reinhardt’s co-founder John Sharp, who attempted to establish a ferry service between Canton and Rome). 

This is the dam that creates Lake Allatoona in Cartersville, and which would nowadays impede a direct fluvial service from Canton to Rome. The dam was built in 1950 by the Army Corps of Engineers. I took this photo four years ago. It served as our starting point. 

These pilings carried the Western and Atlantic railway over the Etowah. A student of mine claimed that the bridge itself was destroyed seven times during the Civil War, as it changed hands. The W&A now runs slightly to the west, on the other side of GA-41 (the bridge in the background). 

This dam, designated the Thompson Weinman dam, was a surprise for us as there were no signs warning about it on the river. Fortunately we realized what the sound was in time, and found the portage. 

The Etowah Indian Mounds from the river, which is how Mississippians would have arrived at the site.

Other things to see on the Etowah include turtles (my companion counted 291 of them), blue herons, plenty of swallow mud nests underneath bridges, fish, lush vegetation, Indian fishing weirs (made of rocks, and somewhat tricky to navigate), and lots of luxurious riverfront property with signs sternly warning you against trespassing. It would be nice to develop more of it for public use. 

Producing far more power than Allatoona Dam is Plant Bowen, allegedly the second-largest coal fired electrical generating plant in the western hemisphere. The river provides an interesting view of it. 

It was nice to see a rainbow on our drive home!

This route, by the way, has been signified as the Etowah River Water Trail, and the organizers have posted helpful mile and half-mile marker signs along the way. We started at 46 and ended at 23. 

Cooper’s Furnace

A followup to a recent post. I went for a walk yesterday at the Pine Mountain Recreation Area and ended up at the Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area, which is on the Etowah River and just beneath the dam that creates Lake Allatoona. It is the former site of the town of Etowah – the main memento of which is Cooper’s Furnace. 

As I mentioned, it is the best preserved of the local iron furnaces – and also the largest. I wonder just how much restoration work was required to get it into its current shape. (I doubt that Sherman would have left it in such good condition.)

One is not supposed to, but I crossed the fence and took this photo through the iron grate closing off access to the interior of the structure. The chimney seems remarkably well preserved (and/or reconstructed: it appears that a hole has been filled in). 

Here is a sign explaining how it all works. Note the need for limestone flux to draw out impurities from the iron ore. 

And here is a Georgia Historical Commission sign in honor of the man behind it all

One cannot talk about Cooper’s Furnace without acknowledging the role it played in the Great Locomotive Chase. A spur connected it with the Western & Atlantic Railroad, and the Yonah, a train engine which worked this spur, was commandeered to chase Andrews’ Raiders, who had stolen the General

But don’t look for it now, for it is gone with the wind. Damned Yankees!

Iron Furnaces of the Etowah Valley

Longtime readers will know that, prior to the Civil War, northwest Georgia was home to an iron-smelting industry – and that Reinhardt’s own Ken Wheeler has become quite an authority on it. 

be-roberts.com

I found this illustration at the website for B&E Roberts Photography. It shows a nineteenth-century smelter in action, with the dry-stone charcoal-fired furnace at the center, a causeway for the dumping-in of ore on the one side, a water-powered bellows on the other, and iron (and slag) pouring out the bottom. 

Wanda Pirtle Cronauer

Several of these furnaces remain in various stages of repair around these parts. The best preserved (and most accessible) is Cooper’s Furnace, at Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area. I have seen this one before but the photo shown here is by my former student Wanda Cronauer, which is better than the one I took. 

Other furnaces are more decayed and more remote, and have a real “lost Mayan temple in the jungle” feel to them. I have made it a goal to see as many of them as I can during this time of enforced social distancing. Stamp Creek, which runs not far from my house, is home to a few of them. This one is called Pool Furnace.

This one is the Lewis Iron Blast Furnace, aka Oak Grove Furnace, aka Earl Brown Furnace, also on Stamp Creek.

It’s in pretty good condition and still has remnants of the interior firebrick chimney. 

Slightly downstream we find the Diamond Furnace, also known as the Fire-Eater Furnace, which has unfortunately collapsed in on itself. 

Nearby on Guthrie Creek one finds the Bear Mountain “New Stack” Furnace. 

I don’t know what makes it a new stack furnace but it features this small chimney behind and above the front door. 

Finally, this one is Donaldson Furnace on Shoal Creek, near the Georgia National Cemetery (whose director I thank for permission to access it). It was never used, and the story is that Judge Donaldson built it as a means of keeping his sons from being conscripted into the army of the CSA, since iron production was an essential wartime activity. But the war ended before it was finished. And because it wasn’t finished, you can easily go inside it and look up through the chimney, as though you’re in the Pantheon. 

Other images of these furnaces may be seen at the web pages for B&E Roberts Photography and the Etowah Valley Historical Society

A Miraculous (and Local!) Bible

Courtesy Paul Halsall, I learned an interesting new word today: “myroblyte,” which is Greek and derives from myron (“sweet oil”) and bluzo (“to gush forth”). So something “myroblytic” exudes oil, and it is a miraculous property sometimes observed in icons or relics. Unbeknownst to me, in Dalton, Georgia these past few years a ministry calling itself His Name is Flowing Oil has claimed to be in the possession of a miraculously myroblitic Bible. In the week after Trump’s inauguration, a Bible belonging to one Jerry Pearce started to produce oil, starting with a small smudge in Psalm 39 and eventually saturating the entire book. Pearce put it in a plastic bag, and then in a glass container, in order to prevent the ever-flowing oil from soaking everything around it. Word spread quickly, and people flocked to Dalton in order to join a worship service, held in Dalton’s Wink Theater, during which the Bible would be brought out and laid on people’s heads. People claimed that they received cures or felt God’s presence in a special way; they could also leave with samples of the oil, and eventually the ministry gave away some 350,000 vials of it, totaling 400 gallons. Church leaders took the Bible on tour throughout the United States and even to Canada, although it only produced oil when it was in Dalton. 

Does that last fact make you suspicious? It should! The day after the Chattanooga Times Free Press published an article about the miraculous Bible last November, the paper received a telephone call to say that Pearce was a regular customer at the Tractor Supply store in Dalton, where he was seen buying large amounts of mineral oil. Tests carried out at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga confirmed that the allegedly miraculous oil was indeed indistinguishable from the Ideal brand of mineral oil sold at Tractor Supply. The Times Free Press published their findings last month; in the wake of the article, the ministry announced that the Bible had stopped producing oil and that they were ceasing operations, although they continued to defend their work. Ministry leader Johnny Taylor claimed that the Bible was “just a sign and a wonder… but it’s your faith and it’s how you apply it and use it where the miracles come in. We tell people the Bible is not the move, it’s just the sign and the wonder, but if you go find out where the Bible is, there’s a move going on there.” So (they claimed) they were only using it to advertise the “move,” although that doesn’t quite explain the cures attributed to the oil, or the vials of oil that the ministry gave away to its worshipers. (Note though that they weren’t selling them.)

What I find interesting about this episode is how it is an example of how tradition abides. You can say that oil is biblical, but the miraculous secretion of it strikes me as very Catholic indeed, and not something that Protestants would go in for – like receiving the stigmata or using holy water for exorcisms. But tactile ritual, especially involving the miraculous, is psychologically very satisfying, and no matter how often we disparage it as “superstitious,” it always seems to find a way back. Reinhardt’s Wayne Glowka told me about the Catholic custom of burying a statue of St. Joseph in your yard if you want to sell your house, something that two of his Baptist neighbors in Milledgeville did. Note too the evangelical support for Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which was essentially an over-the-top RC meditation on the Stations of the Cross, i.e not something that Protestants usually do.

Although I suppose that the specifically Protestant ingredient here is the Bible – there are no myroblytic relics or icons in this story. 

UPDATE: See also “The Bible that Oozed Oil” by Ruth Graham at Slate

Pine Log Mountain

My English program colleague Donna Coffey Little has published a piece in Story South about the local Pine Log Mountain:

Mining Pine Log Mountain: Place and Memory in a Southern Landscape

I’ve just harvested 250 bushels of corn, Bob tells me. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a gigantic red combine with Bob Neel, CEO of Aubrey Corporation, which owns half of Georgia’s Pine Log Mountain and leases 14,134 acres to the Department of Natural Resources as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Aubrey Corporation grows hundreds of acres of corn and cotton at Pine Log and near the Etowah River in Kingston. Bob is the CEO, but he still harvests his own crops.

The combine is two stories tall and two normal vehicles long. You have to climb a ladder on the side to get in. In the front there are eight large prongs that look like upside down canoes. As we approach each corn field, Bob aims the upside down canoes into the spaces between the rows, forcing the corn into the giant blades that pluck and shred the stalks, sending the corn into a storage compartment in the back. Each time it fills, we drive over to a shipping container and a giant hose spits out a cascade of corn.

This is the first time I’ve met Bob, who is a reedy and handsome man, as athletic 68, with a sardonic wit and a distrust of college professors. There is something Clint Eastwood-ish about him, as if he is waiting for me to say or do something stupid and make his day. It’s clear that he prides himself on being a no-bullshit kind of guy.

He won’t let me write anything down and at one point asks me pointblank if I am recording him.

“No,” I protest. He shifts his sunglasses and peers at me with penetrating blue eyes, always the skeptic.

“I’ve got a good memory, though,” I say. I can spar, I can hold my own. My curiosity outweighs my shyness.

“You’re not going to portray us as a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, are you?” he asks. “People look down on farmers.”

“I don’t,” I say. “Why do you think we just bought a 15-acre farm?”

That seems to satisfy him. He knows my neighbors Jim and Cathy, who sold me and my husband the farm we bought this summer. He and Jim are both part of the Euharlee Farmers Club, the oldest and most prestigious institution in Bartow County. Jim vouching for me is probably the only reason Bob has agreed to let me interview him about the history of Pine Log Mountain.

Read the whole thing

Reinhardt in the GHQ

Congratulations to Ken Wheeler and the students of his IDS 317: Town and Gown course in the fall of 2017, whose research on the racial integration of Reinhardt College in the late 1960s has been published in the most recent number of the Georgia Historical Quarterly, and which provided the cover illustration to boot:

Georgia Guidestones

Raynah Roberts.

Reinhardt’s Provost Mark Roberts recently enjoyed a visit to the Georgia Guidestones, a granite monument erected in 1980 in Elbert County, Georgia. From Wikipedia:

The monument is 19 feet 3 inches (5.87 m) tall, made from six granite slabs weighing 237,746 pounds (107,840 kg) in all. One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it. A capstone lies on top of the five slabs, which are astronomically aligned. An additional stone tablet, which is set in the ground a short distance to the west of the structure, provides some notes on the history and purpose of the guidestones.

A set of 10 guidelines is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient language scripts.

The message is presented in a different language on each side of the four exterior stones: Russian, Chinese, Swahili, Spanish, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, and English. In this language it reads:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Who would have sponsored such a thing? No one knows! The story of how one R.C. Christian appeared out of nowhere, commissioned the monument from Elberton Granite Finishing, paid for it, and then disappeared, never to be seen again, is detailed in an interesting Wired article from ten years ago now. People surmise that “R.C. Christian” is a reference to “Christian Rosenkreuz,” the alleged founder of Rosicrucianism, and that the deliberately lowballed total human population number is intended as advice for the survivors of a nuclear war (this was a concern in 1980). Of course, the prescribed One-Worldism, the appeal to Enlightenment-style “reason,” and the seeming endorsement of eugenic practices are objectionable to a lot of people, especially around these parts. That Yoko Ono found it inspiring probably doesn’t help on this front. Some people have called the Guidestones a “sinister site,” the “Ten Commandments of the Antichrist,” and “of deep Satanic origin,” and vandals have occasionally attacked them.

But Elbert County, which owns the monument, has no plans to tear it down. In fact, locals appreciate the fact that they have such an enigmatic tourist attraction – one that, if nothing else, showcases the county’s granite, its most well known product.