Paradise Garden

A followup to my post about Pasaquan: Paradise Garden, located between Summerville and Trion in Chattooga County, Georgia, is another visionary art compound, constructed by Howard Finster (1916-2001). Finster was a Baptist preacher and ran a bicycle repair business; in 1976 he saw a human face in a smear of white paint on his finger and heard a voice commanding him to “paint sacred art.” This he did enthusiastically until his death, producing some 47,000 pieces, many of which adorned the buildings he had built on his four-acre plot of land, soon dubbed Paradise Garden. He developed a distinctive colorful, flat style for his images, which were often accompanied by extensive text, often Biblical. Here is a representative example from Wikipedia:

Howard Finster, Portrait of Don Schwatzentruber (c. 2001). Wikipedia.

Other examples can be found on Wikiart, the website of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Howard Finster’s official website. The High Museum in Atlanta also has a good collection of his work

My understanding is that when Finster died in 2001 his heirs sold off a lot of the moveable art at Paradise Garden, and Wikipedia claims that the site “began to decay in the heat and humidity of rural Georgia.” When I first saw it in 2006 (with the help of my friend Brad Adams, an art professor at Berry College), it was clear that the place wasn’t quite as glorious as it once was – but it was still pretty interesting! Here are some photos from that visit, so many years ago now:

Since then the site has been acquired by Chattooga County, and is now maintained by the Paradise Garden Foundation. One can visit it easily enough. 

It’s clear that Finster was a committed Christian and saw his art as essential to his ministry. The vast majority of it is religious in theme. Yet his notoriety was not the result of any sort of religious revival in late-twentieth-century America. Instead, Finster became famous as a self-taught “outsider” artist, a Southern eccentric true to his own vision. Michael Stipe of the rock band REM did not get Finster to design the cover of Reckoning, nor have the video to “Radio Free Europe” filmed at Paradise Garden, because he was in sympathy with Finster’s religious message. And it seems that Finster was well aware of this, and enjoyed the celebrity: witness his exuberant appearance on The Tonight Show in 1983. Tom Wolfe talked about this act in The Painted Word (1975) – successful artists may like to cultivate an image of otherworldliness, but they always have an eye to producing what sells, or what will impress the critics. Yet Finster never completely sold out. For instance, of the Talking Heads’ album Little Creatures (1985), he stated:

I think there’s twenty-six religious verses on that first cover I done for them. They sold a million records in the first two and a half months after it come out, so that’s twenty-six million verses I got out into the world in two and a half months!

Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

Newnan, Georgia

Three years ago about thirty members of the National Socialist Movement held a rally in Newnan, Georgia. About fifty counter-protestors showed up, and a force of hundreds of police officers was present to keep the peace. Ironically, the police ended up arresting about ten of the counter-protestors… for the crime of wearing masks! (This is from the before times, when public mask wearing was forbidden because it can provide cover for lawbreaking, and not required for the sake of preventing the spread of disease.)

A brief stop in Newnan yesterday gave us no impression that the place is a hotbed of extremism. It is, instead, a charming town with a glorious county courthouse on the main square.

Yes, it does have a Confederate monument, but it’s not particularly obtrusive.

Historical markers commemorate Governor William Yates Atkinson (1894-98) and Governor Ellis Arnell (1943-47). But the town seems most proud of country music star Alan Jackson.

Modern Cronies

Ken Wheeler’s new book is now out and available for purchase. From the UGA Press website:

Modern Cronies: Southern Industrialism from Gold Rush to Convict Labor, 1829-1894

By Kenneth H. Wheeler

Modern Cronies traces how various industrialists, thrown together by the effects of the southern gold rush, shaped the development of the southeastern United States. Existing historical scholarship treats the gold rush as a self-contained blip that-aside from the horrors of Cherokee Removal (admittedly no small thing) and a supply of miners to California in 1849-had no other widespread effects. In fact, the southern gold rush was a significant force in regional and national history.

The pressure brought by the gold rush for Cherokee Removal opened the path of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, the catalyst for the development of both Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Iron makers, attracted by the gold rush, built the most elaborate iron-making operations in the Deep South near this railroad, in Georgia’s Etowah Valley; some of these iron makers became the industrial talent in the fledgling postbellum city of Birmingham, Alabama. This book explicates the networks of associations and interconnections across these varied industries in a way that newly interprets the development of the southeastern United States.

Modern Cronies also reconsiders the meaning of Joseph E. Brown, Georgia’s influential Civil War governor, political heavyweight, and wealthy industrialist. Brown was nurtured in the Etowah Valley by people who celebrated mining, industrialization, banking, land speculation, and railroading as a path to a prosperous future. Kenneth H. Wheeler explains Brown’s familial, religious, and social ties to these people; clarifies the origins of Brown’s interest in convict labor; and illustrates how he used knowledge and connections acquired in the gold rush to enrich himself. After the Civil War Brown, aided by his sons, dominated and modeled a vigorous crony capitalism with far-reaching implications.

Order your copy today!

Phi Alpha Theta Induction 2021

Congratulations to the newest members of Reinhardt’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the honor society for students of history: Annabelle Forrester, Addyson Huneke, Jessica Landers, Marissa Liguori, and Gianna Sanders. This year’s ceremony took place this afternoon in the Community Room of Hill Freeman Library.

Left to right: Gianna Sanders, Jessica Landers, Marissa Liguori, Annabelle Forrester, Valerie Coleman, Jonathan Good, Addyson Huneke. Photo: Ken Wheeler.

Our guest speaker was Valerie Coleman, curator of the Noble Hill Wheeler Memorial Center in Cassville, Georgia, who spoke of the center’s history and legacy. As noted earlier on this blog, the center is in the building of the former Noble Hill School, which was constructed in 1923 with a matching grant from the Rosenwald fund, which had been established by Julius Rosenwald, president of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. It closed in 1955 with the construction of Bartow Elementary School, an amalgamated Black school for Bartow County, and fell into a dilapidated state. Through the initiative of Susie Weems Wheeler, it was resurrected and restored as a museum and cultural center in 1987. The Center has recently acquired the former St. James AME church building in Cassville and hopes to restore that as well. 

Our thanks to Ms. Coleman and our congratulations to all new members of Phi Alpha Theta!

Lost Mountain

I have discovered that Lost Mountain, an unincorporated part of western Cobb county, has applied for city status in order to preserve its semi-rural nature. The place had a role to play in the Atlanta Campaign, and is famous for its old country store, which has been in continuous operation since 1881. Plus, like Waleska and the Stone Pile near Dahlonega, it has a romantic Cherokee legend associated with it. According to one version of the story, the Cherokee chief Nickajack had a daughter named Oolalee, whom he had betrothed to the young brave Chickoee. However, Oolalee’s heart belonged to another brave named Sawnee, of whom her father did not approve – and with whom she eloped, never to be seen again. 

In later years, the story says, old Nickajack used to sit by the door of his wigwam and looking away to the northwest would murmur, in his native tongue, the syllable “lost!” His tribesmen, hearing his constant murmur of “lost, lost,” when he looked toward the mountain, called it “Lost Mountain.” 

I would be interested to know more about why white people enjoyed these sorts of stories, told in this sort of sentimental, figurative, “moonshiney” diction. Here’s another example from Rock City, a tourist trap in Chattanooga, Tenn., complete with manufactured waterfall and manufactured Indian Legend to go along with it.

I assume that work has been done on this question….

A Followup

In October I wrote about the Cassville Affair, which transpired on May 19, 1864. Many of the pictures in that post I had taken in the summer. One historical marker I looked for and missed is marked on this map:

Google maps.

The upper one, entitled “Confederate Line,” is designated as “5” in my previous post. I cruised up and down Mac Johnson Road in search of the second one, and couldn’t find it. I thought that it had been stolen, like the sign for Trahlyta’s Grave

But it turns out that all I needed was for the summertime vegetation to die off. Driving on the road again this afternoon I spotted the GHC historical marker, which essentially repeats the information in the “Confederate Line” sign. 

As a bonus there is another marker close by, in the form of a granite block on the ground, with a plaque attesting to the existence of the McKelvey House. Nothing beside remains of this house, although you can tell that there was once something there.

I repeat my statement that if the Cassville Affair is worth so many markers, other things should be entitled to them as well. 

The Stone Pile

A former student of mine shares a Facebook post of local historical interest:

The Georgia Photography Fanatic.

The accompanying text:

Ten miles north of Dahlonega, GA, at the intersection of US 19 and State Road 60, you’ll come up to a roundabout with something odd in the middle: a big stone pile inside a triangle! It’s known as the Stone Pile Gap & it has quite a history!

The historical marker reads:

“This pile of stones marks the grave of a Cherokee princess, Trahlyta. According to legend her tribe, living on Cedar Mountain north of here knew the secret of the magic springs of eternal youth from the Witch of Cedar Mountain.

Trahlyta, kidnapped by a rejected suitor, Wahsega, was taken far away and lost her beauty. As she was dying, Wahsega promised to bury her here near her home and the magic springs. Custom arose among the Indians and later the Whites to drop stones, one for each passerby, on her grave for good fortune. The magic springs, now known as Porter Springs, lie 4 miles northeast of here.”

According to lore, the Georgia Department of Transportation has tried to remove the stones on more than one occasion during road construction. Supposedly each time it happened, at least one person died in accidents while moving the pile, leading many to believe that removing a stone from the pile will bring the curse of the witch of Cedar Mountain upon the thief, so only recently they decided to do the next best thing; build a roundabout around the stone pile!

The Georgia Photography Fanatic.

The historical marker is quoted accurately (although according to the GHS website the maker is currently “down”):

Georgia Historical Society.

Of course I would need to do more research on this question before coming up with a definitive answer (who exactly were these people who died?), but my hunch is that this entire thing – both the original story and the story of the subsequently immovable pile – is B.S. If nothing else, the Cherokee did not have “princesses,” and any story that refers to one should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Local Exploration

• I just finished reading Joseph B. Mahan’s History of Old Cassville, 1833-1864, kindly leant to me by my neighbor Mark Leary. I was pleased to learn that Mahan was a graduate of Reinhardt College. The book tells how the Western & Atlantic railroad passed Cassville by, so the city decided to become an education center by sponsoring two colleges: Cherokee Baptist College and Cassville Female College. These closed during the Civil War and were transformed into hospitals, and then destroyed in retaliation for the murders of ten US soldiers whose bodies were dumped on the grounds of the Female College. 

I was pleased to encounter this map, which is probably the most accurate reconstruction of the Cassville Affair that I’ve seen. Note the road that leads to “Wofford’s Crossing,” which is what White was called at the time. 

• On Brooke Road stands one of those chimneys that was once part of a house. You see them here and there around these parts; they make for interesting follies. 

This one, apparently, was once part of a school, according to an Etowah Valley Historical Society sign on the road:

The Boston-Brooke Schoolhouse is not yet included in the catalogue of Bartow County schools on the EVHS website. 

• The iron furnaces mentioned earlier on this blog are not the only industrial remnants on Stamp Creek. If you walk down Old Mill Road and continue on the trail after it ends, eventually you come to the remains of a bridge that once spanned the creek. Presumably this was how the Pool Creek furnace was supplied. 

South of this bridge (but north of Pool Furnace, and on the opposite side of Stamp Creek) are the remains of a building. I took these photos in April, hence the vegetation. 

I am told this was a carriage works! 

• The nearest railway depot to Cassville was Cass Station, two miles to the south of Cassville, not far from where Burnt Hickory Road crosses the Western & Atlantic. The depot burned down in 1969, but the nearby ruins of the old cotton warehouse and Quillian’s store may be explored. I took these photos in July. 

UPDATE: A couple more discoveries:

• The Goodson Cemetery is found on Goodson Cemetery Road near Lake Allatoona. The road itself is blocked off and the cemetery is in a rather unkempt state, which is a shame (a YouTube video illustrates what the cemetery looked like in 2015; whatever cleanup they did at the time has since been erased by the forces of nature). 

I was interested to discover the grave marker of Jacob Stroup (1771-1846), one of the major figures in the local antebellum iron industry, in the form of a miniature iron furnace. 

It reads:

Sacred to the
Memeory [sic] of
Iron Master
Jacob Stroup
Born 19 Mar 1771
Died 8 Nov 1846
GGG Grandfather of
John R. Jackson
Phone 770 445 3591

Judging from the font (and the publication of a phone number, including area code!), it would appear that this marker was erected by Mr. Jackson some time in the late twentieth century. It’s a shame that it wasn’t better constructed in the first place, though. 

It seems that the current grave marker of Stroup’s third wife Sarah Feuell Stroup dates from the same point in time. 

This one dates from much earlier – 1817, which is really quite early for white settlement in this area.

Of course, there are also many poignant reminders of just how common childhood mortality once was. 

• This photo is not historical as such but these two street corner preachers, spotted on January 2 in Cartersville, are certainly in a long tradition: 

I’ve got to commend their creativity, although I have no idea what “Hooters Hookers” or “Twerker Berzerkers” are…

Maps and Flags

As I was writing earlier about the Cassville Affair, I knew that what I really needed was a Civil-War-era map of this area. Well, thanks to a visit to the Kennesaw Mountain National Park, where I went hiking yesterday, I have found one! On display in the museum there is a copy of a map of north Georgia by “William E. Merrill, Captain, U.S. Army, 1864” – i.e. an essential piece of intelligence used by Sherman when he came through on the Atlanta Campaign. Park Ranger Jacob Boling informed me that, as a Library of Congress document, one can view it online, and the images below are screen shotted from this. 

So here is the triangle of Kingston, Adairsville, and Cassville, the former two connected by the Western & Atlantic railroad, the latter two by a road indicated by a line and a series of dots (there is no legend to indicate what this might mean, although I assume that line-and-dot roads were more developed than mere line roads). 

You will notice two roads leading away from Cassville to the east, with the southern one splitting just above the second S in Cassville. The northern branch, on the larger map, ends up at Pine Log, so I reckon that that is now the Cass-Pine Log Road. The southern branch, I assume, is what Albert Castel called the Canton Road, and the larger map suggests that it may have linked up with what is now Stamp Creek Road in order to get to Canton. The road that extends north-northeast from Cassville I could imagine as the (then) Spring Place Road, because it does eventually get to Spring Place on the larger map.

But note what appears on the road on the way to Adairsville, right underneath the word “Plateau” – another road heading north-northeast, and ending at what is clearly Moesteller’s Mills. So there were two possible roads on which Hood’s troops could have been stationed, waiting to ambush whatever troops came down the Adairsville-Cassville road. 

What actually happened remains a mystery, but it’s useful to have a better sense of the contemporary geography.  

A little to the east, we find notice of Rowland Springs, “most exclusive resort in Georgia,” connected to what is now Stamp Creek Road. Notice the little building on Stamp Creek itself – does this represent one of the furnaces?

A glimpse of the area to the east of Cartersville before the creation of Lake Allatoona. I assume that “Etowah” on the map is only a railway depot, the actual town of Etowah being further up the river, around “Etowah Iron Works.” You can see the railroad spur connecting the Etowah Iron Works with the W&A, which was worked by the Yonah of Great Locomotive Chase fame. I’m not sure what the separate Allatoona Iron Works are, but I guess they are now submerged in the lake? I’m curious to know what “Laffing Gall” was.

Further up the Etowah River we find Canton, the seat of Cherokee County. One road leads to Battle Ground (i.e. Ball Ground), another leads to the “Shoal Creek Post Office,” presumably an early reference to Waleska, which is just south of the intersection of Shoal Creek and what is now GA-140. Note also Buffington, one of the collection points for Cherokee Removal.

Of course, one wonders how accurately this map represents this area as it was in the 1860s.* It was “compiled from the Cherokee land maps, from surveys of the Topl. Engrs., and from the state map of Georgia,” but it would have been very difficult for the Union cartographers to check anything before publication. It has certainly changed since then – unlike in Ohio (or Ontario), Georgia’s roads were not constructed on a grid, but were much more ad hoc in their arrangement, and as new roads were created, old ones disappeared. This process continues to be true to this day. 

* UPDATE: Sure enough, other maps of Georgia from the same era in the Library of Congress collection don’t quite agree with Captain Merrill’s map, nor with each other. Dang.

Henry Schenck Tanner’s 1853 map of Georgia and Alabama has Kingston too far to the north, and Adairsville in Gordon County!

Krebs and Lindenkohl’s 1864 map of Northern Alabama and Georgia features a different set of roads radiating from Cassville.

*********

Also in the museum: flags! As you enter, two variants of the flags of the combatants in the Civil War: one USA flag with gold stars, and a CSA flag with a “couped” and unfimbriated saltire. 

I liked this flag with its Laconic phrase

This one is the flag of the Cobb Mountaineers, a version of the Stars and Bars with an unusual arrangement and number of stars. 

UPDATE

An update to the post below on local electioneering. In the final week of this year’s presidential race I have started to notice a few more Biden/Harris signs here and there, along with signs for Democrats Dana Barrett (running for the House), Raphael Warnock (Senate), and Jon Ossoff (Senate). But a lot of these are at crossroads and not on anyone’s private property, i.e. probably placed there by outside agitators. 

Although I got a good chuckle out of this display, on a lawn on Waleska’s Land Road (thanks to my colleague Mason Conklin for telling me about it). It does show that the Trump campaign is not the only one indulging in scatological imagery! Along these lines, in my subdivision I saw a sign reading “Dump Trump 2020,” and in Cartersville there is another one reading “Alexa, Change the President” – indicating that few people are really voting “for” Biden, but that the election is largely a referendum on Trump. Either you love him or you hate him!

Seems that the next door neighbors to the “flush the turd” people certainly love him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone defacing his lawn like this in favor of a political candidate.