Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Georgia’s highest peak – Brasstown Bald

Both Union and Towns counties claim portions of Georgia's highest mountain, Brasstown Bald. Before Towns County was formed from Union in 1856, the mountain lay within the boundaries of Union. After Union was divided out to form Towns, the highest part of Brasstown Bald Mountain--also known as Enotah Bald--lay in Towns.

The name of the mountain was called Enotah by the Cherokee Indians who once inhabited the area. After the gold rush of 1828 when white settlers rushed pell-mell into the area seeking yellow riches around Nacoochee Valley and Dahlonega, and even into Union County later at the Coosa Gold Mines, they confused two names the Indians called the highest peak: it-se-ye meant "fresh green"; unt-sai-yi meant "brass".

The latter, for brass, was attached to this highest mountain in the Wolfpen Range. It rises through the mists, fogs and clouds to 4,784 feet. A peak to the southwest is Blood Mountain which reaches a height of 4,458 feet. Legend holds that the Cherokee considered Blood in greater reverence than Enotah Bald, unusual for the Indians who normally named sacred the highest peak in their area.

Perhaps their reverence for Blood goes back to the battle between the Cherokee and the Creek nations for sovereignty of the mountain region when it is said that Wolf Creek, originating high on Blood Mountain, ran red with the blood of brave warriors.

The Indians also had a story for what happened on Enotah Bald. A great flood once covered the earth. It killed all except those in a great canoe which landed on top of Enotah. The land was cleared on top of this high mountain by the Cherokee to make crops for sustenance. The "fresh green" –it-se-ye--for them meant renewed life after the trauma of the flood. It-se-ye could also have referred to "cloud forest" on Brasstown Bald. Even to this day an area of Georgia's tallest peak has a portion on the northeast section watered by moisture-laden clouds. There in this "mountain rain forest" lichen-covered birch trees, wild flowers such as laurel and rhododendron, various herbs, giant wood fern, allium (the common ramp of "ramp tramp" fame), ash, oak, willow, beach and even an occasional sugar maple (somehow imported from northeastern sugar maple stands) grow and thrive in this “cloud forest.” If anyone tries to walk in this area he may be hampered by lichen-covered damp rocks on which footing can be very insecure.

The tower at Brasstown Bald.

The first tower on Brasstown Bald (Enotah) Mountain was built in the early 1920's by the Pfister-Vogel Logging Company. It was constructed of chestnut and locust wood, and rose on the peak so that watchers could see smoke from any forest fires within the areas where the lumber company was conducting logging operations.

Brasstown Bald now stands in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Between 1911 and 1930, the government bought approximately 743,000 acres of forest land and set it aside as a preserve. The present facilities of Brasstown Bald are open from May through October, with weekends open in November.

Much credit is due Ranger Arthur Woody for measures that led to preservation of forests in the north Georgia area. He wanted to see the forests that had been riddled from the thirst for virgin timber restored to refuges for wildlife and tall trees, deer in the forests, fish in the streams. He worked diligently to encourage the government to buy lands for forest preserves.

The second tower at Bald Mountain, built in 1935 by the "CCC boys" (Civilian Conservation Corps) was the dream of Ranger Woody. He sat at his kitchen table and drew plans for the stone and wood tower that replaced the old wooden tower constructed in the early 1920s. After World War II, the Woody Stone Tower was replaced by a steel tower in 1947. The present structures, visitor's center, and educational facilities with the thought-provoking "Man and the Mountain" program, recount the history of the area through various eras.

October is normally a time of "bright blue weather." If you have not visited Bald Mountain recently, perhaps you would like to choose a clear day in October to take your family up this highest peak in Georgia. You can ride a shuttle all the way from the parking area to the top. Or, if you are physically agile and want the challenge, you can climb the one-half mile trail to the top. Those who know about such statistics say that it rises 500 feet in elevation in the one-half mile, and is equivalent to walking 1,000 miles north. From the 360-degree observation deck on a clear day, you can view some of the most spectacular vistas in Georgia, and even into other states. Every time I have visited Brasstown Bald (several times in my lifetime) I have always been awed by the majesty and beauty of the Wolfpen Ridges reaching out in all directions, our beautiful Southern Appalachians.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 7, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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