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Column: North Georgia's Native American history belonged to the Creeks, too
Johnny Vardeman

Creek Nation Road runs between Ga. 124 and Ga. 332 in Jackson County. The name might be curious to some, but old-timers and history buffs know why it came about.

Creek Indians once roamed the county in large numbers. They co-existed with the Cherokees, though at times the tribes fought each other and were considered rivals.

Beth Laughinghouse of the Jackson County Historical Society said her uncle, Freddie Phillips, lived on Creek Nation Road and was all the time finding Indian artifacts on his property.

A historical account by Frary Elrod, late superintendent of Jackson County Schools, relates a story where the Creeks and Cherokees settled a boundary dispute with a stickball game. The two tribes had lived peacefully in the same territory, but each had its own hunting lands. The Cherokees are said to have won the ball game, thus the disputed territory. Native Americans in other locations had settled their disputes with stickball games, which are similar to today’s lacrosse.

It wasn’t always peaceful between the Cherokees and the Creeks as a battle between them was fought in east Jackson County near Hurricane Shoals between the Mulberry River and Locoda Trail.

The popular Hurricane Shoals creek and campground were stomping grounds for Native Americans. The Indian name was Yamtacoochee. The Tumbling Waters Society of Jackson County says the Hurricane Shoals settlement was the site of the county’s first church, and it also contained a fort, foundry, school and grist mill.

In 1818, somebody in the Legislature proposed digging a canal from the Chattahoochee River south to the North Oconee River in Jackson County. Residents in the area opposed it because their beloved Hurricane Shoals and surrounding area would be flooded, they said.

In a speech that reached the height of exaggeration, John Stebbins ridiculed the idea, according to “The Early History of Jackson County” by J.G.N. Wilson: “What, Mr. Speaker, will become of me and my family when the Chattahoochee, three miles wide, a thousand feet deep and 10 miles higher than the sea is turned loose at the rate of 40 miles per minute on lower Georgia? Why, sir, it will wash every one of us away, and if we don’t get drowned, we will wake up some morning and find ourselves astraddle of logs floating about in the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, sir, the mountains of North Georgia will come tumbling down here and knock our statehouse into a cocked hat, and people will look out of their top windows to see if old Father Noah is again sailing around in his big ship. Besides all of this, if we turn the vast volume of water that is in the Chattahoochee from the channel where God made it run, the Gulf of Mexico would go dry, and the fish, whales, alligators and snakes in it would stink so bad that nobody could live in 10,000 miles of its shore.”

The proposal failed, though it’s unknown how much Stebbins’s speech had to do with it. The controversy, however, inspired some Jackson County residents to unsuccessfully seek to form a new county named for Unicoy, an Indian princess.

Native Americans built a holy ground on the North Oconee River near Hurricane Shoals. A statue is said to have stood on a mound there. Another holy place was established on Barber’s Creek near Winder. Called Nodoroc, it was a swamp of boiling mud that the Indians thought produced evil spirits. They erected a temple on the site.

Jackson Trail is a roadway marking where Gen. Andrew Jackson traveled through the county. Jackson ran off the Creek Indians along the Georgia-Alabama border. Incidentally, the county is named for James Jackson, a Revolutionary War veteran, not Andrew Jackson.

We think of the Cherokees as North Georgia’s Native Americans because they occupied the mountains and much of the area north of the Chattahoochee River. But the Creeks had a prominent presence in the area, significantly in Jackson County. Both the Cherokees and the Creeks were part of the Trail of Tears in which they were forced out of Georgia into the Oklahoma territory in the mid-1830s.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or His column publishes weekly.