Hardman Farm tours
When: 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays
Where: Hardman Farm State Historic Site, 143 Ga. 17, Sautee Nacoochee
Cost: $12 adults; $10 seniors ages 62 and older, $7 children ages 6-12, $3 children younger than 6
More info: 706-878-1077, 706-878-3087 or gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm
Fall Celebration at the Hardman Farm
What: Old-fashioned country fair featuring hands-on pioneer skills exhibits, traditional craft vendors, mountain music, local authors and historians and apple cider from a hand-cranked press
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10
Cost: $10 per vehicle and $20 per bus
Emory Jones book signing
What: Author of “Distant Voices: The Story of the Nacoochee Valley Indian Mound,” will read excerpts from his new book “The Valley Where They Danced”
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 17
Cost: Book signing included with price of tour
Ghost Legends of the Valley
What: Georgia Storytellers will transport visitors through the misty veil into a realm of ghosts and creatures of the night. Hear three stories at Hardman Farm and three stories at Sautee Nacoochee Community Association center. Recommended for age 12 and older.
When: 7-9:30 p.m. Oct. 24
Cost: $15 adult $8 for teens. $12 for members of Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites or SNCA
More info: snca.tix.com or 706-878-1077
Times and Places of the Cherokee People at Hardman Farm
What: Members of the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association and musical performers, Women of Heart, interpret the history of the native people in the area
When: 1-3 p.m. Nov. 14
Cost: $5 for program plus $7 for tour of house
More info: 706-878-1077
All events will take place at the Hardman Farm, 143 Ga. 17, Sautee Nacoochee, unless otherwise indicated.
Cindy Randolph leaned forward conspiratorially from her chair on her back porch with a twinkle in her eye and a quick smile.
“Have you ever heard of a snipe hunt?” she asked in a low voice.
After seeing a confused look and hearing “no,” the 70-year-old woman explained.
“It’s where they take you in the woods ... and (give) you this bag and have you call the snipe,” Randolph said. “They said ‘you have to stay here and be still, and we will come back and get you in a little while.’”
But there is only one catch.
“There’s no such thing as a snipe,” Randolph said.
She experienced that prank while spending a month at her family’s summer home on the outskirts of Helen in White County: the Hardman Farm house, one of the state’s most historic properties.
The 173-acre property features an Italianate house built by Civil War Capt. James Nichols in 1870. It has 19 outbuildings, including a spring house, carriage house, horse barn, dairy barn and caretaker’s house. It is also home to the Nacoochee Indian Mound, one of the most photographed sites in Georgia.
The Hardman Farm has been open to the public for a year now, allowing visitors to explore the 19th century home and its original furnishings. Family members who owned the home were descendants of Dr. Lamartine Hardman, Georgia’s governor from 1927-1931. They donated the house, dwelling and property to the state in 1999.
“The main idea was to let the general public see what a beautiful place it was and enjoy it like we did,” Randolph said.
She and her cousins “literally handed over the keys of the house” to the Department of Natural Resources to preserve the home and land’s history more than 15 years ago. Now many can travel back in time by stepping across the threshold of the well-preserved house at 14 Ga. 17 in Sautee Nacoochee.
A work in progress
Randolph’s mother, Josephine Hardman Collins, got the ball rolling back in the 1970s to donate the property to The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. She worked tirelessly to make it part of historical registry, Randolph said.
“We knew we needed a permanent caretaker to take care of the house and maintain and preserve the place,” she said, adding the longer the 18 heirs waited to donate the land and house, the harder it would be to make a decision.
The Hardmans — along with previous owners, the Calvin Hunnicutt family — worked hard to keep the home in its original condition when Nichols built it. The Hunnicutts and Hardmans accomplished this feat by using the historical site as a summer home only, according to the DNR.
“It is so well preserved,” said DNR interpretive ranger Johnna Tuttle, who oversees the site. “The artifacts in the house are original to the 1870s and belonged to the Nichols family.”
Years after working with family members, DNR finally took possession of the home and its contents and has worked slowly but surely to restore the site.
The DNR installed signs relating the history of the house and its outbuildings. The original post office and general store also were gutted to create a modern but temporary visitors center with a meeting room and bathrooms. But some original aspects have remained.
“The bricks, doors and windows are all original,” Tuttle said, pointing to the outside. “And out in the lobby, you can see the old postal window.”
Walking back in time
Though restoration continues, the Hardman Farm opened to public tours in October 2014, followed by the visitors center in March. Since then, more than 4,000 people have seen the site up close, including tourists, students and church groups. On an average day, the number of visitors ranges from as few as five to as many as 100.
On a recent rainy Friday afternoon, a singles group from Bethlehem Baptist Church along with other visitors plodded up the gravel drive, climbed up the slippery wooden steps and crossed over the threshold to see the main house.
It was a treat for Clarkesville native Martha Adams, who had driven past the place several times going from Helen to Hiawassee.
“I wanted to see this house since I was a child,” she said. “I think it’s gorgeous. There’s so much history here.”
The house’s history and its story amazed Nancy Alford.
“To me, this just tells it all,” she said as she explored one of the first floor rooms. “This shows how they lived and what they did. It makes them come alive and makes them real people.”
John and Darlene Leahy knew one of the home’s owners. The Florida couple befriended Lamartine Hardman’s daughter, Emma Hardman Thomson, while living in the same apartment complex. She invited the couple — then ages 25 and 30, respectively — to a house party at Hardman Farm.
“She invited us every summer after that for 40 years,” John Leahy said as he stood in the downstairs bedroom where he and his wife slept.
Each summer visit was “awesome,” Darlene Leahy said, noting she would go horseback riding with the family members while John Leahy went rafting.
The couple, however, had to follow certain rules while staying in the house, including one regarding the antique bannister.
“You had to be 7 or 8 years old before you could slide down the bannister,” Darlene Leahy said, noting she and her husband both took turns on it. “We’ve all done it!”
That one memory and many others keep the Leahys returning to the house every year to reminisce.
Memories keep the house alive for Randolph. She attributed learning several lessons at the home.
“I learned everything I needed to learn for life there,” she said. “I learned to ride a bike, ride a horse, and drive a car there.”
She also got engaged there.
“Strother (her now husband) and I went there for a weekend with my parents,” she said. “Strother disappeared with my father.”
When they returned, they looked like “the Cheshire cat,” she said.
Strother said her father agreed to their engagement.
“So we planned my wedding there,” she said.
After their marriage and move to Georgia, Randolph’s daughters experienced one week each summer at the Hardman Farm. When she was younger, the Hardmans scheduled each family to spend a month in the home. As the families grew, they changed it to one week to allow all family members to spend time in what Nichols called the “West End,” since it was in the west end of the Nacoochee Valley.
However, Randolph is saddened her granddaughter won’t be able to experience that.
“She really wants to spend the night there,” Randolph said, noting she and her granddaughter, Virginia, recently visited the property with her sixth-grade class from Lakeview Elementary School.
Despite her granddaughter’s disappointment and a slight desire to return to the home, Randolph is pleased with the DNR’s work on the house.
“It will be preserved for future generations,” she said.
But for Randolph, it will always be “the magical valley.”
“It’s hard for me to call it the Hardman Farm,” she said. “It was a magical place. And how else could you describe a place that special?”