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Cherokee Bluffs loom from past into present
Historic South Hall rock cliffs become brand for new Hall schools
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Ken Cochran, left, Chris and Pam Puckett, and Teresa Owens, right, visits the large rocky outcropping Aug. 31 at Cherokee Bluffs Park . Open since 2015, the park is a 168-acre sprawling park with an amphitheater, pavilions, and a multi-use bike/pedestrian trail. - photo by Scott Rogers
Cherokee Bluffs Park Historical Room

Where: 5867 Blackjack Road, Flowery Branch

Hours: Staff can open the room 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday

Contact: To schedule a visit outside those hours, call 770-535-8280

To learn more

For more information about Cherokee Bluffs Park, visit

www.n-georgia.com/cherokee-bluff-hall-county.html

www.hallcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/3102

Cherokee Bluffs is an area of large, natural formations of rock cliffs in South Hall that has history as both hunting grounds for Native Americans as well temporarily sheltering families of early settlers underneath the overhang of the rocks.

The area has gained a little attention recently with a decision last week by the Hall County school board to name its new middle and high schools, which open next fall, after Cherokee Bluffs.

But even though it bears the name of the last tribe to be removed from Georgia on the Trail of Tears, the rich history of the bluffs includes more than the Cherokee Nation.

“In the whole scheme of history (the Cherokee Indians) were here a short time,” said Chris Puckett, a lifelong resident of the Friendship community. “My daddy lived in this area all his life. They played on it as kids. It was always known as Indian Rock to them. Other people knew it as Settler’s Rock and some people called it Puckett’s Rock. But the Pucketts all knew it as Indian Rock. It was only lately that it got the name Cherokee Bluffs.”

Puckett said his ancestors, Harris and Elizabeth Puckett, first moved to the area with their 12 children in 1827 from Union, S.C. and actually lived for a while underneath the shelter of the large overhanging formation of rocks that are the Bluffs. The family used the bluffs as shelter temporarily until they could build a permanent place to live. Puckett said the Friendship community had already been established at that point.

“They walked down here,” Puckett said of his ancestors. “They had everything they owned on a two-wheel cart.”

Cherokee Bluffs Park, a 168-acre park on Blackjack Road, opened in 2015 and has a room there that tells the history of the area and the Friendship community. 

Teresa Owens, a historian and curator for the Cherokee Bluffs Historical Room at the park, said there were other Native Americans who lived in the area before the Cherokees arrived and added that all likely used the areas underneath the bluffs for shelter at some point.

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Teresa Owens walks past a rock formation that resembles the profile of a face Thursday morning at Cherokee Bluffs Park in South Hall. - photo by Scott Rogers

Owens said Mississippi Mound Builders were likely in the area first, adding the mound builders are believed to have occupied much of what is the United States by 1500. They were a group believed to have built mounds in large areas from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains.

“There was one on the Forsyth (County) side and one on the Hall County side,” Owens said. “They did date the pottery that they discovered it was from different occupations and not just one time period.”

The Creek Nation was likely in the area prior to the 1700s and well into the 1700s, according to Owens. The Cherokee Nation eventually came to the area from North Carolina and North Georgia and moved the Creeks southward out of the area around the bluffs.

“They always had clashes,” Owens said of the Cherokees and Creeks. “I don’t think we know when the Cherokees moved in. They were so close. The Creeks were still in Gwinnett County (after being moved by the Cherokees) and we’re what, 2 miles from the Gwinnett County line. So they were still close and they still all used this as their hunting grounds.”

Pioneers arrived after the American Revolution, according to Owens.

“The boundary line after the American Revolution for the Cherokees and the Pioneers was about Hog Mountain Road and then Gwinnett went over into Walton County that was more of Creek area,” Owens said. “The government wanted pioneers to move to this area to keep the Indians from taking the land back.”

So, how did the Cherokees lose the land?

“They discovered gold,” Owens said. “Then, the pioneers wanted their land. They were supposed to have been treaties. ... And they were supposed to have paid them for the land but, they never really got anything out of it.” 

Owens said members of the Cherokee Nation were the “last Indians to be removed from Georgia,” being relocated west of the Mississippi River during the Trail of Tears in 1835-36 when about 4,000 Native Americans died along the way

“But there were many pioneers that lived in this area that helped hide them, or helped get them to the mountains so they could hide,” she said.

Soldiers from the American Revolutionary War were among the first to get land grants to the area as a reward for service in the war, according to Owens. Some of them and other early settlers, like Puckett’s ancestors, found shelter underneath the protective rocks at the bluffs. 

“Even though Chris’ family is one that is documented living under there, many of the early pioneers stayed there until they could get something else,” Owens said.

“The early pioneers, they had such struggles; they had to build everything,” she added. “If they didn’t bring their tools, they had to make them. They had to clear the land and learn a new area and build their crops. It was a total struggle.”

Owens said the park is significant because it helps people remember the history of the bluffs area. In addition to the historical room, a log cabin is also being restored there and the park has also preserved a cemetery which has only one grave, Thomas Sloan, who died in 1878. It also has multiuse trails.

“I think it’s going to be the most used park in the county,” said Ken Cochran, a former president of the Hall County Historical Society. “You see people walking these trails.”

Cochran said he hears the park mentioned more often than other in the county. He said he hopes the naming of the schools after the bluffs will create opportunities for students and others to learn about the history of the area the schools are named for.

“They could actually do educational times on the history of Cherokee Bluffs,” Cochran said. Puckett’s wife, Pam, pointed out that the Eastern Continental Divide is located “just over the ridge from the bluffs.” She said she and others hope to invite Hall County school officials, including Wes McGee, the principal of the new high school, Kenny Hill, athletic director, and Superintendent Will Schofield to visit the bluffs and learn about its history.

“I just envision that this one day can be a place that has a lot of educational benefits for the community where they can bring people out and study and see what’s going on,” she said. “It’s very peaceful and the fact is that the previous owners they kept it natural. They didn’t disturb any of the areas. It’s just a place where you can come and enjoy.”

While the name of the new schools recognizes the Native American history of the area, Owens Cochran and the Pucketts said the currently undecided mascot could be a way to honor the early settlers who came to South Hall. They suggested mascot names such as Pioneers, Warriors and Patriots.

Owens said the new name is good for preserving the history of the area. 

“I think it’s a good thing,” Owens said of the school’s name. “It gives recognition of the history. We want more people to know about the history because they’ll protect it if they know it.”

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