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Glades Farm: A diamond in the rough
A dirt driveway leads from the house to the rest of the property at Glades Farm, - photo by Tom Reed

This is part of an occasional series called "Preservation and Progress" dedicated to the historic side of Hall County.

Like a forbidden fruit, the mysterious Glades Farm has been attracting unwanted visitors for centuries.

Gold, diamonds, tragedy and royalty all have their place in the tales of the 8,000 mysterious acres in East Hall.

The quiet, wooded corner of the county has changed hands only five times in two centuries and is preparing for its biggest change yet.

Hall County is awaiting permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a reservoir that would provide water for the area’s growing population. Two massive planned communities are already in the works for the property near Ga. 365 between Ga. 52 and Clarks Bridge Road.

But for now, the Glades is still the same quiet land that it always has been.

A Glades history

The magnetic centerpiece of the area is the Glade Shoals.

The 125-foot waterfall off of Flat Creek was called Yamacutah, a Cherokee word meaning tumbling water, by its original Indian inhabitants, according to research compiled by retired Times editor Johnny Vardeman.

The 250 acres surrounding the Glade Shoals were later referred to simply as lot 79 in the 12th land district when Frederick Dean of Morgan County won the property in an 1818 land lottery.

Jacob Rogers bought the property in 1829 and was the first European settler to live on the property, just before the Cherokee Indians were forced off of their land in the state and sent west on the infamous Trail of Tears.

It is believed that Rogers built the stately white colonial-style house that still stands on the property.

While Dahlonega is famous for its gold mining operations, the Glades had a share in the gold rush of the 1830s and 1840s.

A number of successful mines were set up along Flat Creek to expunge the riches of the creek bed.

But gold was not the only treasure found in the mines — in 1845, a 2.5-carat diamond was discovered.

A few other diamonds were discovered on the Glades property, but many tall tales still live on to this day.

It is said that an enormous diamond slipped out of the hands of a miner and was lost forever.

"I recall my mother talking about the ‘huge’ diamond supposedly found there, and if I looked very close I might find one myself," said local historian Garland Reynolds, who grew up near the Glades.

In 1906, Jim Hunt bought the Glades Property which by then had grown to 775 acres.

Hunt maintained a close relationship with the University of Georgia and allowed the school to conduct research in the forests.

After Hunt’s death, the property was willed to the university, which kept the land through the 1940s. After it became too expensive for the school to maintain, it auctioned off the nearly 6,000 acres to Mose Gordon in 1942.

Gordon ran a lumber business on the property until his death in 1971.

Glades today

At the time of Gordon’s death, the Glades property had swollen to 8,000 acres.

An Austrian family became interested in using the property for their timber business.

"They were a little nervous during the Cold War," said John Vardeman, a spokesman for the Glades Farm property owners and son of the former editor. "They decided they needed to diversify and began looking at the U.S."

The Mayr-Melnhof family hired land manager Carl Nichols of Athens to help locate timber land.

Nichols showed the Mayr-Melnhofs a number of flat plots in South Georgia, which was known for its timber farms, with no success.

"They just weren’t finding anything they liked," Vardeman said.

But as the men were flying back over the state to the airport in Athens, they spotted the hilly Glades property.

As the story goes, the Austrians were intrigued by the property and told Nichols, "this reminds us of the rolling hills of our homeland."

So the family purchased the Glades and quietly harvested timber for years.

By the 1990s, Hall County’s population had started to rise and the government saw the need to plan other water sources to accommodate future growth.

The rolling hills of the Glades once again stood out as an ideal site, this time for a reservoir.

"Glades topped the list for topography," Vardeman said. "And it had a single owner."

In November 1998, Hall County condemned 1,800 acres of the property to build the reservoir, something that did not sit well with the owners.

But eventually the county and the owners of the property were able to work out an amicable agreement to build the reservoir.

The county bought the land for the reservoir at a reduced rate, and the property owners would be able to enhance the value of their land with the addition of the reservoir.

"It went from the lowest low to the highest high," Vardeman said.

It was not until this year that all the necessary steps could be completed to get the reservoir project to the permitting phase—the last before construction can start.

Unfortunately, the original owners could not be around to see it.

The Austrian families were beautiful, wealthy and well-respected but unfortunately prone to tragedy.

Franz Mayr-Melnhof died young in an automobile accident in 1993, leaving the care of the property to his brother Clemens Goesse-Saurau.

Tragically, Goesse-Saurau was killed in a skiing accident in Austria in 2008. He was 52 and married with two children.

"He really cared about the land and wanted what was best for Hall County," Vardeman said.

A place for accidents

The Glades shoals have long been a siren song for area adventurers.

In a 1979 column, Ted Oglesby, then associate editor of The Times, described the shoals as "inviting, nearly to the point of irresistible."

There was once a time when the shoals were a popular place for locals to visit.

Despite being on private property, Oglesby wrote that "many people picnic there; many wade in the shallows above the slippery rocks; some wash their cars there. The lanes about the falls attract nighttime lovers — and occasionally some daytime rendezvous."

Many have been seriously injured and a few perished after falling from its perilous boulders.

According to Times archives, in 1957, a boy name Lonzo Forrester lived after plunging 80 feet off of the falls. He was taken to an Atlanta hospital to treat his shattered leg bones and numerous gashes.

In 1979, three people fell more than 100 feet from the top of the shoals. A 15-year-old girl named Robin Anderson spent time in an intensive care unit after fracturing her skull. She later had to have part of her brain removed.

The girl’s father threatened to sue the owners of the private property for failing to have any warnings or safety nets around the slippery rocks of the steep falls.

Nichols, the land manager of the Glades property, told The Times in a 1979 article that he frequently found people trespassing and tried to keep them out to avoid more tragic accidents on the shoals.

"We’ve tried to be a good neighbor up there. We have not prosecuted anyone for trespassing and I hope we don’t have to," he said at the time. "How do you protect yourself from the public when they come in uninvited?"

The future of Glades

Hall County is now waiting to hear if plans for the reservoir can be expanded to yield more water.

Hall County Public Information Officer Nikki Young said the project had to be re-evaluated following the July court ruling by Judge Paul Magnuson that could end North Georgia’s use of Lake Lanier as a water source.

The ruling came just after the county submitted its final permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, leading the county to ask for a 120-day extension to reconsider the modest 6.4 million gallons per day they had planned to draw.

The extension will expire Jan. 15.

"We’re evaluating our options before we make any decisions," Young said. "So much of the decision is going to depend on what other people do."