Most of the towns in Pickens County date to the 1800s. Talking Rock in the north was the site of the Carmel Mission during the days of the Cherokee Nation. Harnageville, which became Tate, was an Inn on the Federal Road in the same era. Jasper was incorporated as the county seat shortly after Pickens became a county in 1853. The other small towns grew out of small settlements in the early days of the county. Tate Mountain Estates dates from the 1930s; Bent Tree and Big Canoe, the 1970s.
Following the death of Colonel Tate, the expansive plans of his development of our eastern mountain region lay fallow for decades. The Connahaynee Lodge at Tate Mountain Estates burned, and the Oglethorpe Monument on Mount Oglethorpe fell into disrepair. Sometime around 1969, there was a renewed push to develop the mountain area. One of those efforts was Bent Tree, a 3500 acre tract in the shadow of Mount Oglethorpe.
Bent Tree has become one of the South’s premier gated communities. The houses are on the slopes that surround Lake Tamarack. The complex also has a large clubhouse, golf and tennis facilities, and its own stables. In 1984, the development was purchased by the homeowners and is now run by its own board.
Close to 1000 homes have been built in the area, varying from log cabins to mansions. A sizable percentage of its residents are now living in Bent Tree full time. Many are retirees from the Atlanta area, but are now an active part of the larger community of Pickens County.
Colonel Sam Tate’s efforts in Pickens County were not all entrepreneurial. At the dawn of the 20th century, he bought a large piece of land, the Wolfscratch Wilderness, and set out to help the community establish a school for mountain children. It was on this property that Tom Cousins of Cousins Properties in Atlanta and the Sea Pines Corporation of Hilton Head began the development they called Big Canoe in the early 1970s. In 1987, the property was transferred to the Byrne Corporation.
Big Canoe occupies over 7000 acres of mountain land, straddling Pickens and Dawson Counties. One of the three lakes, Lake Conti, built by Colonel Tate, is now bordered by a large Golf Course and a wide variety of resort ammenities. In addition to the permanent homes, there are full convention facilities and rental cabins that make it a popular site for meetings and retreats. For full details, see the Big Canoe web sites:
Ga 136 winds west from Talking Rock into the farming community of Blaine. Reaching the crossroads at Blaine’s center, what one sees is a marker in the middle of a grassy traffic island, but little else. Asking at the nearby store, “Is this Blaine?” the answer is “That’s it. The center of the universe!” pointing at the lonely marker.The answer is, of course, tongue in cheek. The store is, itself, the “center” of Blaine.
Blaine is actually “Old Talking Rock”, the site of Talking Rock on the Old Federal Road before it moved to meet the railroad in the 1880s. It’s close to the sites of the Carmel Mission, Atherton Cotton Mill, and the Cherokee village of Sanderstown. [see Maps]
Blaine is the first of the communities in the west Pickens farming area of the Cherokee Highlands. The scenic ride through Blaine threads its way by working cattle farms and horse farms with their whitewashed fences.
Hinton is another town in west Pickens with an obvious center, a fine shade tree at the meeting of GA 53, Carver Mill Road, and GA 156 . There’s also a Community Center, several stores, a Pickens County Sheriff’s office, the local EMS, and the Hinton Milling Company which supplies seed and feed to the local farms and horse barns which surround Hinton in every direction.
In 1857, a small settlement in the center of the new county on the Federal Road was incorporated as the county seat and named Jasper, after Sergeant William Jasper, a Revolutionary War hero from South Carolina who died in the Siege of Savannah. In Pickens County Georgia, “heading into town”means going to Jasper.
The community of Jerusalem is one of Pickens’ best kept secrets. Traveling west from Jasper, Jerusalem Road loops south from GA 53 and returns near Ludville. It’s a beautiful, almost manicured community with lovely homes and green pastures, many on working farms.
It’s the closest thing to “flat” that the county has to offer. The often spectacular view of the “Sleeping Woman” mountains is visible along the southern horizon, over the farms that stretch into the distance. The center of the community boasts an old circuit Baptist Church and a new convenience store [under construction]. Proximity to Jasper makes much more than that redundant.
In earlier times, the towns of the west in Pickens County served more commercial functions than today. With the ease of travel to nearby Jasper, Ludville is now a more the center of a farming community than town and, appropriately, has just opened a new Community Center.
Ludville was the site of the first “high school” in the county, built in 1877. With the coming of the railroad through the eastern part of Pickens in 1883, the school was moved, literally board by board, to Talking Rock where it still stands – now, minus its second story. The farms to the north of Ludville are in the hilly Cherokee Uplands; those to the south glide down to the relatively flatter land around Jerusalem.
Talking Rock is one of the oldest communities in the county, the site of the Carmel Mission on the Old Federal Road. The Mission was still in existence until the 20th century. It was also the site of Fort Newnan, one of the places where the Cherokee were confined during their removal – “The Trail of Tears.” The name “Talking Rock” comes from the Cherokee Nûñyû’-gûñwani’skï, “rock that talks,” perhaps referring to a nearby echo rock along Talking Rock Creek or maybe the sound of the creek itself.
It became something of a city for a time as the site of the Atherton Mill, one of the first cotton mills that sprung up throughout the South after Whitney’s invention of the Cotton Gin. That mill was burned by Sherman’s Raiders during the Civil War. Back then, Talking Rock was located in the area now called Blaine, but moved to its present location to meet the railroad in the 1880s [see Maps]. The high school was also moved, board by board, from Ludville to Talking Rock at the same time, and remained in use until the 1930s. It’s now been restored as a teaching museum.
Though the town’s population is only approximately fifty people, it has become, of late, a center for antique stores, and the annual Fall Heritage Days festival in October always draws an appreciative crowd.
By the late 1920s, Colonel Sam Tate had acquired much of the land in the eastern mountains of Pickens County. In 1928, he announced to formation of a corporation that would build a summer colony in the Burnt Mountain area.
In a flurry of activity over the next several years, he built a dam on Clear Creek, forming Lake Sequoyah, to which he added the striking Connahaynee Lodge, an 18 hole Golf Course, resort homes around the lake, and riding stables. His marble works created the Oglethorpe Monument on top of Mount Oglethorpe, formerly called Grassy Knob.
Tate Mountain Estates became a celebrated weekend retreat for prominant Atlantans and hosted several national meetings. But his timing coincided with the Stock Market collapse in 1929, so his project never quite achieved its anticipated grandeur. The Connahaynee Lodge burned in 1946. The beautiful homes around Lake Sequoyah are now owned privately. And Tate Mountain Estates remains as a scaled down testimony to Colonel Tate’s dream.
This vision of a mountain community was revived in the 1970s with the construction of Big Canoe and Bent Tree in our eastern mountains on some of the land originally acquired by Colonel Tate. The Oglethorpe Monument now stands at the end of Main Street in Jasper.