Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Changing Pockets

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Changing Pockets

Money…it does make the world go round. It also seems to move around at a fast pace. Money hops from pocket to pocket to pocket. A famous quotation states, “Money is always there, but the pockets change.”

I agree. Pockets do change, but what you might not realize is the word pocket can mean more than a place to keep your money before it flies out into another’s pocket.

Sometime ago over at History Is Elementary I posted Historians Observe Their Surroundings. The post centers around an activity I use at the beginning of the year to help students understand our geography is constantly changing. Twenty years ago would you recognize the place where your home or office sits? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago? Two hundred years ago? Mother Earth is constantly changing due to natural and human circumstances.

Do we give the past a second thought as we drive through our state? Do we wonder what might have once been in a pine thicket we zoom by along the interstate? Look at the picture I’ve posted above. It seems like a very rural, natural setting. Notice the ridge line. It’s important to my point.

Geographically speaking a “pocket” is a plain surrounded entirely by mountains and amazingly Georgia has one of these rare geographical features. Georgiatrails.com advises a pocket is a geologic formation that was formed when most of Northwest Georgia was covered by a vast sea. Imagine that! Weaker limestone was eroded and left the surrounding iron ore ridges. Out west this type of formation is known as a “hole” and two of the most famous are Jackson Hole and Hole in the Wall.

An article entitled Remembering the Pocket by Daniel M. Roper from the Winter, 1994 issue of North Georgia Journal explores the history of Georgia’s pocket enclave that is now virtually abandoned except for hikers and fishermen who make the trek inside.

Hardy settlers first reached the pocket following the land lottery that was a result of the Treaty of New Echota which provided for the sale of the remaining Cherokee lands in Georgia. Many who received the right to own land in the area were elderly and they simply sold their right to settle to younger and hardier pioneer stock.

Between the 1840s and 1860s settlers carved out a settlement in The Pocket which had several farms as well as a gristmill and sawmill located on Johns Creek in the narrow gap between Johns and Horn mountains. A blast furnace also existed which utilized the iron ore from Horn Mountain and formed wash pots and skillets.

Researchers have been able to learn many things about the life of The Pocket settlers from journals and letters. James Elijah White and his son L.P. White maintained a journal from 1835 until 1935. The article refers to several entries that are just simply observations of daily life in The Pocket. Here is a sampling:

Their was the greatest yield of hickory nuts in 1895”
“The night of May the 24 (1908) it rained a frog down the chimney.”
“On September 1913 John Blasengaines left for Oklahoma for the charge of fornication”
“1919 January the 12, Sunday morning a aroplane flew over this valley today about ½ after 9”
“Me and Sarah Elizabeth went to Villanow to hear holy rollers.”

The article advises by the 1890s there were several hundred people living in the valley. Farming and logging were the primary industries with tan bark being the most lucrative. Chestnut oaks were in abundance. The bark was hauled to the rails at Hill City to be taken to a tannery in Chattanooga. The tannin was then used on animal hides.

The Pocket was touched by the Civil War when the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Sherman’s lieutenant, Major General James B. McPherson, marched through Snake Creek Gap—the strategic route between Horn and Rocky Face Mountains—and flanked the Confederate army at Dalton. The Confederates retreated to Resaca where they engaged the Federal army in a major battle on May 14 and 15, 1864.

Georgiatrails.com advises when advancing through the area during the Civil War, men under the command of General James McPherson “discovered” the road, which was not on their maps. A great deal of concern was expressed in the Official Records about the accuracy of the maps.

Samuel Pilcher was a Pocket resident who served with the “Wright Infantry”. He was one of the lucky Confederates who made it home and lived along life farming on his land in the valley. He died in 1897 and his grave is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. A nearby pond, Pilcher’s Pond, is named for him and many anglers have sought this secluded spot to wet a hook.

George W. Bailey was a Confederate from The Pocket who experienced being a prisoner of war. He served with the “Calhoun Blues” and was captured by Union troops in August, 1864 during the Battle of Atlanta. He was finally released from Fort McHenry nine months later where he returned to The Pocket and raised a large family.

The Pocket experienced many years of prosperity following the Civil War, however, by the 1940s most residents had left the area creating a virtual ghost valley. The combination of the boll weevil and The Great Depression hit The Pocket’s agrarian economy hard. Many residents were lured away by the offer of jobs in the factories and mills of Rome and Dalton.

The Pocket is a valley south of the community of Villanow, surrounded on three sides by the steep rocky ridges of Horn and Johns Moutains. To reach The Pocket you need to travel north on I-75 to the exit for Resaca (Highway 136). Travel 15 miles to the town of Villanow and take a left on East Armuchee Road. There are signs to follow by the byway that is known by hikers and bikers as the Pocket Trail”. Eventually if you follow the signs you are led back to the famous general store. Some sites mention that the signs at the left turn onto US 27 and the left turn onto Floyd Springs Road might be missing. Additional information regarding the location of the pocket can be found at Northern Georgia Scenic Drives.

Georgiatrails.com advises the area is rich in Native American, Civil War, and Civilian Conservation Corps history. Other attractions include Keown Falls, the Johns Mountain Overlook, Johns Creek, Johns Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and the Pinhoti Trail.

3 comments:

Jefferson Otwell said...

Another great post! I especially like the interweaving of geography, history, and road directions.

Polski3 said...

"George W. Bailey"?? I thought he was a banker who thought about killing himself at Christmas time.....oh, a different George Bailey.... :-)

Interesting post. I wonder if that White family you mentioned are kin of mine. They came out of Bladen Co., NC. My ancestor, Sarah White married James Marshall in Upson Co. GA in mid 1830's..... There were many families surnamed White.....

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Thanks Jefferson. If you can get your hands on the issue of North Georgia Journal please do so. The article is really interesting.

Thanks for visiting Polski3. I can always count on you to make me smile.

I would almost bet you are related to some of the White's in N. Ga. since many of the mountain settlers came across fron North Carolina. Maybe someone will visit that can tell you about the White family I mentioned.

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