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How I discerned the massive mound in Batesville, Georgia

How I discerned the massive mound in Batesville, Georgia

 

At seven acres in area, it is one of the largest earthen pyramids in the United States!

Several People of One Fire readers, who live in either the Atlanta Area or Northeast Georgia, have contacted me, wanting to know how I determined that what to most everybody was a hill, was actually the principal mound of the religious capital of the Soque People.  One lady told me that her family has been driving up from Atlanta to their family’s vacation cottage on Lake Burton since the 1920s and NO ONE has ever mentioned there being American Indian sites in Batesville.  Actually, the postmaster at the general store in the village of Soquee changed the postal address to Batesville about the time that her family built that cottage.  He was from Batesville, VA and wanted to honor his hometown.

The short answer is that I was thinking like a “Creek” historic preservation architect and urban planner, not like an archaeologist.  Since the mid-20th century,  anthropology programs in the Eastern United States have made it clear to their students that the quickest way to end one’s career was to discuss the possibility of direct contacts between Mesoamerica and the Southeastern United States.  However, our combination of O+ blood and non-North American DNA test markers are typically labeled “Mesoamerican” by commercial DNA labs.  Perhaps, the biologists and geneticists know something that the anthropology professors missed?  LOL

A radical change in the Lower Southeast’s landscape

In 1959, the famous archaeologist, Robert Wauchope (plus his wife and kids in a station wagon) returned to Georgia for the first time in 20 years.  He had spent all of 1939, exploring the back roads of North Georgia in search of archaeological sites.  He brought along his 1939 notebook with the intent of refreshing his memories before finally writing a book on those discoveries.  The report was published by the Society for American Archaeology in 1966. 

Would you believe that Wauchope had a very difficult time finding those archaeological sites because the radical changes in the landscape of Georgia?  Many sites were now under the waters of reservoirs on the Chattahoochee, Etowah, Savannah, Tugaloo and Savannah Rivers. He just could never find about a third or more of the others.  Farms had grown up in trees.  Landmarks and houses were gone.  Roads had be re-routed before being paved. It is even more difficult today to figure out where Wauchope actually excavated village sites.

Imagine what radical changes have occurred in the landscape, since the leaders of the Cherokee and Creek tribes ceded the Soque’s land in 1818.  Some Soques thereafter moved to the Opelika area of Alabama. Others moved to Florida.  They spoke an Itsate-Creek dialect that is now called Miccosukee.  They had little in common with their erstwhile Cherokee landlords.

For several years, I have been trying to match the descriptions of geography, described by Smithsonian Institute archaeologist, Cyrus Thomas, with the archaeological sites, which he studied in Northeast Georgia during 1886.   Wauchope found very few of them, but I have had much better luck in recent months . . . mainly because I have the resources of the internet and satellite imagery.  Batesville was a tough nut to crack . . . as they say . . . because it has been 133 years since Cyrus Thomas toured the area on horseback.  

In 1886, it took a mule wagon four or more hours to reach the nearest incorporated town . . . Clarkesville.  For most residents of this remote mountain valley,  historic Clarkesville was very possibly the only town they had ever seen, unless they served in the Confederate Army or volunteered to serve in the U. S. Cavalry during the Post-Civil War Indian Wars out west.  A lifelong resident of northwest Habersham, Taecy Cowart, told me this morning that even when she was growing up in the 1960s,  it was very big deal and special treat for her family to drive into town with their old Ford.    Until the late 20th century, families had no money to pay for radical changes in the landscape.   The huge terraces that many generations of tourists have assumed were recent, couldn’t have possibly been made by bulldozers.  That is one of several pieces of information, which eventually led me to re-examine the terrain to the west of the Old Batesville General Store.

In 1810, Sookee (Soque) was one of the largest Native American towns in North Georgia. The Soque lands were ceded seven years later.

(1) Ancient Trade Paths:  Early maps show three major trade paths intersecting where GA Hwy. 255, GA Hwy. 197  and Old Chimney Mountain Road today meet in front of the Old Batesville General Store.  Scholars of urban history know that any time that three major trade routes intersect, one is going to find a major Pre-Industrial Period town.

(2) The Unicoi Turnpike route:  Virtually all references and tourist brochures state that the Unicoi Turnpike followed the route of GA Hwy. 17 between Clarkesville and Helen.  They tell us that the path was built by the Cherokees to connect their Lower, Middle and Upper towns. However, for once, a Georgia State Historical Marker tells us the correct route.   A state marker on GA Hwy. 385 states that the original Unicoi Trail, and later, Unicoi Turnpike, went north on Hwy. 385 from Clarkesville then turned northwestward onto what is now, Stonepile Gap Road.  It interconnected the Soque towns near present day Clarkesville, near the Alec Mountain Stone Circle and in what is now Batesville. 

(3) Construction of Unicoi Trail:  French ethnographer and historian, Charles de Rochefort, wrote in 1658 that a Queen of the Apalache (proto-Creeks in northeast Georgia) ordered the construction of a road to connect the head of navigation for trade canoes on the Savannah River with the Tennessee . . . interconnecting many Apalache towns.  This road was called the Uenenekoi (Road Between the Waters). He also stated that the Governor of La Florida ordered construction of road to St. Augustine to connect with a fortified trading post and mission on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River.  The Spanish later improved the section of the Uenenekoi between the Nacoochee Valley and Tennesses River. 

(4) Native American towns: Eighteenth century and early 19th century maps showed the Native American town of “Soquee” or “Sokee” at the location where those ancient trade paths intersected.

(5) Trees:  There are many trees growing on the terraced terrain that are at least 100-200 years old.   You can see some of them in the photo at the top of this article.  The scuplturing of a hill into a temple mound could not have possibly happened after these trees began growing.

(6) Observations by a professional archaeologist:  Smithsonian archaeologist, Cyrus Thomas, stated in 1886 that there were many stone ruins near the Soquee Post Office,  which was actually the Walter J. Hill General Store.  Thomas mentioned stone retaining walls, but apparently did not realize that the stone walls were retaining walls for the ancient mound.  I later learned that the stone ruins had been used for constructing building foundations and chimneys in the years after 1886.

(7) Observations of an architect-planner:  After examining the Google Terrain Map of the Batesville Area, I realized that the terraces and central ramp were oriented perfectly to true south and to the north to Chimney Mountain – a dormant or extinct volcano.  In 1917, J. E. Lazelle, the first teacher to live among the Miccosukee, stated that in ancient times they believed that most of their gods lived atop high mountains.  If there were no mountains their gods lived atop man-made mounds.  The two structures on the terraces of the mound both predate the construction of paved roads or the existence of bulldozers. The Lumpkin Hill house was built in the late 1800s, while the current general store was constructed in 1904, after a smaller store, dating from the early 1880s, burned.   The massive Hines Mound was constructed long before these structures, which sit upon it.   Now you know!

 

 

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

15 Comments

  1. richardbecherer@yahoo.com'

    Richard,

    This is truly amazing. Thank you for reconnoitering it and for drawing it up. How does this position this mound relative to Cahokia? R

    Reply
    • It seems to have no relation to any of the cultures to the west. The architecture in the Creek Motherland is quite different than what one sees in the Mississippi River Basin.

      Reply
  2. jamesrhodes666@msn.com'

    You remind me of a man we met in a coffee shop yesterday at Apache Junction, AZ. He showed a group of 6 individuals a photo of running shoes and asked what color they were-WE ALL HAD DIFFERENT ANSWERS. People like you are trained to see them all; while the dominate culture has one, and only one, correct answer that must be forced onto all others! This is sad and so unprofessional!

    Reply
    • The good news is that Amazon.com is now selling shoes that are designed to fit the feet of Native Americans. Maybe the reason that I see six different colors is that my feet and the back of my skull are exactly like those of Cro-Magnon, Neaderthal and evidently, a Denisovian humans.

      Reply
  3. edward.triple@hotmail.com'

    I can only think of the fantastic opportunities for the entire region to become a prime tourist destination once the truth about the origin of these complexes you are finding or rediscovering eventually becomes more widely known.

    NO casinos on the mounds please! 😉

    Reply
    • I hope not. Fortunately, the local residents saw what the casinos did to tourism in western North Carolina . . . killed it.

      Reply
    • Mark, that is an excellent map. I downloaded the high resolution version. It seems to have been prepared in anticipation of a war between Great Britain and Spain.

      Reply
      • markveale@hotmail.com'

        Richard, I hope the map helps in your research. It does seem you are right about the different Native peoples migrating as far as Kentucky and perhaps using the rivers back to Alabama / Georgia. That does make sense as there are ancient monuments by the Ohio river likely connected to the Native peoples designs listed in both locations. The stone works / Mound Earthworks you found in Georgia are lined up with Ohio’s. I have to wonder where do those two Georgia alignments you found intersect at? One was angled at a 4 degree from North.

        Reply
  4. polinskj@oregonstate.edu'

    This was just one of those things…. Classic thinking. Our creator gave us a brain and through centuries of programming and brainwashing, the bulk of humanity is unplugged from a greater reality. The line where you mentioned, “One lady said that NO ONE has ever mentioned there being American Indian sites in Batesville” was absolutely HILARIOUS! This is the kind of thinking that has done all the damage and warping of human reality we can imagine on a global scale even. That same woman has her whole life thought that Columbus discovered her country! (I’m sure she is a nice lady, just damaged in a way that only govt. schools and other dogma pumping organizations can do, as they start them young)

    Keep up the good work! Get ready for the backlash to ramp up to full power when you discover something that might lay bare the farcical system of command and control the casino crowd has set into place.

    Reply
    • But at least the folks in Batesville are delighted . . . it has brought in a lot of tourists!

      Reply
  5. k.smith@tencategeo.com'

    Would you be interested in speaking at our Cornelia Kiwanis Club meeting on June 18th or 25th? We meet at the Habersham Medical Center in Demorest at noon. All of our members would love for you to talk about what you do and most recent, to hear of the Mound discovery in Batesville. Could you please let me know if this would work?

    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. honknpoo@aol.com'

    Hi Richard,
    As a child, I remember riding down old 441 between Tallulah Gorge and Clarksville with my Grandpa and looking into the cowfields. I was convinced there were terraces. He always said that they were just cow trails. I see evidence evennow of terraces beside 441 in Habersham and near the gorge.

    Would love to volunteer with you looking for evidence in Habersham and Rabun. And love to come to any talks or meetings you have. A bit older and slower that I used to be, so Winter, Fall, Spring perhaps a better time. Please let me know how I could help. My son is investigating Rockdale County.

    Reply
    • We are going to wait awhile until it gets cooler,before going out into the woods to look for terraces and stone ruins. The ticks have suddenly gotten bad and the copperheads should be avoided . . . now that the hospitals are charging $3000 to $5000 for one vial of anti-venom. Two years ago the hospital in Gainesville, GA charged an adult male, who owned a landscaping company, $125,000 to treat a bite from a baby copperhead. Well, that’s the amount he owed after his insurance paid the hospital. He had to file for bankruptcy, close his business and sell his house.

      Reply
  7. ThaLIThaalachine@gmail.com'

    Hi Richard,
    Please contact me at your earliest convenience regarding what I believe to be a mound near the vicinity of the one you found in Batesville. Of course, I’m not really sure what it is, it could be nothing, but that would be for you to determine. I would still encourage you to check it out because there are fish ponds possibly at this site and it also peers up the valley and Downer Valley off of the river contact me and I’ll let you know where it is thank yo I would still encourage you to check it out. I have no training in archaeology, however, in sharing this information with other people I have discovered that there are possibly fish holding ponds off of the river as well as unobscured site lines from the mound up the river valley and also down the river valley. What do I know? Could just be a chicken house foundation.

    Reply

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