A Visit to Track Rock in 1848

Logan’s Plantation, Georgia, April, 1848.

During my stay at Dahlonega I heard a good deal said about a native wonder, called “Track Rock,” which was reported to be some thirty miles off, on the northwestern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On revolving the information in my mind, I concluded that this rock was identical with one which had been mentioned to me by Professor James Jackson, of the University of Georgia, and I also remembered that the Professor had shown me a specimen of the rock he alluded to, which contained the imprint or impression of a human foot. My curiosity was of course excited, and I resolved to visit the natural or artificial wonder. I made the pilgrimage on foot, and what I saw and heard of peculiar interest on the occasion the reader will find recorded in the present letter.  In accomplishing the trip to “Track Rock” and back again to this place I was two days. On the first day I walked only twenty miles, having tarried occasionally to take a pencil sketch or hear the birds, as they actually filled the air with melody. My course lay over a very uneven country, which was entirely uncultivated, excepting some half dozen quiet vales, which presented a cheerful appearance.

The woods were generally composed of oak and chestnut, and destitute to a considerable extent of undergrowth; the soil was composed of clay and sand, and apparently fertile; and clear sparkling brooks intersected the country, and were the first that I had seen in Georgia. I had a number of extensive mountain views, which were more beautiful than imposing; and among the birds that attracted my attention were the red-bird, mocking-bird, quail, lark, poke, woodpecker, jay, king-bird, crow, bluebird, and dove, together with a large black-bird, having a red head, (apparently of the woodpecker genus,) and another smaller bird, whose back was of a rich black, breast a bright brown, with an occasional white feather in its wing, which I fancied to be a species of robin. Since these were my companions, it may be readily imagined that ” pleasantly the hours of Thalaba went by.”

I spent the night at a place called “Tesantee Gap,” in the cabin of a poor farmer, where I was most hospitably entertained. My host had a family of nine sons and three daughters, not one of whom had ever been out of the wilderness region of Georgia. Though the father was a very intelligent man by nature, he told me that he had received no education, and could hardly read a chapter in the Bible. He informed me, too, that his children were but little better informed, and seemed deeply to regret his inability to give them the schooling which he felt they needed. “I have always desired;” said he, “that I could live on some public road, so that my girls might occasionally see a civilized man, since it is fated that they will never meet with them in society.” I felt sorry for the worthy man, and endeavored to direct his attention from himself to the surrounding country. He told me the mountains were susceptible of cultivation even to their summits, and that the principal productions of his farm were corn, wheat, rye, and potatoes; also, that the country abounded in game, such as deer, turkeys, and bears, and an occasional panther. Some of the mountains, he said, were covered with hickory, and a peculiar kind of oak, and that on said mountains gray squirrels were very abundant. The streams, he informed me, were well supplied with large minnows, by which I afterwards ascertained he meant the brook trout.

While conversing with my old friend, an hour or so before sunset, we were startled by the baying of his hounds, and on looking up the narrow road running by his home, we saw a fine-looking doe coming towards us on the run. In its terror the poor creature made a sudden turn, and scaling a garden fence was overtaken by the dogs on a spot near which the wife of my host was planting seeds, when she immediately seized a bean-pole, and by a single blow deprived the doe of life. In a very few moments her husband was on the ground, and, having put his knife to the throat of the animal, the twain re-entered their dwelling, as if nothing had happened out of the common order of events. This was the first deer that I ever knew to be killed by a woman.

When I took occasion to compliment the dogs of my old friend, he said that one of them was a ” powerful runner; for he had known him to follow a deer for three days and three nights.” Having in view my future rambles among the mountains, I questioned my companion about the snakes of this region, and, after remarking that they were “very plenty,” he continued as follows:

“But of all the snake stories you ever heard tell of, I do not believe you ever heard of a snake fight. I saw one, Monday was a week, between a black-racer and a rattlesnake. It was in the road, about a mile from here, and when I saw them the racer had the other by the back of the head, and was coiling his body all around him, as if to squeeze him to death. The scuffle was pretty severe, but the racer soon killed the fellow with rattles, and I killed the racer. It was a queer scrape, and I reckon you do not often see the like in your country.”

I should have obtained some more mites of information from my host had not a broken tooth commenced aching, and hurried me off to bed.

I left the habitation of my mountain friend immediately after breakfast the following morning, and “ne’er repassed that hoary threshold more.”

Track Rock Archaeological Site
Track Rock Archaeological Site

On the following day I passed through the Blue Ridge, and visited the Mecca of my pilgrimage, and was disappointed. I was piloted to it by a neighboring mountaineer, who remarked, “This is Track Rock, and it’s no great shakes after all.” I found it occupying an unobtrusive place by the road side. It is of an irregular form and quite smooth, rises gradually from the ground to the height of perhaps three feet, and is about twenty feet long by the most liberal measurement. It is evidently covered with a great variety of tracks, including those of men, bears or dogs, and turkeys, together with indistinct impressions of a man’s hand. Some of the impressions are half an inch thick, while many of them appear to be almost entirely effaced. The rock seemed to be a species of slate-colored soapstone. The conclusion to which I have arrived, after careful examination, is as follows: This rock is located on what was once an Indian trail, and, having been used by the Cherokees as a resting place, it was probably their own ingenuity which conceived and executed the characters which now puzzle the philosophy of many men. The scenery about Track Rock is not remarkable for its grandeur, though you can hardly turn the eye in any direction without beholding an agreeable mountain landscape. In returning through Tesantee Gap and the valley below, I met with no adventures worth recording, and will therefore conclude my present epistle with a paragraph concerning the plantation where I am now tarrying.

The proprietor is an intelligent and worthy gentleman, who is reputed to be the nabob of this region. He acquired a portion of his wealth by digging gold, but is now chiefly devoting himself to agriculture. He complains of the little advancement which the people of Northern Georgia are making in the arts of husbandry, and thinks that it would be much better for the State if the people could be persuaded to follow the plough, instead of wasting their time and money in searching for gold, which metal, he seems to think, is nearly exhausted in this section of country. Among the curious things which I have seen under his roof, is a small but choice collection of minerals, fossil remains, and Indian relics, belonging to his eldest son. Among the latter may be mentioned a heavy stone pipe, made in imitation of a duck, which was found in Macon county, North Carolina, fifteen feet below the surface; and also a small cup, similar to a crucible, and made of an unknown earthy material, which was found in this county about nine feet below the surface, and directly under a large tree. But the mail boy’s horn is blowing and I must close.

Lanman, Charles. Letters from the Alleghany Mountains. New York: Geo. P. Putnam, 155 Broadway. 1849.

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