In March 2012, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution published an article by Bill Torpy and titled it, Trove of Artifacts in Canton tell story of Indians. The article was a great, educational piece. An education on a very interesting bit of Cherokee County history that we can only read about now…thanks, in part, to greed disguised as progress.
Reading Mr. Torpy’s story, I couldn’t help but feel a huge emptiness for what the former land owner destroyed and the loss he allowed the county of my birth, when he sold his land to developers. I didn’t need to ask why he sold this historical land. I knew the why…it had something to do with a few men: George, Thomas, Abraham, Alexander, Benjamin, Andrew, Ulysses, William, Grover, James, Woodrow and Salmon P. Chase (lots of Woodrow’s and Salmon P’s). So now, instead of a museum…a historical, educational, archaeological site…and a memorial to the Native Cherokee families forced off their land….Canton has a Super Wal-Mart. Yay.
I was born and educated in Canton, Georgia. As a young girl, I watched with a feeling of loss as old homes, historical buildings and important land was destroyed to make way for stores, gas stations and post offices. I watched as the architectural integrity of beautiful old buildings was assaulted for ‘modern improvements’. In high school, I tried to start a campaign to save the abandoned Canton Train Depot. I failed…Canton won…and the building was demolished. I believe the structure was replaced with a vacant lot.
When I was a Cherokee County teen in the 1970’s, I thought our town was a million light years away from the cosmopolitan life of Atlanta. And I guess it was. I realized our families needed more opportunities for employment than the cotton mills and poultry plants in town. I knew we needed alternative stores, restaurants, and a few more places for a teenager to have a summer job. But I also knew there was historical bedrock beneath our ball fields and corn fields…and in the clay along the banks of the Etowah; I wanted it preserved. Eh, but what did I know?
Cherokee County has surpassed all expectations for growth and progress. No longer can every high school student in the county boast about being a Cherokee Warrior, all on the same unified team. Present day high school kids have more opportunities for summer employment than we ever could have dreamed possible. But our slow-moving river and the beautiful green hills of Cherokee County are now obscured by big box stores and the gaudy colors of pre-fab fast food spots. These days, Cherokee Countians have the privilege of sitting in traffic on Riverstone Parkway and Highway 20. Just what we wanted. Oh, Progress, how we love thee.
I hope Cherokee County will outgrow the need to play ‘progress catch up’ and gain a sense of responsibility for preserving her history. Somehow, I doubt the change will occur anytime soon. Still, I hope. Yet, every now I then, I hear rumors of demolishing the old Canton Elementary and High School buildings on Academy Street. Many of us spent our elementary years in those red brick buildings. A few still living spent their high school years there as well. Losing those buildings would be a disservice to downtown Canton; a disgrace kin to the one we suffered when the old Canton Hotel was demolished and replaced with an ugly bank building.
That’s my pondering for the day,
Below is a portion of Mr. Torpy’s AJC article.
For 15 years, hordes of shoppers have streamed into the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Canton.
The hilltop along I-575 is a prime commercial location in Cherokee County, a fast-growing community with one foot in metro Atlanta and another in the North Georgia mountains.
What few customers know is they are walking on land that was a hub for Native American life for 10,000 years. At different times, the patch of high ground overlooking the Etowah River has been a village, a fort, a trading center and, finally, home to a cluster of Cherokee families desperately trying to co-exist with the white man.
During the summer of 1995, a large crew of archaeologists and their assistants unearthed a trove of artifacts that told a story of the land’s ancient inhabitants. The property, known as the Hickory Log Site, yielded 48 graves and thousands of artifacts that filled 120 boxes. The discovery offered one of the most detailed looks ever at the life of Native Americans in North Georgia.
Local officials hope to exhibit the findings — ranging from 10,000-year-old spear tips to a rifle used by the Cherokees — at The Funk Heritage Center at Reinhardt University.
“It’s a rare chance to educate people [about] what happened,” said Paul Webb, the archaeologist who headed the 1995 dig and returned to Cherokee County last week to finally speak about his findings and lay the groundwork for the artifacts to return home. “It’s one thing to know this is Cherokee County and another thing to have this tangible evidence of Native American and Cherokee life.
“It remains one of the major projects in North Georgia in size and scope and in what we found. Hickory Log has probably seen 10,000 years of occupation,” he said. “You have high ground overlooking Hickory Log Creek and the Etowah River. It had ample water, rich farmland below. It was a good place to live with access to transportation.”
In essence, what made for a good hub for Cherokee County’s Native Americans later