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Column: Caves along Chattahoochee offer perspective of past
by Thornton Kennedy
Neighbor Newspapers Columnist
May 28, 2014 11:40 AM | 1482 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
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There are few places nearby that have as tangible a link to native Georgia as the banks of the Chattahoochee River. And by native I mean natives: the people who lived here before here was here, the Muscogee Indians.

This is because of the many American Indian caves dotting the hills along the river.

For as long as I can remember I have heard about these “caves.” I have been hiking Buckhead’s Palisades East trail in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area with family, friends and our pup Margaret for years. Often I go off the trail to try and find them. It turns out I was looking too hard for the wrong thing.

I was looking for an actual cave. The caves the Muscogee and Cherokee used were more akin to large rock outcroppings as opposed to a cartoon-like tunnel entrance in the side of a hill. The rock overhangs don’t go back into the hills, rather they stop where the rock emerges from the dirt. But they create natural shelters that could protect several dozen people from the elements.

These horizontal outcroppings are archaeological sites, where bits of pottery and evidence of human activity can be traced back thousands of years when native Americans migrated along the banks of the river. From these caves you can trace their footsteps, listen to the same sounds and see the same sights from that period save the top of an occasional office tower off in the distance.

Other evidence of these native peoples are in the names of our roads and country clubs. Muscogee Avenue, which connects West Wesley Road with Peachtree Road by way of Rivers Road, is so named because of the Muscogee. Cherokee Road and Cherokee Town and Country Club take their names from the other prominent native peoples, the Cherokee. There was a Muscogee village called Standing Peach Tree at the convergence of the Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek off of Ridgewood Road. There is an American Indian village buried beneath Chastain Park. There was evidence of meal-grinding in the boulders uncovered during the construction of Lenox Square.

These are villages and peoples who make a sixth generation Atlantan seem minuscule. Unfortunately by 1823, the Creek had been forced from the territory by the ever-encroaching white man.

In a quote that can be found on the website www.Buckhead.net, the Rev. William Jasper Cotter wrote of the area in early 1800s “waters in the creeks and rivers as clear as crystal; rich valleys, hills, and mountains covered in thick forest; a land of beautiful flowers — white, pink, yellow and red honeysuckles, redwood and dogwood blossoms, wild roses and other beauties. There was plenty of wild game — deer, turkey and other varieties.”

Though the river is not so clear looking out from the “caves,” you can sense the same beauty and wonder.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can reached at thorntonkennedy@me.com.
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