Mystery wall highlights Chatsworth's past

Mystery wall highlights Chatsworth's past

September 18th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in Glimpse 2011

A turkey vulture flys over the valley below Fort Mountain nestled in the North Georgia mountains just over an hour's drive from Chattanooga.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

In an area steeped in American Indian history, the puzzling mystery of a stone wall along the top of a mountain near Chatsworth, Ga., fascinates visitors and residents alike.

The wall -- 2 to 6 feet tall -- stretches for more than 600 feet east to west around a precipice on Fort Mountain just east of Chatsworth and may have been built around 500 A.D.

Some scholars believe early Americans built the wall for protection or as part of religious ceremonies, but other myths abound. Local legend refers to a race of "moon-eyed," fair-skinned people who may have built it. Another myth is the story of the Welsh prince Madoc, who arrived in Mobile Bay and moved north into the area. Yet another story credits the wall to Hernando de Soto, who built it to defend the mountain against the Creek Indians.

"I don't know if we will ever know unless some future generation discovers a way to tell who built it," said Dinah Rowe, president of the Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce.

Fort Mountain, with its wall, camping areas, mountain lake, walking trails and beautiful views of the Appalachians, is just one of many places to enjoy the outdoors around Chatsworth.

The area was home to the Cherokee Nation for many years, with the historic Vann House built by James Vann. A chief and businessman, Vann owned a larger plantation in what is now Murray County. He built the Vann House in 1804, and it is the state's best-preserved historic Cherokee Indian home.

A guided tour allows visitors to see the house, which features hand carvings, a cantilevered staircase, a 12-foot mantle and other antiques.

Rowe, who is part Cherokee, said the Vann House is one of her favorite places to visit around Chatsworth.

AT A GLANCE

• Population: 3,531.

• Best things to do/places to visit: Vann House Historic Site, Fort Mountain State Park, Carter's Lake.

• Biggest employers: Carpet manufacturers.

• Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 45.

• Landmarks or geographic features: Chattahoochee National Forest, Cohutta Wilderness.

• Date founded: Aug. 18, 1906.

• Historic info: The area around Chatsworth was the heart of the Cherokee Nation before white settlers arrived. Few white settlers moved into the area until after the Cherokee were removed in the 1830s. Murray County was created in 1832 from part of Cherokee County.

• Most-famous resident: Cherokee Chief James Vann.

• Unique traditions: Vann House Days in July and Christmas Candlelight Tours in December.

• Fun fact: According to legend, the city's name was taken from a sign that fell off a railroad freight car with the name "Chatsworth."