National Park Service ranger Dan Cone will lead a tour this Saturday of grounds where mineral springs attracted Cherokees, Civil War soldiers and spa-goers until the 1920s.
Beginning at 11 a.m. Sept. 10, Cone will relate stories of Catoosa Springs, the once popular resort that lent its name to the county and is part of the Rollins family ranch today.
The walk will basically deal with vignettes of the area from the days when it was home to American Indians before settlers came to the area, through the time when the Catoosa Springs Hotel burned to the ground in the 1920s, Cone said.
"We'll be walking the property to visit where the hotel once stood, some of the cottages and springs," he said. "It will probably be less than a mile of walking, but I expect it to take 60-90 minutes."
Cone began studying the spring's history while a West Georgia State University graduate student and will share his research during this Catoosa Springs - One Place, Many Meanings walking tour.
The antebellum resort of Catoosa Springs consisted of more than 50 mineral springs and was developed by Augusta businessmen who heralded it the "Saratoga of the South."
"The springs are often said to have been a favorite haunt of the Cherokees, but there is little mention in any of their newspapers about them using the waters and it seems that that was an early piece of marketing," he said. "The first mention of the springs happened in the early 1850s when it was reported that a large hotel was being built there."
Just a few years later, Catoosa Springs was the site of hospitals for the Confederate Army of Tennessee and a camp by Gen. William T. Sherman's Union forces at the start of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.
A plaque erected by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in a turnoff from Keith Road reads in part: "In 1862-1863 several Confederate hospitals were located here. The sick and wounded Confederate soldiers drank of the health-giving waters of the several mineral springs in this area. Drinking this mineral water and bathing in it enabled many sick soldiers to return to duty."
Another noteworthy event that took place in the vicinity of the springs is sometimes referred to as the "Mormon murders," which occurred in 1879.
"Two missionaries were accosted by a posse of locals, taken to a nearby freshwater spring and one of the Mormons was shot dead," Cone said.
A monument to Joseph Standing, the slain Mormon missionary, was erected in Varnell, near the Catoosa/Whitfield county line.
"Most county histories focus on Catoosa Springs' antebellum and Civil War history. Yet the place holds different meanings for some people: sacred site, business venture, refuge, a place to find love and a place to retire," ranger Kim Coons said when this Saturday's program was announced. "Sharing these other stories enriches our understanding of the past."