Community Spotlight on Sautee-Nacoochee

The North Georgia mountains are known for their natural scenic beauty, but few communities remain as pristine as Sautee Nacoochee. Within an unspoiled, history-rich land nestle two villages – home of art galleries, shops, restaurants, museums, historical sites, wineries, and recreational activities.

At the intersection of Highway 75 and 17 is the Nacoochee Mound and Gazebo – a picturesque pastureland with grazing cattle – a notable starting-point for the journey through this beautiful community. The mound is a burial site, dating back to the Cherokee tribe that inhabited the area. Many years later, the Cherokee tribe used the mound as a site for their townhouse and ceremonial rites. The mound was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in the summer of 1980.

A legend regarding the Nacoochee Mound tells the story of two Native Americans: Sautee, a brave of the Chicksaw tribe, and Nacoochee, the daughter of a Cherokee chief. Although from opposing tribes, Sautee and Nacoochee fall immediately and hopelessly in love. They meet at night and run away to nearby Yonah Mountain to spend a few idyllic days together. Later, they present Nacoochee’s father, Chief Wahoo, with the idea of creating peace between the two nations. In response, the chief orders Sautee be thrown from the high cliffs of Yonah Mountain. Nacoochee watching in horror, breaks away from her tribe and leaps from the cliff to join her lover. Sautee and Nacoochee drag their broken bodies together, and, locking in a final embrace, they die there.  The Cherokee chief, realizing the greatness of their love, is overcome with grief and remorse, so much so that he has the lovers buried together, in the mound near the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

Continuing north on Highway 75 on the banks of the Chattahoochee River is The Hardman Farm, a beautiful 2-story Italian-style home originally built in 1870 by Captain James Nichols, is owned by the State of Georgia and is located across the Nacoochee Mound. The home is now open for tours to show guests 19th century living.

Just up the road is The Old Nora Grist Mill.  The operational grist mill was established in 1876 with French Burr mill stones and a 100-foot wooden raceway that feeds water to a turbine. It was constructed by John Martin when he moved to Georgia to mine for gold and made the Sautee Nacoochee Valley his permanent home. In 1902, Dr. Lamartine G. Hardman, governor of Georgia from 1927-1931, bought the mill and named it “Nora Mill” in memory of his sister, Nora, and it remained in the Hardman Family until 1998.  The mill still produces corn – and wheat-based products such as grits, corn meal, pancake mixes, flours, and biscuit/bread mixes.

In addition, the Crescent Hill Baptist Church was built in 1871 by Captain James Nichols who served in the Confederate Regiment.  Its beautiful Gothic style has an impressive home next door referred to as the West End, residing to the west of the church. Services are still held on Sunday mornings.

The Old Sautee Store was built in 1872, and was a true general store with local residents purchasing food, seed and farm supplies. The road served as the local post office for Sautee Nacoochee until 1913 and post office for Sautee until 1962. Visitors are welcomed to view historical antiques, shop for old time candies, jams, jellies, cheese and various gift items.

Through the valley ran the old Unicoi Turnpike, which was a major thorough line from the Tugaloo River to East Tennessee. It used the Stovall Mill Covered Bridge – which is still a historical site today, built in 1895 by Will Pardue. The bridge retains the name of the miller, Fred Stovall, Sr. who operated the Mill Complex for many years. There is a picnic area, to enjoy this scenic place by Chickamauga Creek. The bridge was also featured in the 1951 film, I’d Climb The Highest Mountain, starring Susan Hayward.

The Folk Pottery & History Museum, displays artifacts and shows usage of pottery from 1800-1900’s. The Heritage Center features a rural school house and plays hosts to many concerts.

Continuing along the drive, visitors may see wildlife as they drive into the countryside, or visit nearby Helen for more recreational activity and nightlife. Sautee Nacoochee has an abundance of beauty – so take your camera, take your time, and enjoy it!

Top Left: Nora Mill, Crescent Hill Church, Hardman Farm. Top Right: Stovall Mill Covered Bridge. Bottom: The Nacoochee Mound & Gazebo.