Historically Speaking: Facts You May Not Know or Remember about Dade County

July 15, 2018

There are some residents who will know every one of the facts included in this article. Doubtless there are many who will find some of this information altogether new information. Of course, there are many more facts filed in the storehouse of Dade minutiae. More will be shared at a later date. Enjoy reading about our heritage.

  • Tunacunnhee is the name that the Indians called Dade County. Famous Indian Mounds have been explored here. The word, Tunacunnhee, was probably used to describe Lookout Creek.

  • Dade County was originally part of Cherokee County, then part of Walker County. It was divided from Walker County by a legislative act on December 25, 1837. It was called a “present” to the state of Georgia and was named Dade County.

  • Dade County was the 91st county created.

  • Dade County was named for Major Francis Langhorne Dade (1793-December 28, 1835), who never came to Dade County but was killed by the Seminole Indians in Florida. Only three of his 100 men survived the Dade Massacre.

  • The name of the county seat was changed to Trenton by an act of the legislature in 1840. Trenton was first named Salem. The capital of New Jersey is the namesake.

  • Geographically, Dade County is 174 square miles. It is approximately 23 miles from the Alabama border (S) to the Tennessee (N) traveling on U.S. Highway 11.

  • Georgia has 513 discovered caves, of which 317 are in Dade and Walker County. Walker has 153 and Dade has 164. (New Georgia Encyclopedia, GALILEO).

  • Dade and Walker counties also have the most coal deposits in the state of Georgia. The old Durham mine straddles the border of the two counties on Lookout Mountain.

  • Coal mining and iron processing were the main sources of economic development in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Dade County Coal Company and the Rising Fawn Iron Works were major producers of coal and iron.

  • Lookout Mountain is 2393 feet at its highest point in Tennessee. At Cloudland Canyon, the elevation is 1980 feet and then drops further as it goes south to 800 feet as it crosses into Alabama. (New Georgia Encyclopedia, GALILEO)

  • Cloudland Canyon State Park was opened in 1940. The canyon was first named by white settlers as Sitton’s Gulch. Jacob Sitton owned the property in the 1800s. He also owned and ran the gristmill on Lookout Creek. The foundation of the mill can still be seen in the creek off Sells Lane.

  • There were Cherokee Indians here before westward expansion and finding gold caused the removal of the Indians. It is reported that there are at least 50 discovered Indian mounds in the county. In the 1970s archaeologists from Georgia and Tennessee found artifacts at one group of mounds which are from the Hopewell period.

  • It is speculated that one settlement was near Lookout Creek on the property where Dade County High School is located. There is also a theory that there was an Indian removal fort in Dade, such as Fort Payne was. The name would be Fort Perkins. This theory has been studied by the Department of Interior for the facts. Nothing definitive was proven.

  • Chief Wauhatchie lived in the extreme north corner of the county near Lookout Creek. He allowed the land survey of Georgia to be done on his lands in 1817. He thought that he was safe from the Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears because of his cooperation with the white man over the years. Sadly, he was wrong and was removed with the rest of the Native Americans who lived in this area.

  • According to the 1850 census, there were 2500 people in Dade County. The slave schedule for that year reported 148 slaves.

  • The first state representative from Dade was named Alfred Street. He lived in Rising Fawn at the time and it was recently discovered that he moved to Walker County and ran a hardware store. (The author can find no kinship to this gentleman and believe that she has searched).

  • Many Dade County men fought for the South in the Civil War even though the percentage of slaves was less than 1 percent in 1860. Hardly any Dade Countians left for the war until 1862. John B. Gordon who owned and worked at the Gordon Mines (present day Cole City) organized a troop and named his troop, “The Raccoon Roughs.” Gordon rose to the rank of general during the war and later served as governor. During Reconstruction he was one arm of the “Bourbon Triumvirate” which included Joseph E. Brown and Alfred H. Colquitt. Sand Mountain is listed on old maps and referred to in the official record as Raccoon Mountain, thus the name “Raccoon Roughs.”

  • Captain J. C. Hanna of Rising Fawn also organized a troop and they were named “The Lookout Dragoons.” They were company B of the 6th Volunteer Infantry. At one time, Rising Fawn was named Hanna, as is the large cemetery there.

  •  Many of the Dade volunteers were captured during the Siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863. After the siege ended pardons were offered and after signing pledges swearing that they would not take up arms against the United States again, they returned to Dade. As the war moved closer to home, many did not honor the pledge and again saw service at Chickamauga and Chattanooga on Lookout Mountain or Missionary Ridge.

  • In August of 1863, more than 40,000 Union troops invaded Dade County (from at least four directions) as they moved south to try and end the war. They camped in many places here, usually near large water sources. The war record notes that they came up from Nickajack by building bridges to move men and equipment out of Gordon Mines. They marched south on Sand Mountain and down at White Oak Gap to Brown’s spring on modern-day Back Valley Road. They then moved toward Rising Fawn, camped at Crawfish Creek and Cureton’s Mill and then moved to Guinn’s Spring to begin the trek across Lookout Mountain, heading for the destination of McClemore Cove. They thought they were on their way to Rome to destroy the rail lines. Alas, a series of errors and illnesses by commanders for North and South turned the troops north to eventually wind up at Chickamauga. They moved through Murphy Hollow and Slygo Valley, taking a few prisoners, on the way to Trenton. Soldiers also came from Whiteside (or Falling Water Town as the Indians called it) and moved through what we call Hooker and Wildwood on the way north in Lookout Valley toward Brown’s Ferry. The men who crossed Sand Mountain from Bridgeport entered south Dade via Fort Payne. They did all of this movement in less than two weeks.

  • After Chickamauga was lost in September by the Union, Grant and Sherman had to take Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. Sherman sent his foster brother/brother-in-law, Major General Hugh Ewing*, and his troops across Sand Mountain again in late October to wreak havoc and make noise by blowing up things. He was to destroy the Macon and Empire State Iron Works. He also burned the Dade County Courthouse.  So in reality, Sherman’s plan to burn his way through Georgia actually was born in Dade County. The Empire State Iron Works was left nonoperational (though he reported that it was destroyed to Sherman), but a wonderful foundation structure still stands near the # Eight Bridge, southeast of the Ball Park and Lineman College.

Note: During the Dade Historical Society’s postmortem on the Cemetery Walk, while happy with the turnout, we wanted our year (almost two) of research to reach a wider audience than just our visitors on that day. Efforts are in the works to compile and edit all of the video so that it can be shared.


Next week will begin several months of articles about the lives of the people who were featured in this year’s Cemetery Walk. Joy Odom has the first two articles which will feature the life and eventual hanging of John Retherford, prisoner from the Dade Mines.

--Donna M. Street



*Interesting bonus historical point at no additional cost: William Tecumseh Sherman was raised in the Ewing family after the 1829 death of his own father. He married a daughter of the family, Ellen. Three sons of the family became Union generals during the Civil War, including the aforementioned Hugh. 


It may or may not also interest you to know that Sherman's nickname was "Cump." -- The Dade Planet

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