Under the Ground in Dade--Now and Long Ago

September 2, 2019

As you read this article, The Dade County Historical Society is preparing a program for the public about caves in Dade County. This program will be at the public library this Thursday evening, September 5, from 7-9 p.m. There is no charge for the program. We have corralled several local cavers to be part of our panel discussion and if you read the paper last week you read a brief biography of our featured speaker, Marion O. Smith. 

 

It has been quite funny to call the local folks and tell them that Mr. Smith will be featured. The respect which is shown to Smith by other spelunkers is incredible. It might be akin to a Christian who has awaiting the second coming of Christ and then, lo and behold, there is a covered-dish dinner at church and Jesus shows up to bless the food. The man has chops in the caving world. 

 

Our local cavers who have been invited are Marty Abercrombie, Ken Pennington,

Jerry Wallace, Kathy Mackay and Steve Davis, and we hope a few more will attend whom we were not knowledgeable enough to invite. Please come and join us on Thursday evening.

 

In the spirit of caving and mining history in Dade County is included below an article that we unearthed while preparing historical articles for the Myrna McMahan book. The article first appeared in The Chattanooga Times in 1936, then was republished in The Dade County Times in the 100th anniversary edition in 1938 and was then reprinted again January 15, 1953. It is probably the beginning of many history articles about Dade history that appeared in the paper in the '50s and '60s. This article tells interesting Indian lore and deserves one more run in the paper.  Please enjoy.

 

Rising Fawn Rich in Indian Legends and Historical Facts

 

Somewhere today in the vicinity of Rising Fawn lies a fabulous lead mine, according to legend. At the time when the Cherokees used this village as a trading post, they were able to get lead for the whites’ bullets within a few hours’ notice. This mine was supposedly close by and the Indians never permitted any of the white men to accompany them to the mine.

 

One of the early settlers claimed that he was once blindfolded and taken to the mine and during the journey, the party traveled over a foot log underneath which bubbled a creek. If this tale is true, the mine would be in the direction of Fox Mountain, which was named for Chief Big Fox. Legend also states that when the Indians were driven out of this part of the country, they obliterated all signs of the mine, traces of which have never been found.  So, perhaps if one day the mine is found, it will mean great wealth to the finder and land owner.

 

William L. Allison, brother of Judge Allison and forebear of L.M. Allison of this community, had reason to believe the mine was on his farm and subsequently spent a small fortune in search of it. Many arrow heads, hollowed out rocks used to grind corn, and implements are still found by farmers when plowing fields. The oldest cleared field in Rising Fawn is owned by the Hale family. It is known as the Binge Field and was cleared either by or for Cherokee Chief Binge. Located just west of the creek on the northeast side of the community, it is farmed by the McMahans.

 

The community was first known as Hanna, since the first post office was located on the Hanna plantation south of the present site. The Stewart family of Byrd’s Chapel or “Stewarttown” are descendants of the Hannas, whose property took in the present Hanna Cemetery, the Woodyard property, the W.L. Fannin farm and lands back to Fox Mountain.

 

When the railroad was built through the county in 1870, the station was named Staunton in honor of the man who was in charge of building it. Several years later, the post office was moved to the railroad station and the name was changed to Rising Fawn, which was the name of the daughter of a chief by one legend and the name of a baby who later grew up to be a big chief, according to another legend. 

 

The earliest records contain the names of J.B. Perkins, John Stewart, John Quinn, A.B. Hanna and James Hill. By 1840, the valley was well populated and two grist mills, a lumber camp and several mines had been opened. A carding mill for wool was established in 1850.

 

The Tatum Iron and Coal Co. was organized in Rising Fawn in 1870 with the following personnel:  Robert Tatum, Hugh Allison, Andrew Brown, Pierce Tatum, Joshua Forrester and William B. Gray. This was absorbed by the Dade County Coal Company in 1873 with Governor Joseph Brown as president.  Later, under Joel Hurt, Atlanta, it became the Georgia Iron and Coal Company.

 

With the completion of the railroad and the establishment of the iron furnace, the population of Rising Fawn was approximately 1,500 by 1890. Today’s population has decreased considerably.  At that time, the little town boasted brick sidewalks, street lights and a waterworks system operated by the Cureton family who still own it. The furnace ceased operations in 1910 and was dismantled in 1927. It is used now only for its slag and gravel. The town is now an agricultural community with some lumbering. The hills are rich in both iron ore and coal but they are not mined.

 

One of the most famous race tracks in Georgia was that of the old Easley plantation of this period preceding and following the Civil War. It was situated one mile north of Rising Fawn and now belongs to the Hugh Allison heirs. Old Col. Easley owned some of the finest race horses in this section of the country and devoted his time to breeding racers.

 

Some of the oldest houses in the community are the S.W. Woodin home just across the street from his former home which is built in colonial style and now owned by Al Hadden who purchased it from W.N. Pierson recently; the “Charlie McMahan home" and others. These were mentioned primarily because it is certain they were built of brick before or after the Civil War and other houses cannot be named without research.

 

Rising Fawn is one of the most historically interesting communities in the

county and perhaps someday, a complete account can be written of its history.

 

Donna Street 

donnam.street@gmail.com

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