Monday, June 10, 2013

Etowah Indian Mounds: 1550 to the Present

Etowah River at Etowah Indian Mounds

By around 1550, the village of Etowah had been permanently abandoned by the mound builders, who moved farther west along the Coosa River, possibly in response to the devastating impact of European diseases, which the Indians had no immunity to, brought by explorers such as Hernando de Soto, who visited the town in 1540.

Mounds A, B, and C

Cherokee farmers would later move into the area as the Cherokee Nation transitioned to a more agrarian lifestyle and shifted much of their population out of the mountains into the more fertile foothills of North Georgia. In 1825, the Cherokee established their modern capital about 35 miles away at New Echota near Calhoun, Georgia. A number of affluent Cherokees established prosperous plantations in the region.

As white settlers increasingly came in contact with the Cherokee, the name Etowah was misunderstood as "Hightower", which came to be associated with landmarks in the area: Hightower River, Hightower Road, etc.

Etowah River, sometimes referred to as the Hightower River.
In 1838, the Cherokees were removed from Georgia, and the Etowah site was purchased by Colonel Lewis Tumlin. The Tumlin family would own the mounds, which became known as the Tumlin Indian Mounds, for 115 years. The family kept a tradition of permitting public access to the mounds during their ownership: a book published in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration detailed the Tumlin Mounds, giving directions, and advising visitors to stop at the yellow house the Tumlins lived in to ask permission before entering the mound area.

View from Mound A
One early visitor to the Tumlin Mounds was William Tecumseh Sherman, whose keen observation of the terrain while traveling through North Georgia would remain with him when he returned twenty years later as the commanding general of Union troops invading Georgia. In his memoir, he recalls the trip and the impact it had on his decisions during the Atlanta campaign:

In early days (1844), when a lieutenant of the Third Artillery, I had been sent from Charleston, South Carolina, to Marietta, Georgia, to assist Inspector-General Churchill to take testimony concerning certain losses of horses and accoutrements by the Georgia Volunteers during the Florida War; and after completing the work at Marietta we transferred our party over to Bellefonte, Alabama. I had ridden the distance on horseback, and had noted well the topography of the country, especially that about Kenesaw (sic), Allatoona, and the Etowah River. On that occasion I had stopped some days with a Colonel Tumlin, to see some remarkable Indian mounds on the Etowah River, usually called the "Hightower." I therefore knew that the Allatoona Pass was very strong, would be hard to force, and resolved not even to attempt it, but to turn the position, by moving from Kingston to Marietta via Dallas ....

A view such as this one from the top of Mound A of the Allatoona Mountains made enough impact on
W.T. Sherman to influence him to change his tactics twenty years later.
Sherman quickly came to regret cutting his army loose from the railroad to take a wide swing out across the Paulding County wilderness, suffering heavy losses at Dallas, New Hope, and Pickett's Mill. He successfully bypassed Allatoona Pass, but once he reconnected to the railroad at Acworth, he did not let go it for the rest of the campaign.

After the state of Georgia purchased the mounds in 1953, Henry Tumlin served as superintendent from 1953 to 1981. He remained interested in preserving the site, donating additional land in 1994 and 1995.

The park currently has a picnic area in the shade along the riverbank.

A good place to sit and watch the river go by.

Mound A

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