Sautee Nacoochee, GA

Crossroads on the Unicoi Turnpike

Nacoochee History Museum

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Like many roads in the Old Southwest, the Unicoi Turnpike began as not much more than a Native American footpath although extensive trade between tribes and between European settlers and the Indians was carried along these roadways. When Europeans began expanding trade with the Indians and establishing settlements west of the Allegheny mountains, they sought to widen these pathways to make them suitable for wagon travel. The Indians strongly objected to this road through their nation as they understood it would only increase the conflict between their people and the constantly increasing flow of European settlers onto lands they held by treaty rights. Yet roadways were built, extended and broadened for wagon traffic and the settlers poured into the valley in disregard of treaty rights and boundaries.

“Under an agreement with the Cherokee in 1813 a company composed of representatives of Tennessee, Georgia, and the Cherokee nation was organized to lay out a free public road from Tennessee river to the head of navigation on the Tugaloo branch of Savannah river, with provision for convenient stopping places along the line. The road was completed within the next three years, and became the great highway from the coast to the Tennessee settlements. Beginning on the Tugaloo or Savannah a short distance below the entrance of Toccoa creek, it crossed the upper Chattahoochee, passing through Clarkesville, Nacoochee valley, the Unicoi gap, and Hiwassee in Georgia; then entering North Carolina it descended the Hiwassee, passing through Hayesville and Murphy and over the Great Smoky range into Tennessee, until it reached the terminus at the Cherokee capital, Echota, on Little Tennessee.”
Baker, Garrison (2005) In the Shadow of Yonah: A History of White County, Georgia. Cleveland GA: Brasstown Creek Publications, (p. 48)]

In the Nacoochee valley heading north, the Unicoi Turnpike roughly follows Georgia Hwy 17 then connects with Hwy 75 to Hiwassee and connects with US Hwy 64 around Murphy. From there it roughly follows Hwy 64 west toward Cleveland TN and probably turns north along Tennessee Hwy 68 passing through the Overhill Cherokee towns and on towards Tellico Plains.

The Unicoi Turnpike passed through Clarkesville on its way between Nacoochee and the Tugaloo [Tugeloo] river. The Wyly-Jarrett home, now known as Traveler's Rest, a Georgia State historical site, was constructed when they built the Turnpike through Georgia. It was supposed to be one of those first little wayside inns. The Jarretts expanded the house to 2½ times its original size.

The Unicoi Turnpike passing through White County Georgia was initially licensed to five men: Nicholas Byers, David Russell, Arthur Henly, John Lowry and Russell Goodrich. Goodrich was particularly interested in this roadway because he planned to access the Tennessee market for Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin with the settlements along the northern and western end of the Turnpike. See the blog by Dr. Jack Wynn, professor of anthropology at North Georgia College and State University.

Travellers heading into the Indian country to the west left Nacoochee and headed north to Hiwassee GA and then on to Hayesville and Murphy NC. The Turnpike connected with another road on the west side of the mountains continuing west toward Hiwassee Old Town and connecting with the so called “Great Indian War Path” which led to the rebellious Chickamauga Indians just outside Chattanooga TN. These Native American towns had been devastated during the American Revolution as militia from Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia joined forces to attack and destroy the Indian villages.

Nacoochee was the crossroads for another important 18th century road, the Old Indian Path Between Coosa and Tugeloo (Tugaloo). This road began at the Tugaloo river and passed westward a little north of the Unicoi Turnpike before it entered Nacoochee Valley. From here it turned southwest passing along the base of Mt. Yonah. It passed nearby Dahlonega, crossed over the Amicalola Creek and just north of Dawsonville. From there it crossed over the old road between Spring Place and Athens at Jasper. Crossing the Etowah River among Indian villages not given over to Europeans until the treaty negotiations.