Once it was part of the land of the Cherokees. They roamed at will in its green valley and brought forth abundant crops from its red clay soil. In spring, they watched the white dogwood flower in its bridal splendor. In summer, they shared the multitude of wild fruit and nuts-blackberries, wild strawberries, black walnuts - with the black bear and the raccoons. When the leaves on the surrounding mountains turned every shade from vivid yellow to flaming orange to scarlet red, they knew soon it would be winter, the time of stark beauty. White snow would lie on the ground. The leafless trees would cast a sharp shadow on the earth. The crystal columns of ice would climb the steep cliffs. And always there was music in the mountains. Listen closely and you will hear the babble of a rushing stream, the moan of the wind, and the song of the people blessed by this beauty.
The early settlers came in the 1830’s, spurred by the gold found nearby. They stayed to farm the land. They brought their dulcimers, fiddles, and banjos, and sang of their mountain life. Sadly, the beginning of a way of life for the settlers chronicled the end for the Cherokees. Most were exiled to Oklahoma via the infamous ‘Trail of Tears.’ Fortunately, a few remained behind and many more returned when they were able. The mountains that sheltered the settlers also isolated them so that their way of life remained the same long after the rest of the country had become homogenized. Even though life in the mountains was hard, they loved to gather at one or another of their simple cabins and commemorate the harvest season. Banjoes and dulcimers dueled into the morning hours and shavings from the whittler's knife littered the wood porches. Home baked goodies were sweetened with sorghum. These people knew how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Progress came, as it will, and in the 1900’s, roads were cut into the gaps in the mountains making Union County accessible to the rest of the world. Even then access was difficult. The early Fords used gravity to send gas to the engines of the model Ts. The steep grade of the mountains prevented the gas from flowing into the engines. Enterprising drivers learned to back their vehicles up the mountains then turn around and tie a log to the car on the way down so their brakes wouldn’t burn out. Fortunately, modern automobiles can cross the now paved mountain roads with no problem.
This area, perched at the highest point in Georgia, was famous in the old days for two superb products that came in a Mason jar. Only one was legal, the rich sorghum syrup that served as a sweetener for the isolated mountain folks.
If you enjoy fun combined with nature, music, history and good food, Blairsville is a must visit.