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The Gold and Grass Farms: a trip through history

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The remarkable sign atop the gate marks Gold and Grass Farms with an historical timeline. (Photo by Gary Garrett)

By Anita Rosen
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Gary Garrett has chosen an active retirement as the owner of Grass and Gold Farms. (Photo by Daniel Rosen)
Just before the south end of Yellow Creek Road, on the east side of the street, there sits a solitary building in a field. Suddenly, this year, the field was fenced, and, shortly thereafter, a large gate bearing the banner of Gold and Grass Farms appeared. Had a new owner taken possession and, if so, to what purpose would the land be put?

Investigation led to Gary Garrett, a retired veterinarian from Roswell who cordially invited my photographer and me to visit. We sat awhile on the wide front porch of the house Garrett’s mother, the charming Olivia Garrett, and his father built in the late 1970’s. The elder Garrett’s moved here from the Dunwoody/Sandy Springs area in 1978. They purchased 187 acres on the west side of Yellow Creek Road, fulfilling Mr. Garrett’s dream of living in the countryside. Encouraged by his father to acquire the 150 acres on the east side of the road, Gary Garrett made his purchase the same year. Until recently cattlemen leased some of the land.

After a brief oral history, Garrett invited us on a tour of the property . . . across Yellow Creek Road and time.

The Shingle House
Looking much like a barn to the casual observer, the first stop on the expedition—the Shingle House— was built around 1880 using overlapping oak shingles. According to the Cherokee County Historical Society, this structure saw service as a commissary, administrative office, post office, small stamp mill where locals could sell gold, and a hotel where dignitaries could overnight on the second floor. Today, it’s the only remaining building of the Creighton Gold Mine . . . but wait, I’m getting ahead of the story.

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A reminder of past glories, the Shingle House, now covered with trumpet vine, sits on the east side of Yellow Creek Road. (Photo by Daniel Rosen)

The Franklin Mine
The North Georgia gold belt was believed to pass through Cherokee County in a swath ten miles wide. After the Cherokee Nation was removed to Oklahoma, lotteries were held with participants receiving either a 160-acre land lot or, alternatively, 40 acres thought to be in the gold belt. In the 1832 lottery, the widow Mary Franklin received lot #466 in the northeast part of the county. Working together with another recipient, one Mr. McDonald who later became Mrs. Franklin’s son-in-law, this mine along the Etowah River prospered. More land was added to the original grant for a total holding of 1,280 acres. 

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Remains of an old bridge are visible from the banks of the Etowah. (Photo by Daniel Rosen)
After Mrs. Franklin died in 1858 (her detailed grave marker can be found at Hightower Baptist Church cemetery on Rte. 369), the property was sold to a group of northern investors. In 1883, one of the principals, J. M. Creighton, bought out the other stockholders and changed the name of the operation to the Creighton Mine. With an expansion of the mine, the village of Creighton Hills developed and the Shingle House was built.

The Creighton Mine
State Geologist W. S. Yeates, in his Preliminary Report on a part of the Gold Deposits of Georgia (1896), reported that at its peak in the late 1800’s, there existed on the banks of the Etowah “a complete mining plant with a large stamp mill, chlorination plant, office, assay laboratory, commissary, blacksmith shop, stables, and miner cottages. A nearby dam with 2 turbines powered 23 stamps, 10 concentrating machines and an electric plant.” This profitable mine was reputed to be the most technically sophisticated in the area.

In 1913 disaster struck. Shafts had been installed below the river to access underwater veins. The miners had just come up for lunch when the river bed suddenly fell into a shaft. Water rushed in and filled all the shafts. It is said a vacuum was created which pulled in trees from the banks of the river and that, for a short time, the Etowah actually flowed upstream.

Past Meets Present
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This beautiful red barn, visible on the west side of Yellow Creek Road, now serves as a storage facility for hay. (Photo by Daniel Rosen)
The river still shows signs of its past: small rapids are visible from the bank where the dam once existed; some of the mill’s wood foundation and a metal sluice which strained debris from the river remain; and vestiges of a bridge can be seen east of the present Yellow Creek Road bridge.

Using the Gold and Grass Farms sign as a timeline, Garrett has acknowledged the history of this property. First position goes to the Cherokee Nation; the timeline then progresses from mining to pasturing cattle to hay-growing to quail hunting. These last two depictions indicate Garrett’s passions.

Running a one-man bale-and-sale operation, Garrett has discovered a love for hay: “It smells good, bales good and makes the land look good.” If the rain cooperates, there are hopes of selling Bermuda grass, but, as of early June, only early fescue had been baled and stacked in the beautiful red barn visible from the road. The property will be used this fall for quail hunting when Garrett hosts a National Shoot-to-Retrieve Association event.

So ease off the accelerator as you traverse Yellow Creek Road and consider the history surrounding you. Take a good look as you cross the Etowah and contemplate a time when a busy mine and village filled the fields where now only a lonely building dwells.  

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