Thursday, December 29, 2011

Legends of Fort Mountain State Park

There's so much to do around Ellijay - but unfortunately, it's waaay too cold to get out and about right now. There is one particular place of interest that I can't wait to hike and explore next spring - that is Fort Mountain State Park, located on Hwy 52 in Chatsworth, Ga, not too far from my Mom's cabin.

Wild animals are plentiful here. Back in the fall, step-dad and I drove Hwy 52 to Chatsworth - on the way back, just as we were entering Fort Mountain State Park, a couple of deer were on the right side of the road. It's lucky that we were going slow, because the deer, instead of standing still or moving farther down the side of the mountain, darted right out in front of us in order to get to the left side of the road! Typical 'deer' behavior - they are terrified of vehicles. But it was a joy to see - deer are very beautiful animals.

I was wondering why this State Park was named 'Fort Mountain' - so I came home and researched it. What I found was very interesting - a State Park blessed not only with wild Appalachian beauty, but one surrounded by archaeologist fact, mysteries, and Indian/Welsh legends/folklore.

Near the summit of Fort Mountain, there is a 928 ft. length stone wall, running east - west, that is believed to date back to 400 A.D. The wall was constructed with stones from the surrounding area of the mountain(s) - at one time it was probably formidable. But today it is very low not very wide - indeed, over the centuries, many of the stones have obviously been removed.

Archaeologists do not believe that it was constructed for defense because there is no source of water near the wall. Some people believe that the wall may have been built for ceremonial purposes or to watch the skies, such as with Stonehenge in England.

Two legends are at the heart of Fort Mountain State Park.

According to the Cherokee Indian legend, there was once a race of people who lived here whom they called *the moon-eyed people*. These people were tall, fair-skinned, fair-haired, wore beards, lived under-ground, came out only at night, and could not see during certain phases of the moon. These *moon-eyed people* are the ones who constructed the stone wall on top of Fort Mountain. I've read two different versions of this legend - one says that eventually the *moon-eyed people* were annihilated by the Creek Indians - another version insists that the Cherokee were the ones who dispersed them.

But who were the *moon-eyed people* and what exactly was meant by *moon-eyed*? Was it the color of the eyes or the shape? Many theories are around for the taking.

Which leads us to the second legend...that a welsh prince, Madog ab Owain Gwynedd, of England, first sailed to Mobile Bay in 1170 AD and his name is connected with several sites in America. According to Welsh, Native American, and American legends/folklore, his colony of people interbred with the Native American Indians, producing a tribe of Welsh speaking Indians.

However, this legend is in conflict with the archaeological date on the construction of the stone wall.

In any case, near the summit of Fort Mountain, there exists an ancient stone wall. Whether is was constructed for defense, ceremonies, or star-gazing, we may never know; nor will we ever be sure about who the *moon-eyed people* truly were. But whoever they were - they left us mysteries to behold in one of God's most beautiful places on earth.

Fort Mountain State Park

Fort Mountain Black Bear Invasion