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Georgia Natural Wonder #246 - Octagon House - Resaca Cemetery - Gordon Co. (Part 3)
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Georgia Natural Wonder #246 - Octagon House - Resaca Cemetery - Gordon County (Part 4)

Whew Gordon County is a handful, and I still got the rest of these 75 historical markers to mention. We came to Gordon County with our visit to New Echota (GNW #202) the capital of the Cherokee Nation in the Southeast United States from 1825 to their forced removal in the late 1830s. We added a first tangent on the history of Gordon County with that earlier post. We found a second Natural Wonder in Gordon County with the Rock Garden (GNW #244) and added a second Gordon County History Tangent. We covered the Civil War Battle of Resaca with our last post (GNW #245). I reached a message too large with my post on the Battle of Resaca, so I am having to add a fourth Gordon County Post to get in the rest of the Historical Markers.

Now there is another significant skirmish from the Civil War in Gordon County. I covered the Battle of the Octagon House with my post on Barnsley Garden and Adairsville, but the battle was technically in Gordon County, so I am moving it here and counting it as a partial new Georgia Natural Wonder because it was a Wonder the Confederates held out so long in the house under Union siege and so many men lost their lives. Most of the other Historical markers cover the Civil War in Gordon County and we feature those and the Resaca Cemetery as the 2nd part of today's Wonder. A somber spiral of graves like the final scene in the Good Bad & Ugly. We show the other Historical Markers to close out Gordon County, man what a journey.

Octagon House Battle

On the morning of May 17 the head of the Federal column leaves the small town of Calhoun heading south. 


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Marker is at the intersection of North Wall Street (U.S. 41) and Harlan Street.The marker is in front of the Calhoun Post Office.

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Marker is near Angelville, Georgia, in Gordon County. Marker is at the intersection of Chatsworth Highway (Georgia Route 225) and West Pine Chapel Road.


Not a mile outside of town Confederate cavalry fires on them. The Federals charge forward capturing a few of them and chasing the rest down the road and around a sharp turn. As they round the turn a shell explodes on the road. The cavalry continually checks the Federals through the morning causing them deploy and force the Confederate cavalry from their positions before advancing further.


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Marker is in Audubon, Georgia, in Gordon County. Marker is on Owens Gin Rd NE, on the right when traveling south.

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Notice the old marker post sitting behind the new. All that is left of the mill. This right picture is cropped from the right hand side of the Coosawattee River image shown.

The gently rolling hills and fields that made up the Oothcalooga Valley south of Calhoun offered a scene of pastoral beauty—and frustration to Joe Johnston. The wide valley offered some strong points, but it was too wide to take up a position where his flanks could be secure. So, having no option, he continued to retreat southward toward the town of Adairsville on May 17, 1864.


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Marker is missing. Marker was at the intersection of Joe Frank Harris Parkway SE (U.S. 41) and Taylor Bridge Road


Throughout the day, Johnston’s cavalry fought a futile delaying action against the advance of Sherman’s forces, building barricades to block the roads and offering a few shots before mounting up and withdrawing. By the afternoon of the 17th, the bulk of the Confederates had reached Adairsville, with Gen. Hardee’s Corps bringing up the rear, when it was decided that a stand would be made to stall the Union advance. The assignment for a rear-guard action went to three brigades of Gen. Frank Cheatham’s Division.

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The Federal IV Corps encountered Hardee’s Corps just north of Adairsville, which resulted in a sharp fight of about two hours duration. Down the road roughly two miles north of Adairsville, Cheatham's Division is lounging in the trees next to the road. Their orders are not to wander far and keep their equipment with them. Around 2 p.m. the men of the 1st Tennessee watch as their cavalry begins running down the road towards Adairsville. The firing from the north grows louder as it approaches them. Here, Federal Col. Francis T. Sherman’s brigade opposed Confederate Col. George T. Maney’s Tennessee brigade, of Frank Cheatham’s Division, in Hardee’s Corps.

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“In the evening it clouded and commenced raining,” Van Buren Oldham of the 9th Tennessee noted. “Soon the canon were heard and it was known that the enemy was pressing our cavalry. We had commenced stretching our blankets when were called into line…. We were formed in an open field where the enemy’s shooters had fair play at us where their batteries were in full range.” Cheatham deployed his men along arise just north of Adairsville. Leading the advance of the Union division of Gen. John Newton was the 24th Wisconsin of Colonel Francis Sherman’s brigade, led by its young major, Arthur MacArthur (the father of Douglas MacArthur). Seeing the line of red battle flags upon the rise in his front, MacArthur deployed his men in the cotton fields along the road. Hardee was still caught off-guard by Newton’s sudden arrival. William Trask recorded that while the general “and the rest of us were quietly lying on the grass in the shade intending to take a nap, General Wheeler‘s cavalry was rapidly driven back until the enemy was directly upon us. Hardee was in his saddle in an instant and off at full speed.” Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee, one of Maney’s men, was equally surprised. “We had stacked arms and had started fires to cook supper,” he recalled, “when I saw our cavalry falling back I thought rather hurriedly.” Recognizing some friends among the troopers, Watkins “ran to the road and asked them what was the matter?  ‘Matter enough: Yonder are the Yankees, are you infantry fellows going to make a stand here?’” With that, Watkins raced off to notify Colonel Field, only to find the regiment already falling in, and indeed, all of Maney’s brigade moving briskly forward into line of battle.


At 2:30 they are ordered to their feet and sent forward to a small ridge at the double quick. Standing on the hill is what remains of the cavalry resistance. Just to the east of the road stands an Octagon shaped house with several outbuildings. The action developed primarily in and around the impressive, modern home of Robert C. Saxon. 

In 1856, Saxon, a well-to-do local planter, decided to construct his spacious new residence based on the concept promoted by noted American phrenologist Orson Fowler, who published a book promoting octagon houses in 1848, thereby creating something of an enduring architectural fad. The house rose two stories, its walls “constructed of cement, gravel, and lime to a thickness of several inches,” around a central chimney. Each floor contained four hexagonal rooms, each of “330 square feet,” and four smaller triangle-shaped chambers. This floorplan allowed each of the larger rooms to have its own fireplace, all using the chimney, as well as access to natural light. Saxon furnished the house handsomely, “with fine furniture, Brussels carpeting, lace and demask curtains, a piano, paintings, and a library.” Construction was completed in 1857, but just two years later Saxon, “an ardent advocate of education,” moved his growing family down the road to Cassville in order to send his children to that town’s “very fine” male and female academies. The Octagon house was left in the hands of a caretaker. By 1864, Saxon was a lieutenant colonel in the Georgia Reserves, while his family had refugeed south of Atlanta.


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As the Confederates near the ridge they turn into more of a mob then an organized army trying their best to reach the ridge first.  Feild’s 1st/27th Tennessee took position near Saxon’s distinctive dwelling, a two-story, eight-sided stone structure. It was, noted Watkins, “as perfect a fort as could be desired.” Across the road sat “an old log stable,” while other outbuildings dotted the property. Racing to occupy the grounds just ahead of a line of Federal skirmishers, Watkins’s company tumbled into the house, while Company C occupied the stable. A portion of the regiment ran into a old log stable just across the road from the house and the mortality there was very great. Nearly all that went into the stable were killed or wounded.

As the regiment rushes into the house they fear that the house, known as the Saxon House to the citizens of Adairsville, is made of weak material. No sooner had they run into the house, they started running back out. Colonel Feild grabbed his rifle and blocked the door ordering everyone back inside. Captain Fluorney of Company K runs to the house from one of the outbuildings and pleads with Feild that he cannot hold his position but the Colonel is adamant, "Our orders are to hold."

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The Federals are tearing down the fence around the garden in front of the house when the 1st Tennessee begins filling the rooms. Their first shots bring several Federals down and the rest retreat back down the hill. Soon the Federals return fire and their rounds ricochet off the walls of the house. The regiment breathes a sigh of relief upon the realization the house is made of concrete and able to withstand the blows of all types of ammunition with the exception of Parrott artillery shells, which will not come into play till later in the battle. 

The ensuing fight, primarily between Maney’s and Francis Sherman’s men, was bloody. Expecting to meet only more cavalry, when Sherman confronted an entire Rebel division he sent word of their presence up the chain of command. Lieutenant Turnbull of the 36th Illinois, then serving on the brigade staff, recalled that “Howard, our corps commander, was in constant communication with the front.” When Turnbull reported that “the enemy’s line covered more than our front and seemed strong at all points . . . . Sherman said, ‘let us see General Howard.” He was near and we went over and reported. The General seemed nervous and irritable.‘Your brigade must move forward. We are to go on to Adairsville tonight."

Dutifully, Colonel Sherman pressed the issue. A number of outbuildings were fired during the action, but the “Gravel” house proved virtually impregnable. It was largely immune to even field artillery, though some rounds did penetrate the walls. Sherman’s brigade suffered 167 casualties before dark ended the fighting.

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The Federals initially have trouble making head way against the Confederate line. As MacArthur’s men began to fall in the young cotton, he ordered a charge. “This was a regular ‘Indian fight,’” noted Captain Edwin Parsons. “We could not dislodge them.” Sgt. Eugene Comstock called it a “fearfully mixed up mess…. They fired from the windows and also had a cross fire on us, which made it very hot” Most of their advance line has no choice but to spread out and try to avoid the fire the Confederates pour down on them. In a compliment to the shooting skills of the 1st Tennessee, their rifle fire is mistaken for sharpshooters. Late in the afternoon more Federals arrive from the railroad tracks on the Confederate left flank as well as artillery support. The Parrott rifled cannons arrive and the Federals are finally able to pierce some of the octagon walls. One shell kills and wounds eight men from Company I. 

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Site of house and battle today.

With increased support the Federals start making more of a push to take the house and ridge. At every discharge of our guns, we could hear a Yankee squall. The boys raised a tune…as they loaded and shot their guns. At the same time the 1st Tennessee begins to run out of ammunition and volunteers are called for. Our cartridges were almost gone, and Lieutenant Joe Carney, Charly Ewing, and Billy Carr volunteered to go and bring a box of one thousand cartridges. A handful are picked and they make a run out of the house for the rear.  They got out of the back window and through that hail of iron and lead, made their way back with the box of cartridges. On their return a few are shot down as they bring ammunition into the house. Our ammunition being renewed, the fight raged on. Men looked on said the roof of the house looked as if it was on fire and that columns of smoke towered from the vortex of battle as from a volcano….


At other points along the line, the fighting built to rage. A member of the 73rd Illinois Infantry wrote:

    a battery planted in the road, just west of the stone house…. Our commander had a section of a battery-two rodman guns—brought up and put into action…. The enemy silenced our section, but we were reinforced by one section after another until we had all the artillery of our division (thirty-six pieces) in position, then we silenced the rebel battery. This artillery dueling and firing was the sharpest and closest we had ever known; the rebels did the best and accurate shooting we had ever seen them do.

As dusk approaches a Federal manages to burn the barn containing the men of Company K who are forced to evacuate. Not long after this incident the 44th Illinois and 24th Wisconsin Infantry made a heavy push on the house. According to Sam Watkins the Federals surrounded the house and attempted to storm it after their demands they surrender were refused. They were repulsed and retreated back down the ridge.

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More men were drawn into the fight on both sides, and the contest continued as the sun set. Watkins noted, “it being night, the blazes and flashes of fire from our own the Yankee guns looked like hell on earth.” The fighting continued unabated until around 11 p.m. Around midnight, Confederates slipped away. “The firing had ceased, and we abandoned the Octagon House,” Watkins recalled. (As printed above)

Our dead and wounded—there were thirty of them—were a strange contrast with the furniture of the house. Fine chairs, sofas, settees, pianos, and Brussels carpeting, being made the death bed of brave and noble soldiers, all saturated with blood. Fine lace and damask curtains, all blackened by the smoke of the battle. Fine bureaus and looking glasses and furniture being riddled by the rude missiles of war. Beautiful pictures in gilt frames, and a library of valuable books, al shot and torn by musket and cannon balls. Such is war.

The 1st Tennessee suffered around thirty causalities, two of which were members of Company D. Private James Knox Polk McEwen was severely wounded in the hand and his injuries took him out of the war. Private James Green Moody was also wounded but would return to the company. At midnight the 154th Tennessee relieves the 1st Tennessee in the Octagon House. Cleburne's Division takes over rearguard from Cheatham. The regiment moves south to Cartersville.

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Other Octagon houses in Georgia.

About midnight, as planned, Hardee’s men retreated, leaving the field to the Federals. The next morning members of the 36th, 44th, 73rd and 88th Illinois, as well as the 24th Wisconsin, viewed the scene, exploring the house and grounds. One rumor spread that the house was owned by General Hardee—perhaps he may have used it as a headquarters for a time. In any case, the Federals were angered that it had been used as a strongpoint. On the morning of the 18th, before marching after Hardee’s column, “time was taken,” wrote the regimental historian of the 73rd Illinois, “to burn the octagon gravel wall house on the Graves farm; also all the outbuildings. This was done by way of retaliation.” “Incendiarism,” tartly noted a subsequent article, “took toll of all inflammable material. Nothing was left but ruins.”

Cheatham’s division had done their job, and they continued their journey south as Johnston cast about for a new position and a more advantageous place to try to bring Sherman to battle, the Battle of Adairsville. (GNW #162) The affair at Adairsville has largely been forgotten, but serves as another example of the many small but brutal engagements in the long road toward Atlanta.

Other Civil War Historical Markers and Monuments Gordon County.

Now I have covered a lot of the County Historical Markers on the Battle of Resaca, so I try not to duplicate any already covered.

Lay’s Ferry


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Marker is at the intersection of Georgia Route 136 Connector Road and Hall Memorial Road.

Battle of Lay's Ferry

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Marker is at the intersection of Herrington Bend Road and Hunt Road, on the left when traveling north on Herrington Bend Road.

After the Battle of Resaca Markers

Calhoun Depot, The War Years , 1861 - 1865

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Marker is at the intersection of South King Street and Court Street (Georgia Route 136)

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Calhoun Depot Marker looking east towards a caboose.

Johnston's Rear Guard Stops McPherson


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Marker is on Oothcalooga Street (Georgia Route 53) 0 miles west of Chrest Drive, on the left when traveling west. The Marker is located just northeast of the bridge over Oothcalooga Creek.
The bridge over Oothcalooga Creek can be seen to the left.

Richard Peters Plantation


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Marker is at the intersection of East Belmont Drive and Peters Street.

McClure’s Ferry 

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Marker is at the intersection of West Pine Chapel Road and Pine Chapel Road, on the right when traveling east on West Pine Chapel Road. West Pine Chapel Road becomes Owens Gin Road at this intersection.

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The marker is at the Pine Chapel United Methodist Church, at the intersection of two antebellum roads.

Big Spring


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Marker is on Dews Pond Road (Georgia Route 373) 0 miles west of Cash Road, on the right when traveling west.

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Big Spring is at the opposite end of the Dew's Pond, known during the Civil War as Dew's Lake.

Old Sonora P.O. Now Sonoraville

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Marker is at the intersection of Cash Rd SE and Fairmount Hwy SE (Georgia Route, 53), on the right when traveling south on Cash Rd SE.

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State markers are now repaired and repainted in the state parks rather than at the former central shop. Many of the renovated markers have the state seal painted in red, white and blue (rather than the original gold).

The Resaca Confederate Cemetery

Now this cemetery is near the battle lines. This is a really special place in Georgia and is worthy of a Co-Wonder with the Octagon House Battle. Resaca Confederate Cemetery in Resaca, Georgia is the burial place of over 450 Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War. This particular cemetery is designated for the soldiers that fought in the Battle of Resaca which took place May 14 and 15, 1864. From the two days of battle, there are only three graves where the death date is listed as May 15, 1864. The remaining graves are listed as May 14, 1864. Some of the soldiers were identified but there are still 424 graves marked "unknown".

Our first marker is the one that directs you to the cemetery.

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Marker is at the intersection of Battlefield Parkway (U.S. 41) and Confederate Cemetery Road, on the right when traveling north on Battlefield Parkway.

After the battle, John Green, the superintendent of the Georgia Railroad, and his family returned to their plantation and the sight that met them there was almost more than they could bear. The bodies of confederate soldiers were buried in crude makeshift graves around the house on all sides, and all across the yard. Mary S. Green, his daughter, was dismayed at the bodies strewn on the fields after battle.

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Marker is on Confederate Cemetery Road, 0.4 miles east of U.S. 41, on the right when traveling east. Back and forth the battle raged through here.

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The marker is located just inside the Confederate Cemetery at the end of the road.

Compelled by a sense of respect to those who had fallen in action, Mary J. Green and her sister began collecting the bodies to bury properly. Though poverty was rampant, the Green daughters wrote friends asking for any amount money they could give. Col. John Green, the superintendent of the Georgia Railroad, gave his daughters 2.5 acres of land for use as a cemetery for these soldiers.  With money she had collected and land from her father, the Green daughters and their mother began burying soldiers in what is now the Resaca Confederate Cemetery, where 420 unknown Confederate soldiers' graves are arranged in concentric circles.

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The memory of a Georgia woman, Mary J. Green, who with her own hands gathered and interred the bones and bodies of the Confederate dead left lying on the Resaca Battlefield, should always be sacred to us. The Green daughters conceived the idea of collecting all the bodies and re-interring them in a plot of land to be known as a Confederate cemetery. The one great drawback, however, was that they had no money. In the summer of 1866, Mary began writing to her friends around the state, begging them to try and raise money for the cemetery. Although poverty was rampant in the South, the citizenry responded by giving what they could, be it a nickel, a dime, a quarter, or a dollar. Col. Green gave his daughters 2.5 acres of land with rustic bridges spanning the stream through the grounds of their cemetery.

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Memorial can be reached from Confederate Cemetery Road, 0.4 miles east of U.S. 41 when traveling east. 

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Marker is just inside the Resaca Confederate Cemetery entrance.

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Marker can be reached from Confederate Cemetery Road, 0.4 miles east of U.S. 41.

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The marker is just outside the photograph on the left. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker.

The account of the first Memorial Day, October 25, 1866, written by Mary Green: "The day selected for the dedication ... was bright and beautiful, one of those charming days of our Indian summers where no sound was heard save the fluttering of falling leaves - a suitable accompaniment to our sad thoughts, as we stood in the 'bivouac of the dead'" This cemetery and one at Winchester, Virginia, were consecrated and dedicated on the same day, each sponsoring group thinking theirs was the first Confederate Cemetery.

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Marker is on Confederate Cemetery Road, 0.4 miles east of Battlefield Parkway (U.S. 41), on the right when traveling east. The plaque is mounted to the right leg of the arch at the entrance to the Confederate Cemetery at Resaca.

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Mrs. E. J. Simmons of Calhoun, Georgia was the president of the historical society and made many improvements on the cemetery including an iron fence to replace the previous wooden one. Mrs. Simmons was also the head of a movement to place a memorial stone in the cemetery. The memorial stone reads:


    GEORGIA CONFEDERATE VETERANS

    We sleep here in obedience to law;
    When duty called, we came;
    When country called, we died.

Mrs. Simmons died September 5, 1907. She was buried in the Resaca Confederate Cemetery upon request.

Other Historical Markers and Monuments Gordon County Georgia

The Calhoun Depot

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Marker can be reached from the intersection of South King Street and Oothcalooga Street, on the right when traveling north. Marker is located on the west side of the Calhoun Depot.

Calhoun War Memorial

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Memorial is at the intersection of North Wall Street (U.S. 41) and Joseph Vann Highway (Georgia Route 225)

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Confederate Memorial Statue The J.L. Mott Iron Works N.Y. - World War Heroes (WWI)

Cherokee Indian Memorial

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Marker can be reached from Georgia Route 225, half a mile east of Newtown Church Road. Monument sits in front of the New Echota Visitor's Center.

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Cherokee Nation

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Marker can be reached from Interstate 75, 3 miles north of Georgia Route 140. The marker is located at the upper section of the northbound rest area on I-75.

Gordon County

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Marker is on North Court Street just east of North Wall Street (Georgia Route 41) Marker adjoins the Gordon County Courthouse.

Hicks/McCoy House Sites

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Marker can be reached from Chatsworth Highway (Georgia Route 225) 0.4 miles east of Newtown Church Road NE, on the right when traveling east.

Historic Liberty Cumberland Presbyterian Church Erected 1860

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Marker is on Liberty Road, 0.1 miles east of Georgia Route 53, on the left when traveling east.

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Historic Site in Journalism The Cherokee Phoenix

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Marker and Elias Cornelius Boudinot from The Biographical Dictionary of America, 1906, by Rossiter Johnson.

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The plaque is on a wall in an open courtyard at the entrance of the visitor’s center at the New Echota Historic Site.

Liberty Church Grounds

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Marker is on Liberty Road, 0.1 miles east of Georgia Route 53, on the left when traveling east. The marker stands alongside the Historic Liberty Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

New Echota Cherokee National Capital

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Marker can be reached from Chatsworth Highway/Joseph Vann Highway (Georgia Route 225) one mile east of Interstate 75. Marker is located at the parking area adjoining the Museum at the New Echota Historic Site.

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New Echota Cemetery

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Marker is on Newtown Church Road, 0.1 miles north of Newtown Creek Road, on the left when traveling north.

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This is the tomb of Chief Pathkiller. 

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This is the memorial and stone to Harriet Boudinot.

New Echota Ferry

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Marker is located in the parking lot of the New Echota Historic Site.

Oothcaloga Mission

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Marker was near Blackwood, Georgia, in Gordon County. Marker was on Belwood Road, 1.6 miles south of Georgia Route 53, on the left when traveling south. Image of Oothcaloga Moravian Mission - New Georgia Encyclopedia

Roland Hayes

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Marker is at the intersection of Oothcalooga Street and South Fair Street, on the right when traveling east on Oothcalooga Street. This 1924 portrait of Roland Hayes by Winold Reiss hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Sequoyah

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Marker is at the intersection of North Wall Street (U.S. 41) and Joseph Vann Highway (Georgia Route 225)This c. 1830 portrait of Sequoyah by Henry Inman after Charles Bird King hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Trail of Tears

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Marker is located adjacent to the museum at the New Echota Historical Site. The marker is on the right at the end of this walkway towards the entrance to the New Echota Visitors Center.




Cool
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