Mysteries At Center Post

Monday, January 17, 2022

Center Post is the name of a small but formerly very dynamic community of farmers, millers, and store-keepers who lived about half way between LaFayette and Menlo, Georgia. Several well-kept and attractive farm houses once dominated that scene, though most totally disappered after about 1950.  Only the name remains today - there on the 'Broomtown Road', identified on current maps as Georgia Highway 336.

How the place got the name 'Center Post' has always been a question in the back of my mind; I am familiar with machine parts called center posts, which function as essential parts of mills, lathes, etc., but I prefer to believe the name had a MILITARY origin, as when a compound was placed there for Indian Removal in 1838.

My distant cousin, Mary Martin Gilmer, long deceased, and of Rock Spring, Georgia, told of this compound to my mother back in the 1950's. She said her information had come directly from her grandfather, Enos Martin, a Justice of the Peace in the area, who had witnessed the actual Cherokee removal, which we now call the 'Trail of Tears'.

This Enos Martin was a teenager at the time, and had ridden his horse over from his home closer to Pigeon Mountain to witness the event. He and his dad, Joshua, probably rode over together, and may have been acquainted with some of the Natives.They (Joshua and young Enos) had arrived in the area from Greene County in 1836 - as squatters - doubtless to negotiate for the choicest pieces of land available as these new lands of southwest Walker County were opening up for white occupancy. Joshua and adolescent son, Enos, witnessed the whole thing, and I am guessing that this boy knew at least some of those Native Americans by name, as the Cherokee had always been friendly toward the whites.  Enos always remembered hearing the Indian Agent tell the chief to, "Get on your horse, Chenowee", as the group started its trek north to a larger compound at LaFayette. I have seen that name, Chenowee, spelled at least one other way, though recognizable as the same name.

Always curious about this 'land of my fathers', my many investigations have revealed that there was once a large and thriving community of Cherokee who lived along the foot of Pigeon Mountain in a highly desirable secluded area where they were free to live life as they saw fit, and with no ruling authority except their own. For they had come into the area and cleared a lot of the land, not only for agricultural needs, but also for their well-known ball-gaming activity. Some authorities think that this area was a converging spot for regular seasonal outdoor events such as the yearly Green Corn festivities, which may have included neighboring tribes of non-Cherokee origin as well. There was also an archeologically investigated religious shrine of some sort which remained hidden until recent years. Found totally by accident, this seems to prove the importance of the area among the Cherokee Nation. The land is now kept immaculately clean and beautiful by its present owners, but be advised it is NOT for TRESPASSERS!

Supposing that this area was once choice Cherokee property, we can imagine that it lingered in the memory of those displaced Native Americans for many years, the old stories being handed down from generation to generation. Curiosity abounded among the burgeoning population of young Cherokee braves, and once acclimatized to their new home in Oklahoma, one or more of these young men was delegated to return there to search for the old sites. And so it  was in 1890, when my father was six years old - and when the new TAG Railroad was being built - that a Native American man came to my grandparents' door seeking lodging. This was no problem, and he was welcomed into the Martin household as an honored guest.

This guest was on foot and gave no reason for his unexpected visit. He appeared to always be gazing into the distance as if searching for places unknown but to him. My dad said he would stare off into the distance for a time, and then "take off" toward whatever object he saw for closer inspection. No one tried to interfere with the gentleman's searches, and he was at peace to satisfy his own needs unmolested.

That was the end of my dad's story, except for a few minor details not pertinent to my theme. But, since those long-ago years when dad was telling me these things, I have found a story online - a similar story from the same year, 1890, where a Native American suddenly appeared in dad's community, but over closer to the mountain, and seemingly to watch the construction of the TAG Railroad. This story relates how an Indian would stand on a pinnacle of Pigeon Mountain to watch the railroad's progress. When all the work was done, the Indian simply vanished, never to be seen again. My dad never knew of that mysterious individual, although it could have been the same person.

OR, did the mysterious train-watcher scout around in the area near the tiny oasis community of Center Post? Did the wealthy and more influential Clarkson family welcome him in to their lovely and sturdily built brick home (built 1874) which still stands? Did they bond with one another for the future benefit of both? I can visualize the Native American gentleman being slightly flattered by the Clarksons' hospitality, and some good conversations produced as a result. I can imagine how one or more of their conversations drifted off into the realm of fine horses then being bred by the Cherokee of Oklahoma.

And it follows that at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 there was a sudden and imminent need for horses at Fort Oglethorpe. Could it be that the imagined bond between Joe Clarkson, Sr., and  the mysterious Cherokee gentleman played a part in obtaining quality animals for the United States Army's 6th Cavalry from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma? The author was alerted to this connection by a living member of the Clarkson family.

If this last connection is actual then there could be at least one more viable link with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Because in 1947 the Army closed Fort Oglethorpe and the lands were returned to civilian use. Many vacated buildings were suddenly available, and so the primary school at Center Post, long in need of newer facilities, was given at least two of those wartime structures - a major undertaking for its day. Roads had to be totally closed, with all traffic coming to a standstill on the narrow roads.

I am hoping to have given enough detail in this story for a younger historian to run with! It would be interesting to see how much further this enigmatic story linking Native Americans with white people might go if only a few more facts were uncovered.

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