Watson’s Cotton Gin Factory

So the other day I was doing some research on Uncle Jerry’s spring, seeing if I could find any kind of information on it when I came across a picture of the historical marker in Palmyra. I knew where this marker was an I had read it once before but this time through something stood out.

Near here, at the “square” spring, is the site of Watson’s Cotton Gin Factory, where “articles manufactured are said to be unrivaled in their performance and durability.”

You know where this is headed… Lowry and I set out to find it. We went back to Uncle Jerry’s spring and began to look around. While digging through the brush Lowry recalled a trek in which her and a few friends had found a square spring once before while exploring the edges of the creek. A hundred feet of so through the woods, dodging thorn vines and kicking can, we came near a clearing. “If there was a factory, maybe they had to clear the woods for construction”, I thought to myself…

After we checked out the square spring, we spoke to the property owner and it turns out the previous owner cleared the land so so-much for my hunch but it all worked out anyway. The owner had heard that during the civil war confederate soldiers, in fear of Sherman bringing his men through the area, dismantled the mill and threw boulders into the spring to keep Union soldiers from being able to use it. It was a wonderful venture and we will continue to dig for information.

Some History:
In 1843 Jesse H. Watson moved to Palmyra, Ga. In 1849 he was appointed Postmaster(1). The machinery for the mill was propelled by water taken from an underground spring originating from the near-by Indian Springs to the Kinchafoonee creek some 300 yards north. The limestone was cut back and the head of water raised high enough to run the machinery. In May of 1850 he placed an ad in the Albany Patriot looking for workmen for his Cotton Gin Factory. By 1852, testimonials began rolling in about the gins made at Watson’s factory. Most were boasting about the new rounded saw tooth Watson had patented, and it was even mentioned in the January edition of Augusta’s Southern Cultivator in 1854.

Unfortunately in April of 1857, an ad was placed in The Albany Patriot for the selling of Watson’s 10 acres west of the Kinchafoonee (to include his home, factory, and mill), 125 acres east of the Kinchafoonee, as well as 6 slaves, a road wagon, a lot of house furniture, and “other articles too tedious to mention” in order to pay back his creditors. The last I could see of Jesse H. Watson was a call to mail in the February 24, 1900 copy of The Albany Weekly Herald where he had mail that was undeliverable.

(1) Source: http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/lee/history/postoffice.txt
Source: http://files.usgwarchives.net/
Newspaper Clippings:


The Elkmont Wonderland Club

With our honeymoon approaching, Lowry and I were trying to plan stuff for us to do in Gatlinburg, TN. Lowry had seen an article about an abandoned town in the Smokies called Elkmont. On our last day in Gatlinburg we set out to find it. There is quite a bit of information on the web ever since Jordan Liles’s video [here] went viral, so figuring out how to find it was a simple Google search. Quite a few other media companies picked up on his story, passed it around a bit so that others have been able to add their own information to it. Here’s my contribution.

Some History:
The first permanent settlers appeared around the 1840’s and settled along Jake’s Creek. Only 2 of those cabins remain today, Avent cabin and Levi Trentham cabin (these have been preserved). By the 1880’s John English, a logger, began his industry in the area. Due to flooding, English folded the company in 1900, but in 1901 Colonel Wilson Townsend picked up the endeavor. Elkmont began as a temporary logging camp, and resembled a depression-era shanty town. It had a transient hotel, post office, a commissary, maintenance sheds, and shacks. Thus Elkmont started as the base of operations for the Little River Lumber Company in 1908. By 1910 the company began selling plots of land to people from Knoxville who enjoyed the mountainous areas (they then started the Appalachian Club just a bit south of Elkmont). In 1911, Townsend gave Charles Carter several acres of land on a hill overlooking Elkmont with the stipulation that Carter build on it within one year. In 1912, Carter made good on the promise when he opened the Wonderland Hotel. Billed as a resort lodge, the hotel contained 50 rooms with an extensive balcony looking out over the valley and Meigs Mountain. Soon, the area evolved into a private getaway for Knoxville’s elite. By 1919, several people who had been rejected into joining the Appalachian Club and getaway bought the Wonderland Hotel and started the Wonderland Club, erecting cottages along the way. In 1920 the idea floated up about making the area into a National Park. Little River Logging Company concluded business in the Elkmont area in 1925. Fearing a lawsuit from the residents in Elkmont, Wilson Townsend, in the secret dark of night, removed the railroad tracks leading to Elkmont. The residents were outraged, but Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, who owned a cottage here as well, had a road built where the railroad was. In 1926, Colonel Wilson Townsend sold 76,000 acres of land to the state of Tennessee making the first sale towards it becoming a National Park. In 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed – the first in the United States, and most of the cottage owners at Elkmont were given lifetime leases. When the last person in the structure would pass away, the lease would transfer to the federal government. In 1952, the leases were converted into 20-year terms, renewed in 1972. But in 1992, the National Park Service refused to renew the lease, and under the park’s General Management Plan, the cottages and hotel would be demolished. In 1982, the General Management Plan called for the demolition of all the propeties, to allow nature to take over. In 1994, special status was given to the Wonderland Hotel and a few of the cottages and they were listed under the National Register of Historic Places. In 2005, the Wonderland Hotel collapsed from a structural failure. Parts of the hotel deemed to have historical value were removed and the rest cleared, leaving only the annex and a chimney fall. In its 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement for Elkmont, the National Park Service announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and eighteen cabins in the Appalachian Club section. The remaining structures will be carefully documented and removed

Make sure to check my source links below for older pictures of when the club was in use as well as a personal account of one of it’s visitors.


The Abandoned Cabins of The Elkmont Region of The Great Smokey Mountain – AbandonedPlaygrounds.com
Wonderland Hotel – DMarlin.com
Wonderland Hotel – OffBeatTenn.com
Beginning of Our Love Affair With Smoky – ToBeholdTheBeauty-al.BlogSpot.com

Alum Cave

The first section of the Alum Cave Trail, up to Arch Rock, traverses over a fairly gentle grade. Hikers will follow Alum Cave Creek over the course of the first mile. Just before reaching Arch Rock, however, the trail begins following the Styx Branch.

Palmyra’s Indian Springs

I don’t have a lot of information on this spring yet. But I promise I am researching it.

The only reference I can find to this actual spring is the attached photo from 1918.


The Covered Footings

So back in October I was helping a local makerSpace group set up for a 5k race down by the river. After I was through, I took the opportunity to take a few closer pictures of the remains of the base for the covered bridge that was mentioned in a previous post. (Here)

Keep in mind these braces are over 150 years old, under water most of the year.

Camera: Samsung Galaxy S2