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February 2020
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Potts Mountain Farmers Market offers access to hiking

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Some of the vendors at the Potts Mountain Farmers Market.


Saturday marked the first day for the farmers market off Steve Tate Highway for this year. This is the second year Atlantic Coast Conservancy (ACC), which has 1,300 acres there under permanent conservation status, has organized the market. The market will run every Saturday morning until fall.

The crowd of shoppers Saturday was impressive considering the threat of rain. A good number of vendors were there mainly offering handmade crafts and art with some farm fresh meat, eggs and seafood.

Dr. Robert Keller, the founder and CEO of the land trust headquartered in their large building on South Main Street, met me there to show off one of the mostly unknown features of the area his group is charged with permanently protecting, a walking trail to the old Potts family cemetery, about half-mile from the parking area.

The trail, which ACC has cleaned up and installed directional signage, uses an old woods road and begins with a couple of low spots that were soggy after the rain. Otherwise the trail is mostly smooth and would be appropriate for people who prefer walking trails to more rugged hiking.

The path does begin with an uphill steep enough to get your heart going, but nothing that would scare off those wishing to avoid a cardio-workout.

potts mountain trailAfter the first hill, perhaps the ridge referred to as the homeplace Young and Teresa Potts established in the 1840s, the rest of the walk is gently rambling with slight ups and downs.

Like almost all hiking in north Georgia, the trail is a typical “green tunnel” with thick tree cover throughout. It cuts through some very nice mature hardwoods offering pleasant scenes within the woods, but no vistas.

The trail eventually reaches Highway 53, though the last section, underneath a powerline, is not pleasant walking with the undergrowth.

Of note near along the way is the Potts family cemetery. The history of the Potts family is well documented in the book Wolfscratch Wilderness by Charlene Terrell, from 1994.

Terrell dug up an amazing amount of history on Young Potts, whom the book said preferred rough, isolated land. According to the Wolfscratch history, Potts paid $100 for the property there and moved onto it in 1836. Potts and his wife Teresa married in 1839 and built a large homestead with a detached kitchen and outlying barns, corn cribs and other sheds. Rumor at the time had it that Potts had made a lot of gold money before coming here and that afforded the house that would have been considered a mansion at the time.

Terrell’s history indicates that the cemetery was nearby the old homeplace.

But during Saturday’s hike with Dr. Keller, no obvious sign of the old homeplace, such as a chimney, could be seen. 

The book goes on to say the couple’s first child, Augustus, died a year after his birth in 1843 and for this child they established the cemetery, with Young Potts declaring all future generations of the family should be buried there.

Potts himself died in 1856 and is buried there. Most of the graves are marked with small marble squares without inscription. One larger tombstone contains an inscription but was difficult to read.

There is also a large marble monument to Elizabeth Potts, one of the Potts’ daughters who died in 1883. The mother, Teresa, had the monument placed there and inscribed to her.

Teresa died in 1890 and according to the Wolfscratch history is buried in the family plot with no marker at all.

The Wolfscratch history also contains two other interesting tales from the property. First, is that Young Potts murdered a slave before the Civil War and buried him near the family cemetery and it was later rumored that the slave’s ghost was occasionally seen.

Second, that Potts kept up a small Native American cemetery somewhere near the top of Potts Mountain during his lifetime. But Wolfscratch author Terrell said at the time of her writing no clear sign of the Native American cemetery was visible.

The historian Terrell emphatically pointed out that both the slave account and the Cherokee graveyard were not documented and her re-telling was from family stories.

As for  today, people who like old cemeteries and anyone looking for a forested area to take a short hike will enjoy the area.

Keller said that ACC doesn’t have any firm plans to expand the hiking opportunities, but they are pleased to offer recreation for walkers in the east part of the county. He invited birders as well as mountain bikers to use the trail.

The easiest way to access the trail is from the farmers market area at 618 Steve Tate Highway in Marble Hill.