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Tragedy and Triumph a look at “heroes, villains, legends and folklore” of Pickens history

Bent Tree resident, historian, releases first book

            For historian Christopher Feldt, the past is something you can touch in the present with the right combination of curiosity, passion, and good fortune.

            Feldt, a hands-on detective of local history, follows every possible rabbit trail on his hunt for the stories from generations past. He traces connections back to the point of their exhaustion, and will track down physical remnants of places that once were, buried deep in the woods or high atop a mountain.

            What Feldt has uncovered along the way is chronicled in part in his new book Tragedy and Triumph: A North Georgia History Compendium. In the 200-plus page volume, Feldt shies away from the most commonly-known history of the area in favor of more obscure but intriguing stories of Pickens County’s past. The book does touch on local magnates and visionaries like Col. Sam Tate whose dream “weaved in and out of sundry lives, enterprises, communities, and America itself,” but gives space to unsung people and places that came before us, and offers new threads to familiar historical tapestries. 

            Tragedy and Triumph follows a linear path from the area’s first inhabitants, then on through to European settlement, moonshiners and outlaws, the Depression era, modern criminals, and finally forgotten places. Feldt opens each section with an original poem inspired by that chapter’s content.

Author and historian Christopher Feldt

            In its pages, we meet the inimitable Blink Drummond, a debutant skilled with horses who worked at the Dude Ranch that was on what is now the Bent Tree golf course. We read about the unorthodox life of the astute Harvard Professor E.C. Perrow who became Col. Sam Tate’s surveyor and director of the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. We hear of forgotten taverns and tombstones, and of staged deaths and stories of woe.

            From Potts Cemetery to the lost Hamlet of Tate, Feldt has discovered many of the sites he writes about in person, tracking them down through his own research. The abandoned mill sites, solitary rock chimneys, shade trees of a long-gone farm, lost villages and rock walls he finds provides evidence of a place’s past.

            “I love Pickens County and this area because the history is still there if you know where to look,” Feldt said. “It hasn’t been paved over like it has in other more metropolitan areas. You can see the history with your own eyes, touch is with your own hands.”        

            Feldt’s book has all the elements of a good story: “Heroes, villains, legends and folklore, land barons and shrewd mavericks, success and failure, tragedy, and triumph” – he leaves it up to you to decide who fits which architype.

            Prolific author and researcher Robert Davis, who has appeared in over 2,000 publications and has been featured on CNN, Time, Smithsonian, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal, writes of Tragedy and Triumph, “Too many places have a history that exists only on paper in archives and books, beyond what can be physically experienced or felt. Chris not only reveals the heritage of this special place, but shows that in Pickens County, William Faulkner’s claim, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past,’ to be very true.”

            Feldt recently held a book signing at Sharptop Distilling Company, and will hold a second at Bent Tree on Saturday, April 6 @ 4 p.m. at the Fireside Lounge (open to Bent Tree residents and teir guests only). He will be a featured speaker at a Pickens Historical Society’s History & Beer series this fall.

            Feldt is a regular contributor to the Pickens Progress, and also chronicles his work on his website www.pickenspast.com.

            Buy Tragedy and Triumph: A North Georgia History Compendium on his website, BarnesAndNoble.com or by emailing him at chris@pickenspast.com.

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