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Garden Club of Ellijay's Trail of Tears Memorial Project

Although not our "official" metal historic marker, this white Cherokee marble stone certainly commemorates a period of Georgia's history. It began with a simple community project concept for the Garden Club of Ellijay in April of 2007. Why not spruce up the overgrown and little noticed Ft. Hetzel Trail of Tears Marker at the intersection of Highway 515 and First Street in East Ellijay? Most passers-by were unaware of the history of the stockade type fort built in Gilmer County around l836 to house local Cherokee Indians before their forced removal in l838 to Oklahoma Territory The granite marker had been placed by caring citizens at the site in l982 honoring the memory of the suffering of the Cherokee Nation and the more than l,l00 held in Ft. Hetzel.


Pictured from left to right: Linda Ragland, Joyce Simpson. Lou Anne Nunn, Glenda Warwick, Gloria Neeley, Barbara Dunson, Sandra Turner, Virginia Keese, Linda Killingsworth, Beth Kuseliauskas, Linda Kumfert, Kathy Hanley, Sharon Britton, Judith Williams, Linda Fenner, Janice Hall, Patricia Lamb, Ruth West, Loretta Hanks, Maxine Morris, and Edna McClellan.

The East Ellijay City Council enthusiastically embraced the suggested Project and a decision was made to place a larger, more visible memorial, which would also incorporate the original marker. The Garden Club of Ellijay received an outpouring of volunteers offering help, from craftsmen to design and lay the stone, to businesses sending materials. The new memorial stone is of white "Cherokee" marble, which was found in a scrap pile already in the unexpected shape of the State of Georgia, a sure sign of fate having a hand in the undertaking. The new stone repeats the original legend, which reads: "In l838, l,l00 Cherokee Indians were assembled at this site in preparation for the evacuation to Oklahoma Territory on the Trail of Tears." Garden Club members added native perennials and herbs within the memorial stacked rock wall with Cherokee roses planted along the fencing in the background. Members of the Garden Club of Ellijay will nourish the plantings with recycled water as the drought continues in North Georgia.

The dedication of the new Trail of Tears Memorial was held on August 15, 2007 when Barbara Dunson, then President of the Garden Club of Ellijay welcomed local dignitaries, craftsmen, citizens and Garden Club members. Laurel District Director Lou Anne Bleakley attended the dedication. Tommy Cox, President of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears and State Senator Chip Pearson both spoke to the gathering about the importance of community coming together to honor the Cherokee people in creating a visible reminder of the tragedy for future generations.

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