Loran Smith


SAUTEE-NACOOCHEE – This is an unincorporated community which brings about a salient point. If you took a year attempting to find your way into all the unincorporated settlements in our state, you might have difficulty accomplishing your mission.

There are, believe it or not, 736 unincorporated communities in the state of Georgia.

Did you know that:

• Cumberland is an unincorporated community? If you have ever taken in a Braves game at Truist Park, then you have been to Cumberland.

• Pinpoint? This unincorporated community in Chatham County is the home of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

• Then there are Rex, Rising Fawn, Hortense, Smithsonia, Yipsi-lanti and Warthen, among others.

If you have traveled south on Georgia 15, Warthen is where Aaron

Burr is supposed to have spent the night in a jail, which is about as far from a maximum-security facility as we are from the Milky Way. This was supposed to have taken place when Burr was on the lam following his du-el with Alexander Hamilton.

A professor at nearby Georgia College in Milledgeville, a few years back, said that he doubted the incarceration of Burr took place which up-set the residents of Warthen, which is pronounced “were-then.” They like the legend of Burr’s confinement.

You have a similar situation here with the lovers leap story involving a Cherokee maiden and a Chickasaw warrior whose romance was forbid-den by tribal elders. A war party chased down the lovers, throwing Sau-tee, the smitten warrior, off the mountain. Nacoochee was so heart bro-ken, she, in distress, jumped after her lover to her death.

“That didn’t happen,” says Jimmy Harris, proprietor of Unicoi Outfit-ters in Helen. Jimmy is not a spoilsport, but supports the view that the story is another one of those legends that is not based on fact. However, I like the story and have told it often—sometimes with and sometimes without the disclaimer.

Sautee-Nacoochee is a mountain suburb of Helen. There is much to enjoy about this land of the Chattahoochee, Georgia’s most romantic river. There are 263 residents here including Scott Woerner, the Georgia Hall of Fame defensive back who is a retired school teacher with Texas roots and a leaning toward nature. He has a travel bug and an affinity for the outdoors that you might expect from L. L. Bean, himself.

When Woerner played in the United States Football League, he and his wife Marianne were inspired by the culture of Europe. Playing for the London Monarchs of the NFL Europe League, he had the unique experi-ence of football scrimmage sessions in Hyde Park and connecting with the capitals of Europe.

At the conclusion of the season, most players could not wait to board the team plane back to the U. S. Scott, and Marianne, however, purchased a Eurail pass without an itinerary. When they stopped in a city, they had no room reservations, knew no popular restaurants and no resi-dents, but had the time of their lives.

There is a cultural center here, the Folk Pottery Museum, and, of course, the “Old Sautee Store.” Both Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Time spent here last week as fall color was subsiding, nonetheless, brought about a surge in emotions. The drive from Helen to Hiawassee and up the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway to Blairsville brought about those warm feelings you get when nature reigns supreme—very little roadside trash and absence of billboards.

However, you can experience the best and worst in Helen whose Alpine theme has brought countless tourists to a town where there seems to be more tattoo parlors than restaurants, the insult of motorcycle ca-cophony slamming the air and tubers who indiscriminately trash the Chat-tahoochee with beer cans in spring and summer.

There are high times, however, when you fish for a rainbow on the Chattahoochee by day and enjoy a nice dinner and hospitality arranged by Judy Lizotte and Leanna Cody up on the mountain at Valhalla in the evening. The various polluters won’t keep me from going back to Helen.

Loran Smith is a syndicated columnist and a longtime UGA radio personality. 

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