Second in the series
Old Federal Road marker on Hwy. 53.
By Dave Altman
This is the second in a series of articles on Georgia Historical Markers in Pickens County.
I should be getting used to this by now; thinking I know exactly where a historical marker is only to pass it several times without knowing it. Most of us have driven by this particular marker many times and not even noticed it was there.
It’s the “Old Federal Road” marker located on Hwy. 53 very close to the Jasper City Limits sign - about three miles north of Tate. Like most markers, the area doesn’t look like much now, fronting a small shopping center housing the Pickens Medical Supply and just north of the Pickens Paws Pet Salon. More importantly, to a tired marker hunter, it’s within walking distance of the Jasper Dairy Queen. But the marker’s 21st century surroundings belie its historical significance.
This marker sits on the first road in Georgia’s history to be used for vehicular traffic - although ‘vehicular’ is somewhat of a misnomer, since the first vehicle on this road was technically the stagecoach. Locally, Old Federal Road linked Tate to Talking Rock - but it also was part of the road (the historians call it an early “thoroughfare”) that linked Georgia to Tennessee and was widely traveled by the Cherokees. As I looked at this marker, and tried to ‘see’ where the road used to be, I wondered what the Cherokees would think of it now, and whether, if they were here, would they travel by horseback to the DQ drive through for a Blizzard.
The New Georgia Encyclopedia says that the road was first used to drive animals to markets in the South. Back then, settlers had to get permission from the Cherokees to travel down the road.
Speaking of stagecoaches, there was a stagecoach stop here at this marker known as the “Daniels” stop. As with all markers, we wonder what this area might have been like in 1803, two years before Georgia would distribute via ‘lottery’ parcels of land that used to belong to the Cherokees and the Creek Indians. When you go past it next time, try to envision the wildness of this exact location 210 years ago. Who road on those stagecoaches? Were they ever robbed? How long would it have taken to get from here to Tate by stagecoach?
This marker, situated on busy Hwy. 53, may be passed by more motorists than any of the 10 historical markers in Pickens County. But none of the others (so far as we can tell) have a Dairy Queen within 500 feet (although those in Jasper are surrounded by many fine restaurants).
After my marker-hunting, I took a low-cal breather at the DQ, ordering a chocolate dipped cone and a Diet Coke (yes, I know one more than offsets the benefits of the other) and raising a toast to the Cherokees and the Creeks and our ancestors whose hard lives are honored by these markers.
That little caffeine infusion gave me plenty of energy to visit the next marker: the old jail. Watch for that in an upcoming issue of the Progress.