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Helen:Her Story
First Settlers Arrive
About North Georgia

1892 map of the Helen area showing the Unicoi Turnpike
After the American Revolution settlers began to push into north Georgia. The Cherokee land cessions of 1782-3 and of Wofford's Tract in 1804 brought settlers to the eastern end of the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley. By 1810 settlers encroach once more on the Cherokee's "Enchanted Land."

Within two years investors hired James Wyly to build the Unicoi Turnpike from Tellico Blockhouse in Tennessee to the navigable end of the Tugaloo River near his home, now Travelers Rest Historic Site. The road followed existing mountain trails known collectively as the Cherokee Trading Paths that extended from Virginia to Georgia and from South Carolina to Western Tennessee.

The Unicoi Turnpike entered Tennessee's Unicoi Mountains east of Tellico Block House in eastern Tennesse and continued east to present-day Murphy, North Carolina. Here it joined the Hiawassee River, which it paralleled through the southern end of the Smoky Mountains to the Cherokee villages of Quo-Neashee, Hiawassee, and Choestoe.

From Cloestoe the Unicoi Turnpike climbed the rugged eastern ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Unicoi Gap and quickly joined the Chota River (today's Chattahoochee River) which it forded a number of times in a series of switchbacks. The lower portion of River Road and Escowee Street in present-day Helen closely follow the bed of the original Unicoi Turnpike.

One of the earliest businesses in the Helen Valley opened just south of the city. A grist mill owned by John Brown ground the crops of area farmers including corn, wheat and oats. In addition to the mill the building also contained a general store. Today's Nora Mill uses the dam originally built by Brown.


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Alpine Helen
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