Old Federal Road from Vanns Ferry (Winns Ferry) to the Etowah River
Settlers entered Old Federal Road at the "federal crossing", the intersection of Peachtree Road and the Savannah to Nashville Road where Radford Road crosses the railroad tracks northeast of Flowery Branch, Georgia. From here it began the descent into the Chattahoochee River valley, now covered by Lake Lanier. The road took them to a ferry run by James Vann, the mixed-blood Cherokee who negotiated the treaty, was given the right to run the ferry across the Chattahoochee River and a tavern at his Chattahoochee Plantation northwest of the crossing (the Chattahoochee flooded regularly). The crossing today is remembered by two Corps of Engineer parks on Lake Lanier, Old Federal and Vann's Ferry.
Travelers stopped at Vann's Tavern for refreshments (perhaps even a drink from his unique "walk-up window") or a night's stay. Now on the Cherokee side of the Chattahoochee settlers climbed out of the river valley (after crossing Two-Mile Creek, which is also flooded by Lanier) to the rolling plains of the Cherokee Nation populated by Cherokee planters until 1838. Settlers headed almost due northwest to Blackburn's, a distance of 15 miles. Before reaching the tavern early travelers entered the town of Hightower and crossed the Etowah at Frogtown Ferry. This would become a major crossing of Old Federal, with the road to Leather's Ford to the northeast and a road to Alabama coming off to the Southeast.
By 1815 the Blackburn's built a small community on the road and moved the ferry over the Etowah a few hundred feet downstream. The road ran along the steep bank of the river, crossing in the vicinity of a now decrepit group of buildings. During the heyday of the Old Federal Highway the area housed a tavern, livery, blacksmith shop, and there was a mill nearby. Later, Blackburn's became known as Buffington's when the owner's son-in-law took over. Leaving Blackburn's the road crossed into the Allatoona Mountains between present-day Cartersville, and Dawsonville, Georgia.
Old Federal Road from the Etowah River to Coosawattee Old Town
Ambrose Harnage lived in the Cherokee Nation with his mixed-blood wife, Nancy Sanders. Harnage was unusual for north Georgia - he was a wealthy farmer who owned slaves (about 20). He build a tavern on the site of the Tate House adjacent to the Old Federal Road probably in 1810, the year he married Sanders. Nancy's mother married into the Sanders family, one of the first family of settlers on North Georgia, predating the American Revolution. By 1830 a small village known as Harnageville had evolved around the tavern. This was the seat of government when the Georgia Legislature created the Original Cherokee County. Although it was listed as a courthouse, Harnage's was not the site of any criminal proceedings; it only provided limited services to settlers. Opposite Harnage's was Daniels Inn, a second option for people who came through. Harnage's was a two-day walk from Vann's Ferry, but only a single day's ride. Various members of the Scudders, Harnages and Daniels were related by marriage.
From this point the trail continued to Jasper. North of Jasper a home known by various names but most commonly as the Trippe House, served travelers after 1830. From 1819 to 1830 people following the Old Federal Road would have to continue to the Cherokee mission at Talking Rock. Known to early settlers as Taloney Mission and to later settlers as Carmel Mission, missionaries Moody Hall, Issac Proctor and Daniel Butrick greeted travelers warmly but did not serve alcohol, as most of the other stops did.
From here settlers continued northwest, crossing the Coosawattee ("Little Coosa") River near the present-day reregulation dam at Carters Lake. This was the site of an ancient Indian town of Coosawattee, probably one of the last active settlements of Moundbuilders in Georgia. When the Cherokee from west North Carolina and east Georgia fled settlers encroaching the land, Coosawattee became known as "Coosawattee Old Town."
After passing Coosawattee, the Old Federal Road came to another intersection. A second Federal Road headed north towards Knoxville. The Old Federal Road to Nashville continued to the northwest, past the site of Fort Gilmer, one of the infamous Cherokee Removal Forts, ordered to built by General Winfield Scott after he relieved John Wool as commander of federal forces in the Cherokee Nation in 1838. Although this was hastily built and served to house Cherokee from the nearby area, it also served as a consolidation point for Cherokee from the east and south being moved north to Chattanooga or Cherokee Agency in Tennessee. The Cherokee would be forced west on a march known as the Trail of Tears.
Continuing almost due northwest the Old Federal Road passed a seccond Cherokee Removal Fort south of Spring Place, Fort Hoskins. After the fort was a Moravian mission that was established with the help of James Vann. Vann's House (Spring Place) was astonishing to the settlers, who could not imagine such a splendid home in the middle of the Cherokee Nation. In 1813 a post office was added on the grounds of the home. "Rich Joe" Vann welcomed United States President James Monroe to the home in 1819.
Continuing its course north, the Federal Road turned west at the curve in the road designated today as "Old Prater's Mill Road," following the section of the road east of Georgia State Road 71. Just west of Georgia 71 and Georgia 2, the road headed almost due west to what is known today as Ringgold Gap. After snaking through the gap the road continued past John Ross's at the south end of Missionary Ridge (in the town of Rossville).
Originally, the old Federal Road headed west from Rossville to the Cherokee village of Nickajack, following Running Water Creek through a gap in the Cumberland Mountains. Here settlers would cross the Tennessee River on a ferry and continue to Nashville. By 1815 John Ross's father Daniel established a ferry across the Tennessee River at Ross's Landing, and many settlers began using it, perhaps guided by the clerk at the John Ross's general store or the postmaster at the post office near his house.
Today, Ross's Landing is the site of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, and it is honored by a beautiful park next to the Tennessee River.