Georgia's Traveler's Rest Historic Site was built to accommodate adventurers on America's western frontier. East of present-day Toccoa, Georgia, the site includes the original Traveler's Rest and other original buildings as well as faithful reproductions of a wellhouse and a meathouse. The park was established in 1955 when the buildings and three acres of land were sold to the state by Mary Jarrett White, granddaughter of Devereaux Jarrett.
In the late 1700's northeastern Georgia was Indian Country and only the bravest souls ventured out into the frontier past Augusta. Tugaloo Valley was home to one of the largest and earliest Cherokee Indian villages in the state. Tugaloo Old Town guarded this valley since 1450 AD.
During the American Revolution a war between the Cherokee and Georgia settlers erupted in response to the Cherokee siding with the British. Bitter fighting broke out marked by militia destroying Tugaloo Old Town and battles in North Georgia, including Colonel Pickens raid into Long Swamp (near Ballground, in present-day Pickens County and Cherokee County, Georgia), and The Battle of Lookout Mountain (1782). After losing to Georgia settlers, the Cherokee and Creek Indians ceded the land near Travelers Rest.
Major Jesse Walton received a land grant from Georgia Governor George Walton (no relation) and moved to the frontier in 1784 with his wife and young child. Walton visited the general vicinity prior to establishing his home on the land that now encompasses Georgia's Traveler's Rest.
Jesse Walton was present when the Treaty of Hopewell was signed on November 28, 1785. Over the next five years relations with the Cherokee worsened, mostly because of Georgia settlers repeatedly violating the treaty by encroaching on the land promised to the Cherokee. As the Treaty of Hopewell disintegrated in the late 1780's, tensions between the Cherokee and settlers increased. Over several weeks in the spring and early summer of 1789, settlers raided Cherokee towns and the Cherokee raided the settlers' forts.
Walton, who earlier secured his family in a nearby fort for protection, returned to his home to work the land and defend his home in July, 1789. The Cherokee caught Major Walton off-guard one day and he was brutally murdered. His blood-covered body was carried to the home of Revolutionary War hero Benjamin Cleveland. Brother-in-law Joseph Martin, who lived nearby, is brought to the house to help but Walton died.
Walton's widow sold the land to Martin. At the navigable end of the Tugaloo River, the property was considered a good investment by many. In these days the major form of transportation was by water, and the rivers were the first great roads inland to the heart of America. Martin's land is located next to an old Cherokee Trading Path, and James Wyly realized this was where his future lied.
Over the next 6 decades Georgia will expand six-fold, and the strategically located Tugaloo will provide the men and material to build much of the northeastern part of the state. Wyly buys the land from Mr. Martin for $2000.00 around the turn of the century. In 1805 Wyly is chosen to be lead contractor on the Unicoi (Unicoy) Turnpike, running from the area of Maryville, Tennessee to the Tugaloo, and directly past the property he purchased from Martin.
Wyly begins to build the southern end of the house that becomes known as Traveler's Rest in 1815, two years after the Unicoi Turnpike is completed. This wide road features banked turns and tolls to repay investors for the improvements. Within a year this highway becomes a major north-south route. In 1819 the entire route is ceded by the Cherokee to the state of Georgia. Wyly builds the business, expanding into other areas to serve the needs of travelers.
Over the next 14 years Wyly served travelers in a variety of ways. Business, and the inn, expanded in a number of different phases. Wyly also served the state government as commissioner charged with improving navigation on the Savannah and Tugaloo Rivers. In 1833 Devereaux Jarrett bought the inn from Wyly and expanded on the services that Wyly offered. Over the next 20 years Jarrett operated Traveler's Rest as a plantation, tanyard, cotton gin, blacksmith, grist mill, post office, sawmill, tavern, country store and inn. Nearby, on what would eventually be 14,000 acres owned by Mr. Jarrett, were a gold mine, ferry, and toll. At his death in 1852, he was one of the wealthiest men in North Georgia.
Jarrett served a number of notables, including John C. Calhoun, who owned a number of businesses in the area of Dahlonega and was a major investor in a railroad that was to run from South Carolina to Cincinnati. Joseph E. Brown, governor and senator from Georgia is rumored to have spent his wedding night on the first floor of the inn.
Following his death, the land owned by Devereaux Jarrett was divided among his family. Jarrett's son, Charles Kennedy Jarrett continued to run his businesses, but in the 1870's changing times eliminated the need for the inn. While the navigable Tugaloo was still a major shipping lane, the passenger traffic had been gone for years, disappearing with the advent of the railroads. After it was closed to business travelers, it was still used by family members.
Mary Jarrett White, who sold her great-grandfather's inn to the state of Georgia, was the first woman in the state to vote. In May, 1920, White was permitted to cast a ballot having registered as as required by law. This was three months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women in Georgia the right to vote. How her name got on the voter rolls is unknown.
The large main hall is two stories. At the south end of the building, under the porch, is a miniature of the estate that park rangers can use when discussing the inn and surrounding area. Among the other original buildings are the dairy house, slave cabin, and a 20th century home built by Devereaux Jarrett's granddaughter and her husband.
The dairy house, closest to Traveler's Rest on the north end, was also used to raise silkworms. Above the first floor are servant quarters now being used to house two looms, one of which is original to the plantation. The well-house nearby is operational.
At the north end of the present-day grounds is the home built by Sally Grace Jarrett and her husband, Sam Adams. This is the only 20th Century building on the property, with the exception of the public restroom to the east of Traveler's Rest.
Travelers Rest Historic Site Route 3,
Toccoa, Georgia, 30577