Our third and final site was Ocmulgee (pronounced Oak-mull-gee, like the hard G in geese) National Monument in Macon, GA. If you go be sure to visit the Visitor’s Center and museum first. The grounds have four large earthen mounds and surrounding natural area. The emerging wetland area surrounding Ocmulgee is the result of severe flooding in 1994. The walk is about 2 miles or the mounds can be reached by car. With our boats on top of the truck we couldn’t fit through the 8′ limit of the railroad tunnel. We needed to work off some of those holiday calories anyway.
A Brief Overview Of Macon Plateau Inhabitants:
(Information is obtained from the Ocmulgee National Monument website http://www.nps.gov/ocmu/index.htm)
9,000-8,000 BC – Ice Age inhabitants adapt as large, cold weather mammals disappear in a warming climate.
8,000-1,000 BC – Hunter/gatherers develop the atlatyl (spear thrower) and woodworking tools.
2,500 BC – The first pottery is developed on the Georgia/South Carolina coast and gradually moves inland to central Georgia.
1,000 BC-900 AD – Pottery becomes decorative as well as utilitarian with scenes depicting farming activities. Semi-permanent villages are built by the Woodland Indians. Ceremonial and funeral mounds appear.
900-1150 AD – Early Mississippian Indians arrive and bring a different type of pottery to the area. They build large earthen centers to serve as council chambers, funeral mounds and ceremonial centers. Farming becomes the primary source of food. Woodland and Mississippian peoples mingle.
1150-1350 AD – The Macon Plateau inhabitants move downstream on the Ocmulgee river to establish new towns. Old Ocmulgee area is left uninhabited. The reason is prolonged drought which was also the cause for disappearance of the Anasazi in the Southwest. Evidence of this culture is seen in other mounds as far south and west as Alabama, Illinois and Oklahoma.
1350-1650 AD – The Lamar Culture develops chiefdoms with small stockaded towns and central mounds
1540 AD – Hernando DeSoto arrives and writes of well developed societies with log homes and mounds. DeSoto’s expedition seizes food supplies and leaves unknown diseases in its wake. Native people are decimated.
1565 AD – The Spanish establish the first permanent settlement at St. Augustine. Priests and soldiers travel the rivers establishing other towns and begin missionizing the Indians.
1670 AD – The British establish Charles Town (now Charleston) and initiate trade with the Indians over Spanish objection
1690 AD – The British establish a settlement at Ochese Creek (site of Ocmulgee NM) and Indians from the Chattahoochee River area move here to trade with the British. They acquire guns from the British and horses from the Spanish. The name Creek Indians is used by the british instead of individual village names.
1704 AD – Col. John Moore from Charleston takes a band of 50 white men and 1,000 Indians to Florida where they devastate the Apalachee Missions. The Spanish are driven back to St. Augustine. The surviving northern Floridians are incorporated into the Creek population and develop into the Seminole.
1715 AD – The Yamassee War erupts due to fur trade irregularities between Indians and British and because of the British selling Indians as slaves to work on Caribbean sugar plantations.
1733 AD – The Georgia colony is established on land given to Ogelthorpe by the Creeks. It serves as a buffer between Charleston and Spanish Florida.
1778 AD – During the Revolutionary War most Creeks tried to stay neutral but a Scottish-Creek chief Alexander McGillivray leads them into an alliance with the British.
Early 1800s – The Creeks cede all but a small area (Ocmulgee NM) to the US for development of a fort and a federal road from DC to New Orleans. Tecumseh, a Shawnee, makes an attempt to unify Indian nations. Tribes become divided between those loyal to the U.S. government and those who follow Tecumseh known as “Red Sticks”. During the War of 1812 the division increases and raids by “Red Sticks” increase. In 1826 the last of Creek lands are ceded to the U. S. Government.
1836 -1837 AD – Creek War of 1836 ends with 2,500 Indians marched through Alabama to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Over the next 18 mos. another 14,000 Indians are removed from the East over a 1200 mile route with only what they could carry.
1840-1874 AD – The Old Ocmulgee Fields (now Ocmulgee NM) were developed by logging, brick manufacturing and a fertilizer factory. A railroad line was built and cut into the Lesser Temple Mound. A second railroad line was built in 1874 that destroyed much of the Funeral Mound.
1933- present – Dirt to be used as fill dirt for Main Street in Macon was taken from a mound. Motorcycle riders use the mounds for off road riding, Citizens realize the impending loss of a significant historical site and seek help from the Smithsonian. In 1936 President Roosevelt signs legislation creating Ocmulgee National Monument. In 2009 a new Visitors Center was built and the museum now houses over 2,000 artifacts.
There is a reconstructed ceremonial hut over the original floor in the first mound along the boardwalk. The floor has been carbon dated to 1015 AD. Look carefully at the pictures below and you will see depressions in the soil that were seats for the council members. Each seat rises a bit higher than the previous one until the center where the chief sat. The shape before him is the Ocmulgee eagle. They are the mound builders. These mounds were ceremonial except for the funeral mound where they buried the nobility. The mounds were built by carrying baskets of dirt on their backs. Now try to do the math for the Great Temple Mound at 200′ by 300′ and 9 stories tall! Look at the picture of the Great Temple Mound. Can you see 2 small black specs on top on the right side? These are two people standing on top of the mound. That should give you some perspective of size. Today you can climb a stairway to stand on top of the Great temple mound and see the Macon skyline in the distance. The Lamar section of the park is accessible only on Ranger led excursions so we were not able to see it this visit. If you are interested in visiting Ocmulgee you might want to go to the Ocmulgee Indian Demonstration to be held over September 20-21, 2013. Macon offers many other interesting sights but we just didn’t have time this trip. OK,OK so we’ll say “When we come back.”
On the way home we stopped at Lane Orchards for some Indian River grapefruit and Honeybell oranges. We normally ordered Honeybells from Florida each January. They are the juiciest oranges you’ll ever eat. We thought we’d miss them now that we’re on the road so finding them avaiable in Georgia was a pleasant surprise. They have a very short season so this was just luck on our part.We also bought a few gourmet items in the Lane store. Another local product you should try if in the area is Stiplings sausage. We tried both the bulk and cased types, plain and smoked, hot, medium and jalepeno with cheese. All were excellent.
With this being our last night at the park we went out to dinner at what we thought was just a local place. We can’t call it a hidden gem except perhaps to us. The Daphne Lodge looks like a house cum restaurant at first. We walked in and it was a pleasant two room facility with swing music playing in the background. We sat down to look at the menu. On the front was a history of Daphne Lodge. Although the current restaurant has been a family business since 1952, the original Daphne was a dance pavilion at the turn of the century in the park that preceded Georgia Veterans Memorial Park. An excursion train used to bring people out from Cordele for picnics and a dance. Today’s restaurant has been in Southern Living as one of the top ten restaurants serving catfish and appeared on the cover of their Sea and Stream cookbook. Other feature articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I had the catfish. The portion was huge so there were definitely leftovers. Yipeee! I had quail which tasted good but all the little bones made it a real pain in the a…. to eat. The food lived up to the reviews. If you’re in the area do try it.