View Larger MapThe dark “Lake” is Nodoroc via Google Earth today.
The following is an excerpt from “The History of Jackson County” written in 1814 by Gustavus James Nash Wilson.
“It burns! It burns!” To the party of men and women, who, led by Umausauga, left Fort Strong on the following morning, these words as used on the previous day by their leader, were a profound mystery. The anxious company consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Strong, Mr. and Mrs. Leon Shore, Helen Draper, Abel Trent, and Edward Belknap. This, with the dogs, left a comparatively strong force at Talasee, which was always well guarded night and day. They went by the way of Calamit, and there they left the Trail and turning to the right, rode through the dense forest to some point on the high plain upon which Chapel church now stands. There they halted, and looking to the north the leader pointed out a long, slender column of smoke which seemed to pierce the region of the clouds. The sun shone brightly and there was not a passing zephyr to break the reigning stillness, while slowly, silently, solemnly, the curling, twisting, airy wreaths of intensely black smoke, marked the exact location of the mysterious Nodoroc, the Indian’s place of torment. Doubtless it was the first view of an Anglo-Saxon eye, and very impressive. Said Mr. Strong in an effort to describe the scene:
“I am utterly unable to describe the scene or to express in words the feelings it produces. When I take into consideration the associations connected with it and with the other more awful one described in the word of God I am so overcome with the comparison suggested that I can think only of St. John’s words in Revelation—’And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.’ ”
The sky above, the air and the woods around, and the faces of the company, all seemed to be shrouded in a funeral pall. The solemn spell was not broken when the leader again pointed to the column of smoke and all moved forward. Having gone a short distance they entered a valley in which all the animals in the country seemed to have collected.
There, amid the dismal solitudes of a primeval forest, where the white man never trod before, unknown races of people, antedating the red man, may have stood and wondered over the mysteries of Nodoroc just as did the pioneer company from Talasee; for the column of smoke, the lake of boiling mud, and the flames of fire that played over it must have been indescribably grand and awfully suggestive. Who knows that the place did not mark one of the last vestiges of primeval time when “the earth was without form, and void, and darkness moved on the face of the deep.”
It was evident that work of which even the red man knew nothing had been carried on at this curious place during the long gone ages of the past. At the western end of the hot mud lake, and fifty steps from its margin, there was a triangular stone house whose sides were equal, twelve feet long and eight feet high. The stones of which it was built were roughly dressed, but well enough for them to fit closely and remain in place steadily. They were of various dimensions, the largest being heavy enough, perhaps, to require two men to carry them. In the east wall, facing the lake, there was an opening nearly five feet high and thirty-two inches wide, the sides of which were better dressed than any other part of the structure. The stone immediately above this opening or door jutted out from the wall a little more than two feet as if intended for an awning; but a close inspection showed that it had been used for some sort of ceremonial purposes. The upper side and that part of the wall facing it plainly indicated the long-continued action of fire, showing like the more elaborate and artistic altars at Yamacutah or Tumbling Shoals the observance of such sacrificial rites as are attributed to the prehistoric races of this country.
All present were of a cheerful disposition, but now as they realized that Umausauga’s declaration, ” It burns! It burns,” was really true; that a dry piece of timber thrown into the boiling mud was instantly burned into ashes; that a heavy rain which had just fallen evaporated as fast as it fell; and that the only effect was to increase the volume of smoke, the entire party became silent and thoughtful. Even Helen Draper failed to shout, “Hurrah for success,” and settled down to serious meditation. When at last aroused she turned to Mrs. Shore and said, “My dear Ruth, I am about ready to believe that we have fallen into the hands of Aladdin and his lamp and that we have been transported to the shores of the Dead Sea. Have you seen any apples of Sodom growing about here?” “No, child, no,” answered Ruth, with a faint smile, “but talking about apples makes me hungry. What do you all say?”
I worked from 1980 to 1987 with Farm Credit Services. The last year 1987 I was branch manager in Winder, Ga. I knew Nodoroc was 2 miles outside of Winder so one day set out on a search for the Creek and Cherokee place they thought was “HELL”. I had really only one clue of where to find this place of mystery. There was then no computers or very few and to my knowledge no “Google”. In the book, “The Early History of Jackson County” it stated that Nodoroc was at the headwaters of the Mulberry River. One could easily see where the river started on a map, so off I went. I drove back and forth on Hwy 29 between Winder and Athens looking for something unusual. I finally resorted to stopping at the farm houses up and down the road. I asked the same question. “Have you ever heard of Nodoroc.” I was looked upon with a bit of suspicion as I was told no such place existed near here. Finally on my fourth try the lady at the door answered yes it’s down in the back pasture! The lady recounted how when just a few weeks earlier she had hired a dozer to put in a driveway for her daughter that was putting a “double-wide” down near there. The proposed route could not be followed as the operator was fearful of sinking completely when he got near the black muck that is today Nodoroc. She also informed me how an expedition from the University of Michigan had come and camped there taking core samples in the hope of finding spores of now extinct plants. When I reached the place it was a black area covered with Poplar trees no bigger than my arm. There were many that were blown over. I surmised that as the trees got older and bigger their weight could not be supported by the soft black marsh and they would inevitably fall over in a stiff wind. There was also thousands of crayfish hills some waist high! I had taken a set of post hole diggers and proceeded to dig a hole which promptly filled with water. I had a shovel with me as well. I placed the tip of the shovel handle to the ground and pushed the entire length into the black muck with one hand!! No wonder the dozer operator was concerned.
Nodoroc “erupted” in the early 1800s and never burned again. It became a danger to the cattle that were free roaming then. I understand that at one time corn was grown on the land using mules to plow and plant as the ground is too soft to support a tractor.
I have often wondered why more folks do not know of this oddity so near to us. Why is this not a protected and often visited place? I hope to return soon and when I do I of course will blog about it. “My return to HELL”. Catchy title??
til next time,