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The History of Lake Burton and the town of Burton which is underwater | find a home on Lake Burton, Waterfall at Lake Burton | Real estate Waterfall  

"Easy to get to...Almost impossible to leave."

From the early 1800's until the time of its removal in 1917, the town of Burton was the largest community in Rabun County with a population of approximately two-hundred people. The Tallulah River supplied power for a number of businesses in and near the city. Commerce grew and by the time the town was bought by the Georgia Railway and Electric Company in 1917 it boasted three general stores. One of the purchasing agents for the railroad was John LaPrade, whose land on what now is the shore of Lake Burton on Georgia 197 would serve as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, is today the site of LaPrade's Marina.

The lake was built in a deep valley located along a ten mile stretch of the Tallulah River. The Lake Burton dam (128 feet in height with a span of 1,100 feet and capable of holding 5 billion cubic feet of water) was closed on December 22, 1919 and the river rose to form Lake Burton. The lake was completely filled by August 18, 1925 and has maintained a full pool ever since. The water is normally lowered in November and raised in March of each year to allow property owners to build and make repairs to their boathouses, docks and sea walls.

A History of the Town of Burton by Mary George Poss

Comments reference a painting by Mrs Poss of the town of Burton.

Prints are available for purchase at galleries in Clayton.

Living in the town of Burton along the East and West sides of the Tallulah River was lush, Prosperous and idyllic from its beginning in the early 1800's to the time of its demise when the area was flooded to build Lake Burton, the prosperity of the settlers is evident by the rather large houses along the river. Photographs were gathered from the Georgia Power Company in Atlanta. Immense help also came from Rabun County Surveyor, Lamar Edwards, who provided a turn-of-the-century map of Burton placing each house by family name. The Cherokee Indians inhabited this area earlier, finding gold and other minerals in abundance. Edley and Tillman Powell were some of the first settlers and were very active in politics. They along with other Powell families living in this area make it understandable that the settlement in was first called Powellsville. Around 1820 Jeremiah and Edy Burton moved to Rabun County from South Carolina. The Burtons acquired large acreage along the Tallulah River and later built a store which at one time also housed the Post Office. (Later it was placed on a map as being on the east side of the river in a separate building.) Jeremiah was responsible for building the first bridge across the Tallulah River, at a point near his store. The bridge was just above the points where Timpson Creek and Dicks Creek entered Tallulah Rive. The iron bridge was built in 1902. (Creeks and roads have signs in the print.) There were three generations of Burtons to live in the town. John Burton, the eldest of Jeremiah's children, with his brother later operated their father's store. Jeremiah and Edy has eight children. We don't have the history on all the families from this union - only John who married Sarah Whitmire about 1862 or 1863. And according to information gathered by Fred Steward, soon afterward John enlisted in the Confederate Army. He served in Captain Price's company until April 1865. When he returned home, his first child, William C. Burton, born July 15 1864, was 10 months old. John Burton died in February 1922 at his home in Clarkesville. It is reported that many of the families who evacuated the valleys to be filled by the waters of the Tallulah River moved a bit south to Habersham County. John's death must have occurred not long after his move. Fred further mentions John as being a talented man who built a turning lathe that was powered by a foot treadle. His talents included building spinning wheels, hand loom cider wells, wheels, furniture, a grain mill it is said "to grind coarse to fine and with the ability to adjust for a grinder that was just right to the stills" (before this was illegal). A great grandson of John and a great, great grandson of Jeremiah, Sam Burton, was featured in the Foxfire 2 book with many photos and extensive coverage of his life.

On both sides of the Tallulah River and stemming out Timpson and Dicks' Creeks also south of Burton along Wildcat Moccasin were many homesteads with such recognized names as Derrick, Burton, Powell, Foster, Philyaw, Blalock, York, Burrell, Lovell, Stonecypher, Smith, Tilly, McClain, Chastain, Owens, Tyler and Arrendale. The bottom lands were some of the best for growing their crops of corn, soybeans, some tobacco, garden vegetables, fruits, and walnut groves. The syrup mill is remembered with the mules pulling the grinding machine. There were sheep, cows, hogs, chickens, and wild game for their meats. It was amazing to find several stores in such a small radius but we must remember that transportation was not as it is today. In most writings, the school was held in the church building, however in information passed on by Ms. Gardner the school is said to be in a long flat building. At on time there were both Baptist and Methodist churches and a separate school called the Tallulah Academy. According to statistics gotten by Liz Etheridge, in 1857 the academy teachers were Miss May Wikle and MR. J.E. Ledford. The school had maps, blackboards, about 100 books, and 50 desks. There were seven grades. The county School Board allotted $400 annually and parents paid $5 for each child. We are not told of the arrangements in previous years. Traveling, even what we would consider a fairly short distance, took a long time requiring lodging. The Blalock's home was also a boarding house for those traveling through. When I first started doing some historical paintings I went to the Georgia Archives as a start for obtaining photos of the area. Among my first (approx. 10 years ago) I had one of the rather large house and written on the photo was "the Derrick house". Over these years I have tried to place this in Clayton knowing the Derricks lived there. I tried by surrounding terrain, landmarks, and directions of light but was unable to locate its placement. It was only when doing the research for 'Burton' did I find that was in this community.

Let me guide you thru the painting:

The house that is near the left side of the print, with a cemetery near by is the Stoncyphers'. The bodies were exhumed from the graves and moved to higher ground before the lake rose. The Derricks' is near the road on the west side of the river, near Dick's Creek and nearest the Clarkesville sign. The Derricks' near the road on the west side of the river, near Dick's Creek and nearest the Clarkesville sign. Next is the Burton store with its American flag denoting the Post Office was once there. The Burton house is next door. The road to the left goes up to and by the church/school and them leading over the hills to Hiawassee. There is also a cemetery beside the church and the covered spring in the yard. It is said that the water rose more rapidly that expected and the steeple of the church was seen floating in the lake for a couple of years. Continuing on the road near Tallulah River (still on the west side) is the Cicero Blalock house, a blacksmith shop, storek, and the Howell Blalock house which was the family of Willie Blalock Elliot, barns and a saw mill. On the east side is first the Foster house, and the Foster house, and the Foster & Derrick Store. At one time the Derricks had a store of their own on the river. Later they evidently merged with the Fosters. There is the Post Office and further the grist mill and other houses and farms on this side of the river. Some artistic license has to be taken as the community was spread out although "thickly settled". Trees of course had to be removed for houses, stores, the river, creek and roads to be seen.

This has been a most interesting and involved project; taking about two years. The most rewarding as always is sitting and talking with the people, hearing them reminisce, getting to know them and the life better. Many thanks to all who so generously shared.

Points of further interest:

In the Georgia Gazetteer's 1880 and 1881-1882 editions under "Burton" we are informed that it was a small county Post Office also known as Powellsville. Atlanta is "108 miles via Mt. Airy, which is the nearest shipping, express, and telegraph office". In the Georgia Gazetteer of 1887 under "Burton" the notation of it being also known as Powellsville has been dropped. Publications dated 1880 and 1882 mention the mail was brought by a crier on horseback semi-weekly, coming from Rabun Gap and through Patterson Gap and the Persimmon Community.