Historic Markers Across Georgia



Willow Springs



Marker ID:  
Location: located in Willow Spring Park on Commerce Street (US 27) in Summerville, GA.
County: Chattooga
Coordinates: N 34° 28.936    W 085° 20.830
  34.48226666    -85.34716666
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMAF35
Willow Springs Marker  



Text:

Big Spring, Beavers spring, Cleghorn Spring, Willow Springs - all of these names have been used for the natural fresh water spring which burst forth at this site. Predating our recorded history, this water is part of the Knox dolomite aquifer and is formed as groundwater erodes through the very porous dolomite limestone foundation of this area. Measurements have shown the water to flow at a rate of 420 gallons permitted. Due to the underground paths of such waters, local citizens relate as fact rather than legend the story of young Cherokee Indians diving into the spring at this site and swimming underground to surface in a pond 1700 feet northward.

Once part of the Cherokee Indian Nation, the lands surrounding this spring were acquired by the family of early pioneer, John Fluker Beavers, in the Cherokee land lottery in 1832. When the Georgia State Legislature formed Chattooga County out of portions of Walker and Floyd counties in 1838, the spring played an important role in locating the new county seat. John Beavers, later named Brigadier General Beavers, offered the free use of the spring water for the people and their livestock if the justices would purchase his land and locate the county government here. Thus, the business of running a new County government was located on the acres surrounding the spring and the first Chattooga County courthouse was built one block south of the spring.

For many years, the spring served the people and remained an important scenic gathering spot. Providing a most valuable resource, the spring was an oasis to travelers and a "watering hole" for all who passed. In the early days of Summerville it provided water for the young town.

After General Beavers moved to Texas in 1850s, the spring and surrounding property were eventually acquired the by Cleghorn family. During the War Between the States, the site surely offered water to both Union and Confederate soldiers as the men of Chattooga County joined the Confederate forces and as thousands of Union troops passed through the county, including General William T. Sherman who encamped in Summerville on October 19, 1864. In the years following the war, Confederate veterans met at the spring for reunions with their beloved Captain John S. Cleghorn, a war hero who was named commander of the United Confederate Veterans.

In the 1880s Captain Cleghorn and his wife Octavia Elizabeth Jones Cleghorn, who was often called "Ochie," built a large Victorian-style house on the hill above the spring. Weeping Willow trees were planted along the creek and beside the spring with over four acres of colorful gardens extending to both sides of the highway. The site continued to be a place of hospitality throughout the generations. The family of John S. Cleghorn II held gatherings with feast of broiled chicken, vegetables, and watermelons which were chilled in the spring's cool water. Still a place for passerby's to get a cool drink, a gourd was sometimes hung from a red Maple tree besides the spring, offering a communal dipper. Sadly, the historic Victorian style Cleghorn home burned in 1967. The site fell into neglect, the water became unsafe to drink, and the spring was covered by boards.

In 2001, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs awarded a grant to the city of Summerville to uncover the spring and developed the site into a public park. The Somerville Better Hometown Program led the effort assisted by the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Chattooga Garden Club, Garden Club of Georgia, and the City of Summerville. Many private citizens and businesses also contributed to restoring the site. The significant history of the spring has been preserved by the efforts of the Chattooga County Historical Society.

Though the old homes were lost long ago, the spring was once again allowed to flow freely and Weeping Willows have returned to the site which Octavia Cleghorn had named after a place of beauty from her youth -- Willow Spring.



 

Willow Springs


 

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