Seven Islands Road
This Indian Trail dates back to 1670 which later became a stage coach route. Travel dirt roads that date back to the 1600s and enjoy a nostalgic ride throughout Jasper County
From here, still dead southeast, it generally followed Clay Road and finally crossed Clay road at the Jerry Knight Farm and onto Lane Road, crossing Smith Mill Road and hitting the Ocmulgee River at Seven Islands. This is a very interesting and historic drive straight through Jasper County. Find you a map copy of The Seven Islands Road and try to follow it and think of all the Indians and Settlers that traveled it.
Dirt Trail Cuts Deep Into Past by Bill Osinski, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Traces of a road deep into the nation’s Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil War history are still around in Jasper county, and historians want to bring it back to life. They believe it belongs on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s not just another stretch of Georgia red clay. “It’s the oldest dirt road known to Western man,” said Pam Hammonds, executive director of the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce, who’s part of an effort to have a dirt road not just placed on the National Register of Historic Places but also made into a tourist trail. The Seven Island Stagecoach Road runs through much of Jasper County and cuts to the very core of Georgia history. Before there was a recBartram described the area in his journals as having an Indian settlement of about 1,400 people. Up until 1790, when George Washington negotiated a treaty with the Creek Indians ceding land for a stage coach trail that would connect Augusta with Mobile, Ala., Seven Islands was where America ended and the Indian lands began.
Stagecoach stops became settlements and, later, a few grew to towns. Throughout the early 19th century, the road was important to regional commerce. Seven Islands marked the upriver end of the navigable part of the Ocmulgee, so cotton growers would send their product to the mills near Seven Islands, to be processed and then shipped downriver. Even after the railroad supplanted the river steamer, Seven Islands remained a commercial and historic hub. Jasper County historian John Harvey said there were cotton gins, grist mills, sawmills and textile mills at Seven Islands. During the Civil War, Sherman’s armies crossed the Ocmulgee via a pontoon bridge at a spot not far upriver. The story to told that the Yankees
slaughtered hundreds of their spent mules and horses on one of the river islands rather than leave the animals for the Rebels. One of the mills at Seven Islands was powered by water channeled through a mile-long canal, Harvey said. When the river water was diverted into the canal, the river was usually lowered to
the point where people could cross it from the Butts County side by stepping on river rocks. “They said you could walker across the river without getting the tops of your shoes wet,” Harvey said. The mills operated until the cotton collapse of the 1920s and ’30s. The abandoned buildings were torn down in the 1980s. Robert Jordan, a Monticello engineer and city councilman, has plotted the route of the old stagecoach trail over a current road map of Jasper county. “Very little of the original road is on existing roadways; some of it is out in the middle of fields,”
he said. But there are still a few stretches of county-maintained dirt roads that actually may be part of the historic trail. Except for the gravel, the settings seem much as they might have been in the early 1800s, when traveling 25 miles was considered a good, hard day. Along the route, there are also a few remnants of those who lived there. At a place called Bethel Corners is a building that originally was a log cabin stagecoach stop. It was later bricked over and used as a country store. Mostly, though, the storiesorded history of this continent, American Indians formed and used the trail for hunting trips from their settlements at a shoals area of the Ocmulgee River that came to be called Seven Islands.
The Seven Islands of the Ocmulgee was mentioned as a trading point in accounts of Carolina fur traders that go back as far as 1670. In 1730, famed naturalist William of the lone-gone past are to be found in overgrown graveyards. Dennis Dean, who identifies himself on his business card as a “Grave Seeker of Historical Relevance,” has taken on the assignment of identifying the graveyards as a retirement avocation. So far, his explorations through the records and the woods have located more than 230 graveyards.
Dean’s research has been transferred into books available to genealogical researchers at the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce in Monticello.
In one graveyard not get form the Seven Islands Trail are more than 10 headstones marked only with “RS”; Dean believes these are the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers. That same graveyard may have been part of one of the county’s original churches, St. Martha’s Methodist Church. Dean said he thinks a stone wall within the graveyard might be the base of a monument to James L. Darden, the man on whose plantation the graveyard was built. Darden was a Union sympathizer who rose to the rank of general in the Union Army and then
returned to Jasper to farm cotton. One reason the monument is now missing, and why the church mysteriously stopped functioning, was that local sentiment ran heavily against the general and his home church, Dean speculated.
Hammonds said the plan for the preservation of Seven Islands Stagecoach Road would be to improve some of the stagecoach stop points along the way and make the route available to visitors. Ultimately, she said, they hope to build a historical interpretive center on the banks of the Ocmulgee near Seven Islands.
Not a bad future for a country road that leads to the distant past.