Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Cooper's Furnace

Last night for FHE we reflected on the goals we made in 2023 and discussed our goals for 2024. As usual, we listed a number of "Georgia Adventures" to complete (in the past these have been "Utah Adventures" or "North Carolina Adventures"; anything that gets us out exploring our own state (usually for free) so we gain and maintain an appreciation for our immediate surroundings). We also split up "hikes" and "Georgia Adventures" this year, so that hikes can't count as adventures (I guess because I've been craving wilderness lately, though I recognize that history and culture and civilization and things like that are also valuable).

Anyway, today we thought we'd get started by checking off both a hike and an adventure! We headed out towards Cartersville to hike the trail to Cooper's Furnace. We first stopped at the Allatoona Lake Visitor Center & Museum (which was really marked as the Land Bureau or something like that, so we were a little bit timid going inside) so that we could use the potty.

Very technically, we stopped at a random gas station about 10 minutes prior to arriving at the visitor's center so that Phoebe could make an emergency potty trip. When I ran up to the gas station shop with her, however, the doors were locked! A man ran up behind me and when he saw that I had trouble with the door he said, "It's locked?! You have got to be kidding me! It's 11:00 in the morning!"

Fortunately, the worker came to the door, removed a sign (that she'd taped to the top corner of the door, above all the other signs and stickers on the door, that said she'd be out momentarily) and let us in. That man busted past me and Phoebe to the restrooms, so evidently he was in some dire straights. 

Phoebe did her business and then we went to the visitor's center where Phoebe did some more business of a different nature. And then we were ready to begin our adventure.

The museum is small, but interesting. We learned about pig iron (so called because the cooling forms look like piglets nursing a sow), the Allatoona Dam, the Civil War, and some of the local wildlife. (We also were lambasted at every turn by reminders to wear our lifejackets—with catch phrases like "Lifejackets worn, no cause to mourn" and other cheerful things like that. 

Next we headed to the overlook of the Allatoona Dam (which also gave us a good view of Plant Bowen, a coal-fired power station):

Then we headed off on the trail, only we didn't take the trail from the visitor's center to the furnace, which we could have done. Instead we started from "Cooper's Furnace Nature Trail." This website said that the trail is 3.3 miles, but we didn't do the second loop (we only hiked to the furnace and back again), so we didn't hike that far. It wasn't terribly cold today (high of 52°F/11°C), but I bundled Miss Phoebe up because I knew she'd just be sitting in the backpack. She was nice and warm the whole hike!

From up high on the hill, I looked down and said, "Wow! Look at that janky bridge!"

Then we came around the corner/switchback and Grandpa said, "I think we're going to be walking across that bridge."

The boys heard me use that...interesting...word and decided to repeat it over and over again, but they thought I had said "danky" rather than "janky." At any rate we survived our trot over the janky bridge.

Here's Rachel (looking a bit happier than in the picture above): 

And here's Benjamin:

Here's Zoë posing on a log, while Alexander and Grandpa press forward:

Here's Miss Miriam:

Here's everyone (including our resident fox enthusiast, Zoë) reading a sign about foxes in the forest (there are a lot of signs to read on this hike):

Here are three of my intrepid hikers:

And here are Grandpa and Miriam leaning on each other to make it to the end of the hike:

The furnace itself was much larger than we expected! It was part of a larger company owned by Mark Anthony Stroup, including a mill that ground flour which the Queen of England consumed! The mill and other buildings were destroyed and this furnace was taken during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign in 1864. Here are the three kids running away from the furnace so they can spend some time at the playground.

No one else was around so we left them playing at the playground while the rest of us looked around the furnace.

Phoebe was afraid there was a bear inside because Grandpa greeted her by saying, "Hey, little polar bear!" and her imagination just went wild. "Bear in there! Bear in there!" she stammered, completely convinced there was a bear in there. Grandpa helped her get over her fears. 

Speaking of her runaway imagination, we had a little incident on the drive out. Phoebe had asked for some water, or at least demanded it:


"You don't need water right now," Rachel told her. "Just wait until we get there."

Phoebe immediately started whimpering at her. 

"Oh, don't look at me like I killed a puppy or something," Rachel said. 

And Phoebe just lost it. 

"PUPPIES?!?!" she wailed, and turned on the waterworks. 

"Oh, no! Oh, no!" Rachel said. "The puppies are fine! All the puppies are alive and well! Don't cry!"

Phoebe has a smidge of a thing for puppies. Here she is with a couple of her beloved puppies last night. She begged me to take a picture of her puppies and her together (while I was in the middle of making pierogi for dinner). 

Thinking about dead puppies was too much for Phoebe's tender heart.

The furnace is old. But it's not terribly old. It's younger than Walt Whitman (I'm currently reading Leaves of Grass and have a few thoughts). It's younger than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (organized April 6, 1830; I recently read Buffalo Flats, about pioneer life in what was then The Northwest Territories, what is now Southern Alberta, and I probably have a few thoughts about that). It's a lot younger than a lot of history. 

I'm currently reading Everything Sad is Untrue with the kids. I've read it before, but none of the little kids have read it. We've reinstituted our tradition of me sitting in the hallway to read to the kids as they go to bed (we're working hard on weaning Phoebe) and this is our first book of the year. I pulled it out while Uncle Patrick was here, along with Darius the Great is Not Okay and Persepolis because the girl he's been dating is from Iran and...these stories were all written by the Persian diaspora. And they're all such great stories. 

Anyway, Nayeri (or the character Daniel in his based-on-real-life story) tells us that his grandparents's house "was six hundred years old and made of stone," so he couldn't really understand how or why anyone would make a museum out of a "sod house in Oklahoma" that "was ninety-eight years old" (p. 5–6). 

"Because we preserve and cherish historical things," she said.

"But no one lives in it?"


"So every ninety-eight years, people move out of their houses and turn them into museums?"

On the one hand, I can see where he's coming from. A furnace that is not even quite 200 years old isn't that old at all. But we treat it like it's amazing to have something that old to visit—and it is! But it's also not really that old. And I...don't think this was Nayeri's intent, but it feels like there's a bit of erasure of indigenous culture here. Perhaps, really, he is merely exposing the lack of focus on indigenous history in education with this segment in the book, which isn't entirely his fault now, is it? American history begins long before it was "settled" (read: colonized) by white people. 

Cooper's Furnace was part of the now washed-away town of Etowah, which used to sit along the Etowah River, but which was flooded during the construction of the Allatoona Dam. Not too far from Cooper's Furnace sit the Etowah Indian Mounds, which date back to 1000 CE. We could have just as easily visited the mounds today (it's just 20 minutes away from the furnace), but we didn't (because it costs money and we'd prefer to just drive to the Ocmulgee Mounds (which are free to visit).

So there you have it—the furnace is old (and should be protected as a historical site), but not that old. Sometimes outsiders laugh at the "young" history of the Americas, which sadly only helps to perpetuate the perspective that American history began only when white people were around to see it (which is simply not true). Perhaps it's laughable that we protect and preserve a 200-year-old structure...but just 20 minutes away we have structures (or at least...mounds) that are over 1000 years old and we ought to remember that...there is nothing new under the sun.

Anyway, here are the boys doing a bit of "scrambling" in the hills:

And here's some beautiful evidence that we're currently in a cultural phase where we're moving away from manicured landscapes and embracing a more...wild...look. All the pesticides and fertilizers we used for decades to create perfect lawns were, as it turns out, not great for the environment.

I loved reading Marti's book Buffalo Flats! I'd go grab it so that I could quote it properly, but Rachel's taking a turn with it, which means it's in her room, and she's already gone to bed. But the protagonist in the story—Rebecca Leavitt—yearns to return the land to its natural state, to see fescue and buffalo return to the plains. She dislikes the irrigation system that the saints devise, which cuts across the land and diverts the water away from its desired course. (I still felt like the book didn't do due diligence to indigenous culture, though I believe there was some mention in the background of the pioneer settlers taking the land, but I appreciated the story as being one that truthfully depicted my heritage; my own ancestors moved to farm the land those canals still water in the early 1900s). 

Here's Benjamin reaching in to feel how cold the Etowah River is:

And here are the kids playing at the park (you can see the furnace behind them in the distance):

It's actually a pretty cool recreation area! They have a soccer field and a horseshoe pit and volleyball nets! It's kind of far away, but looks like a lovely place. And we had it all to ourselves!

Here's Alexander, whose hair was going wild on the twisty slide:

Phoebe was determined to climb this ladder with or without help. Here she is with help:

And here she is without help:

Soon we decided it was time for lunch, which we'd left in the vehicle because we didn't realize there was such a wonderful picnic area near the furnace! So here we are on our way back: 

Here we are enjoying our tailgate picnic:

The road we were parked along wasn't very busy... 

...but I liked having Phoebe and Alexander tucked away in the trunk anyway.

Here's Miriam after she fell into the trunk (after I, uh, nudged her a bit while I was getting an orange from the cooler):

And here's Benjamin after he fell into the trunk on purpose:

The kids would probably like me to note that (1) Alexander stepped on a stick that was on the path and it got all twisted around his leg (it was a Y-shaped stick) and it took him several steps to shake himself loose again (he thought that was quality blog material, and he's not wrong; it's absolutely a detail that should be included, but he might have to be the one to write that story) and (2) at one point in our picnic, Phoebe shoved too much sandwich into her mouth and to save herself from choking spat it all out into my hand. "Too much!" she said, and then walked away to grab the second (fresh) half of her sandwich. I was standing there with this chewed-up and spat-out sandwich in my hand, wondering precisely what I was going to do with it, when Andrew bent over and slurped it up. The kids (and Grandpa) were horrified. It's even possible that I was horrified, but with lunch tucked away, we packed the kids into the cars and headed to the Allatoona Pass Battlefield (which was to be our first Georgia Adventure).


Walt Whitman wrote (#17 in Starting from Paumanok):

On my way a moment I pause;
Here for you! and here for America!
Still the Present I raise aloft—Still the Future of
The States I harbinge, glad and sublime;
And for the Past, I pronounce what the air holds of
The red aborigines!

The red aborigines!
Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds,
calls as of birds and animals in the woods,
syllabled to us for names;
Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez,
Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco,
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla-
Leaving such to The States, they melt, they depart,
charging the water and the land with names.

I'm not sure that love all the language of this poem, but I do appreciate the "natural breaths...syllabled to us for names" since so many of our names here are borrowed from or taken from or used in honour of the nations that once lived here (and still do live, though there's all that history about being forcibly removed, etc., etc., etc.). I was just researching the Lenape language and learned that there are only two native speakers (as of 2018), which is a catastrophic cultural failure, in my opinion. Similar to the grasses needing to be left wild for pollinators after decades of fertilizer and pesticide use, I don't quite see this linguacide as my fault, but it still makes me sad/remorseful. And I wonder if when this stone was set rolling, if the people pushing it then knew what would happen today. And I wonder if they'd be happy about the result, or whether they'd feel remorse. 

At any rate, I explored the meanings of Chattanooga and Chattahoochee earlier. Today I explored the meaning of Allatoona. 

Sometimes these names feel "funny" to English-speaking tongues. I once was at a gathering where I was shocked to hear a woman say that when "they" were naming things "they" just took a bunch of letters, tossed them up into the air, and pieced them together at random. I...think it's wonderful that we have maintained the use of these words, but I wish that we knew why we were using these words. 

Like Okotoks. Or Chattahoochee. Or any other number of the beautiful words that "[charge] the water and the land with names." 

We need to know the history of these words.

So, Allatoona. 

From what I read it very likely means "high lands of great worth." I wanted to verify this finding, so since the Britannica article (linked to previously) mentioned the Allegheny River, I looked up the meaning of that word, too, figuring that since Chattahoochee and Chattanooga share a root word, it was likely that Allatoona and Allegheny also shared a root word. 

Wikipedia tells us that "the name Allegheny probably comes from Lenape welhik hane or oolikhanna, which means 'best flowing river of the hills' or 'beautiful stream'." Another entry tells us "fine river" is another translation for Allegheny.

Great worth, best, beautiful, fine. Surely the syllable "alla" means something along those lines. 

An online Lenape dictionary, however, translates Allegheny to "River where footprints can be seen."

Still, "hane" seemed to be the root word (or a root word) for "river" and since "wëla" seems to translate as "fine" I'm wondering about the translation of Allegheny to "river where footprints can be seen" because it seems the Wikipedia source is more accurate with welhik hane (wëla = fine, hane = river). 

And if that is the case, then the translation of Allatoona as "high lands of great worth" also makes sense, since "tëne" seems to be one root word for "mountain." 

Wëla + tëne = Wëlatëne = Allatoona = fine mountain

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