HISTORY OF RISING FAWN COMMUNITY
In common with the rest of our nation, the history of Rising Fawn begins with the Native Americans. At the time these tribes of the Cherokee Nation occupied Lookout Valley, the present site of Rising Fawn was a trading post, strategically located in the long narrow valley between protective mountains and well watered by Lookout Creek and other smaller steams. Fish and game were plentiful and the mere matter of existence was simple.
The tribe was ruled by Chief Benje, whose descendants still live in the Middle West. In 1838 just after the administration of Andrew Jackson, the Indians were banished from the land of their fathers to reservations provided for them by the United States Government in Oklahoma. Their route came to be known as the Trail of Tears.
Evidence of their occupation is still to be found in this valley in arrowheads, graves, and a simple legend. The legend is that a child was born to an Indian squaw, wife of the tribal chieftain, and according to custom was to be named for the first object that came into view after the event. At dawn on the following morning, as the chieftain looked out from the lodge toward the rising sun, a small fawn rose from its bed, stretched its limbs, and bounded away into the forest. The chief thought he had never seen a more beautiful sight than a rising fawn, and so it became the name of his small papoose and little did he realize that the name was never to perish.
There is another legend, or perhaps a fact, that a rich lead mine known only to the Indians is located in this valley. Lead for bullets was produced in quantity by the Indians, but no trace of the mines has ever been found.
It is not known just when the first white settlers came to this community, but it was probably after 1800. Few white men cared to venture in until after the removal of the Indians. By 1840 it was well populated and some mining industry begun. Virgin forests, abundant water power, and ever-increasing agriculture gave promise of greater expansion in industry.
The earliest records of settlers contain the names of John Guinn, A. B. Hanna, J. B. Perkins, James Stewart, and James Hall. The village was first known as Hanna, since the post office was on the Hanna Plantation, south of the present location. Later, during the Civil War it was called Stewarts.
In 1870 the first railroad was built, and the station was named Staunton, in honor of the men who built the railroad. Several years later the post office was moved to the station and the name was changed to Rising Fawn in keeping with the Cherokee legend. John G. Hale was the first postmaster and held the office for ten years. During this time the post office was in the home of L. S. Tidwell.
The oldest house in Rising Fawn was the home of A. B. Hanna, who married Matilda, the daughter of John Guinn. The house, now demolished to make way for progress, was located near Hanna Cemetery, which was then a family burial plot, but is still surrounded by the original iron fence. Most of the earliest homes were built of brick, to become the homes of Solomon Cross, Lee S. Tidwell, John G. Hale, W. P. Gilbert and Covington Guinn, and the old brick seminary building, three stories high, which later became the Methodist church and Masonic Hall. Most of these still stand except the seminary building which burned in 1925.
This community also has its Civil War history. Three companies of infantry for the Confederacy were organized here with Col. Cooper Nesbit, Capt. John Hanna and Capt. James Cureton in command. The historic crossing of Lookout Mountain on September 5, 1863, at Johnson’s Crook by forty thousand Union soldiers under General George H. Thomas, just before the battle of Chickamauga, occurred here.
According to the records, this was not a slave-holding community, as were the large cotton plantations of south and Middle Georgia. However there were known to be several slave owners among the more prosperous planters. The slaves vanished with the emancipation of the Negro, although a few of their descendants continued to live here until their death.
The old iron furnace company organized in 1870 brought many new families into the community to make their homes; also many Negro laborers and their families were brought in. This industry which began operation as Tatum Iron and Coal Company was absorbed by Dade County Coal Company in 1873. Later it expanded and became Georgia Iron and Coal Company and ended shortly after the turn of the century as Southern Steel Company. It was dismantled in 1926. All that remains of the once proud and thriving industry is the old brick commissary building, a few scattered houses and a slag pile, but during its operation the population of Rising Fawn grew to approximately 1500 people and boasted of brick sidewalks, a water works system, and oil street lamps with a Negro lamplighter affectionately called “Uncle Allen.” During the gay nineties they even boasted of a brass band with a marvelously constructed band wagon which served both as band stand and mobile unit.
None of these things remain now except the water works, built in 1881 by George W. Cureton, which still serves this community. Rising Fawn was incorporated September 20, 1881, and the corporation abolished by an act of Legislature August 3, 1904. Sometime during this era a small hexagon-shaped calaboose appeared near the Railway Station, but how it came, or went, is not clear.
The Dade County Gazette began publication in Rising Fawn in 1879 and continued about five years until the Dade County Weekly began publication in Trenton. The printing office of the Gazette was located on the corner of the T. J. Lumpkin property, now owned by Graham Hale.
The first half of the twentieth century in this community has seen the passing of the last of the pioneers, the Civil War veterans, the Negro population, railway passenger service, and many of the old land marks, old habits and customs. The present population based on the last census is approximately three hundred with many new and modern homes, electric and gasoline power, bus service and a new modern Junior High School, new Methodist and Baptist Churches, a new paved highway and other public improvements of which the citizens of this community can well be proud. (Written for the Dade County Historical Society by Mrs. Kathleen W. Thomas.)