Excerpt 5 - The Demise of Nodoroc:
From “The Early History of Jackson County, Georgia”, the writings of the Late Gustavus James Nash Wilson, embracing some of the Early History of Jackson County, Edited and Published by William Ellis White, 1914
As the foregoing description of the Red Man's place of torment is the only leading feature of this narrative whose history can be continued, we venture to leave early life long enough to give an outline account of the curious place up to the present time.
That Nodoroc was a mud volcano like those which still exist in various parts of the world, particularly in British Burma, there is no doubt in the minds of those who are familiar with its history of little more than one hundred years ago, and with the history of similar volcanoes which still contain boiling mud from which issue fumes of fire and smoke. The write knows nothing of the legends connected with the place. He gives them as they were given to him.
Even to this day Nodoroc is a curiosity. It is situated three and one-half miles east of Winder on the plantation of John L. Harris, a substantial citizen of that progressive city. We have heard something of its history for nearly two generations before the country was first settled by the whites; have seen its condition when visited by highly intelligent parties in 1794, and will now give a brief outline of its history from the visit of Umausauga and his party to the present day.
For many years after but little attention was given the volcano. In fact, the Indians kept away from Beadland, except when on their war expeditions; and the whites were too busy with clearing the forest and fighting the red man to trouble with such things.
This place became, apparently, nothing but a gloomy swamp. Those that saw the smoke rising from the hot mud thought it only fog. Years passed; and after the white man began to come into Beadland from different counties of Georgia; and from other states, even, settlements were made at different places.
Mr. John Gossett lived nearest the mudhole, as it was called. He cleared a large field that almost surrounded Nodoroc. One morning when he and his good wife were in the field they noticed an unusual amount of fog (or what they supposed was fog) handing over the swamp. As the sun rose higher in the heavens they noticed that it did not dispel the supposed mist. But on the other hand the “fog” grew denser, until about 9 o'clock Mrs. Gossett saw a great volume of smoke burst forth from the swamp. She called her husband, who was plowing, to look. Both heard a loud rumbling noise, somewhat like that of distant thunder. Mr. Gossett's horse was frightened and tried to run, so loud was the noise. All at once, the whole surface of the mud hole seemed to rise up into the air. The elements seemed to be filled with hot mud.
It appeared to rise so high and the air was so full of the small particles that it darkened the sun for a few moments. Then came the hot stuff back to the earth, falling all around Gossett and his wife, some striking them bespattering their clothing but doing them no damage, as the little particles of mud were too small.
After this eruption old Nodoroc seemed to settle down several feet and to cool off. In a few years it was perfectly cold and was known the country round as one of the worst of “cow mires.”
Then the seeds of vegetation began to find their way to the rich mud. A stunted growth was covering the whole surface, though it was quite dangerous to venture on to it. A number of years later it was estimated that more cattle had been lost in the swamp during that period than was ever in the settlement at any one time. This led to the necessity of fencing the swamp which was continued until the coming of the stock law.
Finally, old Nodoroc became the property of John L. Harris, who, always calm and calculating, determined to turn the old time horror into practical use. Accordingly, by dint of much hard work, skill, and a determination to succeed, he drained it sufficiently well to allow cultivation with the hoe. It produced first-class corn which Mr. Harris was careful to carry to solid ground in baskets. In the summer of the second year after the swamp was drained, the writer walked through the growing corn when it was from ten to twelve feet high, and the tops shook to the tread of his feet as far as the corn could be seen.
The ditches were “planked” on the sides with stays between, to keep the soft mud in place, and it was curious to see pure, clear water running along them, as in comparatively recent times no water at all was running there.
Mr. Harris continued to work his newly drained swamp with the hoe for several crops, but of recent years has been cultivating it with horse and plow, and always with highly satisfactory results.
Bones and horns of animals, doubtless those that last disappeared, are ploughed up occasionally.
The whole area, consisting of about five acres, is now in a high state of cultivation, but the surface has been gradually sinking since it was first drained.
What other, if any, metamorphosis takes place in the ancient Nodoroc is unknown; but it is reasonable to conclude that its subterranean fires were extinguished by the eruption witness by Mr. And Mrs. John Gossett.
Note: Old “Nodoroc” is still owned by Mr. John L. Harris. The Editor visited the place both in 1913 and 1914. The soil is a blue-black in color, very porous and is about four to five feet deep, that is the hard sand pan that has formed is that depth below the surface. In looking down at the “bottom,” from the surrounding hills, which are not high, it has the appearance of five acres of land covered with coal dust. Nodoroc is about one-half mile east of Chapel Church and one-fourth mile south of the S. A. L. R. R. on the head waters of Barber's Creek. – Ed.