Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Northwest Georgia, the Allatoona Mountains surround the beautiful and man-made Allatoona Lake. Now known as Old Allatoona, the original town has completely vanished aside from two remaining nineteenth century homes. The first is an antebellum plantation home known as the Clayton Mooney House. The other is a beautiful Victorian mansion now known as Lake Allatoona Inn. The building changed construction styles in the 1850s, belonging to the town’s Postmaster Thomas C. Moore. He died in 1890, and the property was sold.
In 1893, the house was partially rebuilt as a Victorian by J.C. Armstrong. The mansion was constructed with twin wrap-around verandas, graced by rhythmical fretwork (gingerbread) brackets and balustrades. The inside of the mansion boasted eleven fireplaces, six bedrooms and three floors. The property also had a large barn and rolling pastures as well as the store and smaller home. Mr. Armstrong was an architect, builder and a savvy businessman. The little town of Acworth, six miles away, shows his name on many of the town’s original buildings. He used some of the materials from the original mansion to build a small house still on the property today. Mr. Armstrong also built a general store for his son. The store was called Armstrong General Store and has been restored to be used as a reception or event venue today.
Fast forwarding to a more modern time, the Smith’s vision was to use the house as a bed and breakfast. After modifications were completed, the Inn opened in the Spring of 2007. Lynn’s complete vision for the property included horses and shelter for them. Land was cleared, fences put back up, and a barn was built along with a covered riding ring. Shortly thereafter, guests and locals inquired about weddings, and the Smith’s found themselves in the wedding and event business.
But the Inn’s story would not exist if it had not been for major historical changes. Historic Allatoona was rich with Native American peoples. The ancient Etowah Indians built their mounds seven miles away on the banks of the Etowah River between 1000 and 1500 AD. Several thousand inhabitants graced that sacred area, and you can still visit those mounds today. The Creek Indians lived here during the 1700s. Sometime around 1755, the Cherokee Indians pushed them out, and the Creek Indians went south. Settlers continued to flow to the area and even more so when gold was found in the area in 1828. Living alongside the natives, the settlers were of European descent and mostly hailed from Ireland and Scotland.
The Cherokee Indians called this area the “Enchanted Lands”. Though the Cherokee assimilated to the settlers’ ways, the Cherokee did not last once gold was discovered. Gold facilitated Allatoona’s industry – it had its own gold mines and slaves to work them. It was at this point that the US shamefully and willingly decided that the Indians had to move. Between 1831 and 1838, the New Echota Treaty was signed without the permission of Mr. Ross, the head of the Cherokee nation. It was blessed by the states and the federal government. In the winter of 1838, the Cherokee Indians were rounded up and taken to Cleveland Tennessee to begin their march, later known as the “Trail of Tears”. The trail of one thousand miles began with approximately 14,000 Cherokees and ended with less than 10,000. Once they were forced off their land, 25 million acres in Georgia were suddenly free for settler use.
Allatoona quickly grew to 150 inhabitants. It had two churches, 3 grist mills, a daily postal service, a school, and a gold mine. It was also the home of several plantations. The Mooney-Clayton house next door had many slaves on its 1700 acres. The railroad made its debut in 1842. The Western and Atlantic Railroad wanted to extend its tracks north through the Allatoona Mountains. It was decided that they would put a pass directly in front of the little town - near the Alabama/Tennessee wagon train road. The pass was started in 1842, but, after digging less than 60 feet, they hit solid rock. Slaves were brought in to complete the work; the rocks needed to be blasted apart. By the time construction finished in 1845, the pass was 180 feet deep and 350 feet long. Track was laid, and the first train rolled by in 1845. Sherman visited Allatoona around this time, and he stayed at the Clayton Mooney house long before the war.
The Civil War changed everything. On April 12, 1862, the Great Locomotive Chase flew by the town as the Rebels chased it north toward Tennessee. Some of the Union hijackers were later hung as traitors before the war ended. Interestingly, the ones not executed were given medals of Honor after the war ended. The Confederate train was called the “General”. It can be seen in the Southern Train Museum in Kennesaw, Georgia today.
On the morning of October 5, 1864, the Battle of Allatoona Pass occurred. Confederate Major General Samual G. French's 3,276 men attacked the federal garrison at Allatoona. They had orders to fill up the railroad, cut and disrupt the flow of supplies to William T. Sherman's army south of Atlanta, then march northward to the Etowah River and burn the railroad bridge there. French was opposed at Allatoona by a federal force of 2,025 men under the command of Major General John M. Corse. Corse occupied a heavily fortified position, anchored by two large earth forts - the Star Fort on the west and Eastern Redoubt east of the cut. Many of the federal troops, including the entire 7th Illinois Regiment, were armed with Henry repeating rifles. This probably gave them equal, if not superior, firepower. By noon, most of the federal troops had been driven back into their main or Star Fort. Its capture seemed imminent, but French received a false report from his cavalry that a large federal force was coming up the railroad from the south. Fearing his men would be cut off from the main Confederate army, French withdrew, leaving Allatoona in federal hands. The Federals lost 706 men, and the Confederates lost 897. It was one of the most bloody and stubbornly contested battles of the entire war.
Today, the mountain cut of Allatoona Pass still exists. It is now a lakefront state park - the train tracks were removed when the lake was built. With the removal of the track, the pass became a beautiful walking, swimming, and running trail. The old railroad bed became a lake levy. Thought to be one of the ten most haunted places in Georgia, there are memorial and explanative signs throughout the park. One of the most notorious ghosts of the time is the Railroad Train Car Ghost. He was witnessed by many and often written about in local newspapers including the Atlanta journal in the early 1900's; the spirit continued to ride the train for years after the Civil War.
Besides existing as a recreational area, the lake is also Atlanta and the surrounding areas’ water reservoir. The lake covers parts of four counties. It has nine marinas, and it is graced by Red Top Mountain State Park.
Lake Allatoona Inn continues to make its own history over time. And of course, a mere description does not do it justice. Come see us for yourself, and you are bound to have a great time.