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Mountain view from Wildcat Lodge is great

Wildcat Lodge

By Kathleen Walls
Photos by Kathleen Walls and J. Donald Oakes

High up near the top of North Georgia's mountains is a place of history, mystery and just plain fun. Wildcat Lodge is located in tiny Suches, Georgia. Those who haven't yet discovered this hidden treasure are in for a treat when they do.


Some happy campers

Twenty seven RV sites with full hookups, including power, water, sewer and Wi-Fi. Each site has a fire rings so you can toast marshmallow right at your campsite.

There is a brand-new, clean and spacious bath house for showers, as well as laundry facilities.

For large groups, there is a large open-air pavilion with ample covered space for card games, bingo, picnics, reunions, or just swapping stories. Ten ceiling fans ensure that there's always a breeze blowing.

A large group enjoying Wildcat Lodge campground

For those who prefer more "nature" in their camping, there are unlimited nicely wooded and shaded sites with picnic tables and fire rings.

There is another option, bunk house type accommodations. Bring your sleeping bag and spread it out on an authentic army cot. Sleep surrounded by the many old primitive doors that serve as wall paper in the "door" house.

Picturesque remnant of an earlier era

A small stream meanders thought the property creating a natural melody. A small lake filled with fish is located just behind the old lodge. It's a wonderful place to sit and relax. Of course the entire property is filled with great spots to just get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and commune with the ancient mountains.

Eva Frazier

You are located in a perfect spot for fall leaf looking. Year round, there are many interesting attractions to visit in the area. The old Woody Gap School in Suches is the country's smallest school. It is also home to the Indian Summer Festival in October. Vogel State Park, Georgia's second oldest state park, and the brand new Hubert Byron Reece Farm and Heritage Center. You are just a short drive from Blairsville (See ) and Helen ( See . Dahlonega (See ) is just a hour's drive away.

For history lovers, the house was originally built around 1890 by the Garrett family. It was purchased by the McClure family in the 1900's. J. Donald Oakes, the owner and developer of Wildcat Lodge, renovated it for a "Lodge" for the campground complex. The property was purchased by the Gilreath family later on. Gilreaths farmed the land until 1988 when Ellsworth and Eva Frazier purchased the property and let it sit dormant until 2010.

In the spring of 2010, at age 66 J. Donald Oakes began building the Wildcat Lodge and Campground complex for landowner Eva Frazier. Her vision was to create jobs for the community of Suches. Her dad, Jeptha Souther, instilled in her to give something back to the community.. Mrs. Frazier passed away November 6, 2011 just five months shy of her one hundredth birthday. J. Donald Oakes than acquired the property and continued with Mrs. Frazier's dream.

Spencer, one of the lodge's dogs, guards the cemetery

In addition to the farm house, three barns and cribs still stand in very good condition, a testimony to these early settlers and the excellent material they used.

An old McClure family cemetery is located on the property. Oakes preserved the seven graves marked with rock headstones. Two graves are known to be those of John Cochran, baby, and Elizabeth Garrett, one year old.

The old store

The Gurley property makes up the remainder of Wildcat and is home to the old country store, the old Gurley farm house and hay barn which now houses �Wildcat Small Engine Repair�.

Ellsworth and Eva Frazier also acquired it in the 1980's. The old store was built in the 1840's on a site about a quarter mile east of its present location. There are several stories about how the store was moved to its current location around 1900. One version says that a team of oxen dragged it. Another version says that a government bulldozer authorized by Arthur Woody did the moving.

A crowd of hungry diners enjoy the food at the store

Today it functions as part of the Lodge. It's a quaint and charming country store with a popular diner. You will find best homemade biscuits in the region at it. You can enjoy a traditional breakfast and lunch of barbeque, hamburgers or other meats along with some of the best locally grown produce available anywhere.

Mr. Gurley's leg

You may get even more than you bargain for. The store has an interesting history of its own. Carl Gurley who ran the country store until the late 1980s had suffered a broken leg while clearing trees which required a bone graft. Perhaps due to this earlier injury, he developed a bone tumor and had to have the leg amputated. Until the day of his death, he wore a wooden leg which made an unusual thumping noise when he walked. Visitors and locals alike still hear an occasional �thump thump thump� sound of his wooden leg on the floor and catch an occasional glimpse of his shadow meandering around �his� store.

Some unusual occurrences have led Oakes to wonder if some ancient spirits are still bound to the land. The old Gilreath house that he renovated for a lodge suffered a mysterious fire. Oakes explained, "Countless fires have burned for hours in the recently renovated fireplace without incident. Could the ghosts still be engaging in their devious and destructive ways?" He also noted that "Strange sounds and sightings have been reported in the neighborhood."

The old Gilreath House, scene of the mysterous fire

Perhaps events of the past laid the groundwork for such occurrences. The Gilreath family has an interesting history in Union County. Joseph Gilreath's father and one or more brother fought in the Confederate Army but the oldest brother, John, served as a private in Company H 5th Reg. Mounted Infantry TN in the Union Army. One can only imagine the conflict that would create in a family.

Several other family members had a colorful history as well. One brother, Harvey Lonzo Gilreath, was shot by a son-in-law and one, Andrew J. Gilreath, was a bigamist. He married Sarah Quinn in 1874 in Georgia and then Sereptha Steele in 1880 in Tennessee. He had been drummer boy in CW and later a Baptist preacher.

Perhaps some of the old feuds are still raging among the spirits that once inhabited this land. I can't know for sure but one thing I do know is that you will have an unforgettable experience during your stay at Wildcat Lodge.

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