|Mountain view from 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
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
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
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
http://www.americanroads.net/fall2010-mountain-roads.htm ) and Helen (
http://www.americanroads.net/dahlonega1.htm ) is just a hour's drive
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
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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