History of HRP

The following is the history as written by Norman Thomas Clarke, owner in the third generation of “The Hanging Rocks”. It was written by him when he was 82 yrs. old.
By: Norman Thomas Clarke

The “Hanging Rocks” of Jenkins County, owned by Mabel Clarke Jenkins is in the Eastern part of Jenkins County, Georgia, just off Highway 23. They are located on Rocky Branch. A ledge of rock along a hillside that rises some 20 to 25 feet above the earth, makes a picturesque scene, overlooking a beautiful pond. Underneath the rock is clay that has eroded over a period of time, leaving the rock extended into space. There are huge rocks that have broken off from the main body over the years and in wet times have moved down the hill.
I remember one that has broken off in my life time. It extended farther than the others. I use to walk out on it as a boy ( I am 82). The school children use to come to the Hanging Rocks from Red Hill School to have field trips. They would always come on the last day of school and have the end of school picnic. I have heard it said by one young student (who is now 60) that when the teachers were telling them about the Indians living in, around and on the rocks, they got so excited because the teacher made it so real they could picture the scene. At that time there was only forest and a stream running through below the rocks. Today, there is a lake and a cabin by the rocks, also, a picnic shelter, a skinning shed, a camper hook-ups and other buildings.
There were some geologist from California who came and stayed several days when Plant Vogal was being built. They did a study of the rock to determine if it was a ‘Fault’ that may cause an earthquake. They determined that it was a ‘Fault’ and that the rock had been pushed up to the surface from a depth of about 200 feet. It had happened a long time ago and they saw no sign that it had moved for maybe millions of years and thought there was no danger.
At one time there was a large whole in the branch just below the rocks and when I was a child it was known by all as “the rock hole”. When I was a boy, about seventy years ago, it was large and deeper than a man’s head. We went in swimming there. Grandpa said it was dug by the Indians to get water. We have seen many Artifacts and signs that indicated an Indian village was located there, probably as late as the 1700’s, and left when they traded their land to the English.
It is very likely that Hernando De Soto came there in 1539. He landed on the west coast of Florida with a company of 600 people with cows, hogs, horses and other animals for food and traveled north into Georgia. He came up through Georgia and crossed the Ogeechee River just below Millen. From there, he traveled north to the Shell Bluff area on the Savannah River, following Indian trails. This route would have led him directly through this area.
Can you imagine the shock to the Indians to see 600 white men come through the woods? They had never seen a white man before. De Soto did not, however, make a good impression on the Indians. While there, he forced Indian men and women to work, carrying equipment for him and demanded that Indian towns provide food for his men and animals. De Soto also held political and religious leaders, including the Chief, hostages so that the Indians would obey his orders. De Soto’s march devastated the Indians of the Southeast. In addition to forced labor, and warfare, the Europeans brought deadly diseases such as measles, plague and smallpox into their lands of which they had no immunity. It killed them by the thousands. So, it was not a good thing for the Indians that the white man came to America. The British established a trading port at Charles Town, later called Charleston. They traded with the Indians in this area and called them the Creeks because they built their villages near creeks and streams to get water and to farm the soil that was good and rich . It was also soft to work for the tools they used were made of wood and stone that would not work the hard soils very well. So, they became known as the Creek Indians. It was the Creek Indians that lived at the hanging rocks.
The British traded them metal tools and many other useful things for their animal hides. The Indians became so dependent upon this trade that they depleted their wild game. When James Oglethorpe came in 1733 to settle Savannah, he found the Indians to be friendly and even helped him to fight the Spanish. There was about 100 years from the time Oglethorpe came to Savannah until the Indians were moved to Oklahoma in 1835. During that time, there were clashes between the white settlers and the Indians. They continued to give more and more land to the settlers and move farther to West Georgia.
Christopher Clarke, my great, great, great grandfather was granted some land near Brier Creek in 1770. A few years later, Elijah Clarke, with a company of about 100 people, came to Lincoln and settled there on the land the Indians ceded to them. Some times the Indians would attack the white settlers, other times they were friendly. I have a letter that was written to my great grandfather in 1837 from Vienna, Georgia to Old Church Post Office, Burke County. The person tells my grandfather of the land that he received and moved to. He said crops were good there but his was in the green woods that year and did not do as well but would do better the next year. He said his father came by moving to Sumter County where he got some land. So, many of the people around here moved there when the Indians moved out from there. They were forced out by the army in what they called the “Trail of Tears”.
Thousands died on the way as they walked from Georgia to Oklahoma. Then, the government tried to break up the community life by giving each family a tract of land to farm. Some made good farmers, some did not. They tried everything and did everything to them, including domestication, education, perspiration, provocation, exasperation, separated, rejuvenated, procrastinated, renovated, dedicated, and exterminated. It is surprising that any are still here. Many have inter-married, some have left the reservations, but many are still living there.
I read an article written by Mona Charen about President Clinton’s visit to an Indian Reservation. These are some of her comments. “The President face to face with some of the worst poverty in America (unemploy-ment on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 72 percent), urged the Sioux to cultivate the internet promising that if they acquire the skills, “WE CAN GET THE JOBS TO COME HERE”. The President is also hawking a basket of new tax credits, loan guarantees and other incentives to lure business to the reservation.” NONE OF THAT will succeed. With no disrespect intended toward the American Indians, it would be pouring good money after bad. Lets clear the decks about history. It is a simple fact of life that European civilization contended with Indian civilization for dominion over this patch of North America and the Indians were vanquished. It is inarguable that along the way, terrible atrocities were committed on both sides, and many a treaty was broken by the United States. White guilt over that history has harmed
modern Indians, not helped them. In fact, Indian reservations are little laboratories of liberalism, cautionary tales about the effect of too much benevolence.
For years, but particularly since the 1960s and 70s when Indian cause became chic, the U. S. Government has lavished freebies on Indian reservations. Hendrik Mills writing in November/December American Enterprise magazine described the cornucopia available to reservations Indians: Free health care, including dentistry with no co-payment, extra education funds, tribal colleges complete with full scholarships and living expenses, exemptions from many local and State taxes, head start, loads of free food, and of course, welfare. Mills, who drawn to the reservation initially by leftist idealism, was appalled to see the unopened packages of fruit juice, canned fruit, macaroni, soup, rice and beans-most with department of agriculture stamps, rotting in local dumps. He was shocked that many Indian parents effectively have made their children orphans, failing to provide the most basic care. He was also disillusioned to discover that many Indians wait for the government check to come the first of the month, then blow it all at the casino.There is, of course, exceptions. Some Indians do live orderly productive lives, but the overall state of the Indian reservations is one of poverty, decay and despair. Alcohol has ravaged the reservations, according to Alcohol Health and Research World. The alcohol related death rate among Indians in 1992 was 5.6 times greater than among the U. S. population in general. Alcohol related fatal car accidents are three times as prevalent, and alcohol related homicide is 2.4 times higher.The answer to what ails the reservation is probably exactly the reverse of what President Clinton is recommending. It is an end to the dole, an end to paternalism. If we continue to “help” in the way we have been doing for decades, we may soon have no Indians. Well, so much for the Indians. The reason I wrote so much about the Indians, while this place has been in our family for over a hundred years, they probably lived there thousands of years.
A history of “the hanging rocks” would be incomplete without a history of HOMER BURKE. He was the first of our family to own them. He was my maternal grandfather. Born in 1870-died in 1942, married in 1891 to Henrietta Bragg, daughter of James Bragg. They were the parents of Bruno, Dessie (my mother), Rollie, Ralph, Robert, Annie Mae, Eula Mae, Josephine, Rhodella, and Louise. He moved to the Crawford Parker place as a share-cropper when he married, and about 1897, he bought “the hanging rocks” land from the Parkers and built a house on it. There was a house already on it and a colored family living there. He wanted the colored man to stay and help, so grandpa moved some furniture into part of his house and they lived together until grandpa could build his house. There was a road running through the property that was used a lot at the time, but the road is no longer there. It left Highway 23 south of Rocky Branch Church, crossed the Rocky Branch and passed the Bill Peel place. That is where Ben Peel, Bob Peel, Luther Peel and Emma Peel Burke was born and reared. The road continued through the Homer Burke land, to the Dave Reynolds place and on to the Horse Creek community. Grandpa built his house on the south side of that road. It was a five room house with three rooms in line on the front and two on the back with a porch in the center and a porch across the front.
He had a store there and sold merchandise to the community. He lived there until about 1910 when he bought some land on the east side. He built a home there and moved to it. This house had 4 large rooms and a wide hall through the center, a kitchen and dining room L onto a back porch , L shaped along the kitchen and house to a well at the end of the porch I was always warned “do not climb up on the curb of that well and look over” but I did!! The front porch did not go all the way across the house. There was a corner left beside the porch and grandpa sat on that end of the porch and chewed tobacco and spit out there, so we did not dare go near that corner for fear he would spit on us. He had a store there too, with candy, chewing gum and lots of good stuff, but he would not give us any. He was stingy also. He had so many grandchildren, if he gave candy to all of us, he would not have had any left to sell. Grandpa was close with his money, but he liked modern conveniences and was one of the first to buy new inventions. He had a telephone before mother married and she married in 1915. He got carbide lights, then he later got a generator. He had to run it all the time to keep the lights on, so he, being the conservative he was, bought lots of big batteries and ran the generator only to charge the batteries. He had a cream separator and several cows. He would separate the cream from the milk and sell the cream. When I was a child, we would get the milk that had been separated, like the no-fat today. No-fat has been around a long time!
My grandpa Homer had only a fifth grade education, but he was sharp and could figure well. He started off as a share-cropper. Before he died, he owned 1800 acres of land, he had 23 share-croppers working for him, he had a maid to cook and keep house, and a yard man to do chores around the house and farm. When I was young, he had a horse that he rode to over-see the farming. He would tell his yard man to go saddle his horse. I would ride with him some times, later on in life, he used a buggy to ride over the farm. I never asked him for anything but one time. He turned me down, I never asked him for anything else. I never heard him say a curse word, but he did have a by-word. He would say “By George”. My grandma fussed with him a lot. I never heard her call him any name but Mr. Homer. He liked to eat and kept plenty of good food on the table. Some times he would eat for an hour. He sat at the head of the table and would serve his plate first before he would pass the food on to the others. I recall one time, after I married, my wife, Mildred, was expecting our first baby. He told her to come and sit by him and anything that she wanted they would get first and the rest could have what was left. Back then, some people thought that if a pregnant woman wanted something and did not get it and got angry about it, the child would be born with a birth mark resembling the object.
My grandpa liked Mildred a lot and when we told him that she was Lou Lewis’ grandchild, he said “By George you are kin to my wife. Lou Lewis’ daddy and Henrietta’s daddy were brothers, that makes you and Tom cousins”. Let me tell you a joke that was told on grandpa that sort of describes his attitude. They said that he and grandma were going down the road, she was walking and he was riding a mule. They met a person and he asked grandpa, “Mr. Homer, why are you riding and Mrs. Henrietta walking?” He said that grandpa looked off the other way, chewed on his tobacco and spit, then looked back at him and said “cause she ain’t got no mule!”
Grandpa gave the hanging rocks farm to my mother in the middle thirties. Minus Clarke, an older brother of mine, lived there, also Essie Brinson lived there after Minus died. Henry Williams lived there until I bought it about 1960. I farmed it and built a dairy and two upright silos, a 10 acre lake and picnic shelter. I sold it to Mabel in the mid ninety’s. It now has four ponds on the property. She has built a cabin, sport shooting facility, trailer park and operates as a hunting preserve and a sport shooting range.

It is managed by my grandson, Robert Jenkins, Mabel‘s son. My son-in-law, Bobby, is in charge of Mabel, Robert, Linda, my granddaughter-in-law and my three great grandsons, Brett, Clarke and Noah.

Written in 1999

Foot note: Norman Thomas Clarke died, November 10, 2001
Mildred Taylor Clarke (his wife) died November 21, 1999
Robert and Linda Jenkins, on November 21, 2000,
had their fourth child, Grace Ann (Gracey) Jenkins.