The Story of Helen


Living on the Unicoi Road

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The Story of Helen, Georgia

"Helen Georgia...The Rest of the Story"

Desperately Seeking Helen

AFTER WANDERING AMONG the Bavarian buildings and perhaps enjoying the revelry of Oktoberfest, many visitors naturally ask how Helen became Georgia’s Alpine Village.”  There’s a human drama behind the architecture, of course, and it's recounted here.

The next question is "Who was Helen? It took a while to figure this out, but The Story of Helen Georgia presents for the first time the life-story of its long mysterious namesake.  And in seeking Miss Helen it became apparent that the full account of the founding of Helen has never been known in its entirety.  Among other things, the town as we know it wouldn’t exist and certainly wouldn’t be named “Helen” if not for:
  • A toothache, described as “…probably one of the most important in history…”
  • A revolutionary miraculous invention
  • A heretofore-unrecognized key ingredient that was controversial at the time, and still is
The Story of Helen presents for the first time a full account of the founding of Helen over 100 years ago.  Using first-hand accounts and other original sources, it then revisits the muddy streets of a wild and sometimes dangerous boomtown that literally mushroomed in a remote valley that’d long been home to only a few mountaineer families and many acres of corn. From there, rail lines stretched to high mountain valleys near today's Appalachian Trail, places one would never imagine had seen a train.

In Alpine Helen's first days, the Sound of Music was a regular production, based on its Bavarian subject matter and Helen's cultural aspirations at the time. If a musical could be made on Helen's earliest days, something like Paint Your Wagon would be a better choice.

Helen had already had a gold rush, but lumber and land took the place of the precious metal. Rough and rowdy lumberjacks and mill workers were joined on the streets of Helen by aspiring entrepreneurs and the Ladies of the Commercial Hotel. The freedom and excitement of a bold new enterprise was amplified by a goodly supply of moonshine liquor, all of which combined to produce plenty of action in which both newcomers and traditional mountain residents often found comic relief.

Helen residents have long said, “You know, this has been an interesting place!”  It has, and the tales come alive in The Story of Helen, which is probably still home to the only two Bavarian phone booths in the state and likely remains the only town in Georgia named for a girl from Missouri.

If you think you knew the town, the place likely won't seem quite the same after you read The Story of Helen Georgia.


If The Story of Helen were to be shown as a mini-series you would be hard pressed to believe that it was not a work of fiction.

The truth as Matt Gedney so expertly ferrets out and presents in his fascinating story is like combining Mark Twain and (Charles) Dickens together.

There is love found and lost, fortunes made and squandered, and even inventions that affect us to this day in the narrative. How Helen Georgia acquired its name is presented as a story within a story, both remarkable unto themselves. From the beginning of the first settlement to today, Helen has seen characters that are at the same time tragic and funny, brilliant and foolish, driven and carefree. Gedney, in telling the story of Helen, uses historic characters as well as well researched facts to accurately portray the events and misadventures that led to modern day Helen. The book is replete with pictures and documents that provide an accurate background to support the narrative, which could not be believed otherwise.

The book is recommended both to the historian that wishes to know more about this fascinating town in NE Georgia, and to those like me that want to know the character of the people who persevered and developed such a unique community.

- Gary Elliott, Review on

Are you looking for other places to go? There are a lot of interesting things in the Helen and Nacoochee area.  Readers will be able to cross-reference and find information on the natural and historical sites listed on the map below:

Map # Location
1.Anna-Ruby Falls
2.Appalachian Trail
3.Babyland General Hospital
4.Vandiver Fields/Forest Service Road
5.Chickamauga Creek Covered Bridge
6. Cleveland - White County Courthouse Museum
7.Crescent Hill Church 
8.Chs. Smithgall - Dukes Creek Woods State Park
9.Dukes Creek Falls
10.Gourdcraft Originals
11.Martin House and Martin Mine
12. Mt. Yonah 
13. Nacoochee Mound
14. Nacoochee-Sautee Pottery and History Museum 
15. Neel's Gap
16.Nichols-Hardman House
17. Nora Mills
18. Old Sautee Store
19. Raven Cliffs
20. Richard Russell Scenic Highway
21. Robertstown 
22. Unicoi Gap 
23. Unicoi State Park 
Map of Nacoochee Valley and Thereabouts

Living on the Unicoi Road

Living on the Unicoi Road by Matt Gedney

The Story of Helen focuses on Helen’s modern history since the town was founded in 1911-13.

In the century before that, the remaining Cherokees departed the area and were replaced by white settlers, some of whom brought slaves into the Helen valley. They had been there only a short while before gold was found in nearby Dukes Creek, most likely the first find which ignited the great Georgia Gold Rush.

Living on the Unicoi Road is a companion to The Story of Helen. Beginning at an abandoned and all but forgotten cemetery, Unicoi Road gives a full account of the pioneer century before Helen was founded using first-hand accounts -- including a previously unknown pioneer diary -- and original records to bring the people of this lost era back into view.

Click on the Unicoi Road link in the bar below or the image above to see more.

© 2014 Littlestar Press