Below is the text of a letter from:  Carol D. Shull - Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places - National Register, History, and Education

It concerns:  the boundaries for the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District, Bibb and Twiggs counties, Georgia.

Back to  Timeline of Ocmulgee Old Fields


United States Department of the Interior

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20240

IN REPLY REFER TO:   H32(2280)

Mr. Larry R. Dreihaup, P.E.

Administrator, Georgia Division,

Federal Highway Administration

61 Forsyth Street, SW, Suite 17T1-00

Atlanta, GA 30303

__ April 2000

Dear Mr. Dreihaup:



On November 5, 1999, we published a notice requesting any new information that might be available pertaining to the boundaries for the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District, Bibb and Twiggs counties, Georgia. As discussed below, we received no new information which, when evaluated in conjunction with documentation already on file, results in a finding that the boundaries of the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District, as defined in our decisions of August 14, 1997, and July 23, 1999, do not meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation as originally determined, or that the decision must be reopened. A copy of the Federal Register notice addressing this issue is enclosed.



However, the National Park Service did receive new information indicating that the Ocmulgee Old Fields area may contain additional important cultural resources representing values in addition to the traditional cultural values. These resources may overlap, coexist with, and/or potentially expand the boundaries established for the historic district. We suggest that these additional resources should be evaluated as part of the cultural resource planning process for the proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension project, or any other projects in the area, and have highlighted several in this letter for your consideration.



With respect to the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District, on January 13-14, 2000, after reviewing the information submitted to the National Park Service, including without limitation material provided by Cherokee Brick and Tile Company, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office, Ocmulgee National Monument, Alabama/Quassarte Tribal Town, and your office (copies enclosed), the Keeper of the National Register and a National Register historian made a site visit to the Ocmulgee Old Fields area. The visit included the Cherokee Brick and Tile Company property, the Macon Landfill, the Macon Wastewater Treatment Plant, Central City Park, Ocmulgee National Monument, Browns Mount, Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and other areas relating to the boundary. The visit was conducted by four-wheel drive vehicle. A flight over the area in a small chartered plane provided an opportunity to get a general view of the district and to see areas not accessible by car.



The site visit and the new material the National Park Service received strongly support the importance of the Ocmulgee Old Fields area as a traditional cultural property, as the determination of eligibility request submitted by your office in June 1999 concluded. The report included with your request summarized the historical, archeological, and ethnographic evidence documenting the exceptional importance of the Old Fields area to the Muscogean tribes as the "Cradle of the Muscogee Confederacy." The Old Fields certainly is demonstrated to be a location associated with the traditional beliefs of the Muscogean peoples about their origins and their cultural history. The impressive mounds and the important archeological sites in the area generally bounded by Central City Park, Ocmulgee National Monument, and the Gledhill sites in the north and Stubbs Mound ana Brown's Mount in the south still testify strongly to these traditional associations. The number and wide distribution of archeological sites provide scientific evidence confirming the intensive use of the area by Muscogean peoples. The landscape of continuing agriculture, ranching, timbering, and reclaimed clay mines which forms the setting for these features is still capable of revealing the imprint of traditional Muscogean culture and is not inconsistent with the historic evolution of the old fields concept, because there are few later buildings or structures and the area is characterized by forests, wetlands, and cleared areas in the river valley and along Tobesofkee Creek. The additional material submitted and the site visit confirm that the boundaries established in July 1999 appropriately reflect the modified natural landscape surviving in the Ocmulgee River floodplain in the project area. They include the contiguous land area at the heart of the traditional cultural property while excluding large intrusions and recent development at the edges.



The new material submitted to the National Register raised questions about the inclusion of three areas in the district: Central City Park, the Rocky/Tobesofkee Creek drainage, and the area of Cherokee Brick and Tiles undeveloped clay reserves. Questions also were raised about the exclusion of two areas: the uplands east of Route 23 in Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the area on the west side of the river between the Southern rail yards and the Macon levee. Each of these areas is addressed below.



Central City Park: The new information received and the site visit confirm that the relatively undeveloped portions of Central City Park lying between Walnut Street Extended and the Macon Levee were properly included in the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District, based on previously recorded archeological sites and other evidence of Muscogean use of this area during annual fish runs in the river and for trade and negotiations at Fort Hawkins. This area was one of the four landmarks used to define the traditional cultural property in Muscogee (Creek) Tribal Resolution 97-09. Over a thousand Muscogee Creek gathered in the Central City Park area in 1817 at their last great assembly in the East. Although there appears to have been no recent testing in the park, the information that has been received indicates that at least portions of the important One Mile Track and Deer Park sites (9Bi7 and 9Bi8) may survive and that historic and prehistoric artifacts continue to be discovered in the area.



The Rocky/Tobesofkee Creek drainage: The new information and the site visit also confirm the decision to include the undeveloped Tobesofkee/Rocky Creek drainage in the district. This decision was based on the Muscogean peoples oral histories that identify the area as the location of traditional towns and on continuing recovery of artifacts. There are known archeological sites in the area, such as the Screeching Hawk site (9Bi64), which was recommended for testing when it was recorded. Excerpts from Benjamin Hawkinss diary record evidence of Indian occupation at the time of his travels through the area in the 1790s. The Hawkins diary indicates that the area was then identified as "old fields."



Area of Cherokee Bricks undeveloped clay reserves: We have carefully reviewed the preliminary working boundary circulated for comment by the ethnographic consultant for the Federal Highway Administration in January 1998. This boundary excluded the reserve area and the adjacent reclaimed strip mines known as the "Long Ponds." However, our site visit, including the aerial overflight, confirmed our conclusion that Cherokee Bricks undeveloped clay reserve lands form an integral part of the modified natural landscape characteristic of the traditional cultural property and therefore contribute to the significance of the district. Modified primarily by logging, this reserve area is much less changed than the Long Ponds, which were included in the final boundary proposal submitted to us in June, 1999. None of the new information questioned the ability of these reclaimed and reforested clay mines to testify to traditional cultural values or suggested that they be excluded from the boundaries. The additional material and the site visit not only confirm that this managed landscape was appropriately included in the boundaries established for the traditional cultural property in July 1999, but also strongly suggest that it contributes to an important brick and clay mining historic district as well, discussed in more detail below.



Uplands east of Route 23 in Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: The evidence indicating the probability of significant cultural use of the upland areas within the boundaries of Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was not sufficient to justify inclusion of these areas within the boundaries of the traditional cultural property in July 1999. However, if future surveys uncover important evidence of cultural use of the chert outcroppings, for instance, the area can be considered at that time for inclusion in the Ocmulgee Old Fields District.



Area on the west side of the River between the Southern rail yards and the Macon levee, roughly bounded by recent construction along Lower Poplar Street on the north and the Riverwood pulp and paper mill on the south: The site visit confirmed that some of this area has retained the characteristics of a modified natural environmental setting. Correspondence from Muscogean tribal representatives reiterated their belief that this area, where culturally important plants and animals flourish, still retains the imprint of their traditional culture. However, the visit also confirmed that active clay mining disrupts the traditional character of the river valley, at least temporarily, and that the landscape in this area has been so fragmented by large scale modem intrusions, including the Macon landfill, the Macon Wastewater Treatment Plant and the active clay mines, that it no longer meets National Register requirements for integrity of condition. The National Park Service has concluded that the decision to exclude this area from the boundaries of the traditional cultural property district in July 1999 was appropriate. We do note that as active clay mines are abandoned, reclaimed, and restored to a natural condition, these areas can be reevaluated for possible inclusion in the historic district.



Based on consideration of the comments received, and all other information collected by the National Park Service, including the visit to the site, our prior determination on the boundaries for the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District established in the decisions of August 14, 1997, and July 23, 1999, stands.



As noted above, the new information submitted to the National Park Service also indicates that important cultural resources representing values in addition to the traditional cultural values may be located in the Ocmulgee Old Fields area, coexisting with or overlapping the historic district. We would like to highlight several of these resources for your consideration.



First, the new information included drafts of four important cultural resource reports: a "Cultural Resource Overview of the Proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension, Bibb, Houston, Jones, and Twiggs Counties, Georgia" (1999), an "Ethnographic Overview, Proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension Project, Bibb County, Georgia" (September 20, 1999), an "Archeological Survey and Evaluation of Proposed Links for the Eisenhower Parkway Extension, Bibb County, Georgia" (1999), and a "Historic Resources Survey of the Proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension Alternative Links, Bibb and Jones Counties, Georgia" (1999). Although these drafts were not relied on in assessing the July 1999 decision, above, they provide additional information about the resources in the area.



The draft Cultural Resource Overview, which provides an excellent synthesis of the history of the Macon area from the prehistoric period to the 20th century, confirms the importance of the Ocmulgee Old Fields as the location of important early studies in southeastern archeology. It also suggests that additional important prehistoric and historic archeological sites are likely to be discovered both within and outside the boundaries of the historic district. Predictive modeling undertaken for the draft Cultural Resource Overview and shown in Figures 21, 22, and 23 indicates that there is high archeological potential throughout the area, although no thorough archeological survey has been conducted. The draft Overview identifies 143 previously recorded sites both inside and outside the boundary of the current district. We note that although the draft Overview recommends testing if information on the current condition of these sites is not available, the draft Archeological Survey report does not appear to reevaluate any of them. The new information received indicates that two archeological sites within Central City Park and the Napier site (9Bi9), to the south along the river, may have retained their ability to yield additional important information.

Next, the new information and the site visit indicate that there are a number of resources included within the boundaries for the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District that may also be eligible for listing in the National Register for their association with other aspects of the history of the Ocmulgee River Valley. The listed Ocmulgee National Monument has already been evaluated as having cultural resources that reflect a variety of areas and periods of significance, ranging from prehistoric and historic archeology, through mid-19th-century associations with the early history of railroads and the Civil War, to mid-20th-century "Art Moderne" architecture. And the Bandstand in Central City Park was listed in the National Register in 1972 for its architectural and historical significance. Furthermore, Central City Park itself was reportedly created shortly after the establishment of the city in the 1820s, and a number of surviving older buildings appear to testify to its long-term use as the state fairgrounds. The Mile Track may date to the 1870s. It is possible, based on this information, that Central City Park or additional resources within it may be eligible for the National Register. We suggest that these resources should be documented and evaluated.



Finally, there are other resources that may meet National Register Criteria for Evaluation that overlap and are partially within and outside of the boundaries of the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District. The draft Historic Resources Survey has already identified three historic railroad corridors and the Macon Levee. A draft National Register nomination for a proposed Cherokee Brick and Tile Company Historic District has been prepared at the behest of the owner. The draft makes a good case for the importance of the brick making industry in Georgia and in Bibb County and also for the importance of Cherokee Brick within that context. Clay mining and brick making have coexisted with traditional cultural values in the Ocmulgee River valley for over a century. The boundaries identified in the nomination appear to correspond to the historic extent of the property by the 1940s. The undeveloped clay reserve areas were acquired during the historic period and seem to have been consciously managed as reserves for future development. Clay mining, brick making, and subsequent reclamation were part of the historical process within the boundaries of the brickyard and have left their own characteristic and important imprint on the valley landscape. The draft Historic Resources Survey discusses the proposed Cherokee Brick and Tile Company Historic District, but does not evaluate it. A formal evaluation of the importance of Cherokee Brick should be included in the final Historic Resources Survey for the project. We suggest that other clay mining and brick making properties, like the former Burns Brick Company, with its distinctive buildings and dramatic overhead conveyor line, should also be evaluated for their National Register eligibility.



We urge that the draft reports be completed as soon as possible and that all the resources in the Ocmulgee Old Fields area be inventoried and evaluated to identify their contributions to the long continuum of history in this exceptional cultural landscape.



If we may be of further assistance, please let us know.





Sincerely,







Carol D. Shull

Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places

National Register, History, and Education



Enclosures



cc: Mr. Wayne Shackelford

Commissioner

Georgia Department of Transportation

#2 Capitol Square, SW

Atlanta, GA 30334-1002





Mr. Lonice C. Barrett

Commissioner and SHPO

Historic Preservation Division

500 The Healey Building

57 Forsyth Street, NW

Atlanta, GA 30303



Mr. James S. David

Superintendent

Ocmulgee National Monument

National Park Service

1207 Emery Highway

Macon, GA 31201



Mr. Kenneth D. Sams

President

Cherokee Brick and Tile Company

Waterville Road

P.0. Box 4567

Macon, GA 31213



Ms. Rebecca Torres, Chief

Alabama/Quassarte Tribal Town

P.0. Box 537

Henryetta, OK 74437



Mr. Jack L. Sammons

Friends of Ocmulgee Old Fields

P. 0. Box 4122

Macon, GA 31208-4122



Honorable Larry G. Justice

Chairman

Bibb County Board of Commissioners

Courthouse

P.O. Box 4708

Macon, GA 31208-4708



Honorable C. Jack Ellis

Mayor

City of Macon

700 Poplar Street

P.O. Box 247

Macon, GA 31202-0247



Honorable Mac Collins

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515



Honorable Saxbe Chambliss

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515



Honorable Paul D. Coverdell

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510-1004



Honorable Max Cleland

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510-1005