BRACK: Enjoyable day at Mossy Creek Campground and Meaders Jug Country

Photos courtesy of the White County News.

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  Every now and then it’s nice not to be in control, and just enjoy what others are directing.  Take a recent afternoon: Billy Chism of Toccoa had invited several of us to lunch, with the promise of learning distinctive North Georgia history afterward.

We arrived at a restaurant on U.S. Highway 129 north of Gainesville, and a short distance south of Clermont. It was Quillian’s Grill, a place you might not notice when driving by. But you should, for the food is delicious. And let me warn you: save room when ordering for their homemade desserts. They are tremendous. I didn’t save room, and merely had to eyeball the coconut chocolate pie while others dived into.

When we arrived, our host and several others, including Hill Jordan, formerly of Lawrenceville, now of Sautee-Nachoochee, were already there. Soon we were joined by Emory Jones, an eminent storyteller and author, of Cleveland.

After lunch, Emory caravanned the four car unit northward, heading for the Mossy Creek Campground. We turned east on Georgia 254, and after a few more turns, were at the campground. This is southeast of Cleveland in White County, but near the Hall County line.

Campground meetings were serious churchly events back in pioneer days in Georgia. People would flock to these Methodist campgrounds during August for what amounted to a revival, plus homecoming. A historical marker, erected in 2008, succinctly tells the story:

Mossy Creek Campground was established in 1833 and has continued as a site of yearly religious revival meetings since that time. (Nearby) Rock Springs Campground was established in 1887 and is one of the few remaining camp-meeting sites organized by black congregations in Georgia. Similar sites developed throughout the region during and after the Second Great Awakening of the early nineteenth century. In addition to religious teaching, camp meetings provided social opportunities for isolated rural communities. Brush arbors, or open-air shelters, like the ones at Mossy Creek and Rock Springs, are typical of southern camp-meeting sites.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society, Mossy Creek Tentholders, Rock Springs Campground Association, and White County Historical Society.

Emory Jones told us of his memories of attending the Methodist Campground as a boy, staying in the tents (by then really wooden houses) of families that built them around the covered outdoor meeting site.  The campground tradition continues each summer. For 2018, it will be held Sunday to Sunday, July 21-28

After that, we drove a short distance to a place where the area where the Meaders family made their famous North Georgia face jugs. They are said to be the most influential family in the history of Southern Appalachian folk pottery. Many of their “face jugs” are highly sought after by collectors, some bringing $3,000. A particular clay in the area was the basis for the original jugs.

Emory’s cousin, Lanier Meaders, is the subject of a Smithsonian Institution documentary about the jugs. We visited a dilapidated barn where Mr. Leaders turned and kilned many of his jugs, where Emory remembers seeing him at work.

In Cleveland, each fall the White County seat holds the Meaders Pottery Face Jug festival to recognize the century-old contribution of this family to the area. Called “Pottery Comes to Town,” it is sponsored by the White County Historical Society.

Each fall the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in Sautee puts on “The Folk Pottery Show and Sale.” It will be on Saturday, September 1 in 2018.  Neither event is exclusive to the Meaders family; however, the Meaders folks will be there in force.

We also visited the cemetery where many of the Meaders extended family are buried. It is also where some of Hill Jordan’s family is buried.

Happily, it was a fine fall afternoon given to letting go, having others guide you, and etching in your mind the way it was back in campground and face jug days.