This excellent article, written by Michael E. Maffett, MD and first published in Georgia Backroads, Winter 2014, gives an excellent overview of the history of the Tallulah River and the area surrounding Lake Burton.
It is provided on the website of the Lake Burton Civic Association.
As we view the reports of the terrible destruction in North Georgia and Tennessee, we are forced to recall our own tragedy when our Lake Burton home was destroyed in December of 2012.
We had owned this home at that time for 26 years. Our children had grown up spending their summers there. Many friends and members of our family had also spent many hours there through the years so that it had also become a part of their history, rich with sweet memories.
This time we escaped the fire. We are in the midst of rebuilding our home. The fires of the Oconee-Chattahoochee National Forest were well north of us, but close enough to remind us of our blessings.
“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Praised be the name of the Lord!”
Copied extensively from a neighbor’s blog
Named for Jeremiah Burton, a well respected area citizen who occasionally served in various elected positions, the town of Burton was a small community of 200 people on the banks of the junction of the Tallulah River and Moccasin Creek. It began as one of the first gold rush settlements in North Georgia, and the first in Rabun County. Shortly after the US entered into WWI, the Georgia Railway and Electric Company bought the town. Gold and corundum mines in Tate City employed most of the men in the area. The lumber industry also provided employment.
The town was located on an old road running from Clayton to the Nacoochee Valley where it joined the old Unicoi Turnpike near the Old Sautee Store.
Andrew Richey, an educator at the Rabun-Nachoochee Gap School and local historian, served as postman for the area for several years prior to 1900.
The Byrd-Mathews Lumber Company built a narrow gauge railroad into the city to haul lumber from the nearby mountains to its lumber mill in nearby Helen.
The Tallulah River supplied power for various nearby businesses. Burton quickly grew and by the time the town was bought by the Georgia Railway and Electric Company in 1917 it supported three general stores. John LaPrade, one of the purchasing agents for the railroad whose land became the shore of Lake Burton on Hwy Georgia 197 served as a Civilian Conservation Corps. A marina and restaurant on the land to this day maintains his name.
With the final purchase of land around the Tallulah River, Georgia Railway and Electric built a dam and began to flood the surrounding area on December 22, 1919. From embankments above the rivers, residents watched as the town was engulfed by the rising waters.
Today, the town of Burton lies beneath the lake which bears its name. Generations since have enjoyed Lake Burton which is now dotted with residences, from cottages to estates, much of which is still owned and controlled by the Georgia Power Company.
With the cool fall weather and the natural beauty of the changing leaves, this it the time to do the Panther Creek Trail! Round trip, you are looking at over 11 miles, but it’s 11 miles along running water and rewarded by beautiful waterfalls along the way.
When we first bought our home at Lake Burton, we refused to buy a boat. After all, this house is in the middle of the North Georgia Mountains. We spent our weekends hiking and focused on those hikes that offered us (and the kids) rewarding views of waterfalls, rivers and streams. It is easy forget how special these experiences can be!
This additional link offers photos and a further description of this beautiful area of the North Georgia Mountains.