Stephens County Courthouse in Toccoa
|Nickname(s): Toccoa the Beautiful|
|Motto: "The Heart of Northeast Georgia"|
Location in Stephens County and the state of Georgia
|• Total||8.3 sq mi (21.6 km2)|
|• Land||8.3 sq mi (21.5 km2)|
|• Water||0 sq mi (0.1 km2)|
|Elevation||994 ft (303 m)|
|• Density||1,123.3/sq mi (431.6/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0333240|
Toccoa is a city in and the county seat of Stephens County, Georgia, United States, located approximately 50 miles (80 km) from Athens and approximately 90 miles (140 km) northeast of Atlanta. The population was 8,491 as of the 2010 census.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography and climate
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Economy
- 5 Arts and culture
- 6 Education
- 7 Infrastructure
- 8 Historic Town Mall
- 9 Notable people
- 10 In literature and film
- 11 In media
- 12 Kelly Barnes Dam failure
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Native Americans, including the Mississippian culture mound builders and later the Cherokee, were the original inhabitants in what is now Toccoa and the surrounding area. The first residents of European descent were a small number of American Revolutionary War veterans led by Col. William H. Wofford who moved to the area when the war ended. The area was referred to as Wofford's Tract, or Wofford's Settlement. Col. Wofford is buried near Toccoa Falls. Col. Wofford's son, William T. Wofford, was born near Toccoa (then part of Habersham County), and was an officer during the Mexican-American War and a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. The Georgia Land Lottery of 1820 spurred the migration of Scots-Irish from North Carolina and the Georgia coast.
The Georgia General Assembly created Stephens County in 1905, and Toccoa was established as the county seat.
Toccoa means "beautiful" in the Cherokee language, and is derived from the Cherokee term for "where the Catawbas lived." The city was established in 1873 around an area formerly called Dry Pond, named for a pond that was waterless most of the time.
Camp Toccoa, a World War II paratrooper training base, was located nearby. It was the first training base for the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, whose Easy Company was subject of the non-fiction book and subsequent HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.
Toccoa is also home to the Travelers Rest Inn, known locally as Jarrett Manor, and Toccoa Falls College. On November 6, 1977, the Kelly Barnes Dam, located above the college, failed. The resulting flood killed 39. Toccoa Falls is located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College.
Toccoa is the birthplace of singer Ida Cox, philanthropist and Olympic Gold Medalist Paul Edward Anderson, former 100 Black Men of America President Thomas W. Dortch Jr., former Clemson and NBA basketball player Dale Davis, former Georgia Tech and NFL football player Pat Swilling, and All-American (Georgia Tech) football player Ken Swilling. James Brown, nicknamed the "King of Soul," lived in Toccoa a short time before his big break as a singer, and worked as a janitor at Toccoa High School. Bobby Byrd was a gospel musician and songwriter, and a sideman to James Brown. Paul Anderson, world weightlifting champion in 1955, and Olympic gold medalist in 1956 in weightlifting known as "the world's strongest man," was born in Toccoa. His world record for the heaviest weight ever lifted by a human (6,270 lbs. in the back lift) was at first noted in the Guinness Book of World Records, but later excised due to questions about the conditions of the event. He was the first man in the world to Clean and Press 400 pounds. A 16-ton granite marker is located at his birthplace. Ramblin' "Doc" Tommy Scott, composer of "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," was born and lived in Toccoa. Toccoa is the home of former Georgia Tech and NFL football player Billy Shaw.
Internationally noted civil rights and social justice activist Reverend Douglas Demetrius Prather, a native of Atlanta, also has family ties to the city of Toccoa. Rev. Prather is a direct descendant of the original Prather family for which Prather Bridge Road is named. According to historical accounts, The Johns House, a Victorian cottage near Prather Bridge Road, was built in 1898. Further down on the right, on a hill overlooking the valley of the upper Tugalo River, is Riverside, a Greek revival antebellum home that was built in 1850 by James D. Prather with slave labor and timber from his plantation. The Prather family cemetery is at the right of the house, about fifteen yards from the porch. During the Civil War, General Robert Toombs, a close friend of Mr. Prather, used the house as a refuge from northern troops. The soldiers pursued him to Riverside, where he was able to hide in a double closet and escape capture.
The first Prather's Bridge was a swinging bridge built in 1804 by James Jeremiah Prather. Until then, travelers crossed the Tugalo River at fords and later by ferries. The first bridge was washed away during a freshet (an overflow caused by heavy rain). A more substantial bridge was built in 1850, but was burned in 1863 during the Civil War to keep the enemy from crossing. James Jeremiah and his son, James Devereaux, rebuilt the bridge in 1868. This bridge was also washed away in 1918 and was rebuilt in 1920 by James D. Prather. It was afterwards replaced by a concrete bridge, but was kept as a landmark until burned by vandals in 1978.
Geography and climate
Toccoa is located at (34.574725, −83.319865).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.4 square miles (22 km2), of which 8.3 square miles (21 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.60%) is water.
Altitude is 313 m (1,027 ft).
|Climate data for Toccoa, Georgia, normals 1981–2010, extremes 1891-present|
|Record high °F (°C)||82
|Average high °F (°C)||51.1
|Average low °F (°C)||31.4
|Record low °F (°C)||−5
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||5.37
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||0.8
|This article is outdated. (April 2016)|
As of the census of 2010, Toccoa had a total population of 8,491. The 2014 Population Estimate (as of July 1, 2014) was 8,257. The median age of a Toccoa resident is 35.4. The number of companies in Toccoa is 1,135. In educational attainment, high school graduate or higher percentage was 84.1%. Total housing units in Toccoa are 4,009. The median household income was $34,047. Foreign born population was 213. The percentage of individuals below poverty level was 24.4%.
Stephens County Development Authority (SCDA) was established in 1965 to continue and sustain the growth of Northeast Georgia. SCDA is responsible for the recruitment of new businesses such as industrial, manufacturing, distribution, corporate and regional headquarters and customer service centers. SCDA serves the following cities: Toccoa, Eastanollee, Martin, and Avalon. Major industrial parks in the area are: Toccoa Industrial Park, Meadowbrook Industrial Park, and Hayestone Brady Business Park.
The top employers in descending order are the Stephens County School System, Caterpillar, Patterson Pump, ASI (GEM Industries), American Woodmark Corp., Standard Register, Sage Automotive Interiors, Habersham Plantation, Toccoa Falls College, Coats & Clark, Eaton Corporation, and PTL Company (an elevator fixtures and parts manufacturer).
Arts and culture
Annual events include the Currahee Military Weekend, Taste of Toccoa, Cinema on Sage, Costume Parade, Harvest Festival, ChristmasFest, Christmas Parade, Roots Rhythm And Rails Music Fest, and many others.
Toccoa is the center of a thriving music scene and the home of a regional orchestra. The Toccoa Symphony Orchestra is made up of volunteer musicians from the surrounding community, South Carolina, and Atlanta. The symphony exists to provide quality symphonic music to the region and to bring together musicians from throughout northeast Georgia.
The symphony was founded in 1977 by Pinkie Craft Ware and Archie Sharretts, both music educators. Since its founding, the symphony has performed at least three concerts every season. The symphony is supported by a board of directors and an extensive network of patrons.
The orchestra collaborates with many musicians and provides a wide range of concert experiences. The ensemble has premiered works by young composers, presents a yearly Christmas concert with a one hundred voice choir, and incorporates budding performers from nearby Toccoa Falls College.
Currahee Military Museum
The Currahee Military Museum, located in downtown Toccoa at the original train station where arriving GIs would disembark, is dedicated to the paratroopers of World War II who trained at Camp Toccoa. Camp Toccoa was located just outside the city proper, at the foot of Currahee Mountain, and was formerly known as Camp Toombs. The museum houses the original Aldbourne stables where paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division were housed temporarily in England in 1944. Only one building remains of the original Camp Toccoa (the building is believed to be a former food supply storage facility, based on its position near the former camp's gates and the foundation's construction), and it was donated to the museum in 2011 by the Milliken company who was using it as a machine shop. The museum intends to restore the building, along with the surrounding grounds.
Annual Currahee Challenge
On the first Saturday of every October, a six-mile race is held along the Colonel Sink Trail, the same trail used by the paratroopers as part of their training for combat. In 2013, Clint Sanders and Jacob Ahle were the top male finishers of the race, while Deanna Lewis and Kathryn Lindquist were the top female finishers. Known as one of the most daunting races in America, the common refrain is "Three Miles Up And Three Miles Down." The race is part of the larger Currahee Military Weekend, which features World War II military reenactments in a staged military camp, weapons demonstrations, book signings by veterans, a parade through the downtown historic district, a hangar dance at the airport, and a special banquet featuring key note speakers and veterans.
Other points of interest
Local lore includes the Hanging Tree, located on the western side of the Stephens County Courthouse. The actual tree used for the executions is now just a stump on the courthouse lawn, the tree having been removed in 2011. Facing the courthouse, the Hanging Tree was just to the viewer's left.
The clock at the spire of the courthouse was restored to operational condition in 2010 as part of an overall renovation of the building, and is the highlight of the historic district which features several buildings from the American Civil War period.
The Toccoa Casket Company, now out of business, was the largest supplier of caskets to the military until Vietnam. Its building, located on the main road leading into Toccoa from the south, on the route from Toccoa to Currahee Mountain, was razed in 2014.
The Georgia Baptist Conference Center is located near Toccoa.
Stephens County Schools
Stephens County Schools serve students in preschool through grade twelve. There are four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. The district has 304 full-time teachers and over 4,405 students.
- Stephens County High School (SCHS) (Grades 9–12)
- Stephens County Fifth Grade Academy (at SCMS) (Grade 5)
- Stephens County Middle School (SCMS) (Grades 6–8)
- Liberty Elementary] (Grades 1-2)
- Toccoa Elementary (Grades 3-4)
- Big A Elementary (Grades Pre K-K).
Stephens County High School finished building their new facility in the spring of 2012. It includes a four-sided gymnasium arena, better fine arts facilities, and a larger media center.
Crossroads Juvenile Academy is an alternative school in Stephens County, that gives behaviorally impaired students a second chance.
Mountain Education Center is an online night school that gives full Georgia high school diplomas. This course is designed not only for full-time students but also part-time students who are working to recover lost credits.
Amtrak's Crescent connects Toccoa with the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, and New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at 47 North Alexander St. The picture to the left is how the station appeared prior to the extension of the Currahee Military Museum, which was built to house the Aldebourne Stables and a growing collection of artifacts. That extension was subsequently enlarged in 2009 to include a community room and gift shop. The Amtrak line is shared with the Norfolk Southern Railway. Before Amtrak, Toccoa was a stop on the Airline Belle from 1879 to 1931.
Historic Town Mall
||This section needs attention from an expert in Georgia (U.S. state). (February 2009)|
Downtown Toccoa is located near the courthouse and the train depot, which connects to Atlanta. From the 1950s through 1980s, business bustled in this "mall." Each day people would flood to shop in downtown Toccoa. Several national retail outlets were then located in downtown Toccoa, including the Belk Gallant department store.
In the early 1960s, around the country, local downtown businesses faced competition with large shopping malls, and many began to fail. As an answer to the depressed conditions in downtowns, Toccoa and many other towns erected concrete canopies and closed streets to create a pedestrian mall. In less than ten years it was evident that instead of enhancing businesses and creating a positive downtown image, these canopies actually accelerated the downtown's decline.
When the Belk Gallant department store announced it was going to move along a four lane road called Big A, community leaders organized Main Street Toccoa in 1990. In 1991, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Resource Team recommended that the canopies be removed and that the street be opened once again to vehicular traffic. However, for many years the project was not supported.
During that time, Main Street Toccoa implemented many changes and improvements to the downtown mall area. Brick pavers were installed and trees were planted. However, the canopies themselves began to deteriorate, and no support was found to repair them. During this time, businesses continued to flounder and many of the buildings were empty and in disrepair.
Over time, however, with growing support, approval was given to start the canopy removal project. Efforts that helped contribute community support for the project included county-wide public surveys, a University of Georgia market study, a UGA design charrette, and renderings of individual buildings without the canopies provided by the GA Trust for Historic Preservation and UGA Community Design Planning and Preservation. To gather the necessary funds for the project, Toccoa partnered with six state agencies (Appalachian Regional Commission, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, One Georgia Authority, United States Department of Agriculture, and Georgia Department of Transportation) that provided $1.3 million, with additional local funding of $552,000.
During the canopy removal and street re-opening project, private interest in downtown increased. In 2008, downtown saw 33 storefronts renovated (under the guidance of the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center Historic Preservation Planner), 11 new business, 17 new jobs, 28 part-time jobs and 68 full-time equivalent jobs retained, and private investment of $3.5 million. Toccoa's Main Street was re-opened to vehicular traffic.
The Currahee Military Museum, featured recently in the PBS series "GA Traveler," and named as one of the best museums along the East Coast by Blue Ridge Mountain Magazine, is another attraction that continues downtown's resurgence. Located in the restored historic train depot, the museum features a massive exhibit of 506's Easy Company memorabilia. This World War II paratrooper company was popularized by the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. The depot housing this museum was recently restored to its pre-1940s appearance. The depot building had previously been used as a maintenance and storage area for Norfolk Southern. Now it has been transformed to a publicly owned building that is home to the Chamber, Welcome Center, Stephens County Historical Society Museum, the Currahee Military Museum, and Amtrak. Funding for the million dollar project was received through Transportation Enhancement Activity and GDOT funds of $400,000; local funding of $100,000 and private investment funds of over $500,000 were contributed. The museum just completed its second addition, funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
Enhancing Toccoa as a Northeast Georgia destination is the newly restored courthouse, which anchors the downtown district. The renovation project was overseen by a governmental appointed citizen authority. Funded entirely by SPLOST dollars, the $2 million renovation project brought a historic 1907 building back to life while adding green space to the historic district and retained government offices and downtown customers in the city's square.
The following list includes notable people who were born or have lived in Toccoa, Georgia.
- Paul Anderson (1932–1994) –1955 World weightlifting champion, 1956 gold medal winner in Olympic weightlifting; resident of Toccoa
- Dan Biggers (1931–2011) – actor
- James Brown (1933–2006) – singer, songwriter, dancer, and bandleader
- Bobby Byrd (1934–2007) – musician, songwriter, and record producer
- Dee Clark (1938–1990) – singer
- Ida Cox (1896–1967) – blues singer and vaudeville performer
- Dale Davis (born 1969) – former professional basketball player
- DeForest Kelley (1920–1999) – actor
- R. G. LeTourneau (1888-1969) - inventor and Christian philanthropist
- Ethan Martin (born 1989) - professional baseball player
- Evan Oglesby (born 1981) – professional football player
- Ralph E. Reed, Jr. (born 1961) - political activist
- Oral Roberts (1918–2009) – pastor and televangelist
- Billy Shaw (born 1938) – former Georgia Tech and NFL football player
- Aaron Shust (born 1975) – Christian singer and three time Dove Award winner
- Jerry Kenneth "Ken" Swilling (born 1970) – football player and a safety on the Georgia Tech 1990 National Championship Team
- Pat Swilling (born 1964) – professional football player and politician
- Kimberly Schlapman - member of the country music band Little Big Town
In literature and film
The novel "Fireworks Over Toccoa" by Jeffrey Stepakoff was published by St. Martin's Press and released nationwide on March 30, 2010. A day-long celebration was held in Toccoa culminating in a fireworks display at Boyd Field in the evening. The documentary Southern Comfort was filmed in Toccoa about resident trans man Robert Eads.
On May 7, 2000, Mary Ann Stephens of Toccoa was shot to death outside a Ramada Inn in Jacksonville, Florida while on vacation with her husband. The incident received national attention and resulted in an Academy Award–winning French documentary, Murder on a Sunday Morning, on the arrest and acquittal of the original suspect.
Kelly Barnes Dam failure
On November 6, 1977, the Kelly Barnes Dam failed and released over 170 million gallons of water above the Toccoa Falls College campus. The failure killed 20 children and 19 adults.
- Richards, T. Addison (May 1853). "The landscape of the South". Harper's New Monthly Magazine 6 (36): 731. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- "Official Website for the City of Toccoa". Official Website for the City of Toccoa. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "Profile for Toccoa, Georgia, GA". ePodunk. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
- ""Gold Diggers' Road" historical marker". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- "The Names Stayed". Calhoun Times and Gordon County News. August 29, 1990. p. 64. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- Cooksey, Elizabeth B. (14 October 2014). Stephens County. New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- USGS-Georgia: Toccoa Dam Break
- Freeman, Greg (2013). Ida Cox (1896-1967). New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- Fair, John D. (2016). Paul Anderson (1932-1994). New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- Hay, Fred (2003). "Music Box Meets the Toccoa Band: The Godfather of Soul in Appalachia". Black Music Research Journal 23 (1-2): 103. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- Smith-Miles, Charmaine, "Last of his Kind", Independent-Mail, Anderson, S.C., Monday November 2, 2009, page 4A.
- Justice, George (2014). Robert Toombs (1810-1885). New Georgia Encyclopedia.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- Census; website
- SCDA website
- Stephens County Georgia
- Stephens County Industrial Parks
- Stephens County Top Employers
- Running in the USA
- Georgia Board of Education, Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- School Stats, Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- "Information"; Mountain Education Center; (May 2010); retrieved August 24, 2011
- "Toccoa". Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
- "DeForest Kelly". BuddyTV.com.
- Oral Roberts: A Son of the IPHC
- caholla (2014-07-12), Toccoa Falls Dam Break - 1977, retrieved 2016-04-26
- Georgia History Timeline / Chronology 2000
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Toccoa, Georgia.|