Prior to the availability of cheap electricity, dams on mill streams provided a reliable source of power for small businesses throughout northwest Georgia.
Locally, Lee & Gordon’s Mills, located on West Chickamauga Creek on the outskirts of Chickamauga, and Prater’s Mill, found just north of Dalton in Varnell, might be best known — and preserved — today.
But during the late 19th to early 20th centuries similar dams and mills could be found on other creeks and smaller rivers of Walker County.
One of those, Suttle’s Mill, was a landmark of the Varnell and Subligna communities in the West Armuchee Valley. And it was not alone, if nearby road names are to be believed, as Suttle Mill and Manning Mill roads intersect in an area that was commonly called Green Bush.
Local author and anthropologist E. Raymond Evans will visit the Chickamauga Public Li-brary on Tuesday, July 14, to present his latest book, which is about the Puryear family and its descendents who have lived in the region since before the Civil War.
Evans said his research into the Puryears was prompted when Bobby Puryear, of Chatta-nooga, asked for assistance in researching the Puryear family and its history.
“Bobby, who is black, saw an advertisement earlier this of a funeral for a Puryear in Chickamauga and decided to visit the funeral home,” Evans said. “When he got there, all the Puryear family were white.”
Evans said Puryear told him that his great-great-grandfather had been a slave some-where in north Georgia.
Using Census records, Evans traced that antebellum ancestor and discovered his name was William Puryear and that he had probably lived on the Puryear farm in Villanow, a site where Puryears had farmed prior to the Civil War.
The anthropologist found accounts and photographs from the early 20th century that show Puryear & Hunt’s store, where gingerbread millwork decorated columns supporting the roof over a broad front porch, that is just uphill from Suttle’s Mill.
Research also led to Evans’ discovery that a Puryear had deeded 30 acres to their former slave, who probably took the former master’s surname as his own, with the understanding that he and his descendants would help with the crops — which is why Bobby Puryear re-members helping with farm chores on weekends.
Evans will present his book and talk about the Armuchee Valley and Puryear family his-tory beginning at 6 p.m. in the library located across from Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga.