By Amy Wenk
Just a year ago, Morgan Falls Overlook Park was little more than overgrown property along the Chattahoochee River.
But in fall 2008, the city of Sandy Springs obtained the land when it incorporated in 2005, and uncovered a home site and two chimneys while clearing the land for park construction. That is when a powerful story began to emerge.
Recent historical and archeological studies have confirmed the land was once the home of area pioneers, the Power family, who operated a ferry there. And the property’s more than 100-year hydroelectric history helps solidify the site’s value as a historical resource on the city’s earliest settlers, transportation, architecture and infrastructure.
“Sandy Springs has so much history,” said Kimberly Brigance, director of programs and historic resources for Heritage Sandy Springs. “It’s just so amazing the people that lived here and what they did.”
Here’s a closer look at the past life of a future treasure:
Power and the Indians
Indians called the Overlook site home for thousands of years. The Creek Nation occupied the land south of the Chattahoochee River; the Cherokee Nation lived to the north.
But when the Creeks began to cede their land in the 1820s, European settlers came to Sandy Springs. A state land lottery helped to entice families to Georgia like Irish immigrants Isabella and Joseph Power, who relocated from South Carolina with family and community members.
“Neighborhoods tended to move together,” said Cobb County resident Morning Washburn, who lives on historic Hyde Farm in a log cabin built by Power descendents. “It was never one person going out into the world. For survival, for companionship, for sharing of opportunity, you took your network with you.”
The Powers settled about 1837 on the Overlook property, which was at the “very edge of what was the United States,” Brigance said.
“[Joseph] could look across the river and see the Cherokee Nation, which was still their country,” she said. “Living there, he, of course, had an advantage of people moving up and down the river.”
Brigance said the site ran along the Hightower (Etowah) Trail, a huge trading network for Native Americans. The Creeks traded as far west as Mexico, the Cherokees as far north as Canada.
Joseph’s brother, James, established around 1831 a profitable ferry seven miles south on the Chattahoochee (one of the river’s first), and he saw the Overlook site as a similar opportunity. The trail crossed the river at the property by way of a ford, which is water shallow enough to cross, and may have presented the family profits from tolls.
Called the Upper Power’s Ferry, it was marked on Federal maps but never became a preferred crossing. In fact, one circa-1864 map labeled the crossing as “bad.”
But the Powers, a prolific family, thrived regardless. A log cabin was built on the site in the 1830s, and Joseph and Isabella had at least eight children, including William who was born in 1819.
“They were a very hard-working and enterprising family, because when Cherokee land became available in what is now Cobb County, they acquired land across the river,” Brigance said. “Most of the older boys got the best land, which was going to be in Cobb County.”
One of the youngest children, William remained on the Sandy Springs’ side of the river as his father deeded him the property and house around 1839. His older brothers obtained the better Cobb land for farming across the river.
William and his wife Sarah occupied the Overlook site, farming portions of the land and operating the ferry crossing. When William died in 1883, his widow and their nine children remained on the land. The ferry service terminated some time between 1872 and 1888.
A different power
The Power’s tenure on the site ended in 1902 when William H. Power, a son of William, deeded the property to S. Morgan Smith Company and the Atlanta Water and Electric Company.
The Morgan Falls Dam and hydroelectric plant finished construction in 1904, and the Chattahoochee River was flooded for the Morgan Falls Reservoir, also known as Bull Sluice Lake.
“The dam was to supply electricity for the street cars in Atlanta,” Brigance said, adding a small town soon sprung up around the dam for its workers.
The Power cabin was subsequently occupied by Atlanta real estate mogul and Atlanta Water and Electric Power Company organizer Forest Adair, who retained original Power home as a fishing cabin.
“Sandy Springs was a real rural retreat,” Brigance said. “A lot of people like Asa Candler from Coca-Cola came to this area and built a little cabin so he could get away from it all.”
The cabin, which received several additions over the years, was probably occupied into the 1970s and later was torn down.
While the Overlook site remained a site for power generation, its Power family legacy was forgotten and neglected. That is until now.
Read past stories on the Power chimney and home site at www.reporternewspapers.net.