On the northeastern edge of Metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia is an enigmatic geological and archaeological zone that is known by few people outside its immediate county. Known to the Creek Indians of the region as the Nodoroc, it was considered by them to either be the portal to hell, or literally hell itself. Within the environs of the treacherous marshes and lethal mud volcano that composed Nodoroc, lived a strange creature that is apparently extinct today. The legends of the early white settlers described the Wog as a horse-sized animal with mixed features of predator cat and a Komodo Dragon lizard. The Wog primarily lived off carrion. Many animals and sometimes, even humans, would become trapped in the quick sand and quick mud in certain areas of the marshes. These unfortunate victims of the Nodorac then became dinner, once their carcasses and sufficiently decayed to the level preferred by the Wog.
Europeans first entered the region in 1564. Small parties of Frenchmen from Fort Caroline paddled up the Altamaha River to the Oconee River then took the Ocoloco or Lakoda Trails to the vicinity of present day Dahlonega, GA to trade for gold, copper, silver, greenstone and mica that was mined by the Apalache Indians living in the mountains. Captain René de Laundonniére planned to build the capital of New France on the plateau above the head of navigation for large trade canoes on the Oconee. That location is now the University of Georgia. Parties of Spaniards from Santa Elena (South Carolina Coast) continued to trade covertly in the region until around 1587. To date, no mention of Nodoroc has been found in the 16th century French and Spanish archives, but some European trader may have seen it during that period.
British traders from Charleston, South Carolina began traveling along the Ocoloco and Lakoda Trails in the 1670s to do business with the Apalache, Kialekee and Kusa Creeks living near Nodoroc. The Ocoloco Trail passed very close to Nodoroc. Again, to date, no mention has been found of a British subject visiting Nodoroc.
The situation changed immediately after the American Revolution. Although the region was officially within the territory of the Creek Indian Confederacy until 1805, local Creek provinces spoke a different language than Muskogees living a hundred miles to the southwest, who dominated the Confederacy. The locals sold tracts of land to bands of settlers, some of whom had Creek wives. For a period of 20 years the two peoples generally lived in harmony then the majority of Creeks moved westward.
While cohabitating with the Creeks, white settlers had become aware of the Nodoroc and its fearsome occupants, the Wogs. However, the early settlers had avoided living near Nodoroc because of its acrid fumes and horrific reputation. When the entire region opened up to settlement, it was inevitable that naïve Anglo-Americans would establish farmsteads near the Nodoroc.
Apparently, the Wog was primarily a nocturnal animal. As long as wildlife continued to be trapped in the marshes, the Wogs would satisfy their dietary needs with a bounty of decaying flesh. When the settlers arrived in large numbers, the wildlife population plummeted due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. Hungry Wogs began roaming at night in search of cats, dogs, lambs, goat kids and newborn calves. If none were caught, the Wogs would even dig up human burials that were laid to rest in too shallow graves.
The shortage of wildlife also affected the local red wolf population. Normally, the red wolves stayed away from humans, but with starvation they became bold and also began to raid farmsteads. It is possible that many of the livestock losses blamed on the Wogs, were actually the work of wolves. The Wogs DID occasionally come around farmsteads at night though, much to the horror of their occupants. Terrified families would see its long, black, forked tongue probing through cracks in the chinking. For a few years, the carcasses of cattle that became mired in the quick sand and quick mud at Nodorac kept a few Wogs alive, but their days were numbered.
Around 1800, settler John Gossett built a cabin near Nodoroc and cleared all the lands around its marshes. Probably, by this time the Wog was extinct or near extinction. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the Gossetts would have settled there. A few years later, perhaps at the same time as the massive 1813 earthquake on the New Madrid Fault, the Gossetts noticed that a dense fog hovered over the Nodoroc and surrounding swamp. Around nine o’clock, the cloud exploded with a rumble and a sharp roar. A great mass of black smoke rose from the Nodoroc and formed a mushroom cloud. After the explosion, the mud barely bubbled and soon became still. The mud dried. Within a few years more, vegetation began creeping into the site. Many cattle still became trapped in the quick sand and died, but the heat, flames, acidity and smoke were gone.
Wogs, Red Wolves and Woodland Bison
Because of the numerous reports of its existence from both Creek Indians and early settlers on the frontier, there is little doubt that a massive carrion-eating creature once lived in northeast Georgia, perhaps in smaller numbers, elsewhere in the Southeast. It was probably a large iguana or monitor lizard like the Komodo Dragon in Indonesia. Both creatures lived primarily off of carrion. A Komodo Dragon will kill live prey, then come back several days later when the flesh has been tenderized by decomposition.
When Georgia was settled by the British in 1733, there were large herds of Woodland Bison roaming the northeastern part of the province and smaller herds elsewhere. Present day Northeast Georgia contained much open prairieland, created by both the herds of buffalo and by the annual brush fires set by the Creek Indians. The bison congregated at the sites of extinct mud volcanoes. They licked the mineral rich clay. Some of these “buffalo licks” are still visible. The largest and best known is in the community of Philomath in Oglethorpe County, southeast of the Nodoroc. It was visited by botanist William Bartram in 1774. The bison also were attracted to an active mud volcano, the Nodoroc.
The alleged size of the Wog can be explained by the availability of massive bison carcasses. The large packs of red wolves can be explained by the large herds of bison and deer that roamed the prairies of Northeast Georgia. Bison became almost instantly extinct around 1750 in Georgia when a plague introduced by imported English cattle swept the landscape. Twenty-five years later, when white settlers were first entering the region, the population of Wogs and Red Wolves had probably already collapsed due to lack of bison meat. Cattle trapped in the swampland of Nodoroc enabled a few Wogs to survive, but their time on earth was nearly at an end.
In 1873, historian and amateur archaeologist Charles C. Jones, Jr. wrote that the landscape of the Georgia Mountains and Piedmont was littered with ancient stone structures when European settlers reached the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They consisted of building ruins, terrace walls, stone mounds and effigies. This fact has long been ignored by the region’s archaeologists. Jones was the first to prove that the earthen mounds in the mountains were built by the ancestors of the Creek Indians, not the Cherokees. However, he was uncertain about the stone structures. He speculated that they were built by an ancient civilization that preceded the Creeks. However, by then most of the stone structures were gone. They had been quickly pilfered by settlers to build foundations and chimneys.
Such was the case of the enigmatic triangular stone temple at Nodoroc. Some stones were carried away by settlers until the site was absorbed into the plantation of John A. Harris. In 1837 Harris gave the stone altar to outgoing Governor George Gilmer in gratitude for incessant pressure to dispossess the now-civilized Cherokees and send them on the Trail of Tears. By this time the Nodoroc mud pool was dry, black earth. The altar sat in the front lawn of Gilmer’s plantation for many decades. Its current location is unknown, but it probably still exists.
Some stones still were stacked on the site of Nodoroc when “The Early History of Jackson County, GA” was written in 1911. One of the dressed stones had a simple cross formed by two lines on it. See the accompanying slide show. This is significant, because a ancient stone quarry has been found in the Chattahoochee National Forest near the Track Rock Gap Archeological Zone. Several of its dressed stones display simple crosses exactly like the one at Nodoroc.
The discoverer of this quarry refused to divulge the exact location of his photographs. He is keeping the site confidential to avoid political machinations from local US Forest Service officials like what occurred at Track Rock Gap.” He stated that he hopes “that a more professional organization in the Federal government, such as the National Park Service, will take an active role in protecting and studying the remaining stone ruins in northern Georgia.” In 2002 the National Park Service did issue an RFP for a professional study of the surviving stone ruins in northern Georgia, but the contract was never issued because of budget cuts mandated by the invasion of Iraq. By then, though, the Nodoroc triangular temple was nothing but a memory.
Part One describes the architecture, past appearance and Native American history of the Nodoroc. Part Three describes the studies of the site by geologists, its alternative interpretations and appearance today.