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The Chattahoochee River begins its flow to the sea as a trickling little stream near the summit of Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in the hill country of north Georgia. It completes its course as a mighty Southern river where it meets the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola, Florida.
The region is also defined by its distinctive and diverse traditional culture, a culture that has been a long time in the making. The historical and social identity of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley began to take shape nearly four centuries ago when some of the earliest Europeans began to arrive in continental North America and encountered the indigenous Indians, who were already long-time occupants of the region. It is believed that Native American people of one kind or another had lived in and around the lower Chattahoochee River Valley for at least ten thousand years before the intruding Spaniards came here in the late Seventeenth Century. The very first European settlement in the Chattahoochee Valley was established in 1689 by Spanish monks who, accompanied by a garrison of soldiers assigned to assist them, built the mission and fort of Apalachicola on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River. This site, located in Russell County, Alabama, lies about fifteen miles south of the present-day city of Columbus, Georgia, and is approximately 150 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida coastline.
As early as 1714, traders from the old Southwest--French Louisiana--became engaged in trade with the Indians of the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley. In 1739, General James Edward Oglethorpe, a trustee of the British colony of Georgia, traveled to the Chattahoochee to meet with Indian leaders at the Muskogee capital of Coweta in order to secure a treaty--a treaty that would, among other things, grant him permision to establish the colonial capital of Savannah on Georgia's Atlantic coast.
With the establishment of permanent European settlements in the Southeast in the 18th century--the British on the Atlantic coast, the Spanish along the Florida peninsula, and the French along the Gulf Coast--there followed frequent inward migrations of non-native traders and settlers into the Chattahoochee Valley. They came here from the British Isles and from Europe, from New England and from Africa, from the Carolinas, Virginia and, occasionally, from Asia. Finally, in 1825, with the signing of the infamous Treaty of Indian Springs between the United States and the Creek Nation, the way was opened for the forced final removal of the native people from the region. That done, settlers came here in droves to establish cotton plantations, textile mills, riverboat companies, and all the other retail, supply, and labor services that were needed for the development and support of trade, commerce, industry, and agriculture. From this blending of people there developed in the lower Chattahoochee River Valley a singular culture that has persisted to the present--diverse, robust, and tradition-bound.
--Fred C. Fussell, "A Chattahoochee Album," ©2000.