Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Our heritage –the story of Tillman Gooch
this column today I give precedence to one of my writing students. I
have personally invited Anthony Hunter to share the story he wrote
about his ancestors, early settlers in
It has been my privilege to give some instruction in creative writing to Tony over a period of several years. He learned of me by reading one of my articles in the paper, a correspondence developed, and “by mail” creative writing instruction began.
I have seen him develop in perception and skill as a writer. He is facile in poetry, essays, short stories and family history. I didn’t have to instruct him very much; he already had the inherent talent for positioning words creatively. My contribution, perhaps, has been to encourage him and to give him pointers in grammatical structure and punctuation.
I hope you enjoy Anthony Hunter’s family account. If you find ancestral links to the people he writes about, know that he has researched thoroughly to bring to the public this article.
The Story of Tillman Gooch by: Anthony Hunter, Guest Writer
Gooch’s Gap with its southern exposure is unusually rich with lush green flora. The deciduous hardwoods with a scattering of stately eastern white pines tower over a forest floor covered nearly knee-high in an abundance of native plant life.
As the gap is only accessible by foot, the quiet hiker might expect to see all manner of wildlife from chipmunks to squirrels, deer and turkey, or the rare spotted elf newt and perhaps even a fleeting glimpse of the shy black bear. But if you ever do make the journey to this serene, remote place, bear in mind that it is also a doorway into time, and therein lies part of its treasure.
Many of our landmarks such as Gooch’s Gap are so named as a
dedication and memorial to the hardy, brave pioneers who ventured forth
into unknown lands as settlers. Tillman D.
Gooch was but one among the ranks. He was
a family man, a farmer, a prospector and an adventurer.
The son of a farmer, he was born in
Their first child, Samuel, was born in
No documents or journals have been found that record Tillman Gooch’s life. But living through oral family history, two things have been passed on about the man. First is the fact that he and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, did not get along well. Their marriage was an on-again—off-again affair. This probably contributed to the second known fact about Tillman: that he was an adventurous man.
In his wanderings or by conversing with the native Cherokee,
Tillman learned of a certain mountain pass that led to the headwaters
Whether planning to move his family or to leave them, Tillman
purchased land in
Between 1826 and 1838, Tillman and Mary Elizabeth had five more children: Elizabeth Ann, James Madison, Adaline, Mary and Margaret. Their children numbered five daughters and two sons.
About the time the Cherokee were removed on the infamous Trail of Tears (1838-39), Tillman left his wife and children never to return. Some say he left to help drive the Cherokee out. If this be true, why did his own daughter, Mary Jane, apply for enrollment with the Eastern Band of Cherokee in 1907? Wouldn’t one of her parents had to have been Indian? Her mother Mary Elizabeth was not removed. Could it be that Tillman was part Cherokee and ordered to leave? Or could there have been another reason for his disappearance—like love?
Two years before the famous gold strike at Sutter’s Mill,
All of Tillman Gooch’s children married and had children of
their own. Both of his sons, Sam and Jim,
settled at the very foot of the gap named after their father. Sam settled on the southern side in the
Nimblewell District of Lumpkin County. His
brother Jim settled on the northern side of the gap in the area known
as Sarah at the very headwaters of the
The legacy from Tillman D. Gooch is not the high mountain pass named after him. Like many of our pioneer forefathers, his legacy is the children he left behind—children who became men and women that love their mountain home so that it has become the very fiber of their being. These children and their descendants went on to become farmers, teachers, soldiers, business owners, craftpersons, moonshiners, homemakers, artists, timber cutters, successful politicians, church leaders—the sons and daughters of the American dream.
And if by chance you wish to attend a Gooch Reunion where there might be 500 present, you will be sure to learn the real meaning of the words “southern hospitality.” I’ll see y’all there—or maybe on the mountain.
(Note: Anthony Hunter is a great, great, great grandson of Tillman D. Gooch.)
c2008 by Ethelene
Dyer Jones; published
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail