Political, environmental and economic issues affecting the future of the massive Track Rock Archaeological Zone
Track Rock Gap . . . Ten Years Later
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Preserving the stone ruins in Georgia faces complex issues
During its century of stewardship of the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia, the US Forest Service has followed a consistent policy of allowing vegetation to overgrow and destroy its many ancient stone ruins, while concealing their existence from the public. The excuse for concealing a very important part of America’s heritage is that “looters might damage the stacked stone ruins.” Incalculably more damage has been done to the stone structures by vegetation and logging machinery. Incredibly, in the 1970s, the USFS cleared the lower slopes of the Track Rock Terrace Complex of its native trees then replaced them with hybrid pines that were more marketable . . . in the process, destroying Pre-Columbian walls and earthworks.
Throughout most of the 1800s and into the 1940s, Track Rock Gap functioned as a public park and a commons for grazing livestock. Generations of families, young lovers and playful teenagers went up there to picnic, court and spark. Then, over local protest, the administers of the US Forest Service closed the Track Rock open range and immediately, trees began to sprout up in the mountainside meadows. In reality, from its inception, there has been relatively little demand for the beautiful native hardwoods of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Its usage today is almost entirely outdoor recreation, yet the USFS treats Track Rock Gap as cropland for growing trees.
The obsolete policies of the US Forest Service compose just one of many obstacles facing historic preservationists, wishing to elevate the stone ruins at Track Rock Gap and nearby Fort Mountain to the status of easily accessible archaeological sites. Do you recall in The Shenandoah Chronicles that many brave FBI agents were involved in the fight to block the flow of drug cartels and drug profits into the Shenandoah Valley? Several were murdered, including probably, my longtime lady friend, Susan Karlson. The same thing was going on in the Southern Appalachians.
Today, federal DEA officers consider Western North Carolina and adjacent counties in Georgia and Tennessee to be the “meth capital of the world.” Illegal narcotics trafficking corrupts everything around it. While I was living near Dahlonega, GA, a $350 million a year meth manufacturing operation was busted, due to a chance traffic stop. Its headquarters was across the street from the county fire department headquarters and one block from the sheriff’s department.
The causes of the problem began in the 1980s and the headquarters of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Gainesville, GA played a major role. Among many illegal things, it declared large tracts of land to be surplus property so developers, associated with organized crime, could build secluded gated communities for drug dealers and retired crooked narcotics cops, moving from Florida. It also secretly sold “surplus lots” for individual drug dealers or major contributors to the Republican Party.
The Gainesville USFS office required all contractors with the US Forest Service to make substantial contributions to ultra-rightwing Republican candidates. Honest Republican candidates blew the whistle on them. Congressman Nathan Deal of Gainesville, GA resigned from Congress the day before he was to be tried for his involvement with this corrupt USFS office. While I was living in a tent, he was elected governor and was still governor during the Maya-Myth-Busting-In-the-Mountains campaign.
Three years before that office was leading the fight to keep the Mayas out of Georgia a thousand years ago, the national media declared that particular office to be the most corrupt in the nation. As a token measure, the director of that office was fired. The office still didn’t have a director during the time, when the “Maya-Myth-Busting-In-the-Mountains campaign was being run.
Later in the article, readers will be exposed to more accounts of how corrupt individuals or agencies can stymy a proposed historic preservation project, without the public even knowing it.
A Maya in Georgia
An indigenous Central American man with a very intelligent looking face was loading my lumber at a building materials company in Cleveland, GA. Just to be polite, I spoke to him in Spanish, when telling him that I also needed some concrete cap blocks. He understood me, but was stunned that I knew the names of construction materials in Spanish. He then politely told me that he was a Maya from the Guatemala Highlands and preferred to speak English . . . “We don’t like the Spanish!”
I told him that many Mayas, who I met in Campeche, Yucatan, Chiapas and Guatemala told me the same thing. My guide in Yucatan even cut his price in half in return for me teaching his two teenage children some English. He laughed and said, “Yes, I don’t want my children to speak Spanish.”
I told him more about my travels in Mexico and about meeting with Zapatista guerillas three times. He was stunned again that I knew about the Zapatistas. Then I added, “Did you know that Chattahoochee is an Itza word.”
He looked shocked, “You said Itza like a Maya!” (The correct pronunciation is Ĭt : jzä.)
I responded, “Yes, Chattahoochee is from Cha’ta Hawche . . . Carved Stone – Shallow River.” He was shocked, “It means the same in my people’s language! I never thought about that.”
I met with him another time . . . bringing along my Itza and Creek Dictionaries. There were many, many nouns and adjective that were the same his language, Itza Maya and Eastern Creek (Itsate). Practically none of the verbs and adverbs in Creek were the same in his language and Itza. I am not sure what that means.
Pre-adolescent, delusional politics
The following is the major portion of a national press release, sent out by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina, exactly one week before the premier of “America Unearthed” on the History Channel on December 21, 2012. The rough draft of the press release was authored by two members of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists. North Carolina Cherokees altered the wording to specifically claim that they built the stone structures in Track Rock Gap.
I strongly suspect that the Eastern Cherokee member, who typed the final form of this press release, was the one, who earlier went on national television and announced with great confidence that (1) The Cherokees were the first people on all the Americas, (2) The Cherokees invented the Clovis Point, (3) The Cherokees were the first people to make pottery in the Americas, (4) The Cherokees built most of the mounds in the Southeast and Great Lakes regions and (5) The Cherokees were the first people to cultivate corn, beans and squash.
This press release is a metaphor for all that is delusional and perverted in western North Carolina right now. Too many people there operate continuously on the presumption that if you tell a lie enough times, it become factual. After you read the press release, we will get back to the political factors affecting the future of Track Rock Gap.
“All archaeologists and Native Americans agree that the stone structures at Track Rock Gap were built by the ancestors of the Cherokees. We have searched around and found that about the only person, who thinks otherwise is a self-styled historian, named Richard Thornton. He appears to have no knowledge of Native American history or Mexico. We seriously doubt if Mr. Thornton has ever met a Maya and he certainly knows nothing about their architecture.”
“Thornton claims to be Creek, but the Muscogee Nation and Poarch Creek Nation, the two federally-recognized Creek tribes, do not recognize him. Both they and the Eastern Band have serious concerns about his work. In addition to erroneous details, his work shows a lack of understanding of the broad principles and findings of the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and history.”
“Neither his original article on Track Rock Gap or later articles in the Examiner accurately reflect Cherokee history and pre-history in north Georgia. Richard Thornton’s work is not creditable regarding the Maya or the Cherokees. The Creeks have no connection with the Track Rock ruins. His articles and statements should be ignored for what they are – the delusions of an ignorant man.”
About the “federally recognized card” being played. I have relatives in the Muscogee Creek Nation because my grandmother’s oldest brother took a Creek allotment. However, I have NO Muskogee ancestry. All of my Native Ancestry is Itsate Creek and Uchee. My closest relatives would be the Hitchiti-speaking Creeks and Seminoles in Florida, plus the Miccosukee. Of course, the press release did not mention that the Oklahoma Centennial Commission hired me in 2008 to be the Architect of the Trail of Tears Memorial in Tulsa!
Discrediting a television program before it aired
The initial response to my article on Track Rock Gap’s stone ruins was generally very positive. Many people wanted to go hiking there. There were a few sarcastic comments by Georgia and Florida archaeologists, but that was about it. I have no idea what happened for the next two months, but some folks definitely decided that my article in the Examiner was a threat to world order! LOL Even though they had never heard of or seen the ruins at Track Rock Gap, not one archaeologist or university anthropology professor asked me questions. They merely pontificated.
In early January, an executive with National Geographic contacted me first as a comment on the Examiner and then by telephone. She said that she liked my writing style. After learning more about my two years of homelessness in the Southern Appalachians, she asked if I would be interested in writing an article in National Geo on my experiences, culminating with a more technical description of Track Rock Gap. Of course, the answer was yes. It might be the ticket to get back to Northern Virginia. Cindy Funkhouser might be single again. Actually, I now know that she had just gotten a divorce by then.
I mentioned that I had been friends with George and Gene Stuart. The executive had also been at the infamous 1990 Christmas party in Alexandria with her former husband. She remembered the foxy French girl, dressed in red (Vivi) and my goat cheese . . . but didn’t remember me.
The National Geo exec called back a couple days later. She had called George Stuart at his retirement home in Barnardsville, NC to verify my story. George said that both me and my goat cheese had disappeared at about the same time that Gene died of cancer. He always wondered what had happened to me. My wife had told him that she did not know where I was. That same lie is what made Vivi think I had been murdered. The exec proposed that George and I reunite to do a TV documentary on Track Rock Gap. I agreed. At that point the concept was turned over to an independent film company that worked with National Geo.
In February, film companies associated with the Travel Channel, History Channel, Univision and the BBC World Network contacted me about TV projects. The Travel Channel instantly got their filming permit and filmed on March 1, 2012. The other film companies dallied and were turned down during March 2012. Only the History Channel decided to move ahead with the project after that point.
On March 4, 2012 a member of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists made a long presentation to the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association. He obviously did not realize that the vast majority of Native American descendants in Georgia are Creek and Uchee. Many of the Creeks walked out of the meeting and never came back to a TOTA, after the self-proclaimed Cherokee descendant president published the entire speech in their newsletter . . . very strange.
The archaeologist opened the meeting with “This Maya thing is a bunch of crap.” He didn’t even know that the Track Rock terraces existed until I wrote my article, never visited the site and knew very little about Mexico. So, most of his lecture consisted of personal attacks on me.
Most Eastern Creeks are raised being told that “we are part Maya.” One of the infuriated Creeks, who walked out of the meeting, sent me a copy of the man’s speech. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The man was obviously in a rage the whole meeting.
The organization almost died as a result of these events. It has essentially become a “Cherokee” organization. The last recorded meeting of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists was in November 2017. Trashing the Georgia Creeks is not good karma!
The following week, the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina began organizing an alliance to protest “the Mayas in Georgia.” Why did they even care? In the process, they added the email address that I used in 2006, while president of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, to their mass mailings. Many of the women bureaucrats on the list were very bad about copying all correspondence to all email addresses. They didn’t delete the old email conversations. With someone like me with an intelligence background, that was an absolute gold mine.
My email address became approved by the US Forest Service email server. From then on, I knew what everybody was doing and saying. I even received copied instant messages from some USFS employees.
I immediately was appalled at the emails traded by USFS employees . . . especially those in Gainesville. It was like reading the notes passed by 7th grade girls in class. How did they even get hired? These were federal employees, who are supposed to be a cut above other civil servants.
Several of the high-level female administrators in the USFS had been members of the cult that met out on our North Carolina farm. (See the Shenandoah Chronicles.) Even though my former wife hosted the rituals, they certainly would have recognized my name, but the email address merely referred to GA TOTA.
When on occasion someone asked what my name was, I responded that my boss was a wussy librul Democrat and he would fire me, if he knew I was involved. I used the pseudonym, “Bubba Mountainlion.” Most assumed that I was Jeff Bishop, the current president of GA TOTA, who quietly did contract research work for the North Carolina Cherokees, but was director of a Creek-themed museum in Coweta County, GA.
The initial plan was to demonize and discredit me, while saying a little as possible about the Track Rock Terrace Complex. Practically nobody in the alliance had even ever been at Track Rock Gap. The federal and state cops were really angry that I had not committed suicide . . . or at least stolen something after being evicted. They promised to double down their efforts to find some crime that I had committed. The feds were convinced that I was a male prostitute, but the state cops told them that I was always having women over at my house until the Great Recession hit.
In mid-March, a federal law enforcement officer informed the Museum of the Cherokee Indian that I was in contact with several film companies to make TV documentaries on Track Rock Gap. Everyone freaked out. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokees send formal letters to the US Forest Service, demanding that no TV networks be allowed to film at Track Rock because it was a Cherokee Sacred Place with many Cherokee graves in it. Of course, if the Cherokees even existed in 1000 AD there were a small band, somewhere in Canada or New England. From then on, all applications for USFS commercial filming permits were denied.
For the next three months, there was very little activity in the Stop the Mayas Alliance other than speeches to civic groups and historical societies by the four archaeologists, hired by the taxpayers via the Gainesville office of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Everyone assumed that the TV program threat had been stopped by the refusal to issue film permits to National Geo, PBS and Univision.
Then in the second week of July, the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Department notified the state cops that one of their neighborhood informants, who kept watch on me, told them that a whole bunch of movie company trucks had been at my cabin all day. They reportedly worked for the History Channel. That meant that Track Rock Gap was going to be on a primetime program. The Stop the Mayas Alliance really freaked out this time.
A nationally-known rightwing Republican political consultant, living in Northeast Metro Atlanta was hired by the taxpayers, to guide a public relations campaign to discredit the television program before it was broadcast. No one involved every considered how ludicrous their activities were.
The game plan for Maya Myth Busting In the Mountains was for me to be portrayed as a nutty, ignorant hillbilly, pretending to be an Indian (I was born near the Okefenokee Swamp!) The other people, who believed that the Mayas came to Georgia were to be labeled nutty, librul, Marxist atheists, who wanted to unleash a tidal wave of illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. The people, who believed that precious Lord Jesus taught us that the Cherokees built the structures at Track Rock Gap and were to be labeled good, Christian, Conservative, Southern Baptist Republicans.
Of course, the reality was that the Creeks have always been monotheistic, while the traditional religion of the Cherokees and the predominant religion on the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation, is conjuring. That is the summoning and worshiping of demons, who live in sacred fires.
Being a good intelligence operative, I “played” the people in the alliance, now called Maya Myth Busting In the Mountains, via emails and Examiner articles. Since April I had encouraged everyone to obsess on Track Rock Gap . . . knowing full well that the History Channel film crew was also going to several other archaeological zones in Georgia, plus Chichen Itza and Palenque . . . the two largest Itza Maya cities.
Thus, when the Georgia state cops informed people that I had been on the phone with an official of the California Sierra Club, concerning a planned hike up through the Track Rock ruins, the Gainesville USFS ordered a large crew to cut down over 100 trees on top of the access trail. This infuriated the residents of Union County, GA, who then notified me. Then the public relations gal for the Gainesville USFS office lied and said that no trees had been cut down. I produced photos on the Examiner of men in USFS uniforms cutting down the trees.
Then the gal, who was public relations director in the Southeastern office of the USFS lied, and said that just a few small trees had fallen over the trail during the storm and the photo only captured some USFS employees “clearing those small trees from the access trail.” Then I produced photos of trees with trunks up to 24 inches in diameter laying over the trail. From then on, the USFS sponsored articles were viewed as fraudulent propaganda.
On July 8, 2012 when they filmed the show at my pathetic cabin, I couldn’t have received better news. They were able to interview Alfonso Morales, Director of Archaeology at Chichen Itza. He was just a little boy of about seven, when I stayed in his parents’ Palenque Inn . . . at that time, more or less a European-style youth hostel. His mother was Canadian and an incredible cook. Fourteen years later, he was an anthropology student at the University of Texas, when a 21-year-old Vivi the French Courtesan was staying (and singing) at the Palenque Inn. She had a crush on him.
Morales stated that the Mayas coming to Georgia and Florida was a fact, not a theory. He added that he had recently translated bas reliefs at Chichen Itza, which described chiefs from Georgia and Florida visiting Chichen Itza.
Since none of the archaeologists really knew anything about Creek Indian cultural history, agricultural terraces or the Maya civilization, their speeches to civic groups continued to be mainly demonization of me and became increasingly pejorative . . . to the point that I am sure, no one took them seriously.
Creek brothers and sisters, who attended the Maya-busting presentations anonymously, said the speeches by the archaeologists were so full of rage and so devoid of facts that most listeners in the audience concluded by the end that the archaeologists were mentally imbalanced.
AJC reporter Mike Torpy would then dutifully produce major articles of what these archaeologists said at the Peachtree Hills Garden Club meeting or the Dunwoody Bird-watching Society meeting. The AJC has not given coverage to such trivial things since the 1950s.
The only Torpy article that really caught my eye was when Johannes Loubser called me anti-Semitic in addition to being an ignorant hillbilly and hater of all things civilized. He was speaking to a ladies group at a synagogue. Where did that come from? That was ludicrous. I have always had Jewish friends. My first love, Alicia Rozanes Moreno was a Sephardic Jew. My two best friends in Asheville were Harry and Lillie Lerner, survivors of the Holocaust in Hungary.
The following Sunday afternoon, two very expensive sports cars roared to in front of my rathole cabin, just as I was cutting up a fallen tree limb. Both had IDF veteran decals on their rear bumpers. IDF means Israeli Defense Forces, but they were both wimps and brawny Richard emerged from the woods, about six feet from their sports cars with a running chain saw in my hands. The two, now-wide-eyed IDF veterans instantly imagined themselves being the victims in a movie plot that mixed “Deliverance” with “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” They burned rubber racing back to Hotlanta. Funny!
US Forest Service personnel planned a grand finale to their Maya Myth Busting in the Mountains campaign, which involved paying for Creeks and Cherokees to fly from Oklahoma to Atlanta – wining and dining them – then have the Big Four archaeologists give their closing speeches – then travel to Track Rock Gap to tour the ruins – then attend a banquet in their honor. . . followed by more quotes for the press. Neither the USFS pencil jockeys nor the Native Americans from Oklahoma and North Carolina were in sufficient physical condition to climb up the slopes to see the ruins, so the USFS public relations director took a photo of them in front of the sign.
I am not sure if anybody in Maya Myth Busting In the Mountains actually watched the premier of America Unearthed. I did not receive any emails, in which someone described the program. I did not watch the program because I was too poor to afford a TV or cable service. I do know that the heavily funded public relations program, trashing America Unearthed, pretty much died on the vine that December 21, 2012.
Post-Premier rage of a woman scorned
A few days after the debut of America Unearthed, the editor of the electronic edition of the Athens Banner-Herald composed an article about the Sandy Creek Park terrace complex. In one sentence, he stated that the stone works at Sandy Creek were similar to those at Track Rock Gap. He made no references to “America Unearthed” or any more comments about Track Rock Gap.
First thing the next morning, he received a long email from the public relations officer of the Gainesville USFS . . . chewing him out up and down for mentioned the word Track Rock Gap. Huh? She accused him of promoting false history and associating himself with nutcases, etc. We both got a big laugh about it.
A billionaire at the rathole cabin
My last guest at the rat-infested cabin near Dahlonega was none other than James Cox Chambers. At the time, he and his brothers were the largest stockholders of Cox Enterprises, Inc. – one of the nation’s largest broadcasting and newspaper companies, plus owner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Back then in 2018, he was worth $6.3 billion and I was worth nothing.
Jim was producing a documentary on the most expensive manhunt ever carried out by the FBI – the hunt for Olympic Games bomber, Eric Rudolph. He brought along his film crew to interview me for a couple of hours then we went out to eat. Most everything that the media tells you about that hunt is a smoke screen, but I am still not sure what the truth is.
I told Jim about the way that Mike Torpy misrepresented the situation at Track Rock Gap and slandered me. Had the AJC newspaper supported my view of wanting better pubic access to the site, Georgia would have received millions upon millions of dollars in tourism income by now. Jim agreed, but said that he was merely on the Board of Directors of Cox Enterprises and had no editorial influence at the AJC.
An FBI agent told Jim that I probably knew more about what Rudolph was like, while hiding that any person who would talk about it. You see . . . for about a year we both lived on Lookout Circle in Rome, GA. Rudolph was living in a Georgia Bureau of Investigation safe house, while the FBI was spending 30+ looking for him in North Carolina.
I saw Rudolph almost every day as he rode a yellow mountain bike about 8 feet away from the window of my temporary architecture office in Rome. I was planning the revitalization of several blocks of downtown Rome. On his handle bars was mounted a black leatherette box, presumably holding a bomb. The box was connected by a cable to something under his coat. He always wore a coat year round – in the summer, a windbreaker type jacket.
I also occasionally bumped into Rudolf while entering or leaving a convenience store or walking my dogs in Riverside Park. He never responded when I said hello.
I quickly figured out that he was being protected by the GBI and I would get killed by the GBI, if went to the Feds with Rudolph’s location. I also noticed that US Army MP’s and Intelligence Officers from Fort Benning would watch Rudolph from the edge of my neighbor’s house across the street. Yet they never tried to arrest him.
Something wasn’t right. I didn’t talk to the Feds until I was out of Rome, GA and Rudolf was too! I talked to a higher up FBI official in Washington, DC, whom I knew from my days in Virginia, when partnered with FBI Special Agent Susan Karlson.
My caution was justified. The last night before the moving van was to pick up my belongings in Rome, I slept on the floor of my new home. The next morning, my neighbors across the street told me that at midnight, a group of men dressed like state police, but wearing black masks, entered my front door with a key then turned on the lights . . . searching for me around the house. All of them were carrying guns.
Six weeks later, state and local cops in Georgia began calling up women I dated to tell them that I was a serial killer, woman beater or sexual predator. Someone put false information in Georgia’s Crime Information System, stating that I had served two prison terms for violent crimes and was believed to be a dangerous, violent psychotic.
Two weeks after the Assistant Director of the CSI removed the false information, his parents in Gainesville, GA were murdered in their beds. He soon retired at age 38 from the GBI. Georgia law enforcement continue to this day telling lies about me and eavesdropping on my phone and internet for illegal reasons.
I had other surprises for Jim. During the first winter I was homeless, I was allowed to stay for about a month at a cabin on Fontana Lake, NC which was Rudolf’s alternate residence. Perhaps the biggest surprise for Jim was that I personally knew the attorney from the Reems Creek Valley, who represented Rudolph at his initial court hearings.
My wife evidently had flings with the attorney, while we lived in the Reems Creek Valley. He certainly wasn’t the only one. However, when, after she moved first to Virginia for seven weeks prior to my arrival, she rendezvoused with him twice in Downtown Washington. I was still living in the Reems Creek Valley at the time, but that caught the attention of the FBI. I was temporarily a “person of interest,” but that resulted in my friendship with the real X-files couple and being invited to their Christmas Party in 1990, where I met Vivi the French Courtesan.
Oh, did I mention that Jim Chambers is now publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution? I don’t think Mike Torpy will ever write propaganda for the bad guys again.
Life is Indeed, a box of chocolates.