Families of business owners in northern Georgia, who joined a “patriotic organization,” were rewarded by low interest loans from Russians in North Carolina, plus being given slot machine jackpots at the Cherokee casino in North Carolina.
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
There are advantages to being the laughing stock of the community! During the six years that I lived in a rat-infested cabin near Dahlonega, GA, people told me things that they would have never confided to me up in Virginia . . . where I lived in a big colonial farmhouse, had national celebrities periodically dropping by for a visit and socialized in Washington, DC with an exotic, adoring French actress at my side. It would take several more years, after I had moved away from Dahlonega, to make sense of the strange statements that I heard and observations that I had made.
Dahlonega, (Lumpkin County) GA is the town, mentioned in Part One, where a $350 million a year meth manufacturing operation had its headquarters near the Sheriff’s Department, most of the time I lived in that county. Dahlonega is also the mountain home of the US Army Rangers. Camp Frank D. Merrill is the home of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School, where small unit leaders are instructed in combat techniques and procedures used to move swiftly over mountainous terrain and fast-flowing mountain rivers. The Rangers and Ranger-Candidates also utilize the adjacent Chattahoochee National Forest, plus Mount Yonah, near where I currently live.
Paradoxically, throughout the time that I lived in the cabin, there was a large tract of land to the west of my cabin, utilized for training ultra-rightwing insurgents in guerilla tactics. While at the cabin, I endured six years of incessant firing of assault rifles and machine guns, plus those especially irritating days when they were learning how to make and explode bombs. The camp was apparently supported financially by 3-4 nearby meth manufacturing facilities. When the wind was blowing from the southwest, their Clorox-like stench was overwhelming.
A huge percentage of the blue-collar males on the western side of Lumpkin County (where the insurgent training camp was located) and adjacent Dawson County displayed Confederate flags or Nazi symbols on their pickups. Surely such an anti-government facility would not exist so close to Camp Merrill without extensive protection from “somebody.”
Dahlonega was also the home of the University of North Georgia. The primary reason that I picked out a cabin in Lumpkin County was that I assumed the university would be the focus of my social and intellectual life. I had not even held a woman’s hands since Susan disappeared in June 2006 . . . and was terribly lonely.
I moved to the cabin in May 2012. “America Unearthed” was filmed in early July 2012. In the months leading up to the premier on December 21, 2012, I fantasized that immediately after the international premier of America Unearthed at Prime Time on Saturday night, a long string of single female professors would invite me over to dinner at their house . . . terribly curious to meet the guy, who had discovered a lost civilization while living in the wilderness. That was not to be.
In my old life in Virginia, I was Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Building Committee at The First United Methodist Church of Woodstock, VA. I was also Chairman of the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission. Shortly, after arriving at the cabin, I attended the First United Methodist Church of Dahlonega, GA. I hoped to meet some new friends and maybe a nice Christian woman.
At the end of the service a bleached blond woman in her late 30s came up to me, without introducing herself, and asked me where my lovely life was. I told her that I was single . . . divorced . . . to let her know that I was not gay. Her response was, “I think that you might be happier elsewhere. This is a family church.” I responded, “Well, that explains why Jesus doesn’t attend here.”
She showed a scowl then turned her back and walked away. I later learned that she was one of the ministers.
Censorship of a TV archaeological documentary ???
The History Channel sent out special promotional packages to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Dahlonega Nugget Newspaper and the Dahlonega Area Chamber of Commerce, since America Unearth’s Premier was filmed near Dahlonega and several other premier heritage tourism locations in Georgia. Recipients were given contact information for the show’s host, Scott Wolter and myself. The AJC and Dahlonega Nugget never mentioned a word about the show’s premier. The Dahlonega Chamber of Commerce never mentioned the show in its website, but did mention a Hallmark Christmas Special that was filmed in Dahlonega, but was supposedly located in another part of the USA.
Then all of us were shocked when the cable services blacked-out the premier of “America Unearthed,” north of Metro Atlanta. This was supposedly due to extreme pressure from rightwing political groups. The rumor mill said that the request was made by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, whose home was fairly close to the Habersham County Airport, where in the TV show, America Unearth’s LIDAR plane took off to fly over Track Rock Gap! Nothing made any sense.
In January 2013, I attempted to attend a night-time lecture by an archaeologist from Florida on the University of North Georgia campus. About 200 feet into the campus and I was surrounded by three UNG Campus Cop cars . . . blue lights flashing. They told me that I would be arrested, unless I left the campus immediately. I also would be arrested, if I entered the campus again. There was no explanation.
Immediately afterward and for the next five years, whenever I drove on the parkway on the southern edge of the UNG campus to get to Walmart, Campus Cop cars would race out of the campus and tail me for several blocks. I eventually learned that while my car was in a repair shop, the state police had placed a radio beacon inside the instrumental panel, which warned law enforcement that I was a convicted sexual predator (total lie).
Specifically on the state’s Criminal Information System, it said that I was a predator of college coeds. The last time that I had even been in conversation with a female college student was in January 1988, when Cindy Funkhouser, a senior at Virginia Tech, accompanied her father, a professor at Virginia Tech, on a tour of my farm in the Shenandoah Valley. When Cindy found out that I was single again in 1993, we began dating with the enthusiastic blessings of her parents. Obviously, I was not a predator.
In 2019, the Travel Channel bought the Premier of America Unearthed, advertised it heavily in the Southeast and then broadcast it nationally several times. This was the first time that most North Georgians had even heard of the program and assumed that the 2019 broadcast was its premier. It was also close-captioned for the European and Latin American markets. This is how my long-lost soulmate in France realized that I had not been murdered in April 1993. She almost had a nervous breakdown.
There were no black outs. Many newspapers commented on the program. Students from the University of North Georgia asked me, if I ever gave lectures at UNG. LOL By 2020, the Premier of America Unearthed had become the most watched History Channel one hour documentary ever.
The Russian-Cherokee North Georgia Connection
It is not clear what the large number of rightwing extremists in Lumpkin and Dawson Counties were told about TV program and me. Young blue-collar males would make donkey or laughing hyena sounds when they saw me on the sidewalk or driving by. More common was that affluent strangers would make a point of telling me how much money they had or how many vacations they took a year.
More extensive conversations with some of the more rational of the nouveau riche types provided glimpses of what benefits could be derived from membership in some secret “patriotic organization.” I think they were trying to recruit me. Members of their organization did a lot of bartering to avoid paying taxes. They received large, low interest loans for their businesses . . . or even cash gifts. A few talked about driving up to Cherokee to get their free money.
One of my neighbors, an elderly lady, got to bragging about her son-in-law and daughter. She provided me a whole lot more information than I suspect the “patriotic organization” would want the public to know.
She told me that her son-in-law was introduced to the Patriots through someone at his Southern Baptist Church. “Almost immediately God started blessing him and my daughter. They were able to buy nice things. He was made a deacon in their church.”
“We got this new metal roof on our house free. My son-in-law made a big sell . . . but a lot of the time they just barter back and forth. Instead of the customer paying my son-in-law’s business, he put this pretty roof on.”
“Then, a man gave him a loan interest loan to buy a business in Cleveland, GA. The owner had died in a car wreck. Then later he was given more money to expand it. Then God began to really bless him.”
“Members of the Patriots or Brotherhood (she used both words) only do business with each other’s businesses, so his business prospered even more. They were eventually able to build a really nice house in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where a lot of the Patriots members have second homes.”
When he got higher up in the organization, her son-in-law started taking her and her husband to the casino at Cherokee, NC each year. They are told which slot machines to play at. Almost immediately, each of them wins $1500. Her daughter and son-in-law win a lot more than that at their assigned machines. Hm-m-m
I asked her, “Who is the man, who finances your son-in-law? Guess he is a wealthy Southern Baptist businessman in Atlanta or Gainesville.”
She answered, “Oh no . . . he’s a rich Russian up in North Carolina. I have never met him. I’m not sure if my son-in-law has ever met him either. They do all their business in person, through regular Americans, speaking for the man in North Carolina.”
How do you spell . . . O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-E-D C-R-I-M-E ?
Now YOU know . . . at least part of the story.