t hurts my heart to see small towns continuing to die. About the only ones that survive these days are the ones with some major historical significance, some beautiful scenery, or those that are next to large cities. Most of our little towns in rural areas are fading away, and the few young people growing up in these places are looking forward to leaving for bigger towns and better employment opportunities.
CULLODEN, DOWN in the southwest corner of Monroe County, is just such a place. In its heyday it was a thriving farming community. People who lived within a few miles came there to shop, as driving to Forsyth or Barnesville would take too long. But as dirt roads gave way to pavement and mud was less of a travel headache, commerce started moving out, and just like the mud, the towns started drying up.
THOUGH THE people may leave, the town’s history does not. Culloden has some of it, not the least of which is the Culloden United Methodist Church, Georgia’s oldest brick Methodist church, now 126 years old. The building has been well cared for and looks like it is still in use.
THE MAIN street that runs through town used to be part of the main road that connected Fort Valley and Barnesville. But as with most busy roads, this one got relocated and widened so traffic wouldn’t have to slow down going through town. That new road, U.S. 341, intersects with Georgia 74 about a mile north of Culloden. There’s a new roundabout there, a gas station and a produce stand.
YOU CAN see for miles in all directions from that roundabout, and with good reason. That relatively high hill is located smack dab on the Eastern Continental Divide of the United States.
That means that if you poured out a bucket of water, in theory half of the water would run off and end up in the Atlantic Ocean, while the other half would run off and end up in the Gulf of Mexico.
THE CONTINENTAL divide runs from south Florida up through Georgia and on to New York. In our area it’s pretty much along a line from Musella northwest on 341 to the intersection with 74 just north of Culloden, then follows 74 to the turnoff to Yatesville. Then it goes through Barnesville and Griffin, through downtown Atlanta, then turns to the northeast and runs through Gainesville.
OLD MAPS show that there once was a railroad line that ran from near Perry north through Musella and right through Culloden. Railroad builders, and subsequent highway builders, often chose high ridges and watershed boundaries for roads like Georgia 74 and 341.
THE RIDGES were preferred because it meant fewer bridges had to be built over creeks and streams. The continental divide was ideal because it was, by definition, on a ridge between all of the streams.
In truth, there’s not much to see from that roundabout spot north of Culloden. There are fields of peach trees, which must be beautiful when the trees are blooming, but that’s about it.
THE LOOKOUT is unobstructed though, as the elevation is about 735 feet above sea level. Though it’s not the highest point in the county, it’s not too far off. The highest point is 790 feet, which is in a spot in the woods about 3.5 miles straight west of the Interstate 75 weigh station. I’m not aware of any marker there.
NOR IS there a marker along the Monroe County section of the Eastern Continental Divide. Some places along that route, such as the city of Duluth, Ga., have put up a marker that every year draws a few tourists looking for an interesting photograph to show where they’ve been.
CULLODEN COULD use one of those. You could put it in front of Lockett’s Kuntry Cooking, the town’s restaurant and perhaps its only remaining business. I don’t think Ms. Lockett would mind, especially if it would mean she’d sell a few more daily specials.
THERE’S NOT much left of little Culloden, but it has something pretty special. Marking the continental divide there as a spot along a national geographic feature would be a good thing. It would give this little town – our little town – its own claim to fame.
A former newspaper editor, Bill Weaver lives in northern Monroe County. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.