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The Legend of Toccoa Before 1784*

Once upon a time many moons ago there lived in a beautiful valley in what is now northeast Georgia, a lovely Cherokee princess named Toccoa. One day, beautiful Toccoa met Wild Waters, the chief of a hostile tribe, at the foot of a high waterfall in Cherokee land. Never before had Toccoa seen such a handsome brave. His hair was long and black, and his eyes sparkled more brightly than those of any of the braves of her tribe. His laughter mimicked the rippling of the stream below the falls, and his words were like the fragrance of Cherokee roses kissed by the morning dew. Toccoa fell madly in love with the handsome chief, and her every thought was a heartthrob for her young lover. Each day when twilight came, she met him at their trysting place—the foot of the high waterfall.

One day the lovely princess did not come to meet Wild Waters. His heart was heavy as he gave his special call to her, only to hear his echo for an answer. But he continued to come to the falls in search of Toccoa. One night he was meet at the falls by the old witch mother who brought a strange and mysterious message from Toccoa: “Come to the falls each evening at twilight until the leaves are a bright golden yellow. Then, ere the leaves are crimson with autumn stain, we shall know whether we have loved in vain.”

The father of the princess had been told of his daughter’s love for Wild Waters. But he was very unhappy because there was a young brave from among the Cherokees whom he wanted his daughter to marry. So Toccoa was forbidden to see her lover again. But Toccoa steadfastly refused to marry her father’s choice.

One day she heard that she was going to be given that night to the Cherokee brave. In the evening when Wild Waters came to the falls, the clouds were black and low, and the rumble of the thunder filled the air. Zigzag streaks of lightening played their part in the imminent scenario. When Wild Waters reached the foot of the falls, he saw the lifeless body of his beloved Toccoa lying stretched full length atop the big, brown rock. Her arms were full of crimson autumn leaves, and he thought he could hear her sobs in the sounds of the beautiful waterfall. It is said that even today anyone whose ear is tuned to the sounds of nature and listens carefully can hear the sobbing of the beautiful Toccoa in the sounds of the falling water.

It is not known whether the waterfall was named for the Cherokee princess of if it was given its name because of its own beauty. It is true, however, that during the many years since its discovery the falls have been a trysting place for young lovers. Since 1911, many of these have been students at Toccoa Falls College. At this enchanting spot, young men and women not only have pledged themselves to each other for life, but they also have committed themselves to be God’s messengers to the ends of the earth. It is easy to see, therefore, why this waterfall continues to play a significant role in the story of Toccoa Falls.

*Adapted from the account recorded by Kathryn Trogdon in The History of Stephens County, p. 171

(Taken from A Tree God Planted, The Story of Toccoa Falls College by Troy Damron)