Wintertime view of Winters Chapel Road. This site, once a section of the famed Hightower Trail, has been part of the DeKalb-Gwinnett County line since 1822. (Photograph courtesy Julie Jarrard.)
In prehistoric Native American times in what is now North Georgia, long before there were even tribes, the cultural capital was at Etowah, near modern-day Cartersville—still the site of the fantastic Etowah Indian mounds. Connecting Etowah to an Indian trading post at the site of present day Augusta, Georgia, was a long trail, a kind of “interstate highway” that crossed a ford on the Chattahoochee River at today’s Roswell.
The trail went through today’s location of Dunwoody, leading to the steep ridge of what is now Winters Chapel Road, then heading to the landmark Indians called Rock (Stone) Mountain. They laid out an efficient route, beating out the path through undergrowth and vines, leaving the high ground free from obstruction.
In English the ancient Etowah route was known at Hightower Trail; it became a pioneer wagon road eventually named Winters Chapel after a Methodist church there. The road became part of the boundary of the 6th and 18th land districts in Gwinnett. And when Georgia legislators formed DeKalb County in 1822, the old trail site, as pictured above, became part of the county line with Gwinnett.
Dr. Paul Hudson, historian at Georgia Perimeter College, writes stories for the Norcross News.