Actual Factual Georgia

Q: When entering the parking lot for the Sope Creek Park area off Paper Mill Road, the historical markers read “Soap” Creek. Was that once the spelling of the name, or are they just misspelled?

—Glenna Stanhouse, Marietta

A: The name isn’t misspelled; there’s just an old and new way of spelling it. There’s an interesting history behind Soap (or Sope) Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River that has lent its name to housing developments and buildings in east Cobb County, including an elementary school. It was originally called Soap Creek and was named after a Cherokee named Soap or “Old Soap,” according to Jeff Bishop, president of the Georgia chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, which works with the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the National Park Service to preserve Trail of Tears related sites in Georgia. Bishop wrote in an email that it was called Soap Creek on the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery maps. Old Soap was highly regarded by the whites in the area, according to “The First Hundred Years: A Short History of Cobb County,” which states that “he had lived there so long that a creek and its branch were named for him.” However, there was a dispute, and he and his family were forced to move to Cherokee County, where they lived until they were relocated on the Trail of Tears, wrote Bishop, who contributes to www.trailofthetrail.com. “There are descendants of Soap who now live in Oklahoma, in the Cherokee Nation,” Bishop wrote in an email. “Chris Soap serves on the Cherokee Nation tribal council, and his father, Charley Soap, is a respected elder who is the widower of former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller.” The spelling of Sope Creek apparently was changed sometime in the 19th century, but it was still spelled Soap in 1849’s “Statistics of the State of Georgia.” Historical markers use both Soap and Sope.

Q: Was Erskine Caldwell from Georgia?

A: What is it about the town of Moreland and famous writers? Caldwell, the author of “God’s Little Acre” and “Tobacco Road,” was born near there in 1903, and Lewis Grizzard grew up there after being born at Fort Benning. Caldwell’s family moved throughout the South before settling in the east Georgia town of Wrens when he was 16. Despite being the son of a minister, Caldwell’s books, while about class struggles, poverty and racism in the South, also were controversial. Some were banned and seized by the government for their racy content and explicit sexuality. Caldwell was even arrested and tried for obscenity for 1933’s “God’s Little Acre,” but was exonerated. He died in 1987 and is buried in Arizona, but Moreland has dedicated a museum to him.

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