by Mick Coleman
Rufus Lafayette Moss, Sr. (1825 – 1912), a founding father of Tallulah Falls, was also a driving force behind Rabun County’s early rise as a tourist and resort destination.
As a homeowner in Tallulah Falls, Mr. Moss joined with other leading citizens in his hometown of Athens to push for a railroad line to the town of Tallulah Falls, most likely because they wanted Athens to be the hub of goods coming down from and going into the Northeast Georgia Mountains. The extension of the Tallulah Falls Railroad was finally completed in 1882.
Even before the 1921 fire, the tourist boom that Mr. Moss helped to launch in Tallulah Falls already had begun to extend northward with the extension of the railroad line to Clayton in 1904 and, in 1907, its terminus in Franklin, N.C. Clayton in particular benefitted from its own tourist and accompanying boarding house boom. The extension of the railroad also transformed the county’s labor and economic trajectories in other ways. Now that logging companies could more easily move their timber products, they began ramping up their logging activities. This meant that more and more men were hired to work on timber crews. At the same time, traditional subsistence farming declined as farmers began to use the railroad to ship their produce to outside markets. The railroad also led to a social transformation, bringing in “outsiders” and allowing local residents to travel well beyond county boundaries.
In Rabun County, the North Georgia Hydro Group includes Lakes Burton, Seed, Rabun, and Tallulah, all of which provide tourists with outdoor recreation and serve as popular draws for those building vacation and second homes. It is these lakes and their ties to Rabun’s economy which remain a testament to the foresight and entrepreneurial spirit of Rufus L. Moss, Sr.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Rabun County remained largely isolated from the outside world. This would change dramatically with the coming of a railroad which also brought tourism, logging and dam building.
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