Like many locations in Georgia, many of Rabun County’s place names are derived from Indian names. In Rabun County that would be the Cherokees. In most Indian place names, we know the English spelling of how the Cherokees pronounced the word, but no actual translation of what the word means. For example, both Chattooga and Chechero were the names of villages. Chattooga was derived from the town which once stood on the South Carolina side of the river, near the mouth of War-woman Creek.
It was abandoned, probably in 1760, because it lay on the route of two British Army expeditions. When explorer John Bartram passed by in 1776, he noted town ruins in the area.
The area where Clayton is now located was once an important intersection of major Indian trails known as Dividings. One route that branched to the southeast, along what is now Highway 76 East, passed an Indian village mapped by Henry Mouzon in 1777 and called “Chichirohe.” That derivation is easy to see in the community we call Chechero.
The word “Tallulah” has often been said to mean ‘terrible.’ There was an Indian village near the great falls and gorge in the late 1600s called ‘Talulu.’ By 1725 there was another village in the same area called ‘Turura,’ a variation of ‘Talulu.’
Some Indian names are Anglicized; Warwoman is one example. The most important route out of Dividings ran along War-woman Creek to the east, forded the Chattooga River, and forked in South Carolina to trails that then led to Virginia and Charleston. The creek name (later the community’s name also) came from an honored titled among the Cherokee. It was their custom to take a woman along on war parties, primarily to cook and sew, but when one proved her mettle on several expeditions, she was given the designation ‘War Woman.’ We don’t know which specific woman was referred to because the Warwoman Creek has held that name for more than 200 years.
Timpson Creek’s name does not seem to have an Indian connection at first glance. But it is, in fact, name for a Cherokee, John Timson, who was the first convert made by Baptist missionaries in 1823.
Other Indian names abound in Rabun County. Stekoe Creek was first called ‘Sticcoa’ by the Cherokees, and Hiawassee Street is named for the great trail known as ‘Hiwassee’ that connected the Cherokee settlements around Franklin, NC to those of the valleys further south and west. Even Savannah Street, which many believe to be named for Savannah Bleckley, may actually be of Cherokee derivation because it is the English equivalent of ‘Hiwassee,’ meaning grassy valley.
When the Cherokee were removed and Rabun County was created in 1819, the white settlers started their own naming. Rabun comes from Governor William Rabun, who died in office shortly before the county came to be. Clayton, originally Claytonville, was named for Supreme Court Judge and Congressman Augustus Clayton of Clarke County. Dillard was named for the Dillard family, among the first white settlers in that locale. Mountain City was originally called ‘Pass Over’ by settlers because it was part of the great valley pass through the Blue Ridge. By 1915, it was known as Mountain City.
According to Mrs. Della Watts’ recollections, Tiger was once called ‘Kerbytown,’ after a prominent resident who ran a general store there. Some say the name ‘Tiger’ derived from a Cherokee chief named ‘Tiger Tail;’ other oral history says the panther’s cry from the mountains reminded early settlers of English origin of the eerie cry of the tiger of India.
Source: ‘Rabun County Place Names,’ by Carol Law Turner, The Vintage Rabun Quarterly, Vol 3 No 1, January 2009