The first structure on Traveler’s Rest’s land was a small cabin, built shortly after the Revolutionary War by Major Jesse Walton. Walton received the land surrounding the Tugaloo Crossroads, including a ford and creek that were later named Walton’s Ford, as a grant from the U.S. government. After his death, Walton’s sons and daughters lived on his land for twenty years. They moved out west in 1813, at which point the cabin was passed to Walton’s son in law, Joseph Martin. Bouwman, author of Traveler’s Rest and the Tugaloo Crossroads, posits that Martin may have been the one to replace the cabin with a small house.
By 1818, Martin sold the house and land to James. R. Wyly. At that time, Traveler’s Rest was a two-story frame house, approximately 18 feet by 51 feet. It had several “shed” rooms, two chimneys, and a few outbuildings, though none have survived. The first floor of the house had two rooms of equal size, called the “parlor” and “hall.” The second floor, connected by a quarter-turn stair, had three bedrooms.
Wyly sold the house to Devereaux Jarrett in 1833, whose family owned the house until 1955. Jarrett immediately began expanding the house, and his additions were expertly done, perfectly matching the old house’s structure and build. The house nearly doubled in size after its additions were completed, making the house nearly 90 feet in length. A wraparound porch was added, along with a staircase that went directly from the second floor to the western porch. The old hall became the central hall, and four bedrooms were added to the first floor. Upstairs, two bedchambers, one large and one small, were constructed. The new upstairs additions served as family quarters, while the downstairs rooms were meant to serve the inn’s visitors.
When the Georgia Historical Commission acquired Traveler’s Rest in 1955, the house was in a sad state of dilapidation. Thankfully, the Commission was able to restore the old house to its former glory, and that same structure can still be seen and visited today. The inn is currently located six miles east of Toccoa, Georgia, and is open for visitors every Saturday.
To read more about Traveler’s Rest and its families, check out Robert Eldridge Bouwman’s Traveler’s Rest and the Tugaloo Crossroads, coming soon from the University Press of North Georgia.