Auraria, Georgia was a real town. Today it is counted among the many “ghost towns” in the country. It rose to a population of around 1000 during the Georgia Gold Rush of 1832.
Tim Westover takes a real location and turns into a tale of fantasy and imagination. While there might have been gold at Auraria, there probably weren’t spirits and moon maidens. There really was a resort hotel, known as “Queen of the Mountain,” where people enjoyed bathing in and drinking mineral waters.
In this tale, a man named Holtzclaw travels to Auraria, under direction of his employer, H.E. Shadburn, to buy up all of the land in the town. It seems that Shadburn had some lofty ambitions for the area, which involved creating a lake and building his own “Queen of the Mountain.”
The first thing Holtzclaw encounters upon his arrival to the area, is a boy fishing off of a cliff. This would not be unusual, but for the fact that there was no water below him, only mist. What made it even more unusual was that they boy caught a fish. Believing it was a trick, Holtzclaw brushed it off and continued on.
In Auraria, he encountered many strange things. There was a ghostly wife, who appeared to Holtzclaw to be very much alive. There was a springhouse that blew icy winds out of it. There was an invisible piano player named “Mr. Bad Thing” at one of the inns. In that same inn, the proprietor, Abigail Thompson, only served sweet potatoes. The inn was called Old Rock Falls. Then there was Princess Trahlyta. Trahlyta is thought to have been a true Cherokee maiden who lived on a nearby mountain. Her beauty was known around the area. When she refused to wed a Cherokee warrior named Wahsega, he kidnapped her and took her to his home. She begged for release, but he would not hear of it. As she grew weaker, she eventually asked to be buried near her mountain paradise. There is actually a pile of stones in Stonepile Gap, Georgia, that is alleged to be her grave. Legend has it that the highway department has tried to move the grave multiple times, each time resulting in the “accidental death” of a crew member.
Mr. Westover’s tale of a real place, mixed in with some fantastical imagination, is quite enjoyable. Weaved into it is, in my opinion, a morality tale of what happens when greed drives your life. You see, to the people who live in this little mining town, gold means nothing. In fact, they, with the help of Princess Trahlyta, are trying to completely wash it away. But when Holtzclaw gets wind of all this gold, even seeing the “moon maidens” washing it off of their bodies, he gets greedy.
Things seem to be going very well, but then tragedy strikes, not entirely unexpected. No spoilers will be shared here, but I can say that the story has a happy ending, with which I was entirely satisfied. In fact, it turned out exactly the way I wanted it to.