Sam Burnham, Curator
Crystal clear water has been bringing people to this spot for centuries. Evidence suggests the Cherokee and Mississippian peoples called this place home. Today the site is home to one of Georgia’s great small towns. Welcome to Cave Spring, population ≈ 1070
Cave Spring incorporated in 1832. That was two years before the county seat of Rome and five years before the state capital, Atlanta. But the official incorporation was just a recognition of a long established Cherokee community. In the following years the inhabitants would be led away on the Trail of Tears and white settlers would plant roots here.
Like so many Georgia towns, Cave Spring would house wounded and sick soldiers of both armies during the Civil War. Makeshift hospitals in and around town were where men came to heal, convalesce, or die. Between the war and the removal, Cave Spring has much more than its share of ghost stories.
The defining moment for the town came in 1847 when four pupils and one teacher met for the first time in a log cabin, founding what would become Georgia School for the Deaf. The school would become an economic and cultural engine for the town. In 1955 the school had 89 teachers. Students came from all over Georgia to be educated in numerous buildings on a sprawling campus. Most Cave Spring residents were bilingual, fluent in English and American Sign Language.
Educational modifications have moved deaf students into traditional classrooms. Other educational opportunities have drawn students away from GSD. The school is now much smaller and struggles for funding but it still holds a special place in the hearts of Cave Spring residents. Many of the old campus buildings have found new life and many more are available for restoration and reuse.
The town is best known for the cave and it’s neighbor, the spring. These features anchor Rolater Park, a beautiful public green space. The cave is open for regular tours. It can seem a bit kitschy but there are impressive formations in that small cave. The spring provides pure award winning drinking water for anyone with a container, free of charge.
Despite the crowds collecting the water, the vast majority of the spring’s produce flows into a pond and also a 1.5 acre swimming pool. If you’ve never had all the air sucked from your lungs in a fraction of a second, stand in the searing Georgia sun for about 10 minutes and then hop off into this pool. You’ll instantly know what I’m saying as your lounges empty, your body erupts in goose bumps, and your eyes try to pop out of their sockets. It’s kinda chilly.
Some brave souls gather here on New Year’s Day to participate in a polar bear plunge. I’m not sure if the shock is as substantial as it is in the summer as I have never been that big of a fool before but I imagine it’s still pretty startling.
Throughout the town you’ll find beautiful architecture. The houses, businesses, and the old school buildings offer an eclectic and diverse mix of styles and designs.
Visit Cave Spring for antique shopping, dining, swimming, collecting drinking water, or take in one of GSD’s 8-man football games. You will enjoy the Big Cedar Arts & Crafts Fair. Their annual 4th of July and Christmas parades are community events that invoke a sense of small town nostalgia. They are both highly recommended.
To complete the small town feel, you’ll also find a small post office, a local branch of the library system, a local grocery store, and a highly active volunteer fire department.
Cave Spring is located in Floyd County, Southwest of Rome.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire