History of Wit’s End – Introduction

A Brief History of Wit’s End – An Introduction

(Photo by John Moeller, of Wit’s End, 11/3/17)

Wits End, currently owned by John & Laurie Moeller, sits at the epicenter of the former community of Conasauga, 10 miles northwest of Ellijay, GA in what is today, Gilmer County. The community, which appeared on maps for the better part of a century, sat in a valley at the foot of the rugged and remote Cohutta Mountains (currently one of the largest designated wilderness areas east of the Mississippi River), which are part of the Unaka Range at the southwestern End of the Appalachian Mountains. While all that remains to the naked eye today are the remnants of a subsistence farm, including a barn, a chimney and what’s left of an old farm house (yes the old white house in the meadow just 100 yards from our driveway), this exact spot was at multiple times throughout history, the hub of community life. For centuries it served as a resting and resupply point for weary east west travelers before the advent of the automobile. In addition, before the white settlers moved into these mountains, Wit’s End was the site of a Cherokee Nation settlement, also named Conasauga.

It’s hard to imagine that in this small mountain valley that an entire community could have existed. However, from the middle 1800s to the early 1900s this mountain valley had a post office, general store, church, saw mill, and a boarding house for weary travelers.

The property sits at the confluence of three streams and the verdant mountain valleys that each stream drains. Here, in a relatively broad valley, the streams join to form Conasauga Creek. What made Conasauga significant was the fact that it was located near the 1/2 way point along the only east-west route between the civilized communities of the great valley to the west and the mountain towns to the east through the infamously rugged Cohutta mountains.

The name, Conasauga, has long ago been removed from maps, but the farm and immediately surrounding area has a rich history. The valley was originally a Cherokee settlement. The derivation of the name, Conasauga, is not clear, but it could mean “grass” or “grassy”. It’s possible that the name could go back to even earlier times when the Creek Indians occupied these parts.

Stay tuned for the next installment…


































Unplug and Re-connect

As I write I am holding my phone. It is plugged into the car charger because it is nearly out of gas. That’s because it has become a fairly permanent fixture to my body.  In many ways it has become my portal to the world. In other words, I interact with reality through my phone. I get my news through the phone. I interact with work through my phone. I conduct my personal life through my phone. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I glanced at before closing my eyes at night. I used to get on to my kids and be annoyed that they were on their phones too much. Now they could claim that the reverse is true.

The tough thing is that it is genuinely hard to put the phone down and leave it alone. That’s partly why we created Wit’s End. At the edge of the wilderness, with no cable, internet, Wi-Fi, or cell phone signal to speak of, Wit’s End is our place to break away from the artificial reality created by our connection to the cell phone. For our family and our guests it’s a place to clear your head, remember who you are, and reconnect with people, ideas, and the tactile beauty and complexity of creation. I am convinced that humanity needs these kinds of places to unplug and reconnect.

Time and time again the wilderness is lifted up in my faith tradition as a place to encounter the Holy. It’s likely that humanity has needed quiet places away from the din of society since the beginning of time in order to more fully taste, touch, receive, feel, listen, see, and encounter truth, love, and healing.  Natural places of quiet beauty grant us a break from our experience of reality, and provide a soothing tonic to our minds, bodies and spirits. They also allow us the space to connect and reconnect with activities, concepts, and people that fuel our growth and development as members of humanity and creation. 

To get a feel for one such “quiet” place or to book your own recuperative stay investigate the links below. 



Until next time,


Consider the lilies…

The trout lilies (above) are among some of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom on the forest floor. Short in stature and typically growing in large clumps, they get their name because their leaves resemble small trout. The effect is pronounced because the clumps look like schools of fish. 

As a budding amateur naturalist, I am naturally curious about what grows in the forest. While I still love the stunning mountain vistas and breathtaking waterfalls that can only be reached by journeying, with each passing year, I am more and more fascinated by the rich plant diversity growing in the Appalachian mountain microcosm right under my nose at Wit’s End. Trout lilies are among the earlies spring bloomers. They grow prolifically near cool damp places and near creeks. While they are common, I have very  rarely caught them in bloom. I believe that is, in part, because the conditions they require to bloom are quite specific. Like almost every living thing in the forest they require just the right cocktail of soil, moisture and sun light conditions in order to thrive, bloom and propagate. Imagine my surprise when I found a patch of trout lilies all abloom growing under a massive blanket of kudzu (argh! That’s right I am still battling Kudzu more than 20 years after becoming the owner of this patch of ground). Despite my ongoing hostile relations with Kudzu, I had to appreciate the fact that it was contributing to the happiness of the lilies. This group of trout lilies make me think of the Matthew 6 text, “Consider the lilies. They neither toil nor spin, Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”

I love that the lilies in the text and the ones I  discovered all abloom, can not add one day to their lives, nor do they have any real say over how long they live or whether or not they bloom. Their very life and blooming is completely dependent on whether or not they have the right growing conditions, i.e. the right amount of moisture, sunlight, soil & mineral complexion. 

Like the original audience that Jesus was speaking to in the text above, I find that I worry and fret about my financial destiny and that of my wife and our children, but more often than not, I tend to get most anxious about my own fulfillment and happiness in life along with the wellbeing of those who I love. I worry that I’m too removed from things the simple things that feed my soul and the souls of those I care about. I am often restless in my contrived world. It causes me to be frustrated and sullen. As an adult I have tried to isolate the triggers that lead me to these periods of general discontent, and after years of trying to diagnose my periodic failures to thrive, I have traced it, like the lilies, to not having the right growing conditions. Here is a true statement about me – if I get too removed from the natural world of trees, plants, clean air and water, and find my way a little too far into the man made contrived world my entire physical, spiritual, mental and emotional wellbeing suffers.
While I don’t want to project my version of truth on others, I have to wonder if people aren’t a little like the lilies in the referenced text, each requiring just the right conditions to grow and thrive as well. I also happen to wonder if human beings, made of matter, and ultimately returning to dust, don’t all consciously or unconsciously crave a stronger connection to the natural world. Do we need a rootedness in creation that serves to nurture our bodies, souls and minds? I’m not suggesting that we worship nature, nor am I suggesting that it is all that we need. However, I am wondering if the natural world is not a gift from our creator that contributes to our wellbeing, well beyond providing food, water, and oxygen for mere subsistence. As I write, I feel lighter and brighter because I have spent time with loved ones on spring break in a tropical spot where warm breezes, clear waters, lush plant life combined to provide a tonic for my soul. Is it possible that some of our angst and frustration with our very lives can be traced to losing touch with our truly natural roots?

After a long weeks of moving between the concrete and commercial jungles of the city and suburbia, and my constant, seemingly unavoidable tether to the digital world through my handheld device, I often feel numb, anxious, sometimes  even a hint of despair. I fear that a major bridge collapse last week on my route to work in metro Atlanta will contribute to much longer commutes and time spent in my car each day, further robbing me of my zeal for life. Among other simple things, a simple stroll through my yard, or a walk with the dog down the street helps. But I really feel as though I need  a good dousing or better yet a soaking in the natural world in order to recover my spirit and my zeal for life. Quite simply I have learned that my soul flourishes or withers based on whether or not I tend to my connection to the created order and my required growing conditions. 

As a sojourner, and not a master theologian, I can’t tell you that this is truth for all human beings. However, I do believe that there is truth in these thoughts.

If you find yourself feeling similarly I welcome your thoughts and questions on these matters. 

In case you would like to read it, here is the full version of the Matthew text 6 text.

““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭NIV‬‬