Noccalula Falls and its 40 acres of surrounding property was first owned by Thomas McClung in 1845. It was called Black Creek Falls then and for many years after. About 1870 G.O. Baker of Dallas County came into possession of the falls and added acreage to the holdings.
In 1867 a writer for a local newspaper wrote: “Reaching underneath the Falls you enter a great amphitheater of circular form. The floor, sides and roof are of solid rock. Here, every day when the sun strikes the side of the falling water, rainbows of dazzling beauty are reflected on the vaulted ceiling. The amphitheater is perfectly light, dry and cool on the hottest day in midsummer, always affording a delightful siesta. Where after drinking in the indescribable beauty of the scene, you can sink into oblivion lulled to rest by the gentle sound of falling water.”
Underneath the falls, a wooden dancing platform was used during and possibly before the Civil War on up through the early 1900’s. One scoutmaster a few years ago recalled seeing the rotten remains of the pavilion and he and his troop used what little wood they would find for firewood.
The dancing pavilion was located at the edge of a little chalybeate spring that provided water for the local society people who danced there. The spring can still be seen and identified by an orange-rust coloration. The pavilion, located under the horseshoe, was so close to the Falls that the dancers were almost always enveloped in the mist.
The natural amphitheater was often said to hold thousands of people. At night the social set would gather and the great chamber would be lighted by many lamps and candles. With the water tumbling down forming a liquid curtain, it was a lace of beauty and romance, and many romances did crystallize there.
Within the chamber was a ledge upon which the most daring among the young people would climb. It was most often referred to as “Lover’s Retreat.” The legend was one where if a gentleman proposed on the ledge and the girt had temerity to refuse, he would throw her down upon the rocks below and then follow her. But, since there is no record of any such disasters, it is to be assumed there were few refusals!
Recently, the Vagabond came across information that Col. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler was at the Fall’s dancing pavilion. Wheeler was in and out of Gadsden for various reasons during the Civil War. He always made his headquarters and resting place at the Hollingsworth home. After the war, a Mrs. Irby Morgan wrote about her experience during those hard times. Her husband was wounded near Farmington, Tenn., and was brought safely to Sand Mountain. She had to leave Marietta, Ga., to bring him back home.
She wrote: “We got a wagon and put a feather bed in it and made the horses almost walk until we got to Gadsden, and stopped there to rest, for Mr. Morgan was very weak and greatly fatigued with the trip. We spent the night and in the morning he was much better. There was a party of persons going out to see Black Creek (Noccalula) Falls and he insisted that I should go too, as I would never have the opportunity again. So I went and enjoyed it so much. I was delighted with the view. Black and Clear Creeks unite several miles above the falls and empty over a precipice of eighty feet. As the sun throws its bright rays on the torrent as it dashes over the falls, it is a grand sight. Under the falls there was a platform erected, and I learned that Wheeler’s cavalry had had a dance there a few nights before. From the number of peanut hulls I saw, they must have had a jolly time with the country girls. After feasting our eyes on the grand scenery, we went back, and all decided we had been repaid for our trip. The next morning we started for Marietta.”
In 1929 Col. R.A. Mit-chell saw that the land was being plotted into lots for sale and knew there were plans to strip the land of timber. He deplored this destruction and bought the 169 acres surrounding the falls.
Mitchell held the property until his death in 1937. His daughter, Mrs. Sadie Elmore, became the owner and sold the property to the city in 1946 at the original cost of $50,000. The City of Gadsden began making the Falls into a recreation attraction in 1950. Picnic facilities and shelters, barbecue pits, a lookout platform, fences and new metal steps into the gorge were among the first improvements.