A Dalton Tradition Shining in the Night

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Dalton Utilities lit the Christmas star on top of Mount Rachel on Sunday, December 1st continuing a tradition that has been a part of the Dalton community for 84 years. The star, owned and maintained by Dalton Utilities, shines brightly in the night sky from December through New Year’s Day.

“This year, we had five descendants of the star’s originator, Carl McCamy, at the lighting of the star,” stated Utility spokesperson Kay Phillips. “To honor McCamy this holiday season, his great-great grandchildren, Julia and Will Lumpkin lit the star.” Julia and Will are the children of David Lee and Caroline Lumpkin and niece and nephew of Liz Lumpkin. They are the grandchildren of Dr. and Mrs. Bill Lumpkin, and great grandchildren of Betty McCamy Lumpkin, 95, who is the daughter of Carlton McCamy.

A local tradition, the Mount Rachel star is an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. Built in 1935 by the late Carl McCamy, former superintendent of Dalton Utilities, the original structure was a 30-foot tall wooden frame with 150 light bulbs attached to a pole. The temporary structure was placed on top of Mount Rachel each December, and has been lit every year since 1935, except during the blackouts during World War II. Each year, the star is officially “lighted” by a descendant of Mr. McCamy or children of Utility employees/retirees.

In 1947, V.D. Parrott, Jr., former Dalton Utilities’ president, and the Board of Water, Light and Sinking Fund Commissioners replaced the original wooden star with a permanent structure made of iron. The star was completely overhauled in 2005 when Dalton Utilities’ personnel rebuilt the frame, replaced all the lights and rewired the structure. Now, the Mount Rachel Star measures 40 feet in diameter and towers 65 feet above the mountain. Over 230 bulbs give the star its glow, which can be seen several miles away. In 2017, all of the bulbs were replaced with LEDs, so the star now shines even brighter . . . and greener!

Although many local folks have enjoyed Mount Rachel’s new hiking and biking trail, many do not know why it is called Mount Rachel. Mount Rachel is named after the wife of John Hamilton, a wealthy landowner, who built the Hamilton House in 1840 on Chattanooga Avenue. The Hamilton House, the oldest brick home in Dalton, is now owned by the Whitfield-Murray County Historical Society and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. John Hamilton died in 1853 leaving behind his wife and seven children. Rachel ran their plantation successfully by herself. Five of her sons served in the Confederate Army with all of them surviving the Civil War. During the war, Rachel nursed wounded soldiers in her home. She lived at the house on Chattanooga Avenue until her death in 1876. Her children remained in the community becoming business, government and civic leaders. Many of her descendants live in the Dalton community today.