Cherokees In Chattooga
The following information concerning the cherokees in Chattooga, Georgia comes to us by way of Bill Barker. Prior to 24 May 1838 Chattooga county in Georgia was a different place. It was peopled primarily by persons of a different race and culture living in loosely connected towns.
It was a part of the Cherokee Nation which until 1832 had their capitol at New Echota near present day Calhoun Georgia. In 1832 the state of Georgia prohibited the Cherokee from holding tribal government meetings in the state and the capitol was moved to Red Clay, Tennessee. Chattooga County was inhabited by persons who played major roles in the history of the Cherokee Nation. We will reveal where the major trails, major towns and who the important people were in this story of Cherokees in Chattooga.
One major trail was originally called the Five Springs Trail. It was located on the western side of the county bordering the foot of the Lookout Mountain Chain. It started just over the border in Chief Broom's camp, Broomtown, and ran north to Crayfish Springs, present day Chickamauga, GA. It was so named because five major springs were located about one day's march apart along the trail. The first spring was Barry Spring, the site of an internment camp, located just over the border in Alabama near Fort Likens. The second spring was the Knox Spring, located on the Knox property near the Alpine Church, The third spring was Teloga Spring located just north of where the Trion/Teloga road intersects the Five Springs Trail. The fourth spring was Euthitilooga Springs located just inside the Chattooga/Walker County line. The fifth and final spring was the Blue Bird Spring located agt the foot of Pigeon Mountain where the former Patton's Rock Quarry was.. Each spring was inhabited by a chief who extended hospitality to travelers when they attended council meetings at Crayfish Springs. In later years the trail had several other names: Broomtown Road, Alpine Road and currently Highway 337.
The current US Highway 27 starting at the Floyd County border and going through the town site of Kar Teh (Dirt Town, located along the banks of Armuchee Creek in the Tidings community) crossed Taylor's Ridge, named after an important Cherokee Chief Richard Taylor who descended from Nancy Ward, beloved woman of the Cherokees. His camp was located at Wood's Station in Walker County. He also had a tavern at Ringgold, GA. It descended from Taylor's Ridge and passed by Big Spring located at present day Summerville, GA and entered Island Town located at present day Trion, GA. It continued into Walker County along the Alabama Road. Chief Taylor led a group on the Trail of Tears.
Present day GA Highway 114 had its beginning in Chattooga Town, the largest Indian town in the county, continued by the camp of Chief Dirtseller on Dirtseller Mountain just north of present day Lyerly, GA and continued through Raccoon Town, located at present day Berryton. It joined present day Highway 27 at the Big Spring site in Summerville, GA.
Another major trail was present day GA Highway 48 coming off the top of Lookout Mountain, passing through Broomtown and the Five Springs Trail and on to the Big Spring at Summerville where it joined present day Highway 27. Cherokee Agent Hugh Lawson Montgomery lived along this trail at the southeast corner of present day Fish Hatchery road.
Present day Highway 100 had its beginning at Coosa in Floyd County and passed by Scraper Mountain, camp of Chief Scraper; when it entered the county, it joined GA Highway 114 in present day Summerville, GA.
The location of the trails and towns were greatly influenced by the presence of large springs. The underground structure of the county is a huge aquifer in a dolomite (limestone invaded by sea water) cavern. Occasionally the roof of the cavern collapses and creates a sink, a water source extending into the aquifer with a very deep pond and an inexhaustible source of water. It is best illustrated at the Island Town site where three such sinks exist: Round Pond, Sucker Pond, and Carp Pond in close proximity to the Chattooga River. A huge artesian spring is also in the area that to this day furnishes water for the manufacturing processes of a large textile plant at the site. It is easy to see why these areas serve as ideal sites to put a permanent camp.
There were seven towns in Chattooga County: the three major towns being Chattooga, Island Town and Broomtown; the other towns were Kar Teh (Dirt Town), Raccoon Town, Dirtseller Mt. and Scraper Mt.
Chattooga was the largest town and was located on the western border of the county. It had a "Meeting House" where meetings of the Tribal Council (Chief governing body of the Cherokee Nation) were held. It was at one such meeting in 1819 that Sequoyah, while living in the Alpine section of Chattooga County with his young daughter, gave the first public demonstration of the Syllabary he had just perfected that would make the Cherokee Nation literate. The site of the meeting house has been located, an old structure is on the site. It is currently on the list to be examined by archeologists, to confirm its age. It could well beome the most important historical building in Chattooga County, since this mis the site where Sequoyah first publicly demonstrated his Syllabary.
Island Town, located at present day Trion, GA, was located in a large bend of the Chattooga River and was intersected at the mouth of the bend by a large creek thus forming an island. The residents of the town migrated from an area in Tennessee where they lived on an Island in the Little Tennessee River, thus the name Island Town. It was an ideal location for a permanent settlement being easy to defend and having an abundance of water furnished by three "sink" ponds located nearby, a huge artesian spring and the river. It was ruled by Chief Cabin Smith until an event that occurred there shortly after the start of the Revolutionary war. Chief Smith then relocated to a site near the Coosa River where two creeks joined, in his honor one creek was named Cain Creek and the second Creek was named Smith Creek, the creek for by the joining of the two creeks was named Cabin Smith Creek, this creek enters the Coosa River between Inland Paper and Plant Hammond, a Georgia Power power generating facility. Island Town was strung out along the Chattooga River from Trion to a point across from te Trade Day grounds in Pennville. Mount Vernon Mills a textile manufacturing facility currently has occupied the site since 1845. After Chief Smithâ......s departure several of his sons assumed leadership positions, Archillia Smith and Sixkiller.
This town was originally located in Alabama, but in later years was located in the Broomtown Valley, near the Trion/Teloga road intersection.. The town area was quite extensive extending from its beginning in Alabama into Georgia all along the Broomtown Valley - it covered the present day Alpine section and Menlo area. It was ruled by Chief Broom, an important chief whose children and grandchildren played important roles in the history of the Cherokee Nation, especially his grandson Charles Renatus Hicks, who rose to become a Principal Chief of the Cherokee. The first Cherokee laws were passed at Broomtown in 1802 which abolished the Cherokee "Blood Law" (concerning vengeance for wrongs) and brought the Cherokees closer to being recognized as a viable nation.
Little is known about this town located at the present site of Berryton, GA. In later years a son of Cabin Smith, Archillia Smith owned property there and may have been involved in the leadership of the town. Richard Guess the son of Sequoyah was also listed as liking there in 1835 just prior to the removal.
Kar Teh (Dirt Town)
There is no known chief connected to this town located on the banks of Armuchee Creek in the Tidings Community. It was an important town however and a Methodist Church was established there and pastored by Rev, Summerlin who went on to be a hero in the Civil War and ended his career as editor of the Methodist Advocate.
This town located on a high ridge near Lyerly, GA, was led by Chief Dirtseller. Since there is a great deal of iron ore on the ridge that mixes to a dark red color, it is surmised that the chief got his name by selling dirt for body painting.
This high ridge that extends from Coosa in Floyd County to the southern reaches of Chattooga County, running parallel to Kincaid Mt., was the camp of Chief Scraper, an important chief in the early day history of the Cherokees. Chief Scraper married a daughter of Chief Cabin Smith, Tiana
There were several important Cherokees who lived in Chattooga County who played important and lasting roles in the history of the Cherokee Nation.
He served as the leader of Broomtown and signed several important treaties negotiated with the United States. He had two daughters: one married a trader named Hicks and had one son named Charles Renatus Hicks and one named Elijah Hicks, both of whom rose to be Principal Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation. His second daughter married a trader named Brooks. They had four daughters. Three of the daughters were wives of James Vann, the richest man in the Cherokee Nation. Two of the daughters were not married to him for very long, but the youngest, Peggy Brooks, was married to him at the time he was assassinated and shared in his estate. She became closely allied to the Moravian missionaries who lived on the property and was converted by them to Christianity. James Vann's son, Joseph Vann, built what is today known as the Vann House on the site known as Diamond Hill near Chatsworth, GA. The two story mansion is a State Historic Site and a showplace for the state of Georgia.
Charles Renatus Hicks
A grandson of Chief Broom, Charles Hicks was literate and served as the interpreter for his grandfather when he went to Washington for treaties. He was an interpreter for Return J. Meigs, the first Cherokee Indian agent located at Hiwassee, present day Charleston, TN. He served in the U.S. Army under Andrew Jackson and fought the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He was a close friend of Sequoyah, serving in the Army with him. When Sequoyah wanted to inscribe his silver work with his name, Charles wrote out his name for him to use. He wrote both his English name - George Gist - and his Indian name Sequoyah. He was a strong supporter of Sequoyah's syllabary ad worked with the Moravian missionaries to help them understand it. He was a close friend of the Vanns and may have played a role in arranging the marriage of his Brooks nieces to James Vann. It is surmised that he may also have secured Sequoyah a place in the Alpine section of Chattooga County to continue work on his syllabary after Sequoyah became estranged from his wife; she had burned all his work thinking it was a futile endeavor. Sequoyah was living at the Wills Town Mission near Fort Payne at the time. He worked with Indian agent Hugh Lawson Montgomery to resolve a boundary dispute with the Creeks. Charles was considered a level-headed peacemaker who made a strong contribution to the creation of the Cherokee Nation. He was appointed Principal Chief of the Cherokees and died shortly thereafter. He was succeeded by his brother Elijah Hicks who did not prove to be an effective leader and was soon defeated by John Ross, who went on to serve as Principal Chief for forty years.
Chief Cabin Smith
Chief Cabin Smith was the leader at Island Town for a number of years until sometime during the Revolutionary War. A small pox epidemic decimated the population of Island Town and shortly thereafter he moved to the confluence of two creeks which joined to become one and flowed into the Coosa River between Inland Paper and Georgia Power Plant Hammond. In his honor one of the creeks was named Cabin Creek; the other Smith Creek. The joined creek was named Cabin Smith Creek and remains so to this day. His statement upon making his move was, "I can no longer walk the ground that I walked with my friends who are no longer here." Cabin Smith signed two treaties that the Cherokees negotiated with the United States. His sons remained at Island Town until the removal in 1838.
Sequoyah was born near Tuskegee in Tennessee to a white father named Gist and a Cherokee mother. His given name was George Gist. His father abandoned him and he was raised by his Cherokee mother in the Cherokee culture. He was born with a limp and thus could not aspire to be of the warrior class, but he was very talented and artistic. He became an accomplished silversmith and made ornaments to adorn both people and the harnesses of horses.
He wanted to put a distinctive mark on his silver work and had his friend Charles Hicks write out both his Indian name, Sequoyah, and his English name George Gist. He then inscribed his names on his work.
He became intrigued with the white man's way of communicating with the written word; he referred to it as "talking leaves". His friends told him this came from the superior knowledge of the white man and would be impossible to duplicate.
Sequoyah took this as a challenge and after many tries finally devised a syllabary, dividing the sounds of the Cherokee language into syllables and combining them to create the Cherokee language.
He worked on this for many years and during this time married a Cherokee woman named Sally. Around 1818 they moved from Tennessee to Wills Town, Alabama near Fort Payne. He continued to spend most of his time on his syllabary and neglected his family, leaving the job of raising the children to his wife Sally. She tired of this and one day she gathered up his work, papers, carved symbols etc. and threw it all into the fire.
Sequoyah was most distraught at what Sally did and left the family home in Wills Town with his young daughter, went over Lookout Mountain and moved into a cabin in the Alpine section of Broomtown Valley. Several published articles indicate he lived on the Knox Compound that would be near the present day Alpine Church. There is a log cabin at the rear of the antebellum home built in 1848 by Hugh Montgomery Knox the grandson of Hugh Lawson Montgomery that has all the characteristics of a Cherokee Cabin, small entrance door, no windows that is a possible Sequoyah home site.
Hugh Lawson Montgomery was awarded 3000 acres by the State of Georgia in recompense for hs efforts in facilitating the removal of the Cherokees. His ancestors have stated the he wrote in his diary that he selected the land of the Cherokee Chiefs, this would include the land owned by the heirs of Chief Broom in the Broomtown Valley. Charles Renautus Hicks the grandson of Chief Broom furnished Sequoyah a place to stay while he was finishing his syllabary, it could well be that cabin It is surmised at this point that his good friend Charles Renatus Hicks may have aided him in his settlement because he was a lifelong friend of Sequoyah and a staunch supporter of his work. The Broomtown Valley was the territory of the grandfather of Charles Hicks, Chief Broom, and thus he would have had access to the dwellings there.
Today we have determined that there is a home currently standing that may have been the home Sequoyah lived in when he was there. It sits on a knoll and faces the Old Federal Road. The house is clapboard, but the interior is hand hewn planks. Further research is needed to authenticate the home. In addition new information has made the cabin at the rear of the antebellum home built by Hugh Montgomery Knox in 1848 a strong candidate also.
The 1832 records of the Cherokee Evaluators show that a 12 acre tract in the area was owned by Richard Guess, Sequoyah's son, and his wife. It is logical to assume that Richard inherited the property from his father.
While living in the cabin with his daughter, he completed the work on the syllabary and taught its use to his young daughter who quickly picked it up and became quite adept at it. He would give private demonstrations to his family and friends by having the young daughter remain in another room in the house while he wrote a message on a slate using the syllabary. The daughter would come into the room and read what he had written to the amazement of their guests.
The first public demonstration of the syllabary occurred at a council meeting of the Cherokee Nation in 1819 at the meeting house at Chattooga Town located on the western border of present day Chattooga County. Sequoyah was asked to testify in a border dispute between Tennessee and Alabama. He did this by writing his testimony on a slate using the syllabary and reading his testimony to the Council. The Council was electrified, none more so than John"Rattling Gourd" Watt, the Cherokee storyteller to the Council. He went to Sequoyah the next day and said he was unable to sleep thinking of the advantages of using the syllabary. He asked him if he could write anything. Sequoyah replied that as long as it was Cherokee he could write it; he knew no other language. Rattling Gourd told him he wanted him to transcribe the "Words of the Elders" so that they would be related the same in Council meetings each time "and stop all this lying". Unfortunately Sequoyah went on a visit to Arkansas and Rattling Gourd died a short time later. The above account of the first public demonstration of Sequoyah's syllabary comes almost verbatim from the Payne Butrick Papers, an actual interview of Cherokees who knew Sequoyah and were alive when Sequoyah was.
Sequoyah was one of the "Early Settlers" and moved with his reunited family to Arkansas from Wills Town, Alabama in 1824.
Chattooga County was an important part of the Cherokee Nation because of its towns and its leaders who were instrumental to the formation of the Nation that emerged to become the most effectively governed of all the Indian Nations with the formation of a government based on the United States of America.
Charles Renatus Hicks and Sequoyah played important parts with Hicks being the steadfast negotiator and Sequoyah making the Nation literate with his syllabary. The county is moving forward in partnership with the Trail of Tears Association and the National Park Service to permanently mark with signage the trails, town sites and home sites where these events occurred before the forced Removal on May 24, 1838.
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