New Echota State Historic Site
Cherokee National Capital, 1825 - 1838
The early 19th century was a new era for the Cherokee Indians. Discarding their traditional clan system of ruling a tribe, they adopted a government similar to that of the United States. Their nation was divided into eight districts, and a legislature was established to make laws and approve treaties. Four delegates from each district were elected to the lower house, called the National Council. This body chose the 12 members of the upper house called the National Committee and selected the top level officers: principal chief, assistant principal chief and treasurer.
During the fall of 1819, the Cherokee Council began holding their annual meetings in Newtown, a small community located at the junction of the Coosawattee and Conasauga rivers in present-day Gordon County. On November 12, 1825, the council adopted a resolution making Newtown the nation's capital. They changed the town’s name to New Echota in honor of Chota, a beloved Cherokee town that was located in present-day Tennessee.
New Echota was a planned community laid out by Cherokee surveyors. By 1830, the town had approximately 50 residents, a main street that was 60 feet wide, side streets that were 50 feet wide, 100 one-acre town lots and a two-acre town square. The Cherokee government buildings, including the Council House, Supreme Court House and printing office, dominated the center of town, with several private homes, stores, a ferry and a mission station in the surrounding areas. New Echota was quiet most of the year, but council meetings provided the opportunity for great social gatherings. During these meetings, several hundred Cherokees filled the town, arriving by foot, on horseback or in stylish carriages.
A significant development in the progress of the Cherokees occurred in 1821 when the council adopted a written form of their native language. After participating in the Creek War of 1813-14, a mixed-blood Cherokee named Sequoyah (also named George Guess or Gist) saw the need for his people to possess talking leaves. Although Sequoyah had no formal education, he worked 12 years to isolate each syllable in the Cherokee language, giving it a symbol. A person had only to memorize the 86 characters to be able to read. This new means of communications was unique to American Indians at the time, and Sequoyah is the only known person to have single-handedly created a written language.
The new alphabet was put to use in 1826 when a national press and newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, was approved by the National Committee and Council. While the printing office was being built at New Echota, type in both Cherokee and English languages, a press and other equipment were being secured with help from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston.
The first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix, a four-page weekly, was published February 21, 1828. The bilingual newspaper was circulated throughout the Cherokee Nation and parts of the United States and Europe. In addition to the newspaper, the printing office also turned out thousands of pages of other publications, including the Bible, hymns and a novel. The last issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was printed May 31, 1834.
The first editor
of the newspaper was a young, New England-educated Cherokee named Elias Boudinot
who lived in a two-story frame house near the printing office. His wife, Harriet
Ruggles Gold Boudinot, was from Cronwall, Connecticut, and is buried in the
New Echota cemetery. Among his friends was Rev. Samuel A. Worcester, a missionary
who arrived in New Echota in 1827. Worcester was greatly impressed with Sequoyah’s
invention and knew what a newspaper could mean to the Cherokees' progress
and his missionary work. He worked closely with Indian leaders to bring the
Cherokee Phoenix into existence. He also served as the town's minister,
school master and postmaster, as well as writing articles on grammar for the
newspaper. Worcester’s house and mission station is the only original building
left at New Echota.
By the 1830s, the Cherokees were living much like the frontiersmen who were invading their nation. The 1835 census stated that 93 percent of the Cherokee were farmers who tilled their land. The average Cherokee lived in a small log cabin (16' x 18') and cultivated about 11 acres of land. Most Cherokee farmsteads included several outbuildings. Corn cribs were the most common, but many farms also had potato houses, stables and smokehouses. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens were usually near the house, while the bottomland field was used for growing corn. Some Indians owned stores, taverns and large plantations, and some even owned Negro slaves.
During the late 1820s the United States began pushing for the removal of Indians toward the west. Seeing the probability that the U.S. would succeed, some Cherokees thought it would be to their advantage to cooperate. Most Cherokees, on the other hand, were strongly opposed to leaving their homes. By candlelight on the night of December 29,1835, the Treaty of New Echota was signed in the house of Elias Boudinot. The treaty ceded all the Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi river for lands in Oklahoma, giving the Cherokees $5 million for their land and $300,000 for improvements on their new territory. Although the treaty was contested by most Cherokees, it was approved by a one vote margin in the U.S. Congress. In May 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed it into law, giving the Cherokee two years to vacate the land.
Most Cherokees considered the treaty fraudulent and refused to leave their homeland. Beginning in 1838, 7,000 state and federal troops were ordered to remove those Cherokees and began placing them in a series of stockades. One such stockade was Fort Wool, located at New Echota and 200 yards from the Worcester home. Soon these imprisoned Cherokees were forced to begin their journey to the west, causing widespread suffering and death. The removal has become known as the Trail of Tears because 4,000 or more of the Cherokees died during their 800-mile journey. After reaching Oklahoma in 1839, the three principal signers of the Treaty of New Echota, Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, were assassinated for their involvement in the treaty.
TRAIL OF TEARS
The New Echota treaty of 1835 relinquished Cherokee Indian claims to lands east of the Mississippi River. The majority of the Cherokee people considered the treaty fraudulent and refused to leave their homelands in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 7,000 Federal and State troops were ordered into the Cherokee Nation to forcibly evict the Indians. New Echota became a military headquarters, and a wooden stockade called Fort Wool was constructed near the Worcester House.
On Saturday, May 26, 1838 the forced removal of the Cherokees began. During the next three weeks, 15,000 men, women, and children were taken from their homes and held in the various military stockades. New Echota became a prison for several hundred Cherokees who were held at Fort Wool. By mid-June most Indians had been sent to an emigration depot or to one of the internment camps in Tennessee.
2,700 Cherokees left for the west by boat in June, but due to sickness and many deaths, removal was suspended until cooler weather. Most of the remaining 13,000 Cherokees spent the summer of 1838 in internment camps and left by wagon, horseback, or on foot during October and November 1838, on an 800 mile route west through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. They arrived in what is now eastern Oklahoma during January, February, and March 1839. Disease, exposure, and sickness claimed as many as 4,000 Cherokee lives during the course of capture, imprisonment, and removal. Their ordeal has become known as the Trail of Tears.
Following the removal of the Indians, the town of New Echota disappeared and property was converted into farmland. The only building not destroyed was the Worcester House. Then, in the early 1950s, a group of Calhoun citizens purchased 200 acres of the old town and deeded it to the state. Archaeological excavations began in 1954, showing actual locations of old buildings and roads. After restoring the Worcester House, moving Vanns Tavern and reconstructing the Supreme Court House and printing office, New Echota State Historic Site was officially dedicated on May 12, 1962 - bringing many Cherokees back to their former capital for the ceremony. As a healing gesture, the Georgia Legislature repealed the laws still on the books which had denied the Cherokees the right to freedom on their ancestral land.
The museum was added in 1969, followed by an 1830s cabin in 1983. Eight years later, a common Cherokee homestead with a small cabin, corn crib and stable was brought to the site. The most recent addition is the 1994 reconstruction of the Council House. The Cherokee Memorial Monument, originally built in 1931, was relocated to a prominent area at the New Echota Museum and rededicated in 1988. This monument serves to keep the memory of the Cherokee's triumphs and struggles alive in hopes that such injustices will never be repeated.
Cherokees in Gilmer County
It is not how much blood one has but what you do with it and how you reflect it.
– Leslie Thomas
A Revolutionary Moment – the burning of the City of Ellijay Georgia
Picture if you will, Gilmer County 232 years ago. It was pristine and a Creek or Cherokee chief governed the land. Buffalo roamed through the fields of tall grasses. Trails by deer, bear, and cougar lead into the hills. The unregulated waters of the three rivers teamed with fish. It was a good land. It was a green peaceful valley between the hills.
The history of Gilmer County is scattered amongst several authors books; George Gordon Ward, Lawrence L. Stanley, Don L. Shadburn and Rev. Charles O. Walker to name a few. On these pages it is hoped to convey and make the historical facts come alive as they have been found from years of researching these authors and through the Georgia state archives.
The area of Gilmer County is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Georgia with a history going back beyond the Mississippian Cultures. Coming forward to sometime closer to the last 300 years; Gilmer was part of a vast Creek Indian culture for centuries. Once the Spanish and Europeans invaded the lands of Georgia from about 1540–1738 there was a loss exceeding 95% of the indigenous populations from diseases such as smallpox, enslavement and battles.
The lands of Georgia were claimed by colonist Oglethorpe for Britain and ran from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of the Mississippi River. The intruders pushed ever westward into Georgia displacing various tribes of indigenous peoples as they went. In the early 1700’s the English made treaties with many of the tribes to supply them with trade goods and metal tools causing a debt which the British collected in furs and deer hides which never seemed to be enough. This practice soon depleted Georgia of her herds of deer. The British then began making the collections in the form of ceded lands. The American Indians knew nothing of land ownership. Their feelings were that their God had lent the lands to tend and care for all time.
Around the time of the American Revolution in 1773 the Cherokees relinquished their lands near the coast and moved to what became the northwestern part of the thirteenth colony of Georgia displacing the indigenous tribes of the Creek Confederation as they went. The Creek tribes had controlled most of Georgia since the 16th century. They were removed to current day Alabama.
The Cherokees continually made concessions to the English and through efforts of acculturation tried to adopt many of their colonists white ways in order to exist in the lands of Georgia together. The land was rapidly being pioneered by both the new Americans and British colonizers.
The American Revolutionary War (1776-1785) brought about many battles to Georgia which became the only state of the thirteen colonies to be totally taken over by the British. Most of the battles took place in the coastal lands of Georgia which was inhabited with about 50,000 people, mostly slaves, at the time. Some of the Cherokee had sided with the British in hopes of staving the onslaught of colonization by the pioneers. The British appointed one chief to speak for all the Cherokees at any given time. They did not comprehend the government of the Cherokees, which involved many chiefs over the one hundred or more townships. The Cherokees decided they would choose their own representative to stand up for them after council meetings were held. The British still insisted that their chosen chief would make decisions for all Cherokees. This did not set well with the Cherokees and thus began some serious infighting amongst the different factions across the Cherokee Nation.
In 1780 Colonel John Sevier (1745-1815) entered into Georgia to begin his “heroic” battles with the Indians. Some thirty five attacks are documented with few mentioned by location. His rampages across the mountains left many an Indian town and village in ashes. Amongst these was the Battle of Ellijay fought on the shores of the Coosawattee River near the current Gold Kist Chicken plant.
Prior to 1782 Dreadful Water aka Amo-scossite was chief in the green valley of the mountains surrounding it lays the city of Ellijay or Elatsayyi in the Cherokee language. It was thought this was a chief that was a namesake or the actual son of Moytoy, who was at one time chief of the Cherokee appointed by the British. Dreadful Water son of Moytoy was made Chief by the Bitish when his father died in 1753. The Cherokee Council which met at Echota in Tennessee, the capital of all Cherokee lands thought he was too young. They replaced Amo-sgasite (another spelling) with Old Hop or Standing Turkey aka Kana-gatoga. Old Hop was old and lame and didn’t live long; he was replaced by Attacullaculla, the Little Carpenter, who was the peace chief of the Cherokees at Echota and one of the most influential men in Cherokee history considering his short stature.
Dreadful Water was the chief of the Ellijay town during the American Revolution. One might think of this more in terms of a mayor. The entire town was burned to the ground July 26, 1782. The Treaty of Hopewell (one of many) was signed in 1785 by the chief of Ellijay (Allajoy) Tuckasee or Young Terrapin along with about 37 other town chiefs or mayors giving protections to the Cherokees and set boundaries between the settlers and the Cherokee lands. This treaty allowed for the Cherokees to deal with trespassers into their lands and turn them over to the United States authorities. However being within the confines of the state of Georgia this treaty had little if any power. Georgia felt all of the land was hers to be settled as needed.
By 1786 the Cherokee had a model government. It followed many of the precedents of the fledgling government of the American Colonies. By 1825 the capitol town of Echota was moved to New Echota in Georgia on the shores of the Oostanaula River to the west of Ellijay in Gordon County now. Located there were the printing offices for the Phoenix newspaper a dual language newspaper written in Cherokee and English.
The year 1790 saw President George Washington declaring the Cherokee Nation a sovereign country and gives the Cherokees the right to govern themselves. This determination was short lived as Governor Edward Telfair of Georgia wanted no foreign nation within the state of Georgia. He and his successors spent many years working towards evicting the American Indians from Georgia.
The lands given to the Cherokees covered most all of the Northern part of Georgia from what is now Interstate 20 to the Southern part of Tennessee and North Carolina Lines on the North. From inside the Alabama state lines to Dekalb, Gwinnett, Hall, White and Rabun Counties on the eastern side of the Chattahoochee River.
Part II – A Time of Great Change
Georgia’s Cherokee Nation saw many changes over a forty year period bringing their once self sufficient nation of peoples under a central governmental rule. The Nation that once covered eight states was now reduced to 10 million acres that later became the counties of Murray, Floyd, Cass, Paulding, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Lumpkin, Union and Gilmer in 1832.
The first of dozens of treaties after the Revolution ensured “peace and protection” for all time. By the early 1800’s it was apparent that these treaties would not be honored and the chasm split the tribal political factions for all time. In 1802 the American government terminated the Cherokee Nation and its sovereignty as President Washington had set it up. The Americans pledged that the Cherokees should be held subject to the laws of Georgia. The Georgians proceeded to make laws specific to the Cherokees at that point including those that allowed for no Indian to testify against any white man. It clearly became a one sided issue and very apparent to the Cherokee Nation’s fledgling government. By 1808 those known as the Chickamaugan Cherokees in the Northwestern part of the state left for the western lands that became Arkansas.
Major changes came for those Cherokee peoples who remained as they moved from a hunting tradition to farmers. Prior to this, farming was considered woman’s work. They negotiated with the American government through the Holston Treaty of 1792 to assist them to accomplish the transition by sending tradesmen to the Cherokee Territory to teach their men to farm, blacksmith, wheelwright, and build homes. They asked for spinning wheels and white women to come and teach the Cherokee women to spin and make cloth and sew clothing. Thus began the influx of white settlers into the Cherokee Nation.
Georgia was hungry for her state to be whole and insisted on making it difficult for the Cherokees to remain within her confines. The process of acculturalisation or socialization by means of taking away the “inferior” people’s means of livelihood and social structure was one of assimilation. It was by design that white men would intermarry to absorb the population of Indians, to take away the Indians’ hunting lands by diminishing the game, towards a goal of making the people dependent on the intruding culture for their food and clothing, to make them need their tools and guns. It was necessary to produce an independency and teach them individual ownership of their lands separate of the tribe.
This effort failed miserably in Gilmer County. Gilmer and most of the Eastern side of the Cherokee Nation remained pure blood; that is to say that the majority of the Indians living within the east sector of the nation refused to intermarry as readily as those in the sectors closer to Tennessee and western part of the nation. They lived the traditional ways of making due with what the land provided and in modest cabins. They chose to raise their own stock animals and their traditional foods of corn, beans and squash.
Gilmer County’s Cherokees began raising sheep to use their wool for blankets and wearing apparel. They accepted some of the settlers who came into the area as friends and an exchange of ideas began to flow both ways. Soon they produced enough to supply their own needs and a surplus to trade or sell to the Georgians.
Some of these early settlers to the area were Conrad Lowe, who swapped his horse for land in the Ridgeway District. Leonard Shaw supposedly came to visit and decided to stay sometime around 1794. The Sanders family of Blaine had a mixed blood descendant George who became a Judge, Thomas Pettit held a plantation near Sixes Community; William Hardin is also listed as an early settler living in Ellijay. Other early family names were Chastain, Griffith, Kell, Cody, Jones, Simmons, Goble, Burnett and Quillian to name a few. These early settlers brought apples, peaches, and other plants along with traditions of sour kraut and pickled beans or beets. It wasn’t unusual for taxes to be paid with Chestnuts or coffee grown locally.
The settlers pushing further into North Georgia were confused by the living arrangements of the Indians. The Cherokees would cluster into as many as 100 communal villages or townships near waterways and leave vast amounts of open land. Every place within Gilmer County that had a creek or stream or river once was home to hundreds of Cherokees. The open lands were the sacred hunting grounds along with burial grounds and had been for centuries. The colonists saw it as valuable farm land with virgin forests and game for the taking.
The colonists did not understand the laws of balance that the Cherokee had practiced from the beginning of time. Blood law meant a “life for a life”. If one of their numbers was killed either accidentally or purposely murdered, balance had to be restored. It was clan law and restitution was made with the death of a member of the offending clan. This didn’t necessarily mean the offender but because Cherokees understood that the offense demanded a sacrifice often a member without family would take the place of the offender who had his whole life ahead of him and perhaps had a young family to support. The Cherokees had a high value for the lives of their countrymen but little regard for those not of the tribe; all others were considered non-entities. If the white settlers or other tribes were the cause of the death, it was a “life for a life.”
The killing of non-offending settlers was not taken lightly by government officials. The newspaper reported the supposed unprovoked raids with explicit details. Often the stories were embellished with many more casualties listed than actually occurred and added incidences of stolen stock such as horses or mules to the tally which lead to raids into the Cherokee Nation by bounty hunters as well as militia to bring back the offenders for trial.
The Cherokees set up their government loosely based on the American government. Four delegates would form the National Council from eight districts within the Nation. The eight districts consisted of Hickory Log, Chickamaugee, Chatoogee, Amoah, Etowah, Tahquohee, Aquohee, and Coosewatee, several of which overlap into what later became Gilmer County. The National Council would then choose twelve delegates who would serve on a National Committee. These twelve would choose the Principle Chief, Assistant Principle Chief and National Treasurer. This body would create the laws and approve any further treaties outside the Nation. John Ross was the Assistant Principle Chief when both Chiefs Pathkiller and Hicks died (1827-28) and Ross was made Principle Chief at that time. We are fortunate to have written records from mixed blood Cherokees John Ross and others such as Richard Taylor from the Catoosa area regarding the governmental structure and history.
Some twenty four treaties had been made and broken by 1819. The National Council declared at that point that no one would give up any more of their tribal lands. Whoever did so would be subject to the old blood laws of the tribe and would be killed. These laws had been suspended in 1810 through treaties with the American government. The Cherokees formed a police force known as the Cherokee Light Horse Guard headed up by Stand Watie to implement the laws and expel intruders from the nation.
President James Monroe in 1820 offered the National Council monies to convince the Georgia Cherokees to remove to the west and guaranteed funds and reparations for them to live with those already removed. The council sent representatives to visit with the Old Settlers in Arkansas and they returned more determined to stand their ground and not cede any more lands. Among those living in the Gilmer area who voted against removal with John Ross were the Sanders family, Whitepath, Harry Downing of what is now the Logan Farm area, Young Turkey of Long Swamp Creek, Dick Crittenden and the Smiths of Town Creek, John Keith of Mountaintown, the Johnsons of Cartecay, Walkingstick and Rattling Gourd of Ellijay, George Owens of Toccoa, and many others whose Indian names may be long forgotten.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed in 1824 and sent their agents into the Cherokee Nation. They disbanded the Light Horse Guard and implemented the Georgia Guard to evict, arrest, and enforce laws upon those who trespassed into Indian Territory. Often intruders entered to steal horses and live stock from the Cherokees. There is no record of any of these arrests being taken through the court system or brought to trial. It amounted to a slap on the hand and the Cherokees found this injustice unequalled as their own peoples suffered greatly even unto death for similar offenses. The Cherokees felt they had honestly abided by the treaties to co-exist and educate their children, form governments, farm crops, and trade with their white neighbors. The fears of the government that the Cherokees would succeed had come to past and they chose to insist that the President enforce the removal act of 1830. It was during this course of events that encampments, forts and stockades began being built throughout the Indian Territory initially under the auspices of providing protection for the Cherokees from those who chose to break the laws.
Part III – 1810-1832 Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia – another viewpoint
Near the old Chote or Chota, the old capital of the Cherokees located in Tennessee on the North Carolina line was born a mixed blood man named Sequoyah or George Gist (1776-1843). He had been a warrior in his younger days, migrated into Georgia and was working as a silversmith. He had seen how the white man was able to communicate through books and letters and began to develop the written language of his Cherokee peoples in 1809. It took him 12 years but he finally created a written language made up of 86 characters to represent the sounds of the Cherokee language. It took some convincing for the Council to acknowledge that it might work and he plead his case by showing them how he had taught his daughter Ayoka to write and read the language. Some of the elders rejected this new idea amid concerns that the written language development was the work of the devil. Sequoyah persisted. He left his Georgia and Alabama homes for Arkansas where he was able to teach the whole of the Old Settlers to read and write in their own language in a matter of months. It was finally accepted after another seven years by all Cherokees as the official syllabary of the Cherokee language and used to publish the first newspaper at New Echota here in Georgia in 1827.
The Native American Culture had only one choice or so it would seem, to survive in the modern society being forced upon them. They must sacrifice their cultural values. Many of the mixed bloods had become acculturated, had adopted the ways of their invaders; become educated, spoke English, dressed as the white people, converted to Christianity, intermarried, held slaves, became individual property owners, businessmen and developed a modern acceptable government.
While many of the full bloods fought to remain true to their heritage, it was evident that change and progress were coming. Rapidly it became a two class society within the Nation; one built upon capitalism the other on tradition. Disappearing were the days of being able to trade for the necessities of life. By design, this was civilization and assimilation at its best.
Missionaries moved into the Territory with the National Cherokee Council’s permission to set up schools to teach the children English. They had been asked to exclude teaching religion but seldom listened. Mixed blood children seemed to learn more quickly than their full blooded counterparts. Whether this was more of a resistance factor amongst the full bloods is not fully known. The missionaries goal was clear as they set about to change the so called “pagan” peoples into the respected civilized Christianized society.
Galigina/Kilakeena or Buck Watie, a nephew of Major Ridge, was born in Pine Log Georgia in about 1800. He was educated at Spring Place by the Moravians, who found him a worthy student and convinced his family to send him east to Connecticut to continue his education. There he visited with high political persons including former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He also met Elias Boudinot who at one time was a high official in the United States government, holding the office of president for a year prior to the election of George Washington. Boudinot had found Buck Watie likeable and pledged him financial support to complete his education. Buck took his benefactor’s name in appreciation.
Buck Watie, now known as Elias Boudinot, met and married a white woman by the name of Harriett Gold and returned to Cherokee Nation of Georgia. New Echota had been set as the nation’s capital and Elias soon found favor with missionary Samuel Worcester. Together they brought about the newspaper known as the Cherokee Phoenix, whereby information was written in both the Cherokee and English languages and disseminated to the nation’s peoples as well as supporters who lived in the eastern states.
Boudinot believed strongly that the preservation of his people lay in the corporation and education of the group as a whole. He expressed this in a letter in the 1820’s “As long as we continue as a people in a body, with our internal regulations, we can continue to improve in civilization and respectability”. His honesty and integrity were to a fault as he tried to keep supporters up to date on the atrocities that his peoples were facing day in and day out.
The Cherokees seemed to be moving rapidly in the direction of civilization. Some had adopted the farming practices of the southern plantation owners by building elegant houses and using slaves to labor in the fields. They felt this would endear them to their white counter parts and elevate their social and economic structure. They treated their slaves as family, something most white men never considered. In Cartecay District of Gilmer County, it was evident that they considered everyone part of their family as the old cemeteries hold Indians and slaves alike buried not far from their owners.
The Cherokees exported livestock, dyes and grains to the Americans and had produced enough corn and cotton calicos for their own domestic use. They owned and ran business establishments, along side the whites they had allowed to remain in the nation, including ferries, inns and shops for travelers along the various roadways, especially the Federal Road, running through their lands.
Instead of sending their children back east, many enrolled their children in the mission schools or the state appropriated “Poor Schools”. These schools were cropping up inside the Cherokee Nation and no doubt many mixed blood children attended them as well. Gilmer County reports enumerated children attending the Poor Schools system from the years 1836-1838. Some of the officials appointed to attend to the public education of the children in Gilmer County were John E. Price, William Kimzey, B.B. Quillian, John James and Reece McClure.
Parents had hoped education would serve two purposes, keep them near while being educated and perhaps lessen the outside influences upon their treasured cultural ways. The mission schools often included the children of the white tradesmen sent to the Nation to teach their people the trades of blacksmithing, metal work, wood work, spinning and more. All had hoped this effort would create a bridge between the white man and the red nation.
The government of Georgia was getting worried; the affluences were an unexpected turn of events. Instead of intimidating the red man into moving further west the Cherokees were getting a foothold and prospering. The Georgia governor pushed the president to act and enforce State’s Rights. New York’s Onondaga Standard Newspaper ran stories in 1831 which expressed concern over the dissolution of the Union as a result of the daring move. Georgia was denying that the Supreme Court would have any jurisdiction in the state of Georgia. They proceeded by proclaiming that the Cherokee form of government was unconstitutional and illegal within the state of Georgia. They insisted that the Cherokees be subject to the laws of Georgia. Over the course of several years the Cherokees fought this effort within the frameworks of congressional law presenting case after case to the Supreme Courts of the Union. Each case bought about conflicting results, whereby the Cherokees would win their case but it had little effect towards delaying actions that Georgia wanted to occur.
Georgia’s governors decided it was time to put more pressure on the Cherokee Nation. The Georgia Guard sent to work within the boundaries of the Nation and keep out the intruders, was now told to enforce with all vengeance Georgia’s laws that conflicted with any Cherokee laws. They pressed the guards to enforce a Georgia law that disallowed any white man to work for the Indians. The guards intimidated the tradesmen, the educators, the missionaries, the families who lived within the Nation’s boundaries, to the point that some had no choice but to leave. Others stood their ground for their congressional tasks only to find their crops and homes burned mercilessly.
The Cherokee newspaper the Phoenix written by Elias Boudinot and Samuel Worschester was now the Guard’s target. Boudinot printed stories of the events occurring all over the Cherokee Nation and made sure that copies of the paper made it to Washington and into the hands of the Cherokee supporters. Andrew Jackson had based his 1828 election for president on removal at all costs. Once elected Jackson made good on his promise and put into effect the Indian Removal Act of 1830. He defied all Supreme Court rulings daring the Supreme Court Justice to try and make the rulings stick.
The Cherokees felt they could prevail through the legal system, using it against the white nation and the state of Georgia. Sixty thousand Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws and Choctaws had been removed to the west in the course of ten years. The Cherokees held their ground.
In 1832, Governor Wilson Lumpkin addressed the Georgia legislature stating that Georgia would succeed and that any rulings by the Supreme Court had no bearing on the laws of Georgia. Prior to this there had been five land lotteries and the 1832 land lottery would deal with the Cherokee Nation lands. The legislature divided Georgia’s Indian Territory into ten counties and each county into land lots for farming and gold lots for mining.
Gilmer County was the 85th county formed and was named for Governor George Rockingham Gilmer December 3, 1832. The divisions of the lands for the lottery were all farming lots of and average of 160 acres each. There were no gold lots of 40 acres since gold had not been found at that point on Gilmer’s land. The county’s boundaries were from Highway 20 in what is now Pickens County to the Tennessee and North Carolina lines. The lines were almost parallel – 36 miles long and 18 miles wide. The Cherokee Nation of Georgia was so expansive that it was divided into four sections and each section divided into districts and each district into lots.
Persons who were entitled to draw the land lots had to be:
Gilmer County was in Section 2 which at the time included parts of Cobb County, all of Cherokee and Gilmer Counties. Many of the original land lot drawers never came to Gilmer County to see their properties. Some were sold off and others waited for the removal to come about before they ever ventured into the territory. Some of the lucky drawers for section two were in the 11th district which included the city of Ellijay were Thomas M’Clure*, Henry S. Ray, Howell Elliott, Amos Osborn, John Huff, Ezekiel Mathis, Richard Thurmond, James Boatright, and the orphans of Oswell B. Jones. A complete listing of the lucky drawers may be found at the access genealogy website:
Georgia’s governors had grown paranoid over what was going on inside the Cherokee Nation of Georgia. The original treaties allowed for the Cherokees to retain their mineral rights so once gold was discovered on their lands the infiltration of gold seekers became rampant. The Cherokee Light Guard headed up by Stand Waite had been attacking all the emigrants in the Cherokee Nation who did not have permission from the tribe to live there. The Light Guard was burning these trespassers’ crops and houses to the ground. There were no controls other than to institute measures for expelling these trespassers and so the Georgia Guard that was formed in 1830 replaced the Cherokees policing efforts.
The Guard consisted of 60 militia men who were often referred to as the Georgia Guard or just the term “militia” in records and letters between representatives of the Cherokee Nation and Georgia’s government. The Georgia Guardsmen were ineffective as well at maintaining the peace between the Cherokees and the literally thousands of men coming from Tennessee and North Carolina into the Nation with gold fever. There were estimated to be nearly four thousand white trespassers as reported by Hugh Montgomery Indian Agent in 1831. In six months the numbers climbed to over seven thousand. Laws against the squatters’ intrusions were virtually unenforceable. Agents and Guardsmen could arrest them but there was no one able to enforce the penalties or fines. They were escorted from the lands only to return two fold the next day. In addition to gold, these interlopers were stealing the Cherokees horses and live stock.
The paperwork battles for removal intensified. Georgia was prompt to invoke measures to dissolve the sovereignty of the Nation and to lay claim to the lands that contained the gold. Dozens of legends enveloped the Nation as they were thought to have hidden vast amounts of gold wealth and would one day return to claim it. Hundreds of maps appeared over successive decades telling of these vast hordes and where might be found. These maps sold for a hefty price and some of them are still circulating today.
The drama intensified as there were protagonists on both sides of the issue which lasted through three presidents, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. It covered the governorships of five terms, John Forsyth, George Rockingham Gilmer (1829-1831 and 1837-1839), Wilson Lumpkin, and William Schley. It involved an assortment of Indian agents, guardsmen, tradesmen, missionaries and of course dozens of Cherokee Leaders.
The legislature of Georgia demanded censuses be taken yearly to determine who the white men were, who of them had mixed bloods families, who had been allowed by the Cherokees to remain on their lands, who was helping the Cherokees, and who was attending the schools. A book which is available for reading at our local Gilmer County library called The Whites Among the Cherokees, by Mary B. Warren and Eve B. Weeks and is still available in print from Heritage Papers, Athens, GA. It covers a period of this history from 1827-1838. It includes odd year census records and lists the guardsmen and militia working on behalf of the Georgian government. It also includes those involved with the land lottery mapping and those who had bought Indian lands with improvements. This book is an invaluable resource for genealogists trying to determine when their ancestors arrived in North Georgia.
No white person was allowed to work for an Indian and the Georgia Guard was now the enforcer. No Indian would testify against any white man for any crimes against an Indian (a law that remained on the books well into the 20th century and was finally disputed by Chad Smith when he was called to serve for jury duty while living in Georgia, before he became Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma). Neither Indian nor their mixed blood descendants were to be considered a competent witness in the courts. It put the Cherokees under the guardianship of government as if they were ignorant heathen children needing to be taken care of and disciplined on a regular basis. They could farm the land but ultimately their products and the land itself belonged to the government.
Many Cherokees gathered up what they could and headed west on their own. Those who stayed the course of the time prior to the removal suffered untold atrocities. Although the stipulations of the resolution stated that all whites who were found guilty of murder or stealing from the Indians would suffer death by hanging, no such cases were ever found to have been enforced or were listed in any court records researched. Governor Gilmer wrote to one of his contemporaries “The mutual irritation between the people of the State and the Cherokees renders it improbable that our laws can be executed without acts of violence.”
The 1830 census showed there were only five counties and Gilmer was within the Hall and Gwinnett County lines. These census records listed Cherokees separately and mixed bloods as “free colored persons” on the last pages of the census by the name of the head of the household. It was estimated that there were 250 whites living in the land exclusive of the missionaries, traders, and peddlers. Of those 250, one hundred had Indian families.
In late 1830 the Governor requested that certain individuals of “good character” be exempted from the Removal Law provided they take an oath of allegiance to the State of Georgia and relinquish their rights under the Cherokee Nation. He declared there were two types of Cherokees, one ruled by the elite mixed bloods and one aboriginal that were easily corrupted by the vices of the white men infiltrating their presence with alcohol and other vulgarities.
Some of the early white settlers who had Indian wives and mixed blood families were given permission from the Cherokees to farm the land in what became Gilmer County were John and Henry Wright, William Reid (Reed), Ozwell Langley, Francis Jones, Ralston, Stover, Jacob West, and John Bell. Others with Indian families may well have hid this from the enumerators to protect their families. Additional names listed early on the first census records for Gilmer area were Kell, Holden, Green, Johnson, Carroll (Carell), Blackwell, Coleman, Elliott and Lowman to name a few.
Those given a reservation for life and who were Indian or mixed bloods were the Jones, Ward (Word), Kell, and the Elliott families. This meant they could use the land and plant it for profit but they could not sell it or give it away. At the reservists death the land was supposed to revert back to the state of Georgia. Those granted the status of “fee simple” could sell the land or give it away as they so chose. Those who may have later moved into the Gilmer area with this status were named Brown, Parris, Lowry, Martin, Davis and Walker.
The city of “Elechaye” appeared as a town on the 1825 enumerations with Chief George Sanders (Saunders) followed by Thomas Sanders on the 1830 census records. William Hardin reported to the governor that the city of Ellijay had fallen in March of 1832. This probably meant that the Indians had vacated the area or had succumbed to the white rule. By 1833 the township is listed as being “sparsely settled” by B. B. Quillian, deputy sheriff at that time. He stated Ralph Smith lived a block west of the current courthouse on Gilmer Street. Harry Downing operated a grist mill on Cox Mill Creek. Later this became part of the Logan family land development. The 1834 census lists 56 families in Gilmer County about 169 white persons. The township of Ellijay became a city and the county seat on December 20, 1834.
In 1837 Adiel Sherwood, one of the most powerful Missionary Baptist ministers in the state of Georgia was reported to have come through Ellijay and reported that there were three stores; two of which were Jones Mercantile and Ellington’s store, one lawyer and no doctor. He mentioned some twenty homes and also that the area surrounding Ellijay appeared to have the most central population of Indians of all his travels. **Records indicate that on October 5, 1837 Capt William Derrick ordered J. J. Field, Quartermaster, to set up and erect huts, stables and other buildings as necessary in the neighborhood of Jones’ near Ellijay at the mouth of the Ellijay River. Letters written to Major John Wool and Captain William Derrick from Quartermaster Cox who was sent to Gilmer to locate a site for one of the removal forts stated that the land was objectionable in a military point of view but that he had finally located some land suitable enough to locate the stockade needed to round up the Indians. He said it was close to water, wood, and forage and a mile to the east (Southeast) of the courthouse, on the Cotacoa River (Cartecay). Cox requested that the fort be named after his mentor Abner Riviere Hetzel who was a Lt. Quartermaster in Tennessee at the time. January 22, 1838 orders had arrived to stock the new fort and New Echota with supplies for the removal efforts. J. J. Field reported on March 27, 1838 that he had opened a trail road between Fort Hetzel and Coosawattee Town, now located totally under Carter’s Lake.
The ledger from Ellington’s store dated August 29, 1837 through December 12, 1838 (a copy is now in our Gilmer library) shows when the militia entered Gilmer and what supplies were bought from the locals. Prior to the militia taking up residence, all slaves and Indians had to have a note from a white man or be accompanied by a white person in order to purchase any items. The first item found to have been purchased by the United States Army was a pad lock for 50 cents on November 10, 1837.
December 1837 saw requisition for supplies coming in from Fort Cass near Charleston S.C., in the form of 36 barrels of flour. More flour was sent in January of 1838 and by the end of the month it was noted that there were rations available for 30,000 with 7,500 bushels of corn and a proportionate amount of hay and fodder. Orders were sent to start foraging for the local ponies in order to use them as pack horses. It is noted in letters that the Indians and citizens are becoming much alarmed at the events. Indians are saying they would rather fight than go and the Creeks living in the area that had been essentially hiding out since their own removal efforts in 1827 had taken up with the Cherokees resistance. The militia requests more arms and ammunition be sent immediately.
In February 1838 it is noted in the letters from the quartermasters that the Indians are now under the mistaken notion that the troops are there to protect them. The militia does not tell them otherwise. The Indians have begun planting and are making repairs to their buildings. March 27, 1838 J. J. Field sets out to deliver supplies to Sanderstown and Fort Newnan in what is now part of Pickens County Georgia. By May 5th supplies are dwindling and there seems to be no more coming at this point. The militia begins buying from both the whites and Cherokees whatever supplies are needed.
May 26, 1838 the roundup effort begins with earnest in Gilmer County and on May 28 Capt Derrick was ready to head out with some 425-450 captives. He did not think he could handle more than this because they were bolting at every instance. He attributed whatever successes he was having to the fact he had “broken up families and had not given any of them time to gather up their belongings”. He reported he had captured Young Buck, Old Hemp and Kingfisher among his wards and was ready to head out with them. He also reported he had mistakenly rounded up White Path’s family but soon released them. Chief White Path was turned loose because of an incident that happened when he once helped Andrew Jackson chase Creek Indians through the forest. Jackson fell into the river and was drowning when White Path saved his life. It is an interesting crossroad at history that leads one to wonder what would have happened if Jackson had died that day, since he was one of the most powerful forces driving the Indians further toward the Pacific.
Derrick took his first wards directly north up over Frog Mountain in spite of orders to take them to Calhoun. In late June, Derrick reported he had sent another 884 captives on. This was one of the highest totals, over 1300, of any of the removal posts in Georgia. July 19, 1838 it appears that all militia garnered from Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia has mustered out.
Capt. John Price’s company of mounted volunteers, Gilmer County, Georgia was listed as being in service from May 25 through July 13, 1838. Names listed among the local privates serving to help with the removal were Smith, Greer, Long, Bramblett, Evans, Fossitt, Walker, Dale, Kell, Plemons, Thompson, Carroll, Sesson, Shephard, Hollaway, Davis, Patterson, Bearden, Loudermilk, Osborn, Pence, Wallace, Elliott, Ellington, Stephens and Woodall.
Those removed from the Gilmer County area with American sounding names were Robert Berry, William Crittenden, Willis Hendricks, Dave Sanders, Johnson Alberty, John Nockman, Dick Pritchett, John Owans, Charles Robbins, Wesley Smith, Tom Smith, Dick Crittenden, Arley Hornet, Betsy Wolf, Jack Downing, John Keith, Charles Downing, Jim Dobbins, George Owens, Will Scott and Jay Bird to name a few. Hundreds more with very Indian names like Squirrel and Terrapin Striker are also found in a listing called THOSE WHO CRIED The 16,000 by James W. Tyner available at most libraries. They are named as head of household with however many full blood males, however many mixed blood males, and how many could read. Women are listed as weavers or spinners.
Most all of the Indians have been removed from Georgia in approximately three weeks time. According to records Gov. Gilmer wanted to make sure that the blood of these heathens not be on his hands. He insisted this effort be done expeditiously as possible to that end. Records indicate he succeeded, while many letters between officers indicated otherwise. Many local histories indicated there were numerous deaths during the detainment in the roughly 17 forts, stockades and encampments across North Georgia. The truth of the matter may never be fully known.
** 2005 National Park System's Trail of Tears Report produced by Dr. Sarah Hill
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