The boundaries of the Cherokee Country in the east prior to the removal. It should be noted that before the removal, much of the Nation was overrun by whites who had taken over Vann's house at Springplace, Major Ridge's house (Rome GA), and Chief John Ross's house (Rossville GA). The Cherokee council had been meeting at Red Clay on the Tennesse border because the State of Georgia was using the Georgia Militia to prevent them from meeting at the capital at New Echota. Lands in Georgia had already been granted to white lottery winners in the Georgia Land and Gold Lotteries.
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The events that made Red Clay famous happened between 1832 and 1838. Red Clay served as the seat of Cherokee government from 1832 until the forced removal of the Cherokee in 1838. It was the site of 11 general councils, national affairs attended by up to 5,000 people. Those years were filled with frustrating efforts to insure the future of the Cherokee. One of the leaders of the Cherokee, Principal Chief John Ross, led their fight to keep Cherokee's eastern lands, refusing the government's efforts to move his people to Oklahoma.
Controversial treaties, however, resulted in the surrendering of land and their forced removal. Here, at Red Clay, the Trail of Tears really began, for it was at the Red Clay Council Grounds that the Cherokee learned that they had lost their mountains, streams, and valleys forever. Today there is an annual gathering that takes place commemorating Cherokee history and the forced removal from this site.
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History of Red Clay State Park
In 1825, the Cherokee national legislature established a capital called New Echota. A thriving town, this new governmental seat became headquarters for the small independent Indian nation that once covered present-day northern Georgia, western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northwestern Alabama.
A remarkable development in the Cherokees' progress came in 1821 when a written form of their language was adopted. In 1828, New Echota's resourceful natives began printing a newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, in both Cherokee and English. Although these Native Americans patterned their government and lifestyle after the white man, they were uprooted from their land in 1838 and removed westward during the infamous Trail of Tears.
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Many years ago, there was a separate nation existing within the state of Georgia. A nation with its own alphabet, its own government, and its own culture. These were the Cherokee, a people who had learned to adapt to the white man's culture without losing their own. They civilized themselves and through strong leadership created what many thought was an indestructible nation.
One such leader was a man named Major Ridge. He became a powerful force in the Cherokee nation and was second only to Cherokee President, John Ross. He had fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 where he was given the title of Major. Ridge's home here in Rome, GA was built as a log cabin in 1794. Ridge ran a ferry on the Oostanaula River during his time in Rome and a trading post was adjacent to his home in which he was a silent partner.
Major Ridge was very instrumental in the treaties to remove the Cherokees to the West peacefully. When an alternate treaty was signed by Ridge and John Ross, Ridge realized he had signed the death warrant for his people, and moved to Arkansas from Rome.
The house changed hands after Ridge and his family moved from Rome. During the Civil War, Union troops tried to destroy the home but according to an account by the Weekly Constitution in 1989, could not because the logs in the home were so well put up. A Civil War collection now exists in the Chieftains Museum.
In 1928, Chieftains was purchased by the Celanese Corporation and was used as the plant manager's residence for the next 41 years. It was then given to the Rome Junior Service League for use as a museum. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and is also listed as a National Landmark.
Today, the Chieftains Museum has a bountiful collection of Cherokee Indian history and tells the moving story of how the Cherokee people were removed from their "Enchanted Land". Chieftains Museum is located on the banks of the Oostanaula River.
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In the mid-1820s the Cherokee tribe was being pressured by the government, and by Georgia in particular, to remove to new lands west of the Mississippi River, or to end their tribal government and surrender control of their traditional territory to the United States (US) government. The General Council of the Cherokee Nation established a newspaper, in collaboration with Samuel Worcester, a missionary, who cast the type for the Cherokee syllabary. The Council selected Elias Boudinot as the first editor.
Named Galagina Oowatie (ᎦᎴᎩᎾ ᎤᏩᏘ) in the Cherokee language, Elias Boudinot was born in 1804 at Oothcaloga, Cherokee Nation, near present-day Chatsworth, Georgia. He chose the name of Elias Boudinot after meeting the statesman, while on his way to the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, where he graduated. There Boudinot married Harriet Ruggles Gold, daughter of a prominent Congregational family. They returned to live at New Echota.
Home of John Ross, first leader of the Cherokee Nation. Built in 1797 by John McDonald (the grandfather of John Ross). It stands adjacent to Poplar Springs in the center of downtown Rossville, GA. This two-story dog trot style log structure was used as Rossville post office for many years, served as Gordon Granger's headquarters during the battle of Chickamauga, and was a Civil War field hospital.
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Called the Showplace of the Cherokee Nation in Chatsworth, GA this two-story classic mansion is one of the best-preserved Cherokee plantation homes. Built by James Vann in 1804, it was the first brick home within the Cherokee Nation. The mansion is decorated with beautiful hand carvings and features a remarkable floating staircase along with many fine antiques.
Feared by many and loved by few, Vann was both a hero and a rogue, and he was responsible for bringing the Moravian missionaries into the Cherokee Nation to build schools. Yet, he killed his brother-in-law in a duel, fired a pistol at dinner guests through the floor of an upstairs bedroom, and once even shot at his own mother. Vann himself was shot and killed at a local tavern in 1809.
His son, Joseph, inherited the home and went on to become a Cherokee statesman. The Georgia Militia evicted Rich Joe Vann in 1835 for having unknowingly violated a new law making it illegal for Indians to hire whites. Joseph then settled in the Cherokee Territory in Oklahoma and lived there until his death from a steamboat explosion in 1844.
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