Hayesville, NC. From what is now my home in Towns County Ga., just 6 miles away. From the ancestral home of the Cherokee, a couple of centuries away.
It is my understanding the first white to settle in that area was John Moore. It was certainly wild country at the time he arrived. We see documentation that settlers began to show up in this landscape in about 1830. A very short 7 years later General Scott was commissioned to find and detain the Indians within the mountain region and eventually “move” them to the Oklahoma territory. In 1839 he had Captain Hembree set up the Fort Hembree stockades just a mile south of what we know as Hayesville. The town grew up around there because of the protection of the troops. The citizens believed they needed protection from the Indians that had escaped the grasp of the US military.
Mr. Garth Thompson was born at the fort and lived there until he was eight years old. In his senior year of high school, he helped tear the fort down. He recalls the following written in pencil on a closet door by a soldier, “We hope the white people at the land where the Indians go will like them and won’t give them any trouble and they have good hunting.”
The fort was originally built of logs. The rocks in the chimney were dated 1817. The fort was built like a T and had four big chimneys with fireplaces upstairs. The biggest room was the dining hall. The fort had three staircases. Pillars were locust numbered with Roman numerals. The windows were locust locked with hickory pins. A big cellar was in the basement to preserve food.
The Indians stayed in a barn near the fort. The upstairs had a good floor and downstairs they kept horses. A blacksmith shop was nearby.
According to Mr. Thompson, only five Indians ran away from the soldiers at the roundup of Ft. Hembree. The Indians did not give any resistance to being gathered.
The first white men to travel into the area that would become Clay County came here and lived among the Indians. The stories of these two races living together were not stories of bone chilling screams of war parties in the night nor white families scalped and burned out.
The stories that survive are those of admiration for a self-sufficient way of life. Stories of a people who knew how to live off the land and who knew of using herbs for medicine and how to find and preserve a winter’s store of food.
Regardless of the peaceful coexistence in the mountains, removal was scheduled, and troops were sent out to bring in those that “resisted”. The mountain terrain made locating these refugees very difficult.
“After three weeks of the most arduous and fatiguing duty, traveling the country in every direction, searching the mountains on foot in every point where Indians could be heard of we not been able to get sight of a single one,” one officer reported. “Their constant vigilance, perfect knowledge of the country, and the rapidity with which that enabled them to communicate intelligence from one camp to another, has rendered all attempts to capture them utterly in vain.”
Were it not for this “resistance” our area may have had a vastly different story to tell. One that was devoid of an entire culture, changing our reality of today significantly.
While you are here with us, take a few moments to walk the Quanassee Path. Quanassee was a town located around Spikebuck Mound, north of Hayesville on the bank of the Hiwassee River. Quanassee was part of the Valley Towns division of the Cherokee. Today, you can walk the 2-mile Quanassee path in Hayesville. A history trail that links Cherokee sites: The Clay County Museum, the Cherokee Cultural Center, the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit, The Cherokee Botanical Sanctuary and the Spikebuck Mound.
The first two sites, the museum, housed in an old jail, and the homestead, exhibit is located in downtown Hayesville just south of the square. The cultural center is housed in Hayesville library just north of the town square.
A nice walk through the past, in a town proud of it’s future also.
As always, thank you for spending a little of your time with us today and as always…
Welcome to the Mountains