The Cherokee were not nomadic for as far back as even they could recall.
Cherokee tradition holds that the Creator placed the Cherokees in the southeastern mountains to live on the land and preserve it.
Although they would aggressively protect family, clans and tribe they were not an aggressive people. They were mountain farmers, gatherers, hunters and traders along the rivers and established mountain trails.
They had rules the tribes must live by and councils to talk out disputes. The matriarchs had final say on many of these including wars. But even they could not stop the whites from removing them.
Much has been documented about what happened on the trail itself but the stories left here, in the land of the People are harder to find. One is of a teenager named William Cotter.
Born in Hall County Georgia, he was in Murray County when the removal happened and he was hired to haul loads of corn to the posts where the gathering happened and also removing the household goods left by the People as they were “removed” from their homes.
The situation gave Cotter great concern. Cows and their calves had been apart for days and the calves were starving. Cotter turned them together. Chickens, cats, and dogs scattered at the approach of the soldiers, Cotter and his ox team. Indian ponies stood under shade trees fighting flies. Bells around necks of cows and ponies made an eerie music in the spring air. Dogs howled mournfully for their owners. As cabins were emptied, the doors were left ajar. Cotter commented, “To have seen it all would have melted to tenderness a heart of stone.” William Jasper Cotter was fourteen when he worked as a delivery and messenger boy during the Indian Removal. What he saw made such a lasting impression on him that he could write his eye-witness accounts in his autobiography when he was an old man of about ninety. He died in Newnan, Georgia on January 4, 1922.
From his book we read: “On a mild May morning, two men stood at our gate. Dismounted from his large, raw-boned white horse, his bridle rein on his arm, stood General Scott, with White Path, an Indian, for whom White Path Gold Mine (in Gilmer County) was named. There was neither a white man nor an Indian there, only two old soldiers who had met at the battle of Horseshoe Bend.
The Ledfords are, even today, known as some of the first settlers. They indeed would have been as they settled on land opened up by the US Government by the forcible removal of the Cherokee. Benjamin Ledford married first Grace Ownbey (07/30/1799 – 06/12/1864), a daughter of Porter and Martha Morgan Ownbey. A land deed for 123 purchased acres along Hominy Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina was registered to Benjamin Ledford in 1829. In 1832, he added another 100 acres to his holdings. The town of Candler, NC was founded on land held by Benjamin.
But, like many of their neighbors, Benjamin and Grace Ownbey decided to migrate to the mountains of North Georgia when Cherokee lands opened up for white settlers. He sold his land in North Carolina in 1839 and moved to Union County, Georgia to acreage he secured on Ivy Log Creek. There he erected a log cabin and cleared the land for farming. There this couple reared their large family of twelve children. This is not to say anything bad about the family, they did as many others did during that time.
An extremely interesting read is “A soldier recalls the Trail of Tears”. Having been a friend of the Cherokee for many years his account is very different from most. He states, Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades. Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they could not understand. Children were often separated from their parents and driven into the stockades with the sky for a blanket and the earth for a pillow. And often the old and infirm were prodded with bayonets to hasten them to the stockades. In one home death had come during the night. A little sad-faced child had died and was lying on a bear skin couch and some women were preparing the little body for burial. All were arrested and driven out leaving the child in the cabin. I don’t know who buried the body.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have had the honor of befriending a women in her prime. 100% Cherokee and 80 years old. She has shared with me where and how to document some of these stories and I will be forever grateful.
From here I hope to speak with her a bit about Oklahoma, those that stayed and those that turned around making the long journey home. Willing to die free on a trail rather than on the clay prison of the “Indian Territories”
Thank you for spending a little of your time with us today and as always
Welcome to the Mountains
We are always looking for local information regarding this time frame. Your help would be very appreciated Getbloghelp@yahoo.com