The Trail of Tears

Supposedly my husband’s great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee Native American. To learn more about the Cherokee Nation history, my family took a few worth-the-drive trips this summer to explore my children’s heritage.

Chieftens museum Scoop OTPMy daughter and I first visited the Chieftain’s Museum in Rome, Georgia, in June. The museum is a historic house built around the original log home of Cherokee Major Ridge, who was given his title by U.S. General Andrew Jackson for helping in the War of 1812.

Ridge settled in Rome, Georgia, and lived in this log cabin. Eventually, Major Ridge was murdered for his part in signing the treaty that gave Cherokee land to the U.S. and led to the infamous “Trail of Tears.

The most interesting part of this historic home is the openings in the walls where visitors can view the original structures of the log cabin. Several interesting historical items are also on view, including an original letter from General Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis.

Continuing my yearning for Cherokee history, I took my family to two important places of the Cherokee Nation, New Echota in Calhoun, Georgia, and Chief Vann’s House in nearby Chatworth.

New Echota was the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. Today, visitors can walk through the courthouse, council house, cabin dwellings, the home of Missionary Samuel Worcester (pronounced “Wooster,” as we learned), smoke houses, and other buildings. While most of these buildings are either reconstructed or authentic Cherokee buildings moved from other Cherokee lands, the Worcester house is the original. I was sad to learn that this beautiful town was the start of the Trail of Tears for the Cherokee people.

Learning the printing press New EchotaOur favorite parts of touring New Echota was hiking a beautiful scenic trail that leads to a serene overlook, and visiting the print shop. Volunteer Bill Hussey told us about Sequoyah developing the Cherokee alphabet and demonstrated a printing of the first and only Cherokee newspaper Cherokee Phoenix. Mr. Hussey let my children help him print a page of the newspaper and take it home as a souvenir!

After a quick lunch, we headed to Chief Vann’s house, which is about 25 minutes from New Echota. Chief Vann was the wealthiest man in the Cherokee Nation, and his home is magnificent! I thought the house was fairly grand on the outside, but I was enchanted with the inside. The traditional Cherokee colors of green, blue, and red permeated the décor, to represent the life colors of grass, sky, and Georgia red clay.

unnamed-7The best part of this house is the “floating” staircase, which was built without any visible support. Site Interpreter Tim Howard toldus many visitors, including Georgia Tech students, have tried to figure out the mystery of the staircase but failed. When ascending the staircase, I did feel like I was floating a little bit! The rest of the house also incorporates some of the most innovative structures of the time (early 1800s). I definitely plan to return to this house and might even copy some decorating ideas (Georgia red clay in egg shell satin, please!).

All of these sites charge a small admission fee. If you plan to visit New Echota or Chief Vann’s House, check out a Georgia State Parks pass from your local library. The pass package includes a parking pass and free admission for up to four people. What a bargain for learning the interesting history of the Cherokee Nation in our very own state!

Photos by Connie Briggs.

Connie Briggs is a contributing writer to Scoop OTP. Originally from Florida, she grew up in Cherokee Country and has lived for 9 years in Canton with her husband and three children. Currently, she is a Graduate Teaching Asst. at KSU while pursuing a Master’s of Professional Writing Degree. Connie has also written about Cloudland CanyonGo Fish at the Georgia Education Center, and other articles for Scoop OTP.

If you like this, you will enjoy the Booth Museum in Cartersville, that is listed on Scoop OTP’s Bucket list of places to visit.

Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home
501 Riverside Parkway | Rome, Georgia | 706-291-9494

New Echota Historic Site
1211 Chatsworth Hwy NE | Calhoun, GA 30701

Chief Vann House Historic Site
82 Ga. Highway 225 N | Chatsworth, GA 30705