Author Archives: carrollvanwest

Tennessee Cherokees and Indian Territory, #2

Tahlequah is the Capitol of the Cherokee Nation and it contains many tributes, such as monuments at the outstanding Cherokee Heritage Center and the town square about Chief John Ross, who lived in the Chattanooga area before Removal.


The Ross Cemetery, where the newly established John Ross Museum is also located, is a beautiful and somber spot. It is where John Ross is buried along with his brother Lewis, who lived at present-day Charleston TN before Removal.



Tennessee Cherokees and Indian Territory

This week my colleague Amy Kostine and I are working to finish the boots-on-the-ground survey of the Trail of Tears, focusing on routes in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  Once acknowledged as Indian Territory, Oklahoma today has a very interesting state historic site focused on Sequoyah–the Sequoyah Cabin, where he lived from the late 1820s through the 1830s, when thousands of Cherokees began to arrive in Indian Territory from the Trail of Tears in 1838 and 1839.Image.

The small square cabin is encased in a very 1930s looking stone veneer memorial building, designed by Willard Stone and executed by the Works Progress Administration in 1936.  Indeed, the entire park is a WPA wonderland, with a stone wall lining the boundaries, a stone water tank, stone restrooms, and a log visitor center, which the WPA crew made from a second cabin that had been attached to the Sequoyah Cabin in the mid-nineteenth century.



Image Image


Another famous Tennessee Cherokee that I encountered today was at the grave of Talahina, the Cherokee wife of Sam Houston, at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Oklahoma.  She is buried in a circle of honor around the flagpoles in this historic and very moving cemetery.


Tennessee State Parks and Trail of Tears


For over 40 years Tennessee state parks have been central to telling the story of the Cherokee Removal. For most of that time, the focus was at Red Clay State Park in Bradley County, shown above.

But in the last year, officials at David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg have marked extant sections of the trail and with the help of the National Park Service and the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation have set up interpretive panels, shown below.



This new effort, also found at Port Royal State Park, help to show the impact of the Trail of Tears, then and now.

Mt Zion Missionary Baptist church and cemeteries, Sumner County

Mt Zion, south of Bethpage, is a Reconstruction-era black community that dates to 1868, the year that the church was established.

The building is a replacement from the current century and cemetery burials date from 1970.


But high on a hill, within thick brush, lies the roots of this community, an almost forgotten cemetery where small stone triangles greatly outnumber grave markers.


One grave marker, for Addie Carter who died November 1900, gives us the first clue in the deeper history of this evocative African American placel. More is to come from this field visit.



Hortense, a forgotten black community in Dickson County


Hortense is north of Dickson and I had never heard of it until my colleague Leigh Ann Gardner brought it to my attention and we went looking for the place last week. Leigh Ann’s research found that it was originally a planned segregated community for blacks. In its day it had a depot, school, churches.

The Missionary Baptist church remains to mark the Hortense name.

But the primary marker is the huge black cemetery behind the church, which the congregation is patiently clearing. Hortense is a neglected place in history but with a story worth exploring and a place and story worth celebrating.