Local News

April 24, 2010

Gold rush not main reason for Cherokee removal

DALTON — Daniel Feller sees the story of the Cherokee removal from Georgia explained in short, overly simplified style in textbooks for students of all ages.

The story usually goes that white settlers had the Cherokees torn from their land only after gold was discovered in North Georgia, but the reasons for removal are actually much more complex than that, Feller told about 50 people gathered for the 2010 Symposium on Northwest Georgia History at Dalton State College on Saturday.

“Why were the whites and state governments so urgent that the Cherokees move?” said Feller, director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson and director of the Center for Jacksonian America at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “It’s true they wanted the land. It’s also true the United States was not exactly short on land.”

Feller said correspondence between President Jackson and other officials shows a major factor in the forced exodus from Georgia in May 1838 was the state’s plans for transportation routes that needed to go through Indian territory. That included roads as well as railroads, he said.

Barbara Phillippe, a Tunnel Hill resident who has some Cherokee ancestors, said her research shows a government survey in 1834 outlining the best railroad routes, just four years before the Cherokees were removed from some of the land that was later used for railroads.

“Is this a coincidence?” she asked.

Feller said there is still much research to be done on the reasons behind the Cherokee removal. Many primary documents needed for research are in the National Archives and have not been published anywhere else, he said.

Feller was one of four scholars invited to speak for the first annual symposium sponsored by the Bandy Heritage Center and the college. The others were Sarah Hill, an independent scholar and public historian from Atlanta; Fay Yarbrough, a history professor from the University of Oklahoma; and Christopher Arris Oakley, an East Carolina University history professor.

Hill said there were two removal stockades built in Murray County. Fort Hoskins was in Spring Place, and Fort Gilmer near Carters Lake. About 200 Cherokees within a 10-mile radius of Fort Hoskins and another 200 within a 10-mile radius of Fort Gilmer were rounded up and eventually forced on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Some escaped, but many died.

“All of us as citizens have a responsibility to be aware of what’s going on and to respond to injustice where ever we see it, and to remember these lessons,” Hill said.

Bandy Center director John Fowler said future symposiums will highlight other aspects of Northwest Georgia history, including the textile industry and the Civil War. The lectures were recorded and will become part of future museum and website for the Bandy Center.

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