Little did I realize growing up that I was surrounded by the history of the Jacksonian period. I spent many of my school field trips and church outings at Red Clay State Park, located about ten miles from my hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee. Red Clay served as “the seat of Cherokee government” from 1832-1838, but for me, it was the place we played kickball, walked the three-mile trail, and tried not to fall into the “Blue Hole,” an underwater cave. Bradley County, where I was born and raised, was the site of internment camps where the Cherokee were held prior to the Trail of Tears.
An article in last week’s Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, about this house, located in Bradley County, prompted my walk down memory lane. According to the article,
History fan and writer Debbie Moore has been collecting community stories and long-ago documents that show the house on Dalton Pike in the Flint Springs community predates the Cherokee removal days of the 1830s. She suspects that the home once belonged to John Martin, one of the leaders of the Cherokee Nation.
Martin was the treasurer of the Cherokee Nation and chief justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court prior to removal. One of his homes was located in Murray County, Georgia; this Bradley County home likely was the last home that he lived in before being forced west on the Trail of Tears.
Its size and amenities, even if the latter were already in place when Martin purchased the home, serves as a reminder that many of the Cherokee leaders of the 1830s had assimilated into white culture in a number of ways, yet it made little difference to local, state, and national politicians who wanted their land. For them, obtaining Cherokee land superseded any ties of commonality forged from the Cherokees’ acceptance of Christianity, constitutional government, and slavery.