Of the Past…
These are a few of the people of the past who had direct contact with the Agency and Fort Cass area.
Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation for more than 40 years, John Ross was a gifted stateman and negotiated well with Western culture. His father was a Scottish immigrant and his mother was of Cherokee descent. He plead the case for the Cherokee to stay on their land all the way to the Supreme Court and won. United States President Andrew Jackson overturned the decision.
Lewis and Frances Holt Ross built a home at the Cherokee Agency in 1820. Lewis, brother of Chief John Ross, was a successful businessman, while his brother was the politician of the family. This was one of many homes and structures built and owned by Lewis Ross in the area of the Cherokee Agency (present-day Charleston). At one time, Lewis Ross was considered the wealthiest man in the area now known as Tennessee.
General Winfield Scott was the commander of the entire Cherokee Removal from his headquarters at Fort Cass, present-day Charleston. Scott gave orders that were received at Ross’ Landing and Gunter’s Landing and as well as camps leading to Fort Cass.
Joseph McMinn served as Governor of Tennessee from 1815 to 1821 and was President Andrew Jackson’s ally in the effort to remove the Cherokees. McMinn County, which bears his name, was formed out of the Hiwassee Purchase in 1819 as part of Cherokee land sales that McMinn was instrumental in organizing. In 1823, McMinn was made Indian Agent and was stationed at the Agency in Charleston where he died at his desk in 1824. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and had requested that when he died, he be buried with his feet at the front steps of the church, so he could be the first in on Resurrection Day. His grave is marked by a 12-foot tall obelisk in Calhoun’s Shiloh Presbyterian Cemetery.
Return Jonathan Meigs
Col. Return J. Meigs was a Revolutionary War hero and Indian Agent to the Cherokee from 1801 until 1823. A historical marker, erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1930, is located on Calhoun’s Main Street just south of Hwy 163 indicating that at one time his home was in the area. Further research indicates that he also lived at the Agency and died there in 1823. Meigs is buried in Rhea County at Garrison Cemetery.
Of the Present…
These are a few of the people who assisted and encouraged us through the development of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center and beyond.
Jack Baker, President of the National Trail of Tears Association, President of the Oklahoma Historical Society, former At-Large Cherokee National Tribal Council Member, incredible resource and friend.
Bill John Baker, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 2011 – 2019, former Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Member, encourager and friend.
TroyWayne Poteete – Executive Director of the National Trail of Tears Association, former Chief Justice of the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, incredible storyteller and friend.
Russell Townsend – Tribal Preservation Officer for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, incredible resource, encourager and friend.
Richard Sneed – Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, alumni bike rider with the Remember the Removal Ride.
Steve Burns and Cory Donnelly – Landscape architects with an amazing team of historians and interpretation experts at the National Parks Service Intermountain Trails Division in Santa Fe, NM.
Of the Future…
These are a few people who help carry these important stories into the future.
Remember the Removal Bike Riders
Each June, a group of young people from the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian begin a bicycle ride at New Echota, Georgia, and trace the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears. They spend the night at Red Clay State Historic Park and stop for lunch at the Hiwassee River Heritage Center. We are honored to have them as guests and look forward each year to visiting these young Cherokee people who are learning about their history and memorializing their ancestors.
Will is a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and the Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. He has covered events related to the Hiwassee River Heritage Center from development, to ground breaking, to grand opening. He always visits with the Remember the Removal Riders and was once a rider on the retracement himself. He is an advocate for Indian rights and helps to spread the message of preserving Cherokee language, traditions and culture.
Charleston- Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society
PO Box 807
Charleston, TN 37310
Hiwassee River Heritage Center
8746 Hiwassee Street (Hwy 11)
Charleston, Tennessee 37310
Open Tuesday-Friday, 11-5
Closed Sunday and Monday
Closed for major holidays.
Open Christmas Week with appointment only.