For those who know their local Native American history, Charleston is the site of Fort Cass, the military depot where the Cherokee Nation, forced to migrate to Oklahoma, were required to register. Thousands passed through Fort Cass on their “Trail of Tears” journey.
The duo from the NPS spent all day Tuesday meeting with a group of local residents, quizzing them on what they expect an interpretive trail might include. They then compiled the information, visited local sites and returned Friday to reveal their findings.
Greg Kaylor, and his wife, Melissa, own the former Lewis Ross property in Charleston. Lewis was the brother to Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross. Together, they established Ross's Landing, present day Chattanooga. The Lewis and John Ross families migrated from Fort Cass to Park Hill, Okla., along with Cherokee and other tribes.
Greg has a keen interest in seeing the Greenway developed and attended all sessions with the NPS delegation. I asked him to share his take on the proceedings:
“The Greenway in Charleston will be a great addition to this historic little town. Many don't know that Charleston was first Cherokee land, and the Indian Agency, then Fort Cass, in 1839 was formally platted by federal government engineers. It was also the site of the first Bradley High School. Being a sovereign nation during that time, one could look over to the banks of the Hiwassee River toward Calhoun and realize it was another country. Today, residents have lost the history of the story.
“The proposed plan is interpretive trails along Mouse Creek to Charleston and historic points between, including our house, the Cypress Grove, which still has the existing springs visible, toward the Hiwassee River. A proposal is also possibly extending the trails, yet to be determined as Greenway, over a portion of private land and TVA holdings along the Hiwassee River.
“The Interpretive Greenway, in conjunction with the current Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway, will offer a ‘step back in history’ as it is traveled. According to this proposed plan, history about the Cherokee will be posted throughout this northern extension. What better way to preserve health and fitness, all while learning from ‘voices from the past’ as walkers go through their exercise routines?
“The National Park Service Trails Division partners with communities in their endeavor to preserve and make some historic areas become a visitor experience. Much was learned while they were here, including the fact that Fort Cass/Charleston is the most pristine emigration depot site along the Trail of Tears Historic Trail.
“Those in attendance at that final day were overwhelmed with what Cori and Steve envisioned for the future. We are very excited about the proposed plan and its significance in one of America’s greatest tragedies and the story that needs to be told.”
I echo Greg’s comments. As the findings and prospective plans were discussed, you could sense the excitement in the room about the significance of what a Charleston greenway could be for locals and visitors from across the country. These revelations allow us to dream even bigger about the master plan for our Greenway which, as has been from the beginning, intended to stretch from the Village Green to the Hiwassee River.
The research also revealed where bicycle and walking trails could be placed, allowing Walker Valley High School students safe routes that could double as an interpretive greenway.
The bottom line: We now have more options to get our Greenway to its northern terminus, and along the way we can learn more about our rich Cherokee heritage.
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