Hidden Cleveland: Rattlesnake Springs: Cherokee Council bid final farewell as Trail of Tears began
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
May 29, 2014 | 3375 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The springs on the John Moore Farm, located at Rattlesnake Springs, was the site of the final Cherokee Council prior to the Indian removal in 1838.
The springs on the John Moore Farm, located at Rattlesnake Springs, was the site of the final Cherokee Council prior to the Indian removal in 1838.
One of America’s greatest atrocities began before Charleston, Bradley County and Cleveland were established.

The beginning of the end of the Cherokee Nation in this region was formulated right in our own backyard, and one of the most significant places is located on Dry Valley Road.

The Moore Farm dates back seven generations. Rattlesnake Springs, as it was known, was a stockade in 1838, where thousands of Cherokee were held prior to their supposed “peaceful” removal.

Their plight began in the early 1800s. It was a fight for their land, started by Georgians. The Cherokee began to migrate to Red Clay.

The peaceful landscape of John Moore’s family Century Farm once was a temporary home for those who would be forced to walk what would become the Trail of Tears.

According to historical accounts, an estimated 13,000 Cherokee were rounded up and taken to the stockades at Rattlesnake Springs and other areas in Camp Cass, which became known as Fort Cass, the modern-day Charleston.

The roundup began somewhat peacefully at the request of Gen. Winfield Scott, who had been placed in charge by the federal government and outgoing President Andrew Jackson.

The Cherokee removal hinged on land grabs by Georgians, the state which wanted the Native Americans to be removed from the lands that held precious natural resources and gold.

Principal Chief John Ross fought tirelessly for years to keep the Cherokee Nation land sovereign. In 1838, he finally realized he had failed and after a letter from his brother Lewis, began to work toward a peaceful removal.

The conditions were deplorable at Rattlesnake Springs.

Disease and dysentery claimed thousands of lives prior to the forced march.

Missionaries, who were prominent in establishing religion in America as well as the Cherokee nation, called conditions “deplorable.”

John Ross held a final Cherokee Council on the grounds at Rattlesnake Springs. He joined his fellow Cherokee as they were rounded up and forced from their country, according to Wooten’s accounts.

"Legend has it that three men killed 99 rattlesnakes from under one rock," said Moore several years ago, during an interview prior to a meeting set up at the springs after the Cherokee people held their Joint Tribal Council at Red Clay in spring 2009.

"I don't know for sure, because I wasn't here when it happened," he added.

The Moore farm is 940 acres and is used predominately for dairy and grain.

According to Moore, three generations of Moores lived in the old farmhouse at the fork of the spring. John H. Moore was born in 1812. He purchased the land after the Cherokee removal and the city of Charleston was mapped by the federal government in 1839.

He and other family members are buried on the hillside overlooking the springs which supplied water for the survivors of a nation who were held there.

According to accounts, the springs became polluted after a while due to the mass emigration to the stockade.

Rattlesnake Springs was one of three emigration depots where the people were held.

Gunter’s Landing in Alabama and Hiwassee Landing at Blythe Ferry were points as well as Camp Cass, which covered roughly 12 miles of land.

Stockades in and around present-day Charleston have long vanished.

The Cherokee chief was worn down after years of fighting the government as a statesman for his nation. Opposition from within his nation had also taken a toll, according to Brian Hicks, author of “Toward the Setting Sun.”

Hicks documented that the conditions at the springs were so horrible, that “anyone under age one and over age 60” was prone to fall victim to disease and die. He attributed the accounts to missionaries who monitored the “concentration camps.”

Ross gave a dramatic farewell to the Cherokee homeland during the last council meeting and on Aug. 28, 1838, Hair Conrad prepared the first of 13 groups of Cherokee to begin their journey west beyond the Mississippi River, to an unknown land “toward the setting sun.”

It was a bright day, according to an account by Miss Rachel Eaton, who documented her observances.

“Just as the procession was on the point of being set in motion, a clap of thunder smote the stillness and a dark spiral cloud was seen rising above the horizon,” she wrote.

Although the thunder reverberated through the Dry Valley, not a raindrop fell. The elder Cherokee people held some superstition.

“It was then the voice of the divine, warning against the wrongs already suffered or some calamity in the future,” she added.

On Dec. 5, 1838, the final detachment departed from Rattlesnake Springs.

The principal chief, his brother Lewis, who was the treasurer for the Cherokee Nation and tribal Chief John Vann and their families also departed along the trail, where they settled in present day Talequah and Park Hill, Okla.

There they prospered and continued to recover from their plight.

Capt. H.B. Henegar was an employee of John Ross who aided in the final days of the removal. He also reported his accounts of the trip along the trail.

His home still stands in Charleston, a block away from Lewis Ross’ home, the center of what became known as Fort Cass. Chattanooga was eventually established from Ross’s Landing, as was the city of Rossville, Ga.

Along the five-month journey, up to five Cherokee Indians died each day. Ross’ wife also died and was buried along the route.

On June 1, 1839, which is 175 years ago this Sunday, the first Cherokee Council was held in its new land at Talequah, which was then known as Double Springs, a far journey from the Moore farm and Rattlesnake Springs.