Nancy Williams, director of the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, assisted by Tom Morgan gave the club an update on the memorial park and its activities.
The park was built to recognize the Cherokees who were forced from their homeland on a journey, known as “The Trail of Tears.” She said most visit the area in Meigs County during January to see the sand hill cranes or in February for the Native American Days.
The park has granite walls documenting the significant events of the Cherokee people. It also has an amphitheater with a floor showing the different routes taken by the Cherokee on their journey West. The visitors Center, which is a replica of an original log homestead, gives the Cherokee story and history as well as providing a meeting room with kitchenette facilities.
Phase 1 of the park, the boardwalk and wildlife overlook shelters on top of the bluff, are complete and open. A federal grant, secured with the help of Congressman Zach Wamp, and the state committed grant were used for the Visitors Center and Cherokee Genealogical Library of Phase II.
Later phases of the park are to start soon. They will include the Memorial Wall, walking trails, ferry pier at the Blythe Ferry landing, and other projects such as establishing a gift shop, and hosting of educational programs and genealogical workshops.
Nine detachments of thousands of Cherokee camped and crossed at Blythe Ferry. A sign there reads “Blythe Ferry: One of the worst acts of 838. It laypeople were drive from their lands in 1838. It laypeople were drive from their lands in 1838. It was here at the Blythe Ferry that approximately 9,000 Cherokees and Creeks camped while waiting to cross the Tennessee River on their forced removal. They had been held captive in stockades a few miles back. Many books have been written on the heart-wrenching description of what is now called ‘The Trail of Tears.’
“Butrick’s Journal describes their condition in the camps as ‘very much like animals — being down on the naked ground exposed to wind and rain — like droves of hogs’ the same means, fictitious Seminoles have fallen by the same means, fictitious Seminoles have fallen by the same means, fictitious treaties.’
“He speaks of ‘Nanny as a slave’ so this shows the diversity among the detachments. A mental picture of what happened here at Blythe Ferry can be drawn from these excerpts.
“Oct. 16th 1838 -— 10 o’clock a.m.’ ‘We have only succeeded in getting some 20 wagons across the river — proprietors of the ferry — are determined to retard all exertions.’ J Powell.
“The last detachment crossed Nov. 12th, 1838. ‘I reached Blythe’s Ferry on Saturday, Nov. 10 — found the great body of Mr. (Peter) Hildebrand’s detachment of emigrating Cherokees quietly encamped — about 12 wagons had crossed — at dawn four boats were put in requisition and continued — until dusk — close of the day about 61 wagons — across — this morning before 12 o’clock 18 wagons and all the people were over ‘To Winfield Scott.’ This park is dedicated in memory to these peoples. May it serve as a touchstone for future generations.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the installation of seven new regular members and a new junior member. Stan Evans swore in William J. Brown, K. Harrison Brown, F. Raymond Bullard, Ronald J. Bullard, J. Dan Crook Jr., L. Leon Dixon and E. Eugene Visage Jr. and junior member Gary “Jay” J.L. Vallee.
Van Deacon, first vice president, explained the significance of the Society rosette and presented one to each new member. Evans gave each new member a membership certificate and the small book on the “Declaration Independence and U.S. Constitution.” Each new member gave a “testimonial” on being inducted into the society.
Other items on the agenda for the evening included reports:
Evans reported on the National Leadership/Trustees meeting on March 1 through 3 in Louisville, Ky. Chapter members attending were Evans, Claude Hardison and James Stone. Dual member John Echerd had to leave the conference because of tornado damage to his home in Ooltewah. Evans in his update on Echerd and his home, noted the family should be back in the house in three to four weeks.
Dave Hicks reported on the Tennessee Society Sons of the American Revolution State Convention to be held March 16 and 17 in Franklin. A number of chapter members planned to attend, but Hicks urged others to come.
The local Boys Scouts had their camporee at Johnston Woods on Feb. 18. Four chapter members -- Sam Allen, Evans, Hardison and Phil Newman volunteered to participate. The four, dressed in their Revolutionary War period dress, helped in the Klondike Derby event by stopping the scouts on the trail and asking them American history questions.
Newman, who is chairman of the Statue Fundraising Committee, said more than $1,700 has been collected toward the total needed to create the statue.
Van Deacon presided at the meeting as well as giving the invocation and leading in the pledge to the U.S. flag. The pledge to the Tennessee flag was lead by Tommy McLain. The SAR flag pledge was led by Larry Grant.
An update was given on the health of Jim Webb, who had been in the hospital. He is now at home.
Visitors and wives were recognized at the meeting. Among prospective members in attendance were Bill Brown Jr., Richard “Tiger” Jones, Sam Melton, Shawn Pritchett, Dwight Reagan, Jerry Ward and Don Wilson.