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Cherokee in North Georgia 5
Flashpoint:Gold
About North Georgia

With the creation of the Cherokee Nation and the election of John Ross as the democratic head of this newly-formed republic, the Cherokee stood united against the state of Georgia in 1828. Had it remained as the state of Georgia versus the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokee might never have been dislodged from their "Enchanted Land." Late in 1828 Georgia got support for its campaign for removal of both the Creek and Cherokee with the election of Andrew Jackson as President of the United States. With the inauguration of Jackson in March, 1829, came troubling news from Loudsville, Georgia. Gold had been discovered and the Georgia Gold Rush had begun.

Even before Jackson's election the state of Georgia had tried to move against the Cherokee. Using an 1802 agreement between the state and the federal government, Georgia believed they had rights to Cherokee land. They divided the Cherokee Nation in two (along a line running roughly between present-day Dalton and Cartersville) and assigned a judicial designation to both districts. This seizure was unenforceable, simply because the counties to which the territory had been assigned were too small to handle the immense task of providing judicial support to 6900 square miles of the American frontier.

As word of the discovery of gold in Northeast Georgia reached the coast, men began to enter the area in unprecedented numbers. The initial discoveries were on land the Cherokee had ceded prior to 1819, but the miners followed the gold belt across the border of the Cherokee Nation. John Ross realized that he had to show both the settlers and the state of Georgia that the Cherokee Nation had its own laws and intended to enforce them.

A group of squatters moved into abandoned Cherokee homes in the Beaver Dam area along Cedar Creek in late 1829. When informed about their presence, U. S. Army General John Coffee (who was in charge of the federal troops in the area) told the Cherokee to remove them by force. In January, 1830, Major Ridge led a group of Cherokee to the homes of the squatters at Beaver Dam. A light blanket of snow covered the ground and the temperature was above freezing. The men and women were forced to leave these homes and sent on their way without a shot being fired. When word reached Georgia of the actions of the Cherokee, newspapers blared "War!" and painted a picture of a violent confrontation with drunken Indians who forced law-abiding settlers out into the snow.

Georgians' anger fed on the flames of outrage fanned by the half-truths printed in the newspapers. The Cherokee were stunned at the reaction to the incident at Cedar Creek, after all they had the permission of General Coffee, a man they trusted and friend of Andrew Jackson. One reaction to the incident: the state of Georgia took the entire Cherokee Nation and turned it into Cherokee County and immediately convened a court at Harnage, a tavern on the Federal Highway were the Tate House stands today.

As soon as Cherokee County was established, Governor George Gilmer wrote Andrew Jackson and complained that the presence of federal troops on land claimed by the state was in violation of the Constitution of the United States. This began a three-way struggle between the federal government, the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation that would only end with the Trail of Tears. Jackson saw no reason for federal troops to remain and quickly withdrew them. The rowdy miners, who viewed the Cherokee as an obstacle in their quest for gold, would not listen to edicts from far away Milledgeville and Gilmer, unable to send in his own men, realized that withdrawing the federal troops was a mistake. In September, 1830, the federal troops returned.

Intent on making independence a struggle for the Cherokee Nation, the legislature passed a series of laws targeting whites who had been living and working in the Cherokee Nation. Many settlers had moved to the nation to provide essential services to the expanding Cherokee economy. Some had come as missionaries, not only to teach the word of God but to give practical education as well. Georgia felt that depriving the Cherokee of these services would hinder the Cherokees' ability to continue to live on the land.

Additionally, the state extended its laws to all people living in the Cherokee Nation, not just the settlers. This led to the arrest and trial of Corn Tassel (alternate spellings: Tassell or Tassle), a Cherokee accused of killing another Cherokee within their own nation. The Georgia court found Tassel guilty and condemned him to be hung for the crime.

In December, 1830 the state of Georgia enabled (a legislative term for creating and funding) the Georgia Guard. This body of men (there were never more than 70 at a single time) were charged with enforcement of the laws the state of Georgia passed on the land controlled by the Cherokee. The Georgia Guard were known throughout the United States for their violent, brutal treatment of the Cherokee.

With the arrival of the Guard in 1831 the miners felt a sense of protection. While the U. S. troops were in control the miners were being chased off the Cherokee land on a daily basis. Now they could violate the borders of the Cherokee Nation and not worry about the federals. They formed "Pony Clubs," a sort of pre-Civil War Ku Klux Klan. These invaders terrorized the Cherokee in their homes, stealing livestock, burning homes, killing Cherokee men and raping Cherokee women and children. TYhen the Corn Tassel case returned to the forefront. A higher court ordered a stay of the execution, but the execution was carried out anyway. The state of Georgia committed murder.

John Ross was distraught. The nationalist movement had succeeded, but now the Cherokee Nation appeared to be at the whim of the Georgia governor and his troops. The nation was threatened on all sides by encroaching settlers. Ross and the Cherokee did, however, have many powerful friends in Washington. Ross decided that his nation needed help and turned to William Wirt, a former attorney-general and lawyer from Maryland. Wirt would take the battle for the Cherokee Nation to the Supreme Court.

Cherokee civilization in Georgia
The western push of the settlers force the Cherokee to move South and West
Cultural Changes of the Cherokee
The Cherokee accept new technologies to make their lives easier
Rising Tides - Nationalism in the Cherokee Nation.
The Cherokee begin to consolidate the power they have gained and attempt, much to the chagrin of the state of Georgia, to form a government.
Revolution and Rebellion
Flashpoint - Gold
The Georgia Gold Rush brings thousands of men into the Cherokee Nation
Rising Tides - Winning and Losing
The Supreme Court declares the Cherokee an independent nation, so they may only be dealt with by the federal government under the Treaty Clause of the Constitution
Treaty of New Echota
To satisfy the Treaty requirement the U. S. negotiates with a small, radical faction of the Cherokee to sign a treaty
Cherokee Trail of Tears


Cherokee Indians
Explore the life of the Cherokee Indians in their "Enchanted Land"

Article Links
Cherokee Nation
Cherokee Trail of Tears
Cherokee civilization in Georgia
Cultural Changes of the Cherokee
Flashpoint - Gold
George Gilmer
Georgia Gold Rush
John Ross
Major Ridge
Revolution and Rebellion
Rising Tides - Nationalism in the Cherokee Nation
Rising Tides - Winning and Losing
Tate House
Trail of Tears
Treaty of New Echota

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