A proud time in Roswell's past

DATE: 01-06-1994
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
SECTION: Newspapers_&_Newswires
PAGE: H/07

Cherokee Nation: A new map highlights the trails and settlements of
the city's 18th-century Native American period.
Roswell Mayor W.L. "Pug" Mabry and council members, meet your
counterparts, circa 1822.
"Gone to Sleep," "Slim Fellow," "Tuh Quo," "Wind" and "Kee-Nah-Tee-
Hee" aren't included among the photographs of former mayors that hang at
City Hall, but their job was the same - governing the Hickory Log
District of the Cherokee Nation, a district that included Roswell. Four
were elected members of the Cherokee National Council.
The present-day mayor would be proud to learn that 172 years ago,
Hickory Log beat out seven other districts sprawling across North Georgia
into Tennessee, the Carolinas and Alabama in terms of civic spirit when
it fielded 18 candidates for the Cherokee Nation's first Legislature in
New Echota in 1828.
Like Roswell's modern-day officials, the elected tribal leaders met
on Mondays in May and September to consider matters related to their
district, but meetings tended to run a bit longer than current council
sessions - five days.
Cherokees living in the southern border region around Roswell were
often of mixed blood, having married whites and Spaniards. By the 1820s,
typical dress for men included a turban hat, buckskin or cloth trousers
and a hip-length "hunting shirt" of homespun cloth. They lived in log
cabins, not tepees, and enjoyed their own newspaper, The Cherokee
Phoenix, published in both English and Cherokee.
Roswell historian Michael Hitt's latest map shows Cherokee roads,
trails and settlements in Roswell in the 1820s and 1830s that have been
obliterated by development. It covers as much history as geography.
Holcomb Bridge Road, called Alabama Road in the days of the Cherokee
Nation's zenith, was the Interstate 85 of its day, said Hitt.
He also locates homesteads of many of the Cherokee settlers,
including brothers William and James Downing, whose log cabin homes were
where North Fulton Regional Hospital now sits, as well as on land lying
to the west of Georgia 9.
Charles Wofford, a half-Cherokee, built and operated a mill on old
Cedar Creek (later Vickery's Creek) just north of the present Red Lobster
restaurant on Holcomb Bridge Road. It was later to become Lebanon
Community, which existed when Darien, Ga., businessman and town founder
Roswell King selected a site downriver for his mill.
Because of the prominence of his name, one resident named Fourkiller
probably lived in a settlement on Upper Hembree Road next to a creek.
Today it's known as Foe Killer Creek. "Killer" was an honorary title
awarded to only the bravest of warriors, said Hitt.
Willeo Road and Willeo Creek, which wind through portions of
Roswell, originally were spelled "Willeyoe" for a family that lived and
farmed on a bend in the creek near the Chattahoochee.
At the intersection of Georgia 400 and Mansell Road stood William
Proctor's two-story, hewed-log house. A stone chimney set it apart as one
of the more substantial structures in the area, which boasted 18
Hitt said he did the "Cherokee Lands" map to reveal another layer of
Roswell's history. His first map showed Civil War entrenchments, rifle
pits and troop movements in Roswell, and the second showed downtown
Roswell as Union troops found it in July 1864.
The last Cherokees were being rounded up by federal troops and sent
to a reservation in Oklahoma in 1838 when white settlers moved in behind
them, many seeking the gold that had been discovered in North Georgia.
Roswell's early settlers moved quickly into houses vacated by the
Cherokees and lived there while their own homes were being built, said
Hitt said he doesn't think many people understand how advanced
Cherokee society was at the time they were pushed off the land and forced
to march to reservations in Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears. Their
formal system of government by that time included a constitution, a
legislature and a court system with district judges.
"These weren't nomadic tribes running around in loincloths with
feathers in their hair," said Hitt, who hopes the locals will come to
appreciate Roswell's Native American past as much as its much-celebrated
antebellum period.
Color photo: Tracing history: Michael Hitt displays his map of Cherokee
roads, trails and settlements in what is now Roswell. / BILLY DOWNS /