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Chickamaugah Town

from http://www.chattanooga.net/brainerdmission/stories/story_of_cher_indians.htm

Dragging Canoe and the Cherokee Indians at

“Chickamaugah Town”

One-quarter mile northeast of here, just across South Chickamauga Creek, lay a very large Cherokee Indian village, named “Chickamaugah Town”, which stretched from the current location of Brainerd Hills subdivision on the south to the Chattanooga Airport on the north.  It was reported there was over 1,000 population in this village.  That is the reason the Brainerd Mission came to be located right here.

Famous Cherokee Chief Dragging Canoe, and his followers established Chickamauga Town.  In 1770, they left a Cherokee town on the island of Milaquo on the Little Tennessee River, near present Madisonville, TN.  They floated down the Little Tennessee, and then the Tennessee River, until they came to the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek, just downstream from the present Chickamauga Dam.  There they turned upstream, proceeding 12 miles to the place where two Indian warpaths crossed, near present Brainerd Road, and settled on the left bank.

Text Box: Chief Dragging Canoe
Sandstone sculpture by B.R. Allison. From “Tennessee’s Indian Peoples”, by R.N. Satz, UT Press, 1979
      Scottish trader John McDonald left Milaquo with Dragging Canoe, traveled south with him, and established his trading post on the right bank of the creek, right here.  He cleared land, built a few log buildings, and built a mill on the creek.  In 1771, with Cherokee labor, he dug a ¾ mile long millrace ditch all the way from West Chickamauga Creek, in order to increase the head of water to the mill by about six feet.  John McDonald was the grandfather of John Ross, founder of Ross’ Landing and Chattanooga, and who later became a Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Chief Dragging Canoe was born about 1732, and in his prime reached 6’ tall, broad and muscular, and his face was pitted with the scars of smallpox.  This was a result of an epidemic in 1738, which decimated the other Indian nations as well, since they had no immunization to the white man’s disease.  His wife was Leaf, and their children were Young Dragging Canoe, Little Owl, Sarah Canoe, and Turtle at Home.

One of Dragging Canoe’s brothers was Little Owl, who came south with him, but proceeded 4 miles farther upstream, making his village on the right bank, where Audubon Acres has re-created and preserves it as “Little Owl’s Village” today.  Nancy Ward was a first cousin to Dragging Canoe and Little Owl.  Her son, Long Fellow, lived in Chickamauga Town.

Dragging Canoe correctly foresaw the demise of his people from encroachment by the white settlers.  His father was the Cherokee “Peace Chief” Attakullakulla, but Dragging Canoe was leader of the militant group who became known as the “Chickamauga Cherokees”.  He fought the French, Spanish, white settlers, and the US Govt, on the side of the British in the Revolutionary War.  Historians have called him “Savage Napoleon”, and his enemies called him the “Dragon”.

Tennessee was still part of North Carolina in 1779.  That year NC sent a force of 700 of the NC and Virginia militia under Col. Evan Shelby to battle Dragging Canoe.  Most of the Indian warriors were gone on another war party when the force arrived, so Chickamauga Town was burned, and a large store of British supplied goods and provisions was confiscated.  Col. John Sevier burned the town again in 1782.

These battles did not deter the Chickamauga warriors.  In 1782 they floated on down the Tennessee River again, and established 5 “Lower Towns” farther down the Tennessee River.  There, in the steep river gorge areas, they were more protected, and could prey upon river travelers more easily.

Chief Dragging Canoe died in 1792 at Running Water Town, which was located near where Interstate 24 now crosses Nickajack Lake.  The town site and Dragging Canoe’s grave were covered by the waters of the lake in 1967.

Peace finally came to this area and the Cherokees about 1800, and those left at Chickamauga Town were ready to accept white settlers and missionaries.  This was the climate when the U.S. Government purchased John McDonald’s land here for $500 and gave it to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to establish this Brainerd Mission.


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