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The Secret History of Gone With the Wind . . . Episode Two

The Secret History of Gone With the Wind . . . Episode Two

Act Four ~ Part One

After being selected by electors from ten states in 1789,  President George Washington established that one of his primary objectives was to bring peace to the Southern Frontier.  He appointed North Carolinian, Benjamin Hawkins, as Chief Agent for the United States to the Southern Indian Tribes.   Hawkins had instructions to bring about peace without more warfare.  He set up the Southeastern Regional Offices of the Federal government in what was to become Macon, Georgia.

The so-called Five Civilized Tribes in the Southeast were too numerous in number and too proficient in warfare to be ignored.  Incessant guerilla warfare by the Chickamaugas . . .  hostile factions of Cherokees, Upper Creeks, Chickasaws and Uchees  . . . was keeping the region in turmoil.   Meanwhile, the powerful Creek Confederacy under half-blood Principal Chief Alexander McGillivray considered itself an independent sovereign nation  . . . not an Indian tribe within the United States.  The Creeks had established their own gunboat navy and had signed treaties with the Kingdom of Spain.  Their commanding general was a full-blooded Frenchman.

In 1785, the first official map of the State of Georgia showed the Creek Confederacy and Chickasaws owning most of northern Georgia. The Cherokees only occupied a small area north of the Tallulah River in extreme Northeast Georgia. However, even as the map was being printed, Georgia officials and South Carolinian, Andrew Pickens, were scheming to steal the Creek and Chickasaw lands without them knowing it.












Through subterfuge, Georgian and Carolinian officials under the auspices of the United States government had stolen northern Georgia from the Creek Confederacy.   Georgia quickly filled the northeastern part of the state with white settlers.  Georgia officials then secretly made a compact with officials in the national government.  Tennessee and the national government wanted to remove the Chickamauga Cherokees from their base of operations in Tennessee.   Georgia would allow the majority of Cherokees to move down into the northwestern part of the state after the Cherokees were pressured to cede most of their lands in North Carolina and Tennessee.  The Cherokees could live there for up to ten years then the national government would move them farther west into former Chickasaw territory in what is now northeastern Alabama.  Thinking that they had a permanent home land, the Chickamauga Cherokees would cease attacks on Tennessee settlements.  Then at the point when the Cherokee leaders were softened up with bribes, the Cherokees’ social structure torn apart and their people destitute, the Cherokees would be moved again.

Charles Hicks stayed in Pine Log for several years.  He built a log house on top of a flat topped hill that 1500 years earlier had been a sacred ceremonial enclosure. It would become better known in the 20th century as the Corra Harris House.  Hicks established a plantation in the fertile bottom land beneath the sacred hill . . . where there had once been a village and still was a mound.  It was common for Cherokees to establish farms at the sites of ancient Native towns.  We will get back to Charles Hicks in Act Five.

Act Four ~ Part Two

Things did not go as planned by officials in Georgia and Washington.   At Pine Log a totally unexpected change occurred that could have never been predicted.  The group of radical Chickamauga warriors, who had taken refuge there after the Battle of Etowah Cliffs, went through a 180 degree shift in attitude.  Rather than fighting all aspects of white American culture, they suddenly embraced it eagerly.  By 1797,  most of the Chickamauga warriors had either moved westward to the Oothcalooga Valley, north of present day Adairsville, GA,  or to the Coosawattee River Valley between Calhoun and Chatsworth,  to establish plantations.   They even purchased African slaves. James Vann eventually owned at least 100 slaves.  Rather than falling apart, the Cherokee People began re-inventing themselves as a mirror-image of the Antebellum South.

And then there was this Sequoyah thing . . . who would have ever expected the ignorant Cherokees to become literate?

Who really was this mysterious savant, we now called, “Sequoyah?”  The famous painting of him is actually another Cherokee.

There are many mysteries concerning the life of that former Chickamauga warrior,  Sequoyah . . . and even more inconsistencies in the sanitized biographies that fossilized academicians and out in lala land wannabe’s provide the public.  Several different names are given for his father, was said to be alternatively a Swabian-Jewish trading post owner, a German-Jewish American army officer or a full-blooded Cherokee chief.   Readers are told that poor little Sequoyah was not able to play games  or going hunting with the other young boys because he was lame.   Much time is spent speculating about what genetic disease made young Sequoyah a cripple.  Then we are told that no knows what he was doing between around age 15 and 25 . . . actually, he was out in the woods killing white folks.   Then we are told that being a patriotic American, he joined Morgan’s Cherokee Regiment at age 44 and fought the savage, barbaric Red Stick Creeks in Alabama.  That part is true, but how could he survive the ordeals of the brutal Red Stick War as a middle age man, but not go hunting for squirrels as a boy?

Most biographies of leave a 28 year gap in Sequoyah’s life from age 15 until age 43, when he was living in Turkeytown, Alabama and joined Morgan’s Regiment to fight the Red Stick Creeks.  Most biographies, written in Tennessee and North Carolina state that he was living “somewhere” in Tennessee during that period, but no one knows where.  Those written in Georgia acknowledge that he was “somewhere” in Northwest Georgia after 1793, but fail to realize the obvious . . . that most of the work on his famous syllabary was done during this period.  Since it was his buddies from the Chickamauga days, who were supporting his silversmith’s shop,  it is quite likely that Sequoyah lived in or near Pine Log to stay near where his buddies were living.

Sequoyah and his mother moved from Tuskegee to Chota, when he was eight.  He began fighting with the Chickamaugas at age 15.  Before then he lived with his mother at a trading post in the Overhill Cherokee town of Chota.  His farther was a white trader, who apparently was seldom or never part of the boy’s life.   Suddenly, in Pine Log he began to make fine silverware.  How could that be?  Who taught him such a sophisticated skill?   The Cherokees did not have a tradition of metallurgy. 

The Vann’s and Major Ridge were two of his first clients. The Hicks Brothers also utilized his skills for their homes.  Apparently, the Vann,  Ridge  and Hicks Families always had money stored up despite the involvement of their men in the Chickamauga campaigns.  An alternative explanation is that their military attacks also included plundering of their victims valuables.  That is left out of the history books.

That is just the beginning of the mysteries associated with Sequoyah that have remained concealed because academicians studying Cherokee history tend to know little about the cultural history of the Creek Indians.  Sequoyah was actually his mother’s second name.  He adopted it so he would not have to use his English of George Gist or George Guess.  The silver medal, awarded to him in 1825 by the Cherokee National Council called him George Gist and did not mention the word Sequoyah. 

Here is a quote from the book, Tell Them They Lie, by Traveller Bird . . . who claimed to be a direct descendant of Sequoyah:

Painting of Sequoyah by Charles Bird King

“In 1871, two grandchildren of Sequoyahs daughter, Gedi, living in the United States, sent their grandmother a copy of Harper’s Magazine, dated 1870, which contained an article and the supposed picture of Sequoyah and the syllabary. These children asked their grandmother many questions about that article and picture. She wrote to them, saying:”

“Now, the people that write in the newspapers Phoenix and Advocate, and Harpers book are pretender liars. That which I say to you my grandchildren is duyughodv (right, just) about my father Sogwali and your grandfather.”

“That picture I saw of the man they call Sogwali (Sequoyah) in Harpers book is a joke. That is not the picture of your grandfather Sogwali. That is not the way he looked. My father Sogwali had no ears, no long fingers. They (the North Carolina Cherokees – see below) cut off. That picture is a fraud. That man is Thomas Maw. Just like that paper that Thomas Maw is holding in his hand is not the right one. The writing is not right. Just like what the Rulers say in that book. Laws of the Tsalagi (Cherokee). They say my father went to Washington City, and signed a paper with the unegvs (whites). They say he went to the meetings when all the people come west. Signed his name there on their paper. They are liars. He was never in Washington City. He not go to council in June 1839. He dead. My father Sogwali not ive in Indian Territory. He live in Mexican lands with others of our people in Texas where I was born.”

Sequoyah’s actual syllabary

There is one thing that is absolutely certain about this statement from Sequoyah’s daughter.  The writing on the tablet is NOT right.   Sequoyah probably never even saw the “Sequoyah Syllabary” used today by Cherokees.   His letters were entirely different.  In 1827, after Sequoyah had fled out west,   Elias Boudinot, Editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, and the Rev. Samuel Worcester, a missionary,  completely re-designed the letters to make them look more like European alphabets.  The reason was that white fundamentalist  Christians had described Sequoyah’s letters as looking “demonic.”   For quite some time after the change in the writing system,  Cherokees in Arkansas and Texas continued to use the letters taught them by Sequoyah, because they couldn’t understand the new ones. 

His adopted name has been said to have been “derived” from the Cherokee word for pig, siqua.  That seems highly unlikely.  The fact is that Sequoyah is the Anglicization of the Cherokee pronunciation of the Creek word, sekuya, which means “slave or war captive.”  That fact gets even more interesting when we look at his mother’s first name, Wuteh.   Wuteh has no meaning in Cherokee, but is the West African word for witch! It was quite common for South Carolina traders to place Mustee slave women in charge of their factories (trading posts).  Mustee is a Carolina Low Country term for a person, who is mixed Native American and African.  That would explain why another Cherokee, Thomas Maw, impersonated Sequoyah, when he was supposed to go to Washington.

And then there is the description of Sequoyah’s mother.  Articles on Cherokee history by most white academicians reminds one of the little Chiclet boy in Acapulco, who asks the tourist, “Mister, would you like to meet my mother.  She is very nice and she is a virgin.”   Like the female ancestor of all 2.7 million wannabe Cherokee descendants in the United States, Wuteh is described as a member of the Cherokee royalty and simultaneously as a true blue, full blood (or part Cherokee in some sources) who refused to learn the English language.  

Wuteh supposedly never married after having Sequoyah.    That does not make sense, if she was a blue blood.   History is filled with the bios of the daughters or sisters of Cherokee leaders, who had a string of husbands and lovers in their lives.  Every Cherokee and white trader wanted the advantages of a “high born” Cherokee woman at their side.  Something embarrassing has been left out of Wuteh’s bio.

There is no way that Wuteh could have independently owned a trading post and not known English.  Actually, there was no way for Wuteh to have owned a trading post period.   As a woman, she would have not had the capital in British pounds to purchase the trade goods and hold lines of credit for a year until the furs were brought in.  The Cherokee Nation was impoverished and twice involved with devastating wars throughout the late 1700s.

Sequoyah and his wife were abducted by North Carolina Cherokees and charged with witchcraft.   They were convicted and sentenced to being tortured to death.  The torture had already begun when John Ridge, son of Major Ridge, led a troop of Georgia Cherokee Lighthorse into North Carolina and rescued the couple.  So the lameness that Sequoyah was said to have, actually was the result of him being tortured by the North Carolina Cherokees, when he was in his 50s.   

Sequoyah soon departed for the new Cherokee settlements west of the Mississippi and never returned to Georgia.  North Carolina Cherokees never used the Cherokee Phoenix syllabary until the late 20th century, when they were taught it by Oklahoma Cherokee teachers, imported by North Carolina tourism development officials.

The Cherokee Phoenix was in operation from 1828 to 1834.  Initially Elias Boudinot printed their newspapers in both English and the Cherokee syllabary.  However, most of the readers were white intellectuals in the Northeast and Washington, DC.  By 1829, it had become a predominantly English newspaper.  Boudinot was forced by the Cherokee National Council to resign in 1832.  He was replaced by Elijah Hicks, son of none other than deceased Principal Chief Charles Hicks.


The Vann House (1805) is considered one of the finest Federal Period homes in the United States. It is state-owned and open to the public.

Act Five ~ Part One

There are many myths in contemporary American history books.  One of them is that the Cherokees has always lived in Northwest Georgia.  This is even stated in a film showed at Georgia state historic site museums.  As can be seen in the 1787 map above, that was clearly not the case.

The first “Cherokees” to pour into Northwest Georgia were actually white men with Native American wives from the Augusta area.  In fact, the first Anglo-American was James Adair, who moved with his Chickasaw wife and mixed-blood family to the location of present day Adairsvillle in 1776. It would officially be Chickasaw territory until 1786.  He did this because irate whites in South Carolina were killing any Indian in sight, after the Cherokees without warning attacked the South Carolina frontier.   Adair was soon followed by the Thompsons, Saunders, Quintons, Rogers, Hughes, Ralstons, Hardages and several other families whose names can be found throughout the landscape today.  Their mixed-heritage children dominated the Cherokee Nation for the next century.  Along with the “Pine Log Clique,” who moved to the Oothcalooga and Coosawattee Valleys, they assembled the best lands into plantations or at least large farms . . . leaving only small tracts for the majority of Cherokees to cultivate.

Locations of plantations and large farms, owned by the White Cherokee aristocrats

Below is a section of the Cherokee Land Lottery lots, surveyed by the State of Georgia in 1832:

By 1832, the Thompson Brothers and their offspring had gobbled up most of the land around Pine Log . . . leaving little for fullblood Cherokees.

Next came individual bands and villages of Cherokees, who were fleeing the violence in Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina caused by the early stages of the American Revolution.  North Carolina Cherokees fled both into Georgia and into Tennessee when a combined Continental Line and militia army invaded their mountains, burning all of their villages and killing any Cherokees they encountered.

The violence continued in Tennessee after the American Revolution was officially over.   This is the official beginning of the Chickamauga War.  Brutal acts by both sides resulted in reprisals against non-hostile Cherokee bands.  They established transient villages in North Georgia that would stay at a location for a year or two then move on so the Tennessee Militia would not find them. 

Interestingly enough, the Georgia Militia played very little role in the Chickamauga Wars.   When war parties of hostile Upper Creeks from present day Alabama or Uchees sneaked across the Oconee River to raid farmsteads, militia units would sometimes cross into the Creek Nation in pursuit, but generally Georgia wanted to avoid antagonizing the non-hostile Creeks living among them and very close by.   Sometimes the Georgia Militia would attack Cherokee villages in the northeast corner of the state as reprisals, but Georgians clearly did not want to be in the cross-hairs of the main body of Chickamauga Cherokees in Tennessee and northeast Alabama.

Ironically, the worst massacre of the Chickamauga War occurred in Georgia.   A large contingent of Mounted Tennessee Volunteers followed a band of Chickamaugas into Georgia.  They never came in contact with the hostiles, but rode up to one of the transient refugee villages on Bear Creek in present day Gilmer County, west of Ellijay.   There were mostly women, children and elderly in this village.  The official Cherokee version of the story is that all the adult men were out hunting, but obviously, they were most likely the hostiles being trailed.

Nevertheless, those remaining in the village were unarmed for the most part.  The Tennesseans butchered them.   The scale of the massacre was at least as large as Wounded Knee . . . some versions of folklore put the death toll as high as 300 killed and none left alive to talk.   Obviously,  this massacre was also kept out of the history books.

At the end of the Chickamauga War, the Cherokee Nation was broken economically and psychologically.  The offer of virtually empty lands to the south in Georgia and Northeast Alabama was gladly accepted by those, who wanted to get away from the hated Tennesseans and start their lives over again.  However, in the process the social structure of the tribe became almost unrecognizable as to what it had been in 1754.   Real villages ceased to exist.   What became known to whites as “Cherokee towns” were really concentrations of Cherokee farmsteads.

Act Five ~ Part Two

“White” Cherokees take control of the Cherokee Nation

A full-blood Cherokee,  Pathkiller, became the last hereditary Principal Chief in 1811.  However, by then the clique of White Cherokees, led by the triumvirate of Charles Hicks, James Vann and the Ridge had disproportionate political power in the Cherokee Nation.  The Ridge was mostly of Native ancestry, but he was ethnically a Natchez.  The remainder of the men were anywhere from 1/4th to 1/64th Cherokee.

Even that percentage is misleading.  Cherokee descendants of the Vann’s and Ross’s today are showing up with no or minuscule Native American DNA, but very high levels of DNA, typical of Scottish Sephardic Jews.  There is substantial evidence that the original family name of John Ross’s father was Rozanes, a common Sephardic name throughout the Mediterranean Basin.

What essentially happened in the late 1790s through the late 1820s was that Cherokee society became highly stratified like the plantation-based economy of the Southeast as a whole.  At the top were the white Cherokees . . . families who were much more white than Cherokee . . . except the Ridge Family, who copied the white plantation lifestyle as much as possible.

Mixed bloods also composed much of the Cherokee Middle Class.   They owned large farms and had lifestyles very similar to white yeomen farmers.  Many sent their children to missionary schools, where they learned English.

The vast majority of Cherokee families were full bloods or almost full bloods, living on small, stark farmsteads that could barely feed their occupants.  Although they could technically vote for district representatives, gone were the days when entire villages met in council houses to make collective decisions.  They increasingly bore the brunt of the persecution by whites as Georgia put more and more pressure on the Cherokees to move away.

There was another huge chunk of the population in the Cherokee Nation, who had no citizenship rights.  When a census was taken in 1832 by the State of Georgia, over 3,000 Creeks were living in the Georgia section of the nation, while about 9,000 were classified as Cherokees.  However, within those 9,000 were about 1,000 or more Apalache-Creeks, Hitchiti Creeks, Soque, Uchees and Shawnee living in the mountainous region in the eastern half of the nation.  They may have had the right to vote for district representatives, but they were almost invisible to the former Tennessee Overhill Cherokees, who now dominated the tribe.  It is highly doubtful that famous leaders such as Charles Hicks, Major Ridge, Elias Boudinot and John Ross ever even saw that part of Georgia.  These communities did not have mission schools and their existence was never mentioned in the Cherokee Phoenix.

A considerable number of Cherokees lived outside the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation in what is now the Maggie Valley area of North Carolina and the Dillard Valley in Northeast Georgia.  For example, the famous Cherokee hero, Tsala was living in the Dillard Valley and was technically a citizen of Georgia, when federal troops attempted to force he and his family at bayonet point to march to a containment fort.  He was not legally bound by the Treaty of New Echota.  Perhaps he was trying to tell the soldiers that.

The Cherokee Renaissance

In 1813, there was essentially a coup-d’etats in the Cherokee Nation in which the Pine Log triumvirate took control. Pathkiller became a figurehead, while Charles Hicks administered the Cherokee Nation until his death in January 1827.  An astonishing change took place among the Cherokees under his leadership.  It was the Cherokee Renaissance.

Charles Hicks was a brilliant man, who has generally been forgotten by American history books.  He had one of the largest, if not the largest personal libraries in the United States. (Yes, really!)  He invited the first Methodist missionaries to set up a mission in Pine Log.  They were soon followed by missions in Talking Rock,  Spring Place, Oothcalooga and near Chattanooga.  Hicks was converted to Christianity by Moravian missionaries at Spring Place and given the middle name of Renatus, which means re-born.  Hicks encourage Sallie Hughes to construct a toll road along what is now US 411 (see Pine Log map above).

Hicks also liked women . . . so much so that he eventually married several women and had even more concubines. This is apparently one of the reasons that he moved from house to new house, eventually having a primary residence in Fortville, Tennessee, while having an official residence in New Echota.  One of Charles Hicks sons probably continued to live in the Pine Log house.  He would be the person that contemporary residents of the community remember as “Chief Pine Log.” 

Under Hicks “unofficial” leadership, a rapid economic, cultural and political progress occurred. A national capital was planned at the location at the confluence of the Coosawattee and Conasauga Rivers, where the Kusa Creeks had established their first village in Georgia round 1300 AD.  Hicks promoted the new Cherokee syllabary.   About 80% of the Georgia Cherokees eventually learned how to read and write in the Sequoyah Syllabary.  This was at time when only 20% of the whites in the United States were fully literate.

Pathkiller died in January 8, 1827.   Charles Hicks became official principal chief, but he died on January 20, 1827.  Apparently, there was a lethal disease going through the Cherokee Nation that winter.   William Hicks, the brother of Charles became acting principal chief.  He lived in the Oothcalooga Valley.   William was not nearly as capable as his brother.  About a year later,  John Ross was elected to Principal Chief.  He stayed in that position until the American Civil War.

The next ten years were a time of unending hardship and horrors for the Cherokee People.  Georgia systematically began destroying the  fruits of the Cherokee Renaissance immediately after Charles Hicks died.  It makes one wonder, if both Pathkiller and Charles Hicks were poisoned!   In 1828, Georgia outlawed (abolished) the Cherokee government.  In 1830,  Georgia banished all missionaries from the Cherokee Nation and jailed those, who refused to leave.  In 1832,  surveyors working for the State of Georgia carried out a survey of all Cherokee lands in Georgia, which included a census.  By the end of the survey, Georgia officials knew the name of every Cherokee, where they lived and what their buildings looked like.  The Cherokee government was forced to move away from New Echota to reconvene in Red Clay, Tennessee.  At this point, New Echota became a ghost town.

Also, at this point, Georgia started holding lotteries to give away the surveyed lots to white settlers.   White families began showing up at Cherokee farms and demanding that the occupants abandon their own homes.   In 1836, the Major Ridge-Elias Boudinot faction of Cherokees sealed their own death warrants by signing the Treaty of New Echota.  In 1838, US President Martin Van Buren dispatched federal troops to round up all remaining Cherokees and imprison them in forts.  Within a month after the troops’ arrival, all Cherokees, whom they could catch were marched out of Georgia.

In a blink of an eye, a people and a way of life were . . .  Gone With the Wind.


In the next episode,  four Southern Belles are born to affluent plantation families in the Georgia Piedmont, who would lead the fight for women’s civil rights in the Twentieth Century . . . and become the inspiration for Scarlett O’Hara, Melanie Hamilton, Belle Watling and Auntie Hamilton.  That’s right  . . . Gone With the Wind was spawned by the first Women’s Lib Movement in the South . . . which was funded by one of the North’s most famous industrialists . . . who elsewhere simultaneously opposed women’s right to vote.  We told you that it was going to get interesting.   This all happened in little ole Pine Log.


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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Richard, thank you for this interesting series. If possible, could you enter a link at the end of each one to the next and previous ones?

    • Part Two and Three have URL links at the bottom. Just google “People of One Fire – The Secret of Gone with Wind – Part One to get to the first one.


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