CHEROKEE COUNTY, ALABAMA
REMINISCENCES OF ITS EARLY SETTLEMENT
From a clipping from the Gadsden Times
(Transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 08, No. 03, Fall Issue 1946)
CHRISTIANITY IN THE NATION
On our arrival in the nation, we found no churches or houses for divine worship. The holy Sabbath was not observed; indeed, there were many who did not know when the day came. Many who claimed to be religious before they left the older settlements, appeared to have left their Christianity behind them.
It was no uncommon thing to see a large percent of the male population with their guns on their shoulders on the Lord’s day. Some were so reckless as to assert that Sunday was the most “lucky” day for hunting game. To see ten or a dozen deer in a gang was quite a common occurrence. Almost any Sunday one could hear from one to a dozen guns fire.
My father, being in the habit of preaching to congregations every Sabbath, and regarding the violation of the Lord’s day a sin of no ordinary magnitude, determined to erect an humble long house and dedicate it to the worship of Almighty God. He called on the neighbors for several miles around to meet on a certain day and assist in this laudable enterprise. They turned out almost, to the man, and worked faithfully until a house 18 feet square was raised and covered.
The house was built of split chestnut logs, the pulpit also being constructed of split timbers; for a time there was no floor in the house but afterwards a split-log or puncheon floor was put in. This house was located about one mile from Cothrun’s ferry, near the spot where John Spann, Esq. afterwards settled.
My father preached monthly in the new meeting-house. Two Baptist preachers from Terrapin valley, named Cazy and Minton, preached there frequently, and occasionally Revs. William Taylor and James Wilson, of the same denomination.
Terrapin Creek (jsu.edu)
The Rev. John Foust, had been sent by the Alabama Conference of the Methodist church as a missionary to the Cherokee country. He had heard that our people had built a house of worship, and determined to hunt us up. One evening I was out a few rods from our house, when I saw a heavily-built, square shouldered man approaching, riding an iron-gray horse, with saddlebags under him. He presented to my eye the appearance of a Methodist, itinerant. So strongly was I impressed with the striking resemblance which he bore to men of that class in my native land, that I ran and told my mother a “circuit preacher” was coming.
The old lady ran to the door, looked at him, and said: “Yes, I’ll warrant he’s the missionary from the other side of the river.” The traveler said: “Madam, I’m a Methodist missionary out hunting the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The old lady’s eyes sparkled with new lustre. She seemed to grow a head and shoulders taller. Said she:—”Light, sir, light; you are at the right place, and as welcome here as if you were at your own home.”—Mr. Foust was a laborious, faithful man of God. He was man of strong faith in God’s promises. He believed that by prayer and faith in God’s promises he could cure many of the diseases to which flesh is heir. He and my father and Rev. Newton Randall organized churches at different points in the nation. They constituted one on South Spring creek, one on Mud creek, and one near Gaylesville. During the first year of our stay in the nation there was a camp-ground established near Gaylesville which was called Sulphur Springs. Judge Birdwell, who was the first Probate Judge of Cherokee county , built a tent there; also Elijah Faty and his son, John, Hon. George Clinton, who afterwards represented the county several times in the State legislature.
There was a preacher by the name of Booker, of whom a pious old lady once remarked, “God bless that dear good man! He’s the first man I ever heard preach standing on his knees.” She was mistaken. He stood flat-footed, and extended as far up into the air as his stature would allow. There may have been a few others who camped at this pioneer feast of tabernacles, whose presence I have forgotten. Robert Ware, the father of Mrs. Dr. Edwards of Attalla, built a tent on this ground and tented at the second camp meeting. The Cherokee Indians attended this meeting in large numbers. Many of them had been converted under the preaching of the missionaries. They were devotedly pious. A large number were converted at this meeting. I noticed that most of them, on professing conversion, shouted aloud and gave expression to their feelings just as the whites did. What surprised me most was that those among them who could not speak one word of English, and had to be preached to and instructed through an interpreter, when converted always shouted “glory! glory!” I then though, and yet think, that this word was of heavenly origin, and means the same thing in heaven and on the earth; yea, and in all languages of all worlds. I still entertain the opinion that the converted savage better understands the definition of the word “glory” then the most learned unregenerated lexicographer.
THE METHODIST CHURCH
Was mainly represented on the north of the Coosa By Rev. Newton Randall and old “Father Booker,” and on the south side by my venerable father. Perhaps the reader may think it would better become some other pen than mine to speak of the labors and virtues of Rev. Whitfield Anthony. It strikes me that such an opinion has its origin in a false delicacy. Who has a better right to know a man’s life, piety and sacrifices than his own son?
I feel it my duty to state the facts as connected with the life and labors of my father in Cherokee.—He labored hard on the farm during the week days and preached every Sunday. He also attended meetings in all parts of the nation. He was then in the full possession of all his powers, both physical and mental. He felt it to be his duty to do all he could both for the support of his family and the mental and spiritual elevation of the people in the nation. My father had some knowledge of the science of medicine. He had brought a good stock of medicines with him from Carolina for family use. His services as a physician were soon called into requisition. He was remarkably popular as a physician. Perhaps one cause of his popularity in this new department was traceable to the fact that he charged nothing for his services and furnished the medicines without money or price. So, between the farm and family on the one hand, and physic and gospel on the other, my father, was kept employed all his time.
In the course of three or four years after our arrival in the nation, Methodism was firmly planted in Cherokee. They soon got the “preacher making machine” in successful operation. I have never known so small a population to turn out such a proportion of preachers in so short a time as the Methodist church did in Cherokee between the years 1836 and 1840. Among the vast number licensed during this period, I remember John Paty, Wm. Fleming, Jere Jack, Haman Bailey, John Kuykendall, Joel Weems, a Mr. Reeves, a Mr. Mountain, and Toliver Spann. So far, as I know most of these men have proven faithful to the trust committed to them. Paty and Bailey have gone to their reward in the spirit land. Mountain, I am informed, got into some trouble and finally joined another branch of the Christian church, and is still preaching—Kuykendall is now in the hospital for the insane at Tuscaloosa—Weems was always a man of peculiarities, particularly in the manner of delivering his sermons. He had a clear head and sound mind. At last accounts he was living in the southern part of Cherokee county, in the neighborhood where he first located in the early settling of the county. He is now old and well stricken in years. Of Reeves, and Jack, and a host of others, I know nothing.
Fleming used to preach with his eyes either closed or raised at an angle of forty-five degrees above his congregation. I always regarded him an earnest man, I remember that in one of his sermons he told us that Washington and Putnam, of revolutionary fame, while young, both fell in love with the same lady, and that the lady decided to leave her choice between the two to a feat of agility. The two aspirants for her heart and hand were on a given day to “jump” for the prize. Putnam leaped twenty-one feet at the first bound, Washington beat him six inches, and got the young and beautiful widow.—Fifty years have rolled away since that time, yet that anecdote is as fresh in my mind as though he had related it but yesterday. I have never been able to find those facts stated in history, and when I have occasion to use them, always give the Rev. Mr. F. credit for them.
AN INDIAN PREACHER
By the name of Thomas J. Meggs, who was a full-blooded Cherokee, often spent days together at my father’s house. He was a member of and a minister in the Methodist church, and appeared to be devoutly pious. He spoke English quite fluently for an Indian, but would not preach, pray, sing, or even ask a blessing in English. My father enquired of him why he did not, when praying among and for the whites, use their languages. His reply was: “De Tostle Paul say, no breach no bray in onknown languages; dat’s it why I no do it.”—Meggs always carried about with him one of Walker’s dictionaries. I believe my father gave him the book. My father was anxious to know Megg’s opinion in reference to what are generally called “Indian mounds.”
Meggs said, “Cherokee no make ’em. Da be here when Cherokee first come here, Meggs be a boy den. Da was anoder Ingian here fore Cherokee come here. Da be much, and da be mighty bigger dan Cherokee. Da be blacker dan Cherokee, Cherokee and Black Ingian fight hard and fight long time. De Cherokee warriors, do be gone to fight de Black Ingian, and do leave Meggs and de boys wid squaws and pickinies. Black Ingians da come to kill squaws. Meggs and boys and squaws da all fight Black Ingians. Black Ingians shoot Meggs in arm; dat’s de way Meggs lose he arm. At last Cherokee kill all de Black Ingians. Da kill de warriors, da kill de squaws, and da kill de chillins, and burn de towns; and den Cherokee take country from ’em.—Dat’s de way Cherokee git dis country. I Aspect dat’s de Ingians dat makee de mouns.”
Meggs’ statement with regard to the Black Indians was corroborated by Rev. Martin Sims, who was a missionary in 1822-23 to the Choctaw Indians. This aged missionary, told the writer a few years since that he had often heard the older warriors among the Choctaws talk of a war against the “Big Black Indians,” in which the Choctaws and Cherokees united ,and literally exterminated the Black Indians. The Choctaws located the scene of the final battle at a town on the banks of the Big Warrior, near the present site of Tuscaloosa.
(Continued in Part III)
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories includes some lost & forgotten stories of their experiences such as:
- The Birth of Twickenham
- Captain Slick – Fact or Fiction
- Vine & Olive Company
- The Death of Stooka
- President Monroe’s Surprise Visit To Huntsville