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Chief Red Bird at Massacre of Yahoo Falls, 10 August 1810

Page Updated 23 Jan 2005

Yahoo Falls, in McCreary Co., S.E. KY, in Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area of Kentucky and Tennessee. Courtesy of Shirley Howard

 The Ballad of Yahoo Falls
by Mark A Abner

It was the year of 1810
The August leaves were green
At a sacred place we call Ah hoo
There falls a sparkling stream

It was a sanctuary place
It’s water clear and cool
There gathered children to stay safe
Until they journeyed south to school

But on that August Friday night
A horrid fate would fall
Before the bright new sun would rise
Their lives would flee them all

One hundred children there were held
Their mothers at their sides
When on the front guard white men fell
Filled with hatred greed and pride

When all the front guard they had killed
Scalped red and white alike
The killers Rushed down to the falls
And fell on children in the night

Around the rim surrounded men
That none could make escape
The blood it ran there ankle deep
As they killed and scalped and raped

Some miles away cam Kutsawah
Corn Blossom walked there too
Into a tree where all could see
A mighty raptor flew

Into the bark its beak did strike
And from there blood did stream
And the cry that rang form the hawks own throat
Was a babies tortured scream

 The warriors rushed on to the falls
To see what had befell
They found their children dead and scalped
And on the killers fell

Those Franklinites who stayed behind
Their pleasures to fulfill
Were sent to face their personal hells
No more children would they kill

On the cliffs two days Corn Blossom
mourned
Till her spirit floated free
Her son and husband flown before
“Remember us" her plea

On August 10th in 1810
A travesty occurred
But in this country’s history
There’s written not a word

Our bones from ancient graves now torn
Are dug and dozed and tossed
With Dynamite without regard
To sacred mysteries lost

But out of dark forgotten years
There springs the peoples voice
To sing again our sacred songs
And make out hearts rejoice

The Cherokee are living still
We walk with you each day
With wisdom’s learned and gifts to share
If you would learn our ways

Respect all things upon the earth
And those who came before
Protect the land for those to come
That their spirits too may soar

Used by permission of Mark A. Abner, played in the key of Am

 The Great Cherokee Children Massacre at Yahoo Falls
A Historical Narrative by Dan Troxell

By permission of Dan Troxell the author, excerpted from http://victorian.fortunecity.com/rothko/420/aniyuntikwalaski/cnwest.html

On Friday, August 10th 1810, the Great Cherokee Children Massacre took place at Yahoo Falls in southeast Kentucky ...... the Cherokee village leaders of the Cumberland Plateau territory from Knoxville Tennessee to the Cumberland River in Kentucky were led by the northern provisional Thunderbolt District Chief, Beloved Woman/War Woman "Cornblossom," the highly honored daughter of the famous Thunderbolt War Chief Doublehead. Several months before this date, Beloved Woman/War Woman Cornblossom, was preparing the people in all the Cherokee villages of southeast Kentucky and northern Tennessee to bring all their children to the sacred Yahoo Falls area of refuge and safety.

Once all the Cherokee children were gathered, they were to make a journey to Rev. Gideon Blackburns' Presbyterian Indian School at Sequatchie Valley outside of Chattanooga Tennessee in order to save the children of the Cherokee Nation remaining in Kentucky and northern Tennessee on the Cumberland Plateau.

This area of Sequatchie Valley was very near to Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga, the once long held Chickamauga National capital of the Thunderbolts. Near Lookout Mountain, just on the other side in northeast Alabama, was the rendezvous point for the Chickamaugan Cherokees and their allies the Creek Nation. For by this time, many Creek and Chickamaugan Thunderbolt Cherokee were defending the rest of the Indian Nations there as well. The arrangements to save the Cherokee children through Gideon Blackburns' white protection Christian Indian Schools, had been made earlier by Cornblossom's father War Chief Doublehead, who had also several years earlier been assassinated by non-traditionalist of the southern Cherokee Nation of the Carolinas and far eastern Tennessee.

A huge gathering area underneath Yahoo Falls itself was to be the central meeting place for these women and children to gather and wait. Then all the children of all ages would go as one group southward to the school to safety from the many Indian fighters gathering in the neighboring counties of Wayne and Pulaski in Kentucky. These Indian fighters were led by an old Franklinite militiaman from Tennessee named Hiram "Big Tooth" Gregory who came from Sullivan County Tennessee at the settlement of Franklin and had fought many Franklinite campaigns under John Sevier to eliminate all the traditional Thunderbolt Cherokees totally and without mercy. Big Tooth Gregory, sanctioned by the United States government, War Department, and Governor of the territory, carried on the ill famous Indian hating battle cry of John Seveir that "nits make lice". Orders were understood by these Cherokee haters that nits (baby lice) would grow up to be adults and especially targeted in all the campaigns of John Seveir Franklinites were the Cherokees women, pregnant women, and children of all ages . . .

The Lands from London to Cumberland Falls were ruled by many war leaders, among them was a great warrior and friend to Cornblossom, War Chief Red Bird called Chief Cutsuwah, descendent of the Great War Woman Cutsuwah that fell during the French and Indian War at Burnside Kentucky. Red Bird was also a close relative to Cornblossom, War Chief Peter Troxell and their descendants. The cries of Red Bird's women and children echoed many times in this genocide campaign of the Franklinites to rid the area of powerful Cherokee leaders. The blood of many warriors, men and women, was spilled trying to defend their Cherokee people. From where today's Pickett State Park lays in northern Tennessee just below the Kentucky Tennessee State Line lying south of present day Wayne County Kentucky, the cries of women and children and fallen warriors of War Chief The Fox could also be heard . . .

Standing Fern from the Yahoo Falls area sent many warriors and war women to counter the Franklinites move on their boundaries many times as did Cornblossom and War Chief Peter Troxell. War Chief Peter Troxell had attacked to the west of Yahoo Falls in 1806 and 1807 the settlers of Wayne and Pulaski counties, bringing many settlers to the point of utter fear for their encroach- ments against the Cherokees of the now Daniel Boone National Forest of southeast Kentucky. But in 1807, War Chief Peter Troxell had been granted official amnesty by the Governor of Kentucky if he and his Cherokee war parties from neighboring McCreary County stop their raids into Wayne and Pulaski County. War Chief Peter Troxell agreed and turned over his scalping knife with 9 notches to the authorities at the courthouse in Wayne County. Peace would last just a short time when the settlers of Wayne and Pulaski banded together in 1810 to break this peace treaty at the massacre of Yahoo Falls. Many of the Cherokee who tried to protect their people during these times simply did not return, dwindling the people down to small factions . . .

Politically, Two (2) Cherokee Nations had been formed during Dragging Canoe and Doublehead's fight for freedom of the traditionalist: The Southern Cherokees of the Carolinas and far eastern Tennessee and the Chickamaugan Cherokee of Georgia, eastern Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. . . But by this date of 1810 Dragging Canoe and the rest of the so- called Bloody Seven had either died a natural death or been killed and War Chief Doublehead, Cornblossoms father, had met his death by means of assassination at the hands of the Cherokee conformist from the south.

And now, in 1810, one more attempt would be made to destroy the Cherokees who kept the old traditional ways. One more attempt would be made to destroy the "nits that make lice" as the many Cherokee women with their children began coming to Yahoo Falls in order to make the great "Children" migration to Seqatchie Valley near Chattanooga, Tennessee. In southeast Kentucky, underneath Yahoo Falls itself, was War Woman Standing Fern and over 100 women and children, others stationed themselves out from the falls. Standing Fern was the mighty woman war leader of the Yahoo Falls area and was married to the 1st born of Cornblossom. She was married to War Chief Peter Troxell. At this time Cornblossom was married to the famous "Big Jake" Jacob Troxell, a half breed Delaware Warrior from Pennsylvania who had been sent by the personal staff of President George Washington earlier to sway the Cherokee away from the Spanish of Florida and more towards the New Americans in alliance . . . By 1810, "Little Jake" Peter Troxell was a mighty War Chief riding along side his mother Cornblossom in all her campaigns and protecting the sacred sites with his wife Standing Fern. They were true Cherokee Thunderbolts and wore the sacred emblem and mark of the Thunder People: the Lightning Bolt.

Standing Fern was in charge of the gathered children who by August 10th had almost all assembled. Now they would wait for Cornblossom to bring her younger children to the falls, then all would be ready and they would go southward in a children fleeing journey more closer to the Thunderbolts of the south who were more stronger.

Runners brought word to Standing Fern at the falls that her husband War Chief Peter Troxell and Cornblossom were on their way to Yahoo Falls with the last of the children. Traveling with Cornblossom and War Chief Peter Troxell were Chief Red Bird of the Cumberland Falls area and their children, the youngest children of Cornblossom, and all the children of War Chief Peter Troxell. When they arrived at Yahoo Falls the journey southward would begin. But before Cornblossom, Red Bird, War Chief Peter Troxell, and the children with them arrived, the old Franklinite "Indian fighter" by the name of Hiram "Big Tooth" Gregory had heard of the planned trip several days prior and headed immediately for the falls area to kill them all with all he could muster to kill the Cherokee.

Breaking the 1807 peace treaty between War Chief Peter Troxell and the Governor of Kentucky, Big Tooth Gregory's band of Indian fighters crossed into Cherokee territory and came in two directions, one group from Wayne County, the other from neighboring Pulaski county in southeast Kentucky. The Indian fighters on horseback joined together at what is now called Flat Rock Kentucky and headed into the Yahoo Falls area with fiery hatred . . . This occurred shortly after midnight in the early morning hours of darkness before the rising of the sun. This will be the night morning of screams. This will be the last day of many children. This will be the day that will forever mark the Troxell Cherokee heritage in history.

Jacob Troxell, the long hunters, and warriors instantly sense the trouble, a Cherokee runner takes off in flight to attempt to warn Standing Fern at the falls but is cut down by 2 side skirmishers on the way. At the same time Jacob Troxell and the front guards lock in a fierce battle of flintlock against flintlock and hand to hand fighting, trying to keep Gregory and his band out, but are overcome in a short time by the numbers of the Indian fighters. All the front guard is killed at this entrance to Yahoo Falls. It was said through the memories of the Cherokee people of southeast Kentucky that Jacob Troxell and 1 renowned great warrior were the last to fall of the front guards. Jacob, now swinging a half broken highly decorated war club in one hand and a large skinning knife in the other, stood fighting hand to hand with blood coming out of his mouth from several bodily wounds and was said to have kept screaming to the end in a loud voice over and over, "The Children!"

The Great Warrior witnessed the fall of Jacob as the Indian fighters took sharp aim and fired a whole volley of lead into Jacob's body finally downing and scalping him. Jacob will survive this attack but is mortally wounded and will live 2 months before he dies as a result from this massacre. So some say that Jacob died at this massacre to denote his final breath to save the children because that was where his heart was - defending the children of a now forgotten people lost within the hills and valleys of southeast Kentucky waiting for remembrance of their families. The Great Warrior, who was still standing and the last to fall, was jumped by several Indian fighters and downed to the ground. Breaking his arms the Indian fighters then cut his throat and scalped him.

This had all been witnessed and watched by a hidden son of one of the front Cherokee guards who was given orders to flee into the woods upon the Indian fighters approach. This hidden Cherokee son would carry down this memory for generations (today . . . the Yahoo Falls area is part of the Big South Fork River and Recreation Area of the National Park Service and is the tallest waterfall in Kentucky which drops 113 feet, underneath and behind the falls is an open huge gigantic rock shelter where the children and Standing Fern had gathered).

Gregory with his Indian fighters after scalping all the front guards, then moved onward in a rush to the falls area. Lining themselves all along the top rim of the bluff surrounding the falls and large "rock house" below it, they began firing from all sides down on War Woman Standing Fern and over 100 children now trapped directly underneath them. The ones out from the falls ran, hid, and escaped. Trapping the 100 children with other old men, pregnant women, and mothers underneath the falls, Gregory and his men worked their way down into the gigantic area of the rock house on the 2 downward side paths while the ones on top kept them bottled in. As children and women fell all around her from the volley of lead above, War Woman Standing Fern and her few warriors now take to the two left and right inclining side paths that lead into the huge rock shelter hoping to meet and stop the Indian fighters. Looking outward from underneath the falls itself, Standing Fern and several warriors took the right hand path that would lead upward, the other few warriors took the left path. The trapped Cherokee people and the children old enough to hold a weapon grabbed what ever they could in their grasps to defend themselves. Some would have a knife or hatchet, while most would only have a rock or a clay cooking bowl to throw or nothing at all to use as a weapon. Some of the ones who escaped out from the falls, hid among the rocks, water, and trees and would watch in horror with tears to tell the story for generations so that we may remember what happened that day, Friday, August 10th, 1810.

Standing Fern and her warriors were very quickly overcome by the Indian fighters and brutally killed but not before Standing Fern fought with a passion of defense taking with her several of the Indian fighters in hand to hand combat along the right path while the other warriors fought with the ever fevered courage of a Thunderbolt as well. The fall of Standing Fern occurred at a narrow spot on the right path fighting several of the Indian fighters with the swinging of a hatchet in hand to hand combat. As she was fighting she was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the hip, and gutted in the belly with an unforeseen knife. As the knife entered her belly, at the same time she was shoved over the ravine by several Indian Fighters, but not before taking some with her.

With Standing Fern and all her warriors now defeated and murdered, the Indian fighters set upon the children and others that were trapped under the falls, rushing it with more volleys of lead and close attack. Using what useless weapons they had, the women, old men, and children fell prey to the evil dark designs of the attackers. They screamed an earthquake of death and tears. The water and ground ran red.

Hiram Big Tooth Gregory and all his Indian fighters raped the women and younger female children of all ages, pillaged, cut bellies open, murdered, and scalped over 100 Chickamaugan Cherokee women and children that had been trapped underneath Yahoo Falls, killing most of them as they ran, begged, huddled together, and screamed and pleaded for life.

Meanwhile this same day the party of Cornblossom approached with her children. As her party came closer to the falls area, it is said a hawk flew above them and lit in a nearby tree and acted strange. Investigating this remarkable occurrence, it was found that the tree was bleeding blood out of its bark, the leaves trembled, and the sound of the hawk was as a cry and scream of a baby. Fearing something wrong, Cornblossom and her party pushed onward in a frantic pace to get her children to the falls and safety. When Cornblossom arrived at the falls entrance area, she found all of the front guards brutally scalped and killed with her husband "Big Jake" Jacob Troxell. Leaving the children with some women at the front guard entrance, Cornblossom, her son War Chief Peter Troxell, Red Bird, and their party of warriors and war women then rushed to the Falls itself, where they find some of Gregorys murderers who had remained behind still finishing their evil work of rape, torture, and scalping. Cornblossom screams for her warriors, Redbird, and her son Chief Peter Troxell to kill these remaining men with a blow of passion. Her famous cry was once again heard as she had always shouted in all her many campaigns: "Shoot Twice Not Once!" War Chief Peter Troxell, Chief Redbird, and the Thunderbolt Warriors, along with Beloved Woman / War Woman Cornblossom (Selu-Sa-tah), charged the murderers with screaming Cherokee war hoops and passion of justice, a battle ensues with a short volley of rifle fire and close hand to hand combat with all its fierceness. All the remaining men of Gregory's Indian fighters are cut down to never more harm the Cherokee people.

From this last fight of Cornblossom, her son War Chief Peter Troxell was himself killed at the huge rock shelter underneath the falls and Cornblossom herself received an agonizing long rifle gunshot injury. Cornblossom will live 2 days before this wound takes its full toll on her life. Beloved Woman Cornblossom, wounded and in much pain from wound and sorrow, will sing and wail the "Death song of the Cherokees."

And on the rising of the Sun on the 3rd day .... Cornblossom passed on into history a Great Cherokee Woman and mother of generations to come. Holding the Beams of Sunlight in her Eyes Forever. . . Clinching her raised fists and raised open arms to the Great Spirit, day and night, she kept screaming the words of her father Doublehead, son War Chief Peter Troxell, and daughter-n-law War Woman Standing Fern: "WE ARE NOT CONQUERED YET!"

. . . From this massacre, Jacob Troxell (husband to Cornblossom), the Great Warrior, and all the front guards killed, War Woman Standing Fern (wife to War Chief Peter Troxell) and her elite Thunderbolt warriors all killed defending the children below the falls, War Chief Peter Troxell killed in the last fight, and over 100 women and children waiting to go south to safety in a children journey to a Christian mission school, all lay dead, massacred, raped, tortured, and scalped, by these "Indian fighters" . . .

This massacre ended all power of the mighty Chickamaugan Thunderbolt Cherokee people in Kentucky to Knoxville Tennessee. Cornblossom and Standing Fern were the last powerful "Beloved Women/War Women" of the Thunderbolt Cherokees of the Cumberland Plateau . . .

After the massacre at Yahoo Falls, Reverend Blackburn's "Indian schools" in Tennessee are discontinued due to Blackburn's illness and grief over the many women and children killed at Yahoo Falls in southeast Kentucky. Reverend Blackburn is caught with a boatload of whiskey and becomes an alcoholic. Chief Redbird isolates his people that live near Cumberland Falls and sends any remaining people into hiding until the remembrance.

The children of Cornblossom and Standing Fern survived. William Troxell the youngest son of Cornblossom, and my descent, survived and removed himself to northeastern Alabama 7 yrs after the massacre, lived with the Creeks, and became a link between the hidden Cherokee of Kentucky and Tennessee before and after the Trail of Tears.

. . . Also in the last fight of Cornblossom, Peter Troxell, and Redbird when they attacked the remaining murderers at the Falls, 3 of the white men were held and spared briefly and executed personally by the hidden children who had escaped and run into the nearby hill. This execution of justice came shortly after the passing of Cornblossom on the 3rd day after being weighed in judgment by the Cherokee Council of Women of Redbird . . .

I, Dan Troxell, Deni U-Gu-Ku, direct descendant through Cornblossom and her last born son William Troxell, comes out from isolation and proclaims our history alive for I am a Real Human Being, I am a Thunderbolt, I am Cherokee. The Thunderbolt people will now wait for a remembrance.

LET US NOT FORGET THEM
REMEMBER THEM WITH A CHEROKEE TEAR
Danny Troxell

Someone suggested that the Chief Red Bird, who defended the children of his tribe in the following story ~ most of us disagree ~ was War Woman, or The Bowles (Duwa'li, or Chief Bowles), born in North Carolina about 1756, an auburn haired, blue eyed, half-blood Scotch Cherokee, returned for a visit. The Bowles moved into the St. Francis River valley in Missouri in the early part of 1810 after the Scot party massacre in 1794. He later moved his people from MO to northwestern AR, and finally to Texas (see http://rosecity.net/cherokee/chief_bowles.html); or the Cherokee link to my other website (http://ourtexasfamily.com/)

Aaron Brock

More on Chief Red Bird

 Following pages used by permission of Kenneth B. Tankersley, Ph.D., anthropologist, Natural History Unit, BBC, Northern Kentucky University, is a research associate of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History; Executive Board Member, Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission; and Executive Board Member, Kentucky Center for Native American Art and Culture:

CHIEF RED BIRD ~ Excerpt from his book-in-progress, Kentucky Cherokee: People of the Cave

 Yahoo Falls by Kenneth B. Tankersley

 Kentucky's Native Past, by Kenneth B. Tankersley

 Kinship Notes, by Kenneth B. Tankersley

NOTES: Kentucky Treaties, by Kenneth B. Tankersley

 Cherokee Syllabary, by Dr. Tankersley

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