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A Glimpse of Cherokee County's Past

by Sandra Nipper Ratledge

[Do not copy and upload this on other websites or blogs of any kind; do not attach any pages to online family trees; do not print in any publications of any kind. See copyright notice at the foot of each page. Visitors may read my articles here, but they are not for sale nor for thieves to upload elsewhere.]

The year 1820 saw the first white establishment in the southwestern corner of North Carolina. A Baptist church and mission school was built there at the Cherokee Indian town called Old Natchez located about six miles south of what is now Murphy, the county seat. In this primitive structure, Reverend Humphrey Posey struggled to teach English to the Indians. He was on a sacred mission for the education and Christian conversion of the Cherokee Indians, some of whom honored this minister by naming their sons "Posey." Even decades later, his revered name was still frequently used as a Christian name for Indian braves and others.

Only seven years later in 1827, gold was discovered just across the mountainous border along Co Co (Coker) Creek in Monroe County, Tennessee. When even more gold was found to the south on Cherokee lands in Georgia, numerous pale-faced prospectors wandered into this Indian domain and were followed soon thereafter by ambitious traders into the Indian villages. One white trader Colonel Archibald Russell Spence Hunter, an officer in the War of 1812, finally built a trading post called Huntersville at the present site of Murphy in 1830. Five years later, it was known as Huntington Post Office, and the Colonel served as postmaster.

During the 1830s, white man's lust for this valuable land so swelled that all measures -- even cruel and illegal -- were employed by government officials and their representatives to procure it. "Gold fever" is said to have sealed the fate of the Cherokee. Six forts were established in Western North Carolina in 1838 because multitudes of Cherokees refused to abandon their homes and sacred burial grounds and relocate in Oklahoma Territory. The largest fort was called Fort Butler and erected at the present site of Murphy. It was used as the official U.S. Army headquarters for the forced removal. A smaller fort named Delaney was also established within the present bounds of Cherokee County at what later became known as Andrews.

So began the great travesty, The Trail of Tears, referred to as "the greatest blot on America's history." Historical museums at New Echota in Gordon County, Georgia and Red Clay in Bradley County, Tennessee depict the plight of these Cherokee Indians and honor them as true Americans. North Carolina's package of Indian land secured by the Treaty of New Echota fell within the jurisdiction of Macon County. Later, in 1839, after "The Removal," Cherokee County was officially established out of this newly acquired section and, paradoxically enough, named for the tribe forced at gunpoint and driven under extreme duress to relinquish these rich, fertile mountains.


Arthur, John Preston. Western North Carolina a History 1730-1913. Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Reprint Company, 1973-4.

Barclay, R. E. Ducktown Back in Raht's Time. Cleveland, Tennessee: White Wing Publishing House, 1974.

God's Country. Murphy, North Carolina: Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, 1982.

U.S. census reports of Cherokee County, North Carolina, 1840-1880.

This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Tommy and Beulah (Cline) Nipper.

©1999-2016 Sandra N. Ratledge. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any reproduction or inclusion of this website's contents in publication whether online or in print is prohibited. Do NOT copy photographs and upload on Find a Grave or any other internet websites, blogs, attach to family trees, or print in publications. Do NOT copy stories, articles, documents, sketches, anecdotes, letters, obituaries, content data, etc. and attach to family trees or upload on other websites of any kind. Do not print in publications or for displays of any kind.

Sandra Ratledge

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