Wednesday, April 3, 2019

New Echota, Cherokee Capital

New Echota Council House
In the late 1700s, Cherokee refugees of wars with European Americans from the Lower Towns in Tennessee and South Carolina moved the seat of their tribe to Oostanaula, or Ustanali, in what is now Northwest Georgia. Moravian missionaries describe attending councils there in the early 1800s at a town house consisting of an “open shed with scats of plank.” In 1803, they watched traditional Cherokee dances performed.

By 1819, the Cherokee Council began holding their annual meetings at New Town, a small community on the Oostanaula River. In November 1825, they adopted a resolution that established that location as the nation’s capital and named it New Echota. Every October, thirty-two delegates representing eight districts elected a dozen members of the National Committee. The quiet town of New Echota burgeoned to several hundred during council time.

By 1830, New Echota claimed seventy residents on a hundred one-acre town lots surrounding the Council House and Supreme Court building. The Cherokee Phoenix office used an altered form of Sequoyah’s (or George Gist’s) alphabet to publish a newspaper—as well as the Bible and hymns—in both English and Cherokee. European-educated, mixed-blood Cherokees worked alongside missionaries to make New Echota a town of renown.
Supreme Courthouse

All that ended when gold was discovered on Cherokee land in 1828. Georgia declared Cherokee laws void and annexed Cherokee land as Cherokee County, Georgia, divvying it up in the 1832 lottery.

On December 29, 1835, a small minority of Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota, giving the Cherokees five million and $300,000 for improvements on new land in Indian Territory in exchange for their Eastern ceded lands.

New Echota disappeared except for the Samuel Worcester missionary home. In the 1950s, archeologists excavated, reconstructed, and relocated Cherokee-style buildings. The New Echota Museum was dedicated in 1988, 150 years after the Trail of Tears.

Learn more about the Cherokees of Northwest Georgia in my upcoming novel, The Witness Tree, coming this September with Smitten Historical Romance. 

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s the managing editor for Smitten Historical Romance of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:

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  1. I think that is a sad story. I wonder if any Cherokees were able to stay on the land, I assume not. Greed is a terrible thing, and I wish I could say it doesn't happen today but isn't this similar to imminent domain that occurs to this day?

  2. Yes, sad indeed. Some hid in the mountains and a number went to the area that is now Cherokee, NC, b/c they had land there the government was unable to seize. But most did relocate to Oklahoma.