Polk County Historical Society

The Polk County Historical Museum is housed in the former Hawks Children’s Library Building, which features the work of J. Neil Reid.

  • Once part of the ancestral lands of the “FIve Civilized Tribes” for more than a thousand years, the indigenous peoples were evicted from their own territory by the new United States government after gold was discovered in 1829.

Editor’s note: This is the first of several parts of this item submitted by Gregory Gray from the Polk County Historical Society. Check in next week’s edition for another installment.

This history was a class research project by Mrs. Moore’s eleventh grade classes with the help of our guest speakers, Mrs. Bessie Browder, Mrs. Leonora Mintz, and Mrs. Eula Mae Watson, all former teachers of this school system. We thank the staff of Written on the Rock, who edited our history.

The early Indians, who lived here, were the Muscogean Indians. They were called Creeks by the English since they built their villages near creeks. There were three branches of Creek Indians in Georgia. They were called the Yamacraws around Savannah, the Lower Creeks around the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, and the Upper Creeks around the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. These Upper Creeks were sometimes called Red Sticks because they were the tribe stirred up by Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief, to fight against the white men.

A red stick was pulled from the bundle that he gave them each day to indicate the days until the war, but they also meant the direction of the enemy, and other events in their lives. Prior to the Creeks were the mound builders at Etowah whose times date back 1,000 years according to carbon-14 dating. The Creeks would not disturb the mounds, and held them in superstitious awe.

DeSoto, the Spanish explorer, stopped near Rome in June of 1540 in his search for gold. The English also advanced into the interior of Georgia, and they discovered the Cherokees, a branch of the Iroquois with a higher degree of civilization than the Creeks.

According to tradition, the Creeks and the Cherokees played a ball game for parts of the North Georgia Mountains at a place that has been named Ball Ground, Georgia. These ball games were called “little war” because of the fierceness of the struggle. The Upper Creeks lost and moved westward. The Lower Creeks and Cherokees established several villages throughout this area of Georgia. The line that divided the Lower Creeks and the Cherokees ran approximately from Elberton to Atlanta to Cedartown.

One of the local traditions is that a group of the Cherokees was named the Eujala. The small creek that supplies our water was named after this tribe, Euharlee. Another local tradition is that this creek is named for a chief who lived at Hightower Falls, the source of the water for this creek along with eleven springs. Euharlee means, “she laughs as she runs.”

White men moved into this area to set up trading posts near the established Creek and Cherokee villages. These people were required to have permits to even be on Indian lands. As more whites moved into this area, a mail route was established between trading posts to what is now Cave Spring, Georgia and Vann Valley.

Mail was delivered by horseback over an old Indian trail in 1800’s once a week for forty-four cents a letter. The village here was named Clean Town. To the west the Indian village was called Charley’s Town near the Big Spring in Cedartown.

Two things sealed the fate of the Cherokee Nation. In the first place, the federal government promised in April of 1802 to move the Cherokee Indians upon Georgia’s sale of its western lands to the federal government for $1,250,000. Secondly, the discovery of gold on Cherokee land in 1829 brought further demands from white settlers in Georgia that they be removed.

The Cherokee Purchase Treaty of 1832 was signed by Major John Ridge, a full-blooded Cherokee Chief whose former home is now called the Chieftain Museum in Rome; his son, John Ridge; and his nephew, Elias Boudinet. These men were later murdered by the Cherokees on June 22, 1839 in Oklahoma. Earlier, the Creeks also killed one of their chiefs, William McIntosh of Carroll County who sold land to the state of Georgia. General Winfield Scott was sent by the federal government to remove the Cherokees. In March of 1834 the first expedition of Cherokees who started for what is now Chattanooga.

Of the over 14,000 Cherokees who started out from Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, on October 20, 1838, more than four-thousand died in what has been called the “Trail of Tears”. At the time of the Cherokee removal, there had been seven treaties in the one hundred years between the white man and the Cherokee Nation, and the white man broke all seven.

Megis County, Tennessee has now proposed to build a memorial to the Cherokees with, among other things, a large marker shaped like a Cherokee star that will include the names of 7,000 Cherokees who were forced to leave this part of the country from Oklahoma.

The lottery for Indian lands was held by the state of Georgia. Tickets of one hundred sixty acres for farm land and forty acres for gold lands were drawn and sold. A man might buy other people’s lottery tickets, and many did to amass large plantations. In Paulding County most of the lots were forty acre lots except near Cobb County where they were sixty acres.

The surveyors made some mistakes so adjustments had to be made. Original deeds bear this out.

The names given to this area by white men commemorate an event of the Revolutionary War. On the night of September 22, 1780 at 9:30 p.m., three Westchester County farm boys, members of the New York Militia, had permission to stop “cowboys” or cattle rustlers on Old Post Road outside of Tarrytown, New York. John Paulding, Issac Van Wert, and David Williams were to guard the road.

One patrolled the road while the other two played cards in the bushes. A man dressed, in fine clothes and with new boots came riding by on a good horse. After conversing with the man and seeing his new boots, John Paulding ordered the man into the bushes to be strip searched. In his boot was a paper written by Benedict Arnold, the traitorous commander of West Point. John Paulding, who was said to be able to “read writing,” and the other two captured Major John André of the English Army.

André made the mistake of offering the men a bribe of his gold watch, the men refused and took Major to headquarters in North Castle (Foster 26). André who pleaded with General Washington not hang him as a spy but to shoot him as befitting a soldier was hanged. Washington wrote André’s mother and sister in England to tell them of André’s bravery facing his death. Major John André’s body was returned to England after the Revolutionary War.

Paulding was the name given to this section of the original Cherokee lands. A survey of Cherokee lands was made under Governor Wilson Lumpkin, who ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling that Georgia could exercise no law over the Cherokee Nation.

On December 3, 1832, new counties were formed from the original Cherokee County of the survey: Forsyth, Cobb, Cherokee, Cass, Murray, Union, Lumpkin, Gilmer, Union, and Paulding received its charter late in 1838 by the Indians, George R. Gilmer, who was serving his second term as governor.

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