For more than a century, the large area of Hamilton County which goes by the name of East Brainerd (as opposed to the smaller area formerly called Concord) went by the name of Chickamauga. Even after this part of the county began dividing into smaller communities, as a whole it was called Chickamauga well into the 20th century. The name Chickamauga dates from the Cherokee occupation of the area, though the word itself is not Cherokee.
Though many others have speculated that the word “Chickamauga” (along with “Chattanooga”) is derived from one of the Muscogean languages, James Mooney stated in one of his reports to the Bureau of Ethnology that it is Shawnee. After all, it was a delegation of Shawnee to the Cherokee who recommended the location to the militant Cherokee during the American Revolution in the first place. That location is in the Brainerd Heights-Wrinkletown-Shepherd area from South Chickamauga Creek to the airport.
The former community of Chicamacomico in North Carolina and Chicamacomico Creek in Maryland were in areas inhabited by Indians speaking languages from the Algonquian family, to which Shawnee belongs. There is another Chickamauga Creek on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in northeast Georgia. In nearby Polk County, Tennessee, is a ford over the Hiwassee River called Savannah Ford, one of the names of the Shawnee.
Even though most people are more familiar with Cherokee occupation of the Hamilton County region because it continued well into written historical times, their residence was comparatively short and arrival very late. For centuries, even millennia, the area was occupied by speakers of what became Muscogean (Creek) languages.
The first humans in East Brainerd proper of which there were any remains lived during the Woodland period (1000 BCE to 1000 CE). Unlike the later Mississippian period, mound complexes during the Woodland period served strictly ceremonial purposes and were almost never inhabited. Instead they were central to groups of hamlets and villages. Hunting, gathering, and small-scale horticulture fed inhabitants.
In the East Brainerd-Graysville area, there was a ceremonial complex in the area where Council Fire was built with at least four sizable burial mounds, each at least twelve feet high, three on the former Blackwell farm and one on the adjacent former Julian farm. The mounds, by the way, had been destroyed long before the subdivision and golf course were built.
Downstream, near the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek, was another Woodland period ceremonial complex, of which one remains, the Roxbury Mound. A larger and much more significant Woodland mound complex lies on West Chickamauga Creek near the Crystal Springs in Chickamauga, Georgia.
When archaeologist C.B. Moore published his study of Southeast archaeology in 1913, he counted over 300 such mounds in Hamilton County. Only a handful remain. Of the Woodland mound complex at the foot of Moccasin Bend, only the base of Pine Breeze Mound remains.
The Late Woodland period (500-1000) in Hamilton County was the most important phase of the Woodland period not only because that was its most populous phase, but because it developed its own cultural complex which spread to other regions in the Southeast.
A handful of sites in the eastern U.S. document the in-situ transition between the Woodland period and Mississippian periods. The land where Heritage Landing now lies was one such site before construction of the townhouses there now. Its former inhabitants most likely crossed the river and became the founders of the substantial site at Citico.
During the Mississippian period (900-1600 CE), the population grew exponentially largely due to advances in agriculture and introduction of maize. Social structures became more complex and stratified. Villages became towns which were palisaded.
Burial mounds still existed but were less important, and were included inside towns. The newer, larger platform mounds replaced them in importance and dominated each of the towns. These were used for religious ceremonies with burials inside them only occasionally. They within the palisade at the head of the town plaza. Generally, there was one large platform mound per town, but some few had more than one, as was the case in the Chattanooga region at Hiwassee, Citico, and Long Island.
These towns with platform mounds were the dominant political entities of the Mississippian world. Usually smaller villages and hamlets were subordinate to them, and they were governed by a highly-stratified upper class. Chiefdoms were hereditary. Groups of chiefdoms were in turn dominated by paramount chiefdoms, of which there were only a handful. The middle phase in particular also saw the rise of the priestly class, with the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex spreading across the region from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico.
These features were true for the Early (900-1200) and Middle (1200-1400) phases of the Mississippian period.
Important area towns in the Early and Middle Mississippian periods were at the Hiwassee Island, Sale Creek, Davis (half mile upstream from Harrison), Hixson (Chester Frost Park), Yarnell (later town of Harrison), Citico, Talimico (Williams Island), Sequatchie, and Long Island sites. There may have also been a Middle Mississippian town at the David Davis site where the Vulcan Recreational Center and FedEx shipping center are now, which also contained evidence of extensive Woodland period occupation.
Of these, the Citico on the Tennessee-American Water Company property was by far the most important and longest lasting, physical and historical evidence demonstrating continued occupation at least thru the contact period. There is no question among archaeologists that is was the dominant town politically and culturally in the region, maybe in East Tennessee.
The Hiwassee Island, Yarnell, and Talimico sites also show some evidence of continuing Late Mississippian habitation.
The Davis, Hixon, and Yarnell (or Dallas) sites demonstrate consecutive occupation, meaning the same group established Davis, moved across river to Hixon (coinciding with the rise of the paramount chiefdom at Etowah), then returned to the south side of the river to the Yarnell, or Dallas, site.
Hiwassee Island shows continuous occupation from the earliest Woodland years to historic times. Talimico on Williams Island was occupied during the Early and Middle Mississippian periods, the population then shifted largely to Hampton Place on Moccasin Bend, though a small contingent remained.
During the Middle Mississippian phase, the towns of North Georgia, Southeast and East Tennessee, and Northeast Alabama were dominated by the paramount chiefdom at the Etowah Mounds site. De Soto’s chroniclers called the abandoned town of Talimachusi, its inhabitants, the Itawa, being much reduced and relocated several miles downriver.
With the collapse of Itawa, the town of Coosa rose up in its place to dominate the towns it formerly dominated. Coosa was located at the Little Egypt site which the Cherokee had called Coosawattee, or Old Coosa Place. It is now under Carter’s Lake. In historical times, the Coosa, relocated to North Alabama, merged with the Abhika town of the Muscogee Confederacy.
In the Late Mississippian period (1400-1600), towns grew smaller, there was less to differentiate social classes, and platform mounds vanished entirely unless their original sites were still in use.
During this final phase of the Mississippian period, a sizable town occupied the west bank area of what is now Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary at Audobon Acres. The other two town-sites in the area known to have been occupied at the time of contact were the then much-reduced Citicotownsite and at the Hampton Place site on Moccasin Bend. From the chroniclers of the journeys into the interior of Tristan de Luna from Ochuse (Pensacola) in 1559 and of Juan Pardo from Santa Elena (Parris Island) in 1567, we know which towns they were.
In De Luna’s expedition, the Spanish journeyed into the Hamilton County area as allies of the town of Coosa, the paramount chiefdom of Northwest Georgia-Southeast Tennessee-Northeast Alabama. They and their Coosa allies came to put down a rebellion by the “Napochis”, who stopped paying tribute.
When they came upon the town at the Audobon site, it had just been abandoned, so they burned it. The two groups chased the refugees to the town at Citico, where they and the inhabitants fled across the “big water” (Tennessee River) above Maclellan Island. Once across, those in flight joined confederates from the Hampton Place town on the north bank. In the end, the rebellious “Napochis” agreed to resume paying tribute and the conflict ended.
The Late Mississippian site at Hampton Place has produced more 16th century Spanish artifacts than the entire rest of the United States east of the Mississippi combined.
In Juan Pardo’s second expedition, while stopping on his way to Coosa from Satapo (on the Little Tennessee River), he is told that two days away is the town of Tasqui and beyond that Tasquiqui, and a town called Olitifar that had been burned.
“Olitifar” can only be the Audobon site, making it likely that Tasqui referred to the Citico site at Chattanooga and Tasquiqui meant the Hampton Place site. When the militant Cherokee arrived in 1777, they called Williams Island Tuskegee Island.
Olitifar could easily be a Spanish corruption of the Muscogee name Opelika, which was the post office in the vicinity of the later Graysville, Georgia, after the Cherokee Removal until 1849. As in the case of Running Water, Tennessee (now Whiteside), Opelika was taken from what the Cherokee called their dispersed settlement in the East Brainerd-Graysville area.
De Luna’s expedition with the Coosa ended Late Mississippian occupation of Audobon and the later Chickamauga. When Pardo’s expedition passed thru East Tennessee on its way to Coosa, Opelika clearly had not been reinhabited. Large scale habitation in the did not reoccur in the Chickamauga-East Brainerd area until the American Revolution.
Early historical period
At the beginning of the 1700’s, the immediate region around Chattanooga-Hamilton County was largely deserted, except for its periphery.
To the northeast, the Cherokee who had previously inhabited only the towns of Great Tellico and Chatuga in the late 17th century had moved into the Little Tennessee Valley and along the middle Hiwassee River. Nearly all the towns of the Late Mississippian period such as Coosa at Carter’s Lake in Murray County, Georgia, had been abandoned for a century as those peoples moved west and became the founder of the Muscogee Confederacy.
The Yuchi (Chisca to the Spanish conquistadors and Tahogale to the French via the Shawnee) occupied several towns in the vicinity of the lower Hiwassee River: Chestowee at the mouth of Mouse Creek, Euchee Old Fields in Rhea County, Ledford Island in the Hiwassee and mostly importantly Hiwassee Island at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee.
Those Tuskegee (Tasquiqui) who had not migrated northeast to join the Cherokee of the Overhill Towns on the Little Tennessee River lived on the island which later bore their name and later became Williams Island.
The Tali lived on Burns Island and were probably ultimately absorbed by the Coushatta, or Koasati later in the century.
At some time between the journeys of Pardo and the 18th century, the Coushatta lived along the Tennessee River at Nickajack, which derives the Cherokee Ani-Kusati-yi, or Old Coushatta Place. Several witnesses from the early 1700’s place them at the head of Long Island, at the site of the former large town of the Middle phase of the Mississippian period.
When first encountered by Europeans (De Soto’s expedition), the Casqui dwelt in the lower Missouri Valley and were in constant warfare with the Pacaha. By the French explorations of the Mississippi Valley in the late 1600’s, the Casqui had crossed the bigger river to live at the mouth of the Tennessee River. In the early 1700’s, known then by the name Kaskinampo, they lived at the foot of Long Island and later merged with the Coushatta.
Driven south by the chaos of the Beaver Wars, the Chillicothe and Kispoko bands of Shawnee lived in the Cumberland Basin from the mid-1600’s. However, a new influx of Shawnee from the Hathawekela band formerly on the Savannah River into the region in the late 17th-early 18th centuries threatened the balance of power. The Chickasaw and Cherokee therefore joined forces to drive them out and had done so by 1729.
By agreement with the Cherokee, a group of Shawnee from the Pekowi band moved to the Cumberland Basin in 1746, but the Chickasaw drove them out by 1756. This helped precipitate the Cherokee-Chickasaw War (1758-1769), which began during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which in turn included the Anglo-Cherokee War ( 1758-1761). The Cherokee-Muscogee War (1753-1755) took place around the same time.
As a result of all these wars, the peoples living along the Tennessee River below Chattanooga fled to other parts. The Tuskegee and the Tali joined the Muscogee Confederacy and became part of the Upper Towns. The Coushatta, who had by then absorbed their Kaskinamponeighbors, split, one part joining the Muscogee, another living in an independent town called Coosada at the later Larkin’s Landing south of Scottsboro, Alabama.
During the French and Indian War, a party of Muscogee under Big Mortar had reoccupied the old town-site at Coosawattee in support of the pro-French among the Cherokee, but after the latter’s defeat in the Anglo-Cherokee War had abandoned it again.
Regarding the Yuchi in the lower Hiwassee Valley, they deserted their towns in 1714 after a war party of Cherokee from Great Hiwassee destroyed Chestowee. The Cherokee did so at the instigation of two English traders named Long and Wiggan. After intervention by South Carolina authorities, peace was almost immediately restored, but the Yuchi moved south to live along the upper Chickamauga, Conasauga, and Pinelog Creeks.
In the meantime, the French were intent on pressing their claims to La Louisane against those of the Spanish to the northern regions of La Florida and the English to Carolana (as opposed to Carolina), the territory between the Carolinas and New Spain. At the Great Salt Lick on the Cumberland River, they founded Fort Charleville in 1715, with a forward post on Long Island between the Coushatta and Kaskinampo. These were abandoned at the end of the French and Indian War.
The Chickamauga Wars, 1776-1794
In 1776, a delegation of northern Indians led by Cornstalk of the Shawnee (who by now had all gathered in the Ohio country) visited with the Cherokee in the Overhill Towns on the Little Tennessee River, convincing at least a part of them, mostly the younger warriors, to join the fight against the colonials. The headman of Great Island Town, Dragging Canoe, led the warriors who answered their call.
Dragging Canoe and his warriors fought as allies of Great Britain as well as members of what later came to be the Western Confederacy. The British war effort was aimed at keeping control of their colonies. The nations of the Western Confederacy fought against encroachment by settlers extending or leaving the colonies. The Cherokee’s foremost Indian allies were the Upper Muscogee and the Shawnee.
In their plan of attack, warriors from the Middle, Valley, and Out Towns of western North Carolina targeted the Carolinas and warriors from the Lower Towns in northwest South Carolina-northeast Georgia targeted those two colonies. The chief targets of the warriors from the Overhill Towns were the settlements in the Districts of Washington (on the Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers) and Pendelton (North-of-Holston River) and in Carter’s Valley (modern Hawkins County).
Because their plans were betrayed to the settlers by Nancy Ward, the attacks proved disastrous for the Cherokee.
In the aftermath of the debacle, the militant warriors and their families, not only from the Overhills but also from the Middle, Valley, Out, and Lower Towns made the decision to relocate. The Lower Towns were evacuated entirely, their former inhabitants shifting west to North Georgia, where they founded new towns such as Conasauga, Ustanali, and Etowah.
The region to which Dragging Canoe’s band relocated was chosen at the suggestion of their Shawnee allies. In all there were eleven “Chickamauga towns” established in 1777. John McDonald, assistant to Alexander Cameron, Britain’s Deputy Superintendent for Indian Affairs (Superintendent at the time was John Stuart), had already transferred to the area, where he ran a trading post and supply depot on the grounds that later became Brainerd Mission. The post served as a relay station between the British West Florida capital at Pensacola and the interior. Cameron came with the Cherokee.
Four of the new towns lay along South Chickamauga Creek, including the town of Chickamauga in the area of Brainerd Heights-Wrinkletown across the stream from McDonald’s commissary where a branch of the Great Indian Warpath crossed it. Another was Opelika in the East Brainerd-Graysville area, then Buffalo Town in the vicinity of Ringgold, Georgia, and Toqua at its mouth on the Tennessee River.
The Great Indian Warpath was the chief north-south route travelled by Eastern Indians for centuries, from Mobile to Newfoundland. Not a single trail but rather a network of trails, it entered the Chattanooga region from the west over the lap of Lookout Mountain. Once in Chattanooga Valley, it continued to the Mississippian period (900-1600) site at the mouth of Citico Creek, where it split, the northern branch along what became Chattanooga-Cleveland Pike (later Bonny Oaks Drive) heading toward Dead Man’s Gap past Ooltewah.
The southern branch headed across the valley, ascending the west side of Missionary Ridge, where it forked again. One fork went to the Shallow Ford (at Lakewood Memorial Gardens East), rejoining the first northern route about where Jersey Pike intersects with Bonny Oaks Drive. The other fork followed the later Bird’s Mill/Brainerd Road until fording South Chickamauga Creek where Bird had his Mill. Once across the South Chickamauga, it kept to the route now followed by Chickamauga and Airport Roads until intersecting with the trail from the Shallow Ford.
The Cherokee also occupied the prehistoric sites at the mouth of Citico Creek and on Tuskegee (Williams) Island, Black Fox (in Bradley County), Ooltewah, Sawtee (on North Chickamauga, or Laurel, Creek), Chatanuga (St. Elmo), and Cayuga (on Hiwassee Island).
Along with Great Tellico and Chatuga, the towns along the Hiwassee unanimously supported the war effort. Some of the Hiwassee people occupied the Coosawattee town-site as a base along with other Cherokee.
Later referred to as Old Chickamauga Town, the chief town’s headman was Big Fool, though Dragging Canoe made his headquarters there. Because of this, the entire surrounding region became known as Chickamauga, and the militant Cherokee often referred to as Chickamaugas, though they were never at any time a separate tribe. The Chickamauga Towns were nothing more than another group of Cherokee towns like the Overhills, Middle, and Valley Towns.
In 1779, while Dragging Canoe and McDonald were leading the Cherokee and 50 Loyalist Rangers in attacks on South Carolina and Georgia, militia from the Upper East Tennessee settlements led by Evan Shelby and John Montgomery attacked the area. They burned all eleven towns and McDonald’s depot, destroyed much of their food stores, and confiscated what they could carry.
After they were finished, they crossed the Tennessee River and marched north until the trail crossed a large creek. Here, they camped to divide the goods, putting the most prized up for auction. And that’s how Sale Creek got its name.
The returning warriors and their families quickly rebuilt their towns and they exchanged with their Shawnee allies contingents of 100 warriors each as a sign of faith.
In 1782, an expedition of frontiersmen under John Sevier destroyed all the Chickamauga towns east of South Chickamauga Creek south to Ustanali. However, all the towns were completely deserted because the militant Cherokee had already transferred to new homes. The area remained devoid of permanent habitation until the end of the wars.
It’s important to note that the expedition never crossed South Chickamauga Creek and that there was no “Last Battle of the Revolution” on the slopes of Lookout Mountain. That idea was ridiculed at the time it first surfaced by no less than President Theodore Roosevelt and came out of a real estate development scheme. Such a skirmish did, in fact, take place, but later in 1788 rather than 1782, and it was the frontiersmen who were routed rather than the Cherokee.
The area to which the Cherokee transferred soon became known as the Five Lower Towns, because initially there were five, though later there were many more. The initial five included Running Water (at the modern Whiteside), Nickajack, Stecoyee (at Trenton, Georgia), Long Island, and Crow Town, at the mouth of Crow Creek on the Tennessee.
Some of the later Lower Towns were Willstown (near Ft. Payne, Alabama), Turkeytown (near Centre, Alabama), Creek Path (near Guntersville, Alabama), Turnip Town (7 miles from Rome, Georgia), and Chatuga (at the site of Rome).
As his headquarters, Dragging Canoe chose Running Water. Its headman was Bloody Fellow, who was later succeeded by Turtle-at-Home, Dragging Canoe’s brother. Cameron and McDonald, now Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent, also made Running Water their base of operations. Not long after their move, their frontier antagonists began referring to them as the Lower Cherokee rather than as Chickamaugas.
After the Treaty of Paris in 1783, McDonald, by then Superintendent, relocated his own base of operations to Turkeytown to be closer to his newly-acquired Spanish supply lines to Pensacola. Spain still had ambitions on inland La Florida.
Dragging Canoe died in 1792, and John Watts succeeded him as leader of the Lower Cherokee, moving his base to Willstown. The Nickajack Expedition in September 1794, led by James Robertson and composed of U.S. Army regulars, Mero District (Middle Tennessee) militia, and Kentucky volunteers, became a massacre which forced an end to the Chickamauga Wars with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse in November.
Cherokee Nation East
In the years after the wars, the Cherokee were once again divided into five groups of towns: the Lower Towns, with their seat at Willstown; the Upper Towns, with their seat at Ustanali; the Overhills, with their seat at Chota; the Hill Towns, with their seat at Qualla; and the Valley Towns, with their seat at Tuskquitee. True, there was a National Council that met regularly at Ustanali, but the real power was in the regional councils until 1809.
The former Chickamauga towns were quickly reinhabited after the wars, including Toqua, Opelika, and, of course, Chickamauga, which was the most important. These reoccupied settlements were grouped among the Lower Towns. Tuskegee was moved from the island into what is now Wauhatchie, or Tiftonia, or Lookout Valley.
A Cherokee named John Jolly was headman of Cayuga town on Hiwassee Island, which was called Jolly’s Island for decades after the Cherokee Removal. His adopted son Sam Houston lived there for a time.
Several notable Cherokee made their homes in the East Brainerd-Graysville area, among them one of the Fields brothers and Alexander McCoy, secretary of the National Committee. The farms were strung out mostly along Mackey Branch, which they called Tsula Creek.
The Cherokee who lived there called their strung-out settlement Opelika, after the town which stood at the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary at Audobon Acres site until burned by Juan Pardo’s Spanish troops and their Coosa allies in 1559. The settlement included a stick-ball court where Heritage Park is now.
Besides Chickamauga and Opelika, there was another settlement along Hurricane Creek in the Parker’s Gap and Rabbit Valley neighborhood.
In 1805, the federal government built a road from Athens, Georgia, to Nashville, Tennessee that passed through Ross Gap north into Chattanooga Valley. John McDonald, who had returned to his former trading post to operate a farm, built a house and trading post in the gap and made his residence there. His house still exists, mistakenly called the Chief John Ross House. In fact, John Ross never lived there.
Coming south from Old Washington in Rhea County, the post road from Knoxville crossed at Vann’s Ferry, between the later Dallas and what would become Harrison. From Harrison, it followed Hickory Valley Road south until reaching the later point where Altamede later was built, then crossed from the west side of the valley to the east. From there, it followed Concord Road to the South Chickamauga, crossing at Lomenick’s Ferry. On the other side, it followed the route of Frawley and Scruggs Roads until connecting to the Federal Road.
The regional councils were abolished in 1809 and the National Council given real authority as the national government of the Cherokee. The office of Principal Chief likewise gained more authority and recognition.
In 1817, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had established a mission on McDonald’s farm on the South Chickamauga. The mission included a school for both male and female students, a grist mill somewhat upstream, and a church officially called the Church of Christ at Chickamauga. The road from Ross’ Landing on the Tennessee to the new mission became known as Mission Road.
Hamilton County was formed out of Rhea County in 1819, comprised of the modern county north of the Tennessee. Its seat was the town of Dallas, which lay where Chester Frost Park is now, at the point where the post road from Old Washington in Rhea crossed at Vann’s Ferry.
Real governmental reform came to the Cherokee Nation in 1820, with the establishment of a bicameral legislature, with a National Committee as the upper house and the National Council as the lower house. In addition, the Cherokee Nation was divided up into eight judicial and legislative districts. Most importantly, government was centered at a new capital named New Echota, freshly built upon the former town of Conasauga in the Calhoun, Georgia area.
Everything in the counties of Hamilton and Marion south of the Tennessee River and Ooltewah Creek, most of Northwest Georgia, and a tip of Northeast Alabama east of the Tennessee fell into the Chickamauga District, including the last capital of the Cherokee Nation East at Red Clay. Its seat was not, as one might think, at the town of Chickamauga, but at Crawfish Springs, where the Georgia town of Chickamauga has been since 1891. Each district had its own judge and court and its own legislative delegation.
The judge for the Chickamauga District was John Brown, owner of Brown’s Tavern, Brown’s Ferry, and Brown’s Landing (some distance upriver from the ferry). Judge Brown owned most of Moccasin Bend as well as Tuskegee Island, which came to be called Brown’s Island. After the treaty of 1819 which ceded the land north of the Tennessee River upon which Hamilton County was founded, Brown maintained a 640-acre reserve on Moccasin Bend which he later sold to Ephraim Hixon.
Judge Brown became one of the Old Settlers in the 1820’s, those Cherokee who voluntarily removed westward long before forced removal became a question. In 1839, he served for a few months as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation West.
The first post office in the region, even before Hamilton County (created in 1819 out of Rhea County and at the time comprised only the territory north of the river) had one, was called Rossville in 1927. It ran out of John McDonald’s trading post along the Federal Road, with Joseph Coody as postmaster, then Nicholas Scales, before it transferred to the mission and became Brainerd. That post office ceased existence in 1838 when the U.S. Army began rounding up Cherokee for removal and the mission closed.
Without getting into the politics of it, there were two concentration camps in Hamilton County for Cherokee awaiting Removal. The largest was near Ross’ Landing and was called Camp Cherokee; it was located where the current Scrappy Moore Field and Manker-Patten Tennis Courts are now. The other was Camp Clanewaugh at Indian Springs (at Parkwood Nursing Home). The soldiers were housed at Fort Wood, located where the school building now housing Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences is.
Between the Cherokee Removal and the War
After the Removal was complete, people hungry for land poured across the Tennessee River to lay claim to plots in what surveyors called the Ocoee District. This included everything in Bradley and Polk Counties, and Hamilton and Marion Counties south of the river.
The seat of Hamilton County moved from Dallas north of the river to Vannsville south of it in 1839, which became Harrison in 1840.
Soon after frontierspeople or less adventurous settlers moved into a new area, they often continued referring to it by the names its previous inhabitants had used, such as Opelika for the later Graysville, Georgia, and Running Water for the later Whiteside. Chattanooga derived from the name of a Cherokee settlement in the Saint Elmo area.
The name Chickamauga disappeared from Georgia when citizens of that state began pouring lands distributed by the Georgia Lottery. However, when the citizens of Walker County first met they did so in the former courthouse of the Chickamauga District, before the county seat was moved to the city of Lafayette.
Though it disappeared entirely from Georgia, the new incomers in Tennessee applied the name Chickamauga to churches, post offices, and communities due to the prestige of those who carried out the Cherokee resistance. This began even before the Removal when Ephraim Hixon supervised a post office north of the Tennessee called North Chickamauga in the early 1830’s.
What had been Old Chickamauga Town came into the possession of the Steel brothers, who named their large farm Vinegar Hill and planted it in strawberries.
Unquestionably, the greatest landowner in Hamilton County east of South Chickamauga Creek was Col. Lewis Shepherd, who built a mansion he named Altamede on the west side of Hickory Valley and owned 6400 adjacent acres plus numerous detached plots. Altamede stood inside the circle formed by Dupree Road and Mary Dupree Drive until 1977. Col. Shepherd chose the point at which the post road, later stage road, turned to cross the valley, establishing a post office called Hickory Valley there in 1840.
The first Baptist Church in Hamilton County was founded in April 1838 called Good Springs Baptist after the Silverdale Springs. It was established on land donated by Col. Shepherd across the main road from what later became the village of Tyner.
Some five months later, a second Baptist Church was founded, next to Taliaferro Spring near what became Kings Point, and named Chickamauga Baptist.
At the afore-mentioned Silverdale Springs was a campground shared by both Cumberland Presbyterians and Methodists was called Cumberland Campground at least through the Civil War. In 1839, the first group organized Chickamauga Cumberland Presbyterian. Five years later, the Methodists built House’s Chapel at the campgrounds.
Though his main residence was in McLemore’s Cove in Walker County, Georgia, Philemon Bird bought the old mission and all its “improvements”, including the Missionary Mill. The grounds of the mission became a farm, while Bird constructed a larger mill closer to the main road which now became known as Bird’s Mill Road. In addition to being renamed, the road extended further eastward well into the heart of Concord community.
The richest man in the Concord community after Col. Shepherd was Anderson S. Wilkins, whose mansion stood where the I-75/East Brainerd Road cloverleaf is now. According church records, unorganized Baptists began meeting in a small log cabin in 1838. In 1848, they formally organized as the Baptist Church of Christ at Concord and moved into their new building on land donated by Mr. Wilkins.
Before the War, there was another establishment in Concord of the type euphemistically called a meeting house, at approximately the spot where East Brainerd Church of Christ now stands. In reality, it was a tavern, more like a pub than a dive, however.
In the Opelika community, which straddled the state-line, Methodists had been meeting periodically since William Blackwell made his home in 1832 at what is now Council Fire subdivision and golf course. In 1849, his son Lyndsey, whose house stood at what is now the corner of Julian and Davidson Roads, donated a parcel of land upon which to build a church, which became Blackwell’s Chapel Methodist.
The same year, Opelika became the home of one of the most important industrialists in its history, as well as that of city of Chattanooga, the state of Georgia, and the railroad industry in the South. By 1849, John D. Gray’s company had built or been involved in nearly all of the railroads built in Georgia. He moved his family to Opelika while he was building the section of the Western & Atlantic Railroad between Dalton and Chattanooga, even before his company had started the tunnel through Cheetoogeta Mountain.
Naturally, the stop at Opelika was named Graysville, which became the name of its post office as well as of the company town which Gray proceeded to build. Gray Mining and Manufacturing eventually operated a lime mine and kiln, a furniture factory, a barrel factory, and a gristmill.
In 1850, the tunnel through Cheetoogeta Mountain was completed, as well as the rail line to the city of Chattanooga. Coming from Graysville, Georgia, the first station in Hamilton County had been built in an area known to residents as Pull Tight. In honor of local history, the stop was named Chickamauga. A village quickly grew up around it, by the Civil War containing the Finley General Store, Ellis Bros. General Store, a grocery, and a saloon. The post office contributed to use of the name for the local area well into the 20th century.
The W&A line into Chattanooga crossed the South Chickamauga beyond Chickamauga Station, and the point on the west bank at which it crossed the Harrison Turnpike became home to Boyce Station. A thriving village whose industries relied on water power soon sprang up.
The Vinegar Hill neighborhood at the former Old Chickamauga Town began to be called Ellis’ Crossing, after the point at which Bird’s Mill Road crossed the railroad tracks.
One of the early leaders of Hamilton County after its organization in 1819 was Samuel T. Igou, who among other enterprises owned a ferry across the Tennessee. After the Removal, he made his home in Rabbit Valley at the foot of Whiteoak Ridge near Igou Gap, the next gap north of Perker’s Gap.
In 1851, local inhabitants founded West View Cumberland Presbyterian upon land that Igou donated, naming their church after his large farm. They had previously been holding meetings at Chickamauga Campground, which later became Ryall Springs.
Henry Massengale donated a plot of land in the village of Boyce on the west bank of the South Chickamauga to Chickamauga Baptist Church in 1856. The church was across the turnpike from the station, between the railroad and the creek.
John D. Gray finished construction of the Chattanooga-Cleveland link to the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad in 1858. The station in the community of Good Spring took the name Tyner after the railroad engineer who built it. At the time the war broke out, Tyner was also home to Varnell General Store, Rawlings General Store, Springfield Bros. Grocery, and a saloon.
Gray’s plans for the Harrison-Lafayette Railroad were interrupted, permanently it turned out, by the advent of the Civil War, robbing Concord community of the Johnson whistle-stop which had been planned for it. Gray was also instrumental, by the way, in construction of the Nashville & Chattanooga, Memphis & Charleston, and Wills Valley Railroads into Chattanooga.
The War Between the States
In this section, keep in mind that the Army of Tennessee named for the state is Confederate, while the Army of the Tennessee named for the river is Union.
The War effected the Chickamauga, Tennessee community only indirectly before 1863, at least in terms of destruction from combat. Both railroad bridges over the South Chickamauga (of the Western & Atlantic and the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroads) were burned in November 1861, and a Confederate guerrilla group first known as Osborne’s Scouts and later as Jenkins’ Scouts operated in the general area through at least part of the war.
The first two redoubts guarded Tyner Station, the second two Chickamauga Station, which was also protected by another redoubt on the hill to the north of it. In addition, one of the brigades of Cleburne’s Division built the redoubt guarding the county seat of Harrison.
Silverdale Confederate Cemetery contains the graves of around 155 soldiers who died in field hospitals in the area while the (Confederate) Army of the Mississippi stayed in the area 23 July-28 August 1862.
In the summer of 1863, the Army of Tennessee (redesignated from the Army of the Mississippi) stayed in the area from 4 July to 9 September. During this time, Maj. Gen. Pat Cleburne’s Division built a number of redoubts in the area, one of which still stands in the former village of Tyner. Three others formerly stood on Tyner Hill where the middle school is now, on Stein Hill exactly where the water tower stands, and on Dupree Hill where Grace Works Church is now.
Meanwhile, Forrest’s Cavalry Corps was headquartered at Bird’s Mill.
It was during this time that Cleburne and several others met at Gray's Mill to form the fraternal Comrades of the Southern Cross. This order became the forerunner of the United Confederate Veterans, parent of the later Sons of Confederate Veterans.
When Union general Wilder’s forces began shelling Chattanooga 21 August 1863 and attacking isolated landings and hamlets from Dallas to Old Washington in Rhea County, Bragg sent Cleburne’s Division to cover all the fords and ferries on the Tennessee River from the mouth of South Chickamauga to the Hiwassie River.
To help the beleaguered Army of Tennessee, Joe Johnston, general commanding of the Department of the West, sent two divisions to supplement its forces. Walker’s Division arrived 27 August and was sent to Chickamauga Station. Breckenridge’s Division arrived 2 September and was sent to Tyner’s Station.
In the retreat of the Army of Tennessee from the area on 7 September, Bragg sent the army’s newly created Reserve Corps, William Walker commanding, and Buckner’s Corps down the road to Ringgold via Graysville, right through the heart of the modern East Brainerd.
Highlighting the extent to which the name Chickamauga had disappeared from Georgia, the Confederates called the engagement which took place near Crawfish Springs in 1863 the Battle of Mud Flats, following their habit of naming battles by the nearest community. The Union, on the other hand, tended to name battles after nearby streams and called it the Battle of the Chickamauga, referring to West Chickamauga Creek.
During the siege of the Army of the Cumberland by the Army of Tennessee between the Battles of Mud Flats (of the Chickamauga) and of Chattanooga, the single-most important supply for the Confederates was at Chickamauga Station. Tyner Station served primarily as a departure point for troops joining the siege of the Army of the Ohio at Knoxville.
What most people don’t know about the action on 25 November 1863 is that the charge by the Army of the Cumberland which drove the Army of Tennessee from Missionary Ridge was supposed to be a feint. It was intended to relieve Sherman’s augmented 15th Corps of the Army of the Tennessee, which had been repeatedly driven back by Cleburne’s Division at the north end of the ridge called Tunnel Hill. To the end of the war, Cleburne’s “Blue Flag Division” carried a banner with “Tunnel Hill, Tn.” as one of its victories.
Chickamauga Station was the designated rendezvous point for the retreating forces after Gen. Bragg’s loss at Missionary Ridge. Cleburne’s Division, which had been sitting down to celebrate their victory when informed of the collapse, was tasked with covering the retreat eastward. In fact, Hardee’s Corps had remained intact, withdrawing in good order starting at 7:45 pm beginning with Cheatham’s Division, then Walker’s Division, then Stevenson’s Division, and finally Cleburne’s Division.
Sheridan’s division of the 4th Corps of the Army of the Cumberland was the only unit to pursue the fleeing Confederates more than a token distance, halting on the west side of the South Chickamauga Creek, with the general making his headquarters at Bird’s Mill the night of 25 November and his troops spread out across the former Brainerd Mission.
Little did President Lincoln realize how fortuitous the choice of 26 November would prove to be for the Thanksgiving Day he had proclaimed. His goal was to distract from the Union disaster at Mud Flats and the horrific casualties at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. That day the whole Army of Tennessee withdrew toward Ringgold, Georgia, in two columns from Chickamauga Station, with Gist’s Division serving as rear guard for Breckenridge’s column and Cleburne’s for Hardee’s.
Maney’s Brigade, temporarily detached to Cleburne’s Division and Gist’s Brigade of Walker’s Division were detailed to destroy the vast commissary stores at the depot, but there was too much. Lewis’ Orphan Brigade, also seconded to Cleburne formed the rear of the rear guard.
According to the Official Record of the War Between the States and letters from participating soldiers, there were four minor battles during the retreat that day.
The first took place at high noon at Chickamauga Station, between the forward element of Jefferson C. Davis’ division of the 12th Corps of the Army of the Cumberland (Morgan’s Brigade) and Lewis’ Orphan Brigade of Cleburne’s Division.
Howard’s 11thCorps of the Army of the Cumberland came up behind Davis’ troops, then headed east to Tyner’s Station, where they easily ran off the single Confederate regiment there.
The second was in Hickory Valley occurred along Shepherd’s Run (aka Hickory Creek), with the Confederates positioned on and at the foot of Concord Ridge. The fight was between Davis’ forward elements and the Orphan Brigade again.
The third was in Concord, or East Brainerd proper, near Mackey Branch, apparently then called Cat Creek. On the Confederate side, Maney’s Brigade lined up in what they thought was going to be a suicidal last stand facing Davis’ Union division. Meanwhile, Howard’s 11thCorps came down from Tyner, and Howard sent Steinwehr’s division to Davis’ right and Schurz’s division in reserve. Fortunately, Davis only sent two brigades forward to engage. The fight lasted but an hour as darkness was falling, and Maney’s Brigade gratefully withdrew.
The last, in the early evening, took place at Graysville, Georgia. Gist’s Brigade of Walker’s Division, which States Rights Gist was then commanding, stumbled upon the vanguard of Palmer’s 14thCorps of the Army of the Cumberland. After a brief exchange, Gist’s troops were able to escape via an alternate ford.
The next day, of course, Bragg’s army retreated to Dalton through Taylor’s Gap, with Cleburne’s Division successfully holding the narrow passage against those of Hooker’s Corps.
That winter, the Army of the Cumberland wintered in and around Chattanooga, including the eastern Chickamauga Valley. Several churches found themselves appropriated as hospitals, including Concord Baptist and Cumberland Baptist, both subsequently burned. In Concord, many of the Union dead were buried in what was then Wells Gray’s front yard, right about the spot where the Kimsey house now stands.
The base camp of the Department of the Cumberland remained in Chattanooga through 1866, mainly serving as home to its quartermaster corps and its First Colored Brigade.
Like everywhere that the war had touched, the Hamilton County area needed time to recover, and Chickamauga, Tennessee was no exception.
Concord and Chickamauga Baptist Churches were rebuilt in 1869, the first in its former location and the second back on the east side of the South Chickamauga at Thrower Springs, in the neighborhood then called Flint Hill. The formerly thriving community of Boyce had been entirely destroyed by the war.
Two years before in 1867, a new church had been built in the village of Chickamauga (as opposed to the wider community) called Chickamauga Chapel Baptist. Chickamauga remained the name of the station and of the post office it housed.
In 1871, greater Chickamauga, Tennessee became the easternmost section of Hamilton County when everything to the east seceded (legally) as James County. The new county line fell just west of Summit and at the state-line came to Blackwell’s Ford just west of Graysville, Georgia, which gave it a sliver of Concord.
The previous year the county seat had been moved from Harrison to Chattanooga, and the former seat went with the new county hoping to retain its status. Unfortunately for that town, the citizens of James County chose the town of Ooltewah as its seat.
Also in 1871, African-American children in the greater Chickamauga community gained another venue for their education when Chickamauga School was established nearby the rail station. The school remained on what was then known as Chickamauga Road until 1953.
After the war, John D. Gray had returned to Graysville and rebuilt many of his industries, including Gray’s Mill. Soon, the community and the neighboring Concord thrived. To be closer to its congregation, the members of Blackwell’s Chapel moved to the town and became Graysville Methodist in 1873.
In 1876, Chickamauga Cumberland Presbyterian changed its name to Pleasant Grove in order to match that of the school which had been meeting there for the previous two years.
Concord community had maintained school in its building since it first met as an unorganized congregation in 1838. In 1878, the county established a school on the property of Dr. Mackey where Heritage Park is now, which became known as Mackie School.
House’s Chapel moved to its present location and became Tyner Methodist in 1880.
Though the region had lost Boyce Station during the war, the East Tennessee, Virginia, & Georgia Railway had established Jersey Station couple of miles west of Tyner at about the place where Jersey Pike crosses the tracks. The land was purchased from the estate of Capt. C.S. Peak named Bonny Oaks. Sometime later the same railroad built McCarty Station on the west bank of the South Chickamauga at the end of its bridge near Lightfoot’s Mill.
West of the South Chickamauga along Bird’s Mill Road, communities grew up around the Sunnyside farm of Judge R.B. Cooke, the Belvoir farm of Col. W.R. Crabtree, and the Dutchtown dairy of Jacob Kellerhals. Towards the end of the 19th century, a village grew up just north of these called Hornville.
The Flint Hill School which Chickamauga Baptist was sharing quarters with burned down in 1888, and the church began meeting in Kings Point School. The Kings Point village had just recently been built by John King, owner of the Toqua plantation on the east bank of the South Chickamauga across from the Amnicola plantation of the Crutchfield family. Chickamauga Baptist now served both communities of Kings Point and Jersey.
Walnut Grove School, direct antecedent of the modern East Brainerd School, began classes at its original location on what’s now South Gunbarrel Road in 1889. In the same year, Pleasant Grove Cumberland Presbyterian got a close neighbor with the founding of Silverdale Baptist. Also, Chickamauga Quarry and Construction began operations; Vulcan Materials of Louisiana bought it in 1956.
The year 1890 was pivotal for the Chattanooga region and for the wider Chickamauga community of Hamilton County. In that year, a bilateral group of Union and Confederate veterans obtained a charter for a national military park at the battlefield in Walker County upon which so many from both sides died 19-20 September 1863. Since Union veterans from the Society of the Army of the Cumberland had taken the lead, it became Chickamauga Battlefield, which has a better ring than Mud Flats.
In 1891, the Chattanooga, Rome, & Columbus Railroad built a station near the small village of Crawfish Springs which it named Chickamauga, despite the much older like-named station still operating on what was by then the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad. At the same time, the village of Crawfish Springs incorporated itself as Chickamauga, Georgia.
A railroad engineer named W.T. Worley, who lived in Concord community in a house he named Worleyanna where the old tavern had stood, laid out the streets for a new village near Ellis’ Crossing in 1897 as well as a post office and whistle-stop on the Nashville, Chattanooga, & St. Louis railway. Both took his name, in the form of Whorley, as did the local Masonic lodge organized at Concord Baptist. Whorley Lodge survived much longer.
Though the original Chickamauga Station continued operating under that name well into the 20th century, its post office changed its name to Shepherd P.O. in 1898.
In that year, the residents of Lizard Lope east of Concord frustrated with the distance to Walnut Grove School, which had replaced the more centrally-located Mackie School, started Morris Hill School, so named for the family which donated the land.
The following year, 1899, Chickamauga Baptist moved out of Kings Point School to a new home at the corner of Harrison Turnpike and Shot Hollow Road. At the other end of the latter road, close to its intersection with the road between Tyner and Harrison, an African-American farming community had grown up under the name Shot Hollow.
On Hickory Valley Road north of Chattanooga-Cleveland Pike (now Bonny Oaks Drive), lay another African-American community called Hawkinsville. Directly north of Shot Hollow, along the Tennessee River, was the incorporated African-American town of Turkey Foot, which had its own churches, businesses, town hall, and public school. The land upon which Turkey Foot was built had previously been owned by the Shepherds of Altamede.
The 20th century
At the dawn of the 20th century, Jim Crow was in full force across the South, and school segregation was the law in Tennessee. Turkey Foot School was strictly for African-American children, as was the long-established Chickamauga School. For white children, there were Walnut Grove, Morris Hill, Kings Point, Tyner, Silverdale, Kings Point, and Jersey Schools, most of them one-room.
In 1902, Chickamauga Chapel Baptist became Chickamauga Station Baptist.
Chickamauga School moved from its first location on Chickamauga Road near Wrinkletown to beside the rail station in1904.
The region’s first secondary school was Tyner High, built on top of one of Cleburne’s redoubts in 1906. It added 7th and 8th grades in 1932.
In 1908, Chickamauga Chapel became Shepherd Baptist.
A Baptist congregation began meeting in Morris Hill School in 1909. That same year, the residents of Hornville adopted the name Eastdale.
The African-American community of Hawkinsville organized a congregation of the Missionary Baptist Church in 1910. Hawkinsville’s children attended Chickamauga School.
In 1912, William T. Walker donated a plot of land across Bird’s Mill Road from his home where Heritage Funeral home is now for a new building for Walnut Grove School.
Morris Hill Baptist moved into its own building in 1914. The school moved east down Parker’s Gap Road to become West View School, across from the Cumberland Presbyterian church.
Around the same time, Thomas Ryall, son of Lizard Lope/Morris Hill resident Liam Ryall, established a resort community called Ryall Springs at the old Cumberland Camp Ground.
Dixie Highway, the most significant development in land transportation to arrive since the railroads, opened up in 1915. A community quickly grew up along the stretch of the road between Missionary Ridge and the state-line along its route, formerly a stage road known as Ringgold Road. In 1921, residents of Smoky Row, Nickel Street, and Penny Row incorporated as East Ridge.
Two years previously, in 1919, James County went bankrupt and folded back into Hamilton County. Its last courthouse, built in 1913, still stands in Ooltewah.
In 1922, another major automobile route came through the area as Robert E. Lee Highway.
Shot Hollow community, whose children had been attending Turkey Foot School, finally received its own educational facility in 1924, when Booker T. Washington School was built. Washington School was actually a consolidation of schools at Turkey Foot, Magby Pond, and Tyner.
Olde Towne, Sunnyside, Belvoir, Dutchtown, and Mission communities organized themselves into a single unit in 1926, which they named Brainerd and included the old mission. It boundaries were defined as Missionary Ridge, South Chickamauga Creek, Eastdale, and East Ridge. Bird’s Mill Road adopted the name of the new community, adding the prefix East on the other side of the creek.
Walnut Grove School immediately adopted the new name of the road running through its community and became East Brainerd School. The side road next to it retained the name Walnut Grove Road until 1968, when it became North Joiner.
In 1927, Chickamauga Baptist became Oakwood Baptist and Shot Hollow Road became Oakwood Drive.
Across the tracks from Chickamauga Station, Lovell Field airport opened in 1930 to replace the much smaller Marr Field in East Chattanooga.
The same year Pleasant Grove church became Silverdale Cumberland Presbyterian.
Also in 1930, Booker T. Washington added a separate high school, which also took in pupils from Chickamauga School. Chickamauga School, until then serving students in grades 1 thru 8, switched to 1-6. Four years later in 1934, a single building housed both the elementary and high schools of Washington School.
It was in the 1930’s that the Brainerd Heights development was built atop Whorley village as well as Wrinkletown across Lee Highway.
Tyner and Silverdale Schools were consolidated in 1937 as Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, as were the Kings Point and Jersey Schools as Kings Point-Jersey Elementary.
The town of Turkey Foot was lost to the dam constructed by the TVA which closed its gates in 1940. Also in 1940, the U.S. Army removed the community of Hawkinsville and the main part of the village of Tyner (north of the railroad) to make room for its TNT plant. Hawkinsville relocated to Pinewood Drive and Kelley Road. Tyner residents moved either slightly to the south or eastward to Silverdale.
In 1948, Kings Point-Jersey moved into a new building as Hillcrest Elementary.
In 1953, Chickamauga Elementary moved to Shepherd Road.
Louisville & Nashville Railroad, which had a controlling interest in Nashville, Chattanooga, & St. Louis since 1880, closed several of its local stations in the mid- 20th century. In 1955, it shut down Chickamauga Station.
Shepherd P.O. likewise closed and its operations transferred to Chattanooga. Chattanooga P.O. opened a branch in the newly built Brainerd Hills Shopping Center and named it Chickamauga Station on the advice of later postmaster Frank Moore.
Also in 1955, Oakwood Baptist moved to its current location on Bonny Oaks Drive.
Booker T. Washington, whose community had by then taken on the name Washington Heights, moved into a brand new building in 1958, the current Washington Alternative School.
Due to growth in the nearby area and the construction of Lake Hills and Murray Hills subdivisions, Lakewood Elementary for white students was opened in 1959.
In late 1961, Southern Railway shut down its tiny whistle-stop Tyner Station.
Desegregation of the schools in both Chattanooga City and Hamilton County (then separate systems) began in 1962 and was, theoretically, complete by 1966. In the process, the high school at Booker T. Washington was closed and its students transferred to Tyner and, later, to Central. Its primary school was integrated, as was the other African-American primary school in the area, Chickamauga Elementary.
In 1972, the U.S. Postal Service closed its station at Tyner. Postal service from Tyner moved to Chattanooga, which routed its mail through its branch at Chickamauga Station in Brainerd Hills Shopping Center.
That Chickamauga Station moved to its current location on East Brainerd Road in 1984.
Chickamauga Elementary School closed its doors in 1987, the same year that Hamilton Place Mall opened its doors. At the time, it had been the one of the oldest continuing schools in the county, second only to Howard School.
The branch of Chattanooga Post Office called Chickamauga Station still operates, though its delivery service has been transferred to the Eastgate Postal Center.