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The Cherokee Indians


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Sandtown on the Chattahoochee River

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Sandtown, lower portion of the map.

Sandtown is located on the East side of the river just below a Paleoindian crossing at the island of Buzzard's Roost. For thousands of years, deer and bison were ambushed as they crossed the river at what was later called Baker's Ferry, near the confluence of the river and Utoy Creek (outflow was moved in the 1960s). Later Mississippian mound centers arose up and down both sides of the river until 1500s, only to be abandoned in light of the diseases brought by de Soto in 1541. During the Redstick War of 1813-14, Hillabee Creeks from Alabama arrived on the site to escape the ravages of war. They named the place after their village or town in Alabama, Sandtown. This village was located along the disputed boundary of the Creek and Cherokee nations and in 1818, Cherokee improvements upriver were raided and burned by Rolly McIntosh and a band of Creeks. In 1821, the two nations agreed on a boundary at Buzzard's Roost Island, along a line west to Alabama.


In 1824, at Indian Springs, William McIntosh, Creek Chief, sold most of the remaining Creek lands in Ga. and was summarily murdered by Menawa and other warriors. Several Cherokee, including Turkey, Peggy Anawakee and Sweet Water came into the disputed area along nearby Sweetwater Creek, leaving their names for Douglas County, Ga. streams into the Chattahoochee. Cherokee style cabins and gold miner's hovels can be found all along the Creek, attesting to the importance of the area during the 1829 gold rush.


About 1826, several families from McMinn County, Tennessee arrived at Sandtown for the specific purpose of operating a Pony Club between the Settlers of newly formed Dekalb and Carroll Counties and the Cherokee nation. By 1828, these families were forming the government of Carroll County, stealing from the Indians and venturing into Alabama territory for the specific purpose of stealing horses. Soon Indians could not testify against white men and had no rights whatsoever for redress and they were victimized until they left for Oklahoma in 1838.


Sandtown became part of Campbell County in 1828 and remained so until it was merged with Fulton County in 1932. During the Civil War the Cavalry of Gens. McCook and Stoneman operated along the Western front of the Johnson River Line. With the destruction of McCook's command at Newnan, on July 30, 1864 and Stonemans capture at Sunshine Church East of Atlanta, Sherman was forced to employ Gen. Kilpatrick to raid railroads in the absence of Wheeler's Confederate cavalry. On August 15, Kilpatrick put down a pontoon bridge, at Sandtown and crossed the river in force, merging with infantry crossing the Utoy at Sandtown. At this point the entire Federal line had moved from a center at Sandtown to a front with Campbellton, lower downriver at one end and Sandtown at the other.

Sandtown remains a small community of Fulton County and the rifle pits and trenches are still visible overlooking the Chattahoochee River.

  • Fulton County, Ga.
  • Sept. 1, 1826

Cherokee who appear in the 1830 census of Ga.

You will notice in the 1830 Census of Ga., in the northern counties a list of Indians at the end of the census for each county. These are not Indians living in the county, but rather Indians living in the Cherokee nation, the part under the jurisdiction of the county where the census was taken. Habersham, Hall, Gwinnett, Dekalb and Carroll were given the added task of jurisdiction over portions of the Cherokee nation. This legislation was accompanied by more repressive laws taking the rights of Cherokees to witness against whites, eventually taking the right of Cherokees to mine their own land of gold.

When these county censuses were taken, the names of Indians under their jurisdiction were enumerated also. Hopefully this will dispel the confusion of Indian names listed in county census materials in 1830


  • Carroll County, Ga.
  • Sept. 1, 1830

Buck Heard and stealing slaves (blackbirding).

The conspiracy to evoke a slave revolt and take over the government of several Southern Cities was unearthed by one of John Murrell's confidants in 1835. Slave revolt was serious in the South, many had been killed by their slaves and a large revolt in the West Indies had been on the mind of many Southerners for years. John Murrell, great land pirate of the Natchez Trace, had allies in NW Ga. as well as several other states. 

Murrell's forte was inducing slaves to run away, selling them in a far off state and then inducing them to run again...until such time they became so "hot" Murrell would kill them, gut them and fill them with stones, and submerge them in rivers or streams (this practice is first mentioned in relationship with the Sevier raids on the Chickamauga towns during the revolution).  

In North Ga. no one person is more associated by the literature with respect to blackbirding than one Dekalb County resident, Buck Heard. William G. Heard is a constant thorn in the side of Dekalb County law enforcement. For years he is mentioned as a "frequent user of the jail" (Garrett) and courthouse denizen. He is indicted by the grand jury for all sorts of offenses and he is cited by several Cherokee as a man who stole from them, but his forte seems to be stealing slaves. He is mentioned by name by several former slaves, including John Brown and is even the subject of many books of fiction on the subject.


  • Dekalb County, Ga.
  • Sept 1, 1832

Cherokee County

Even before Cherokee territory in Ga. was surveyed and given out in the 1832 Land Lottery, it was called "Cherokee County". This referred to the entire area of Cherokee lands in Northwest Ga. The boundary between Ga. and this land was "the dry line" because sale of liquor was illegal beyond this point. From this great territory many new counties were formed in 1832; many of them being further subdivided over the years to form even smaller counties. Those include Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Union, White, Lumpkin, Dawson, Forsyth, Pickens, Cherokee, Cobb, Paulding, Bartow, Gordon, Haralson, Polk, Floyd and Chattooga. 

  • Northwest Ga.
  • Sept. 1, 2010

Captain Slick

One of the results of the Redstick War of 1813- 1814, was the cession of the middle portion of "Alabama Territory" to the U.S. by the defeated Creek Indians. Ceded by the Treaty of Fort Jackson, the new territory was isolated from neighboring Georgia by a strip of land still in the hands of the Creeks. This isolation produced many problems for settlers coming into the new area, foremost of which was the lack of Law and Order. As we have seen with both North and South Carolina previously, these types of problems gave rise to companies of vigilantes. Alabama was no different, creating what has become known and copied all over the south and west at the time as "Captain Slick's company of regulators". 

There has not been any evidence in the literature that anyone by the name of Captain Slick ever really existed. It is more likely a name given to any leader of a group of vigilantes offering to "slick" horse thieves or other malcontents in the frontier areas of America. To combat the excesses of "pony clubs" and other criminal ventures, the company of locals would capture a suspect, give him lashes with a hickory rod, and send him out of the country. In Lauderdale, Madison, Blount, Cherokee, Dekalb and Chambers Counties companies of slicks enforced the law. In Huntsville they were called "slicks", but in Montgomery they were "the regulating horn", meaning its vigilant members blew horns to call others to action. 

In many instances the slicks got out of hand. Many believe the Pony Club that operated in Alabama began as a company of slicks. At any rate, by 1836 all Creek lands between Georgia and Alabama were ceded and as more stable elements moved into these areas law and order overturned the authority of the slicks and in some cases slicks were prosecuted. The vigilante movement continued on in many states and occurred again in the wild west, resulting in lynch mobs and other excesses.

  • Various counties
  • Sept. 1, 1830

Chickamauga Banditti

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Nickajack Cave

Nickajack Cave and the Cherokee Banditti


Into this vast cavern, for the purposes of concealment and murder, the banditti of the “narrows” retired with their spoils and their victims. This place now enlivened and enriched by the genius of Fulton and in view of the steamer and locomotive, was then the dismal and gloomy retreat of savage cruelty and barbarian guilt.


James Ramsey, 1853.  


The Tories and half-breeds and “moccasin boys” of Camden County, Georgia and East Florida are not the complete story of the precursor of the Pony Clubs. There was another set of banditti, Tories and half-breeds on the move against Wautauga settlements of Tennessee.  Ramsey (1853) gives a tremendously poetic description of the Tennessee River where these Back-country miscreants operated:


If the channel of the river presented dangerous physical impediments, its environs held those of another character, not less formidable. Along those foaming rapids and on either side of the river, the shores are wild, elevated and bold, in some places, scarcely leaving room for a path separating the stream from the adjacent mountain, with here and there a cove running back from the river into the heights which surround and frown down upon it, in somber solitude and gloomy silence. In these mountain gorges were fastnesses, dark, forbidding and inaccessible. Their very aspect invited to deeds of violence, murder and crime. No human eye could witness no vigilance detect, no power punish, no force avenge them. A retreat into these dreary seclusions, stimulated to aggression, as they furnished a perfect immunity from pursuit and punishment (184).


The Tennessee River leaves Ross’ Landing and Chattanooga and swirls around until it heads into Northern Alabama about Tuscumbia where it widens. Before this happens it passes the “suck”, a whirlpool said to have swallowed a fleet of Cherokee Canoe on their way to raid the Shawnee. It brings the river traveler to a cave called Nickajack Cave, with a reputation like Cave in Rock on the Ohio River. Keating, in his History of Memphis (1888: 60), said of the banditti:


These ruffians made their principal rendezvous at Nickajack Cave, a gloomy cavern, difficult of access and situated in a wild and romantic country…


The dark nature of this Geographic feature began its abysmal history as an almost accidental occurance which the local Indians adjusted to quite well:


About 1773 or 1774, some families from West Virginia and North Carolina, attracted by glowing accounts of West Florida, sought a settlement in that province. They came to the Holston frontier, built their boats, and following the stream reached Natchez by water. Necessity drove them to employ Indians and Indian Traders, as pilots through the dangerous passes of the Tennessee River. Occasionally a boat was either by accident or design shipwrecked, at some point between the Chickamauga Towns and the lower end of the Muscle Shoals. Its crews became easy victims of savage cruelty—its cargo fell a prey to Indian cupidity. As these voyages increased and the emigrants by water multiplied from year to year, so did the Indian settlements all along the rapids, also extend. The Chickamaugans were the first to settle there and to become depredators upon the lives and property of emigrants. Concious of guilt, unwilling to withhold their warriors from robbery and murder, they failed to attend with the rest of their tribe to treaties of peace (185)…


They formed the five lower towns of the Cherokee and led by warriors like Dragging Canoe, refused to come to peace with the settlers of Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia.  When the revolution became inevitable, some of the Tories fled into the Cherokee country and found their way to the lower towns. McLoughlin (1986) makes note of the Loyalist nature of those who became leaders of the Cherokee by intermarriage:


…The King’s agent, John McDonald,  and his son in law, Daniel Ross, lived among them and encouraged them to keep up the war. Scores of adventurous colonists loyal to the King fled from their homes in the colonies to settle in the Chickamauga Towns. Many of these white Loyalists married Cherokees and later played a part in Cherokee history – John Rogers, John Walker, John McLemore, John Fields, John Thompson, John D. Chisolm, John McIntosh, Edward Adair, Edward Gunter, Arthur Coody, Richard Taylor and William Shorey. Once married to Cherokees they were considered full members of the tribe or “Cherokee Countrymen”. They assisted Dragging Canoe in his guerrilla warfare against those seeking independence from England and some Loyalists donned buckskins and war paint to participate in the continual raids along the frontier for the next seventeen years (20)…


Ramsey indicates also the treacherous nature of the Lower Towns and the banditti that arose and headquartered in that place on the Tennessee where Indians from time immemorial had crossed the great stream:


Murderers, thieves, pirates, banditti, not of every Indian tribe only, but depraved white men, rendered desperate by crime, hardened by outlawry and remorseless from conscious guilt, fled hither and confederated with barbarian aborigines in a common assault upon humanity and justice and in defiance of all laws of earth and heaven (186)…


To punish these miscreants an expedition was mounted from Virginia and North Carolina by Col.Evan Shelby and 1000 men from the western settlements and a regiment under Col.John Montgomery. Eleven towns were destroyed and great stores of goods destined for the Indian enemies of the rebellion were captured. Shelby also seized 150 horse, 100 head of cattle and many deerskins, belonging to Indian trader McDonald. The net effect of this victory was to thwart an effort by British regulars to unite Northern and Southern Indians and supply them with the means of attacking the rebels. This alliance never occurred (Ramsey, 1853: 188).



1888 Keating, John M., History of the City of Memphis, Tennessee

D. Masons and Publishers: Syracuse, N.Y.


1986 McLoughlin, William Gerald, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic, Princeton Univ Press: Princeton: NJ


1853 Ramsey, James Gettys McGready, The Annals of Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century, Lippincott Grambo and Co.: Philadelphia


  • Nickajack Cave
  • September 1st, 1773

New Web Resource on First Nations and Justice

  1. Just thought some folks here might want to know about this

  • Minneapolis, MN

Family History

My paternal great grandmother was full blood Cherokee from Jackson (Butts County), GA. Her name was Flecia/Falecia (Stewart/Stuart) Andrews. She married Walter Andrews of Covington (Newton County), GA. He was a black man/Negroe. I do remember her telling us when we were young, "Walter was the prettiest Black man I ever laid eyes on, That's why I married him!" I did see a 1930's cesus report of Newton County when she lived in Covington, GA. She was listed as being 40 years old. She was also a widow by then, & they have her listed as Black. How they made that mistake, I'll never know. She had gray, long, straight hair when we were young.

I can only imagine how she looked when she was in her 40's. She was tall, slender & regal. She always walked with her staff & had on a shawl when she came to visit us. During her lifetime we always lived within walking distance. I would always watch for here when I knew she was coming to visit, & I would love the way she walked down the railroad tracks when she left. I would sit on the little hill in front of our home, by the same tracks watching her until she disappeared on her way home.

In the census, their children were listed, William, Frank, Woodroe, Effie (our grandmother), & a daughter-in-law, Marie. I'm still trying to find out more about the Cherokees of Jackson (Butts County). I still want to know more about her family/tribe. Does anyone have any information?

Contributor: Clio
Created: November 6, 2009 · Modified: November 13, 2015

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