Assistant Cherokee Chief Richard Taylor
Founding father of Ringgold leads almost 1,000 on Trail of Tears
By Randall Franks
From the “hills and hollers” of Catoosa County have come numerous residents who have distinguished themselves in life, in services to God and country, and to their community.
One of this area’s earliest notable citizens was Assistant Chief Richard Taylor of the Cherokees.
“When compared with his times and contemporaries, he was probably the most outstanding man the Catoosa County area has produced,” said William H.H. “Bill” Clark in his book “History in Catoosa County.”
Taylor was a descendant of Nancy Ward, one of the great legends of the Cherokees who, among other acts of benevolence, fed and clothed Gen. George Washington’s army while it was in Tennessee during the Revolutionary War.
With the creation of the Federal Road through the Cherokee Nation, whites were able to travel through Cherokee lands.
The Beginning of Ringold
According to Nancy Crowe, former vice president of the Catoosa County Historical Society, Taylor was one of the Cherokee leaders who controlled a segment of the Federal Road where he created the settlement of Taylor’s Crossroads where the road intersected with the Alabama Highway. This community eventually grew to become Ringgold.
“Whites were allowed into the (Cherokee) Nation for trade and travel purposes, but were not allowed to live here,” Crowe said. “Scotch traders found a way around this rule by marrying Cherokee women and therefore becoming part of the nation.”
Crowe said that is why there were several mix blood families that later become prominent.
According to Clark’s book, in addition to Chief Taylor’s 150-acre plantation, Mount Hope, which stood on a hill near where Ringgold’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and Waffle House are today, Taylor operated an inn, a tavern, a saw and grist mills, and a tollgate.
As a leader of the Cherokee Nation, Taylor represented the Chickamauga District of the original Cherokee Nation as a delegate to Washington, on numerous occasions meeting with several presidents.
Along with other Cherokee leaders, he supported the creation of the Brainerd Mission School to educate Cherokee children.
As a noted writer and orator, Taylor joined John Ross, Major Ridge, James Vann and Elias Boudinot to petition Congress and the Senate to allow the Cherokee people to remain on their homeland, Crowe said.
But before he reached this point in his life, Taylor served not only his nation but also the United States.
“Taylor was well-educated, a warrior, an officer in Jackson’s army, businessman of some wealth, an ambassador of his tribe in Washington,” Clark said in his book.
Taylor was one of 13 members of the Cherokee National Committee.
The Creek War
Ironically, in 1814 Taylor served as an officer under Gen. Andrew Jackson, the future president who would push for the Cherokee’s removal, in the Creek War in the wilderness of Alabama. Six- to seven-hundred Cherokees braves fought side by side with the whites against the Creeks.
In 1816, Taylor was among a six-member delegation that met with President James Madison. According to Clark’s book, the delegation became the toast of Washington society during its visit.
Clark considers it likely that Taylor recorded the history of the event. To the chagrin of Jackson, Madison paid the Cherokee Nation $25,000 in damages for actions of Jackson’s troops against the Cherokees. The Cherokees were given the four million acres of the Creek lands seized by Jackson. Pensions for the families of the killed and wounded Cherokees who served in the Creek war were also granted.
In return the federal government gained the rights to open roads and use the rivers through Cherokee lands.
In 1831, Taylor led a delegation to Washington trying to plead the case of the Cherokee Nation whose rights were being stripped away by the state of Georgia.
A newspaper report, included in Clark’s book, described Taylor “as a large, portly man of a bland, open countenance which seems shaded with an expression so deeply pensive, if not sad, as to indicate that but little hope for the fortunes of his country lingers around his heart. The experience of 45 years (for that is his age) in this dishonest and delusive world, may contribute to the somber cast of his feelings, a characteristic which is by no means so conspicuous in his younger brethren. …. Taylor smokes a silver pipe of elegant workmanship with a silver chain, presented by General Washington to one of their chiefs, Badger’s Mother, now slumbering with the dead. He naturally regards it, as the illustrious donor intended it, a symbol of the friendship and good faith of the United States. May it never remind him of his degradation and our treachery.”
With the decision by President Martin Van Buren to force the removal of the remaining Cherokees in 1838 from their lands, the Trail of Tears occurred.
Sending his own family earlier, Taylor led a group, which left for Oklahoma on Sept. 20, 1838. The group arrived in Oklahoma on March 24, 1839.
According to Crowe, his party consisted of 51 wagons, 358 riding horses, 897 people, with 15 births and 55 deaths reported on the journey.
Taylor died in Tahlequah, Okla., on June 15, 1853.
In April 1984, archeologists excavated Taylor’s home site before the hill it sat upon was removed to build the Waffle House. Numerous artifacts were found.
Several of these articles are on display at Old Stone Church Museum, which is open Thursday through Sunday 1-5 p.m. Several local historical publications are on sale to visitors. Call (706) 935-5232 for more information.
Historical content for this article was provided by Nancy Harris Crowe, “History in Catoosa County” by William H.H. Clark, and cherokee.org.
Article April 2 03