Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chieftains Museum - Rome, Georgia

The Home of a Cherokee Leader
The Chieftains Museum is located in the former estate home of Major Ridge, also known as Kah-nung-da-tla-geh (1771-1839), a rebellious Cherokee leader born in the north Georgia mountains. At the rather plush upscale home's core is a very old log cabin, renovated by its wealthy owner in the early 1800's. At the time of the forced exodus of the Cherokee from North Georgia, the Ridge manor was of higher quality than most, if not all others in the area, including those of the white residents. His estate included a ferry, a store, hundreds of fruit trees, rich river bottom farm land, and sadly, well over 30 slaves of African and Creek descent.

 The home itself is a fascinating tour, but the stories associated to the home's previous owners are much more interesting. I won't attempt to explain the history of the Ridge family in this short article. It's simply too complicated. However, to spice it up a little, I'll say this: Major Ridge was a Cherokee warrior, hunter, business man, politician, and assassin. He and his son John were directly involved in the signing of the treaty of New Echota, which surrendered the remainder of the Cherokee's land to Georgia. Both paid the ultimate price for doing so. The official Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee tell the story best.

The Chieftains Museum is located adjacent Ridge Ferry Park on the banks of the Oostanaula River. Ridge Ferry Park is one of our favorite bike-riding and festival destinations. Ridge Ferry Park hosts a variety of events including an annual Cherokee powwow and one of our favorite art festivals, the Chiaha Harvest Fair.
The history of the Southeastern US is fascinating to me. I wish there were a movie about the Creek and Cherokee that told the whole story! The odd personalities and politics of the time, and the near-paradigm that took place. History certainly could have emerged quite differently had time favored the Cherokee. Discovery of gold in their territory sealed their fate.

If you would like a good post-Creek history of the region, the Chieftains museum is a must see destination. You should also consider visiting New Echota, the former capitol of the Cherokee Nation located in nearby Calhoun. For history about the natives that lived here prior to the Cherokee, take the short drive to see the Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville.

Few homes in the area were finer than Major Ridge's

The Chieftains' halls are lined with exhibits ranging from the days of Desoto through the Civil War.

Ceremonial masks and hundreds of other historical items are displayed at the Chieftains Museum.

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