News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, JULY 24, 2005

Local author tells tale of assassination, Indian trails

By Deangelo McDaniel
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2469

OAKVILLE — You may think you know the story of Chief Doublehead's death. And you may think the road system in Lawrence County happened after statehood.

But wait.

Lawrence County Indian Education Coordinator Butch Walker and Lamar Marshall have collaborated on a book containing never-before-seen documents that will change your thinking.

"Indian Trails of the Warrior Mountains" is a 187-page book documenting some of the earliest routes in North Alabama and telling about people who traveled them.

"Most of the roadbeds are older than the state," Walker said.

The book costs $20 and is available at the Indian Museum in Oakville and at the Lawrence County Archives in Moulton.

Walker said proceeds from the book will go to purchase 33 acres near the museum and park, where there is an ancient Indian burial mound.

"This will give us more highway frontage and increase the space around the mound," Walker said.

One of the remaining roadbeds in Lawrence County called Black Warrior's Path runs north and south and goes past the Indian Museum. This road started in Nashville, crossed the Tennessee River at Melton's Bluff in Lawrence County and went to Columbus, Ga.

"You can find remnants of these trails all through the county," Walker said.

Thousands of years old

Marshall writes that the Indian trail system, which climaxed in about 1800, was the result of thousands of years of human interaction with animals, tribal migration, relocations, population shifts and lifestyle changes because of European contact and trade.

"The last remnants of these early trails and roads remind us of a time when society was intimately connected with the land and the earth," Marshall said.

Marshall and Walker have probably walked more of the remaining Indians trails than anyone in Lawrence County. Those trails, they argue, formed the circuitry for the modern road and interstate systems.

Walker said the book is the result of more than 20 years of research. Marshall designed and formatted the pages.

This is Walker's fifth book, and he said probably his best, primarily because of some of the stories of the people who used the road system.

One of the most interesting stories is about Doublehead, a Cherokee chief who came to a violent death in 1807.

Doublehead moved into what is now Lawrence County in 1790. He signed several treaties with the government, but always held out something for himself. His "conniving ways" is what Walker said may have led to his death.

Some historians say he died because he signed away Cherokee land.

Walker disagrees in the book and provides evidence to show that three "mixed bloods" assassinated the powerful leader.

Major Ridge, one of the assassins, wanted to get his cotton to New Orleans, but this meant traveling down the Tennessee River where Doublehead had "his ironclad control of the cotton trade," Walker said.

Ridge, John Rogers and Alex Saunders used Doublehead's practice of securing personal gain at the expense of the Cherokees as an excuse for the assassination.

But Walker believes Ridge's desire to use the Tennessee River for cotton trade, especially after Doublehead signed the Cotton Gin Treaty of 1806, led to the assassination. This treaty allowed the government to construct a cotton gin at Melton's Bluff in Lawrence County.

At another place in the book, Walker published a copy of a letter the leader of the Cherokees wrote to Gov. Willie Blount in 1791. The letter does not name the Cherokee leader, but it states that Blount was superintendent of Indian affairs for the Southern District.

According to the letter, George Handcock was trying to negotiate a treaty to take control of Cherokee land in Muscle Shoals. "We wish our children and your children to grow up in love and friendship," the letter states.

The writer rejected Handcock's actions and told Blount "there will be blood spilled" if he tried to take the Cherokee land.

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