Cherokee Nation within present Tennessee ca. 1800-1838

Cherokee Agencies

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A More Ancient History

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Cherokee Agencies and Sam Houston


In 1807, a young Sam Houston lived 8 miles from Southwest Point (The 1st Cherokee Agency) in Kingston.  In 1809, he worked as the clerk of a store in Kingston.  As the Cherokee Agencies bordered on the Cherokee lands, his time in Kingston perhaps first put him into contact with the Cherokees, John Jolly's family, and the family of John Ross, later Cherokee Chief.  It was from here he left for John Jolly's island just across the river from Hiwassee Garrison, 2nd Cherokee Agency (1807-1817).


Reverend Gideon Blackburn, the pastor of his mother's Church in Maryville, was appointed the Superintendent of Cherokee schools by Thomas Jefferson in 1803. He was close friends with Doublehead, John Chisholm (grandfather of Jesse Chisholm), and Agustus Bowls. Blackburn's first school was on the Hiwassee. He served in this post until 1810.

In October of 1813, 600 Cherokee volunteers came to the aid of the United States.  Over 1000 American troops and militia (including David Crockett) amassed at Hiwassee Garrison to go forth to the War of 1812.  


The agency moved near Big Springs, TN on the Hiwassee River and Agency Creek today termed "Agency Creek Agency" (3rd Cherokee Agency), 8 miles from the Hiwassee Garrison after a land dispute.  In 1817, the Treaty of 1817 was signed here with Governor McMinn and future President Andrew Jackson.  Andrew Jackson recommended Sam Houston for the post of SubAgent to Cherokee Agent Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, and Houston arrived in October of 1817.  Sam Houston moved the stores from the Hiwassee Garrison to the Agency Creek Agency soon after his arrival, lamenting to Jackson over whiskey sold to the Cherokee by William Smith, who soon after founded Smith's Crossroads later termed Dayton, Tennessee of Scopes Trial fame.   


 Sam Houston during his time as Sub-Agent ensured that blankets for the winter went to the women as heads of the households and made a peaceful, fully aided transition west of John Jolly and his band of Cherokees.  Governor McMinn met Sam Houston at this time and took him under his wing as a protege, learning from McMinn, later Cherokee Agent, how to conduct diplomacy. Sam Houston as SubAgent not only worked with the Cherokee band that were already out west who were crossing Tennessee to visit Washington (Tahlonteeskee group who went west c1812) but also John Jolly's band who were in the process of heading west (1818) and tended disputes with the Cherokee who were remaining in Tennessee.  It was at this time that Calhoun lashed out at Houston in Washington, DC for wearing Cherokee clothing and accused him of slave smuggling in the region of Hiwassee Island that had in recent memory been disputed border territory with the Spanish. Calhoun cut the salary of SubAgents in half after this meeting, but Sam Houston remained a SubAgent of the War Department of Tennessee to ensure the smooth transition of John Jolly's band west.  When Sam Houston resigned this post, and with Jackson's endorsement, he became adjutant general (with the rank of colonel) of the state militia through appointment by Governor Joseph McMinn.


The Cherokee Agency moved again in 1821 to what is today Charleston, TN further down the Hiwassee River (4th Cherokee Agency).  It was here that longtime serving Cherokee Agent Col. Return J. Meigs (serving 1801-1823) died of pneumonia after giving his bed to an old Cherokee Chief in January 1823. His writings tell of the story of the Cherokee before the invention of the syllabary.  He tried his best to advise the United States on prudent courses for both the Cherokee and the United States.  Had the United States heeded his advice, the Trail of Tears might never have happened.  He was a mentor to many Cherokee including John Walker and John Ross.