There’s a lot of Cherokee history in Bradley County.
In 1832, stripped of their rights in the state of Georgia, members of the tribe moved their seat of government from New Echota in northwest Georgia to Red Clay, in Bradley County. But Red Clay would not be the Cherokee capital for long. Only six years later the tribe would be sent west on a journey we now know as the Trail of Tears.
Click here for a virtual tour of the Red Clay State Historic Park and a story about what happened there.
At the opposite end of the county is Charleston, a small community with many links to Cherokee history. Charleston was once the site of Fort Cass, a headquarters that the U.S. Army used in its roundup of Cherokee in advance of the Trail of Tears.
Nothing is left of Fort Cass, but you can find several historic homes there.
Also in regards to Bradley County history:
Tennessee didn’t build any big canal’s during America’s “canal era” of the early 1800s. But there was serious talk of a canal that would have been built in Bradley County. Had it been built it would have dramatically changed the history of southeast Tennessee.
You see, the Conasauga River, in Bradley County, doesn’t flow westward into the Tennessee River. It flows southward into the Coosa River, which eventually flows all the way across the states of Georgia and Alabama and into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
During the 1820s the state of Tennessee seriously considered building a canal that would have connected the Ocoee River to the Conasauga River. Had the state done so, goods and products from East Tennessee would have been able to reach faraway ports far easier.
However, the canal was never built, for two reasons. One is because President Andrew Jackson was opposed to the federal government’s assistance when it came to “internal improvements” such as canals. The other is because the Cherokee nation owned this part of Tennessee in the 1820s, and they were opposed to sale of any more land to the Tennessee or U.S. government. So today we can only speculate about how this canal might have changed Tennessee.
Bradley County was also the home of Paul Huff, one of Tennessee’s seven Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from World War II. According to his citation, Huff was in Italy when he advanced alone in the face of heavy fire to determine the strength and location of the enemy. As a result of information he gained, an American patrol routed 125 German soldiers a few minutes later.
Here (on the left) is a picture of the current Bradley County Courthouse . . .
And here (on the right) is a picture of the courthouse that was torn down in the 1950s to make way for the existing Bradley County Courthouse.
Hard to believe, isn’t it?