As the creator of the Cherokee syllabary, Sequoyah is one of the few “pre-literate” people in history who created a writing system. His story began in present-day Monroe County.
Sequoyah was a member of the Cherokee tribe, although his mother was Native American and his father was white. As a young man, he was injured in a hunting accident and became partially lame. And although he was never taught how to read or write, Sequoyah was convinced that a form of written language would help his people, and he began trying to create a language of his own.
Years of work eventually paid off, and in 1821 Sequoyah demonstrated his new syllabary to tribal leaders. It quickly became the official written language of the Cherokees. Within a couple of years there was even a newspaper being produced in Cherokee called The Phoenix.
You can learn all about Sequoyah at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Monroe County. Not only is this (probably) the best museum in Tennessee that is devoted to a single person, it also recently underwent a major upgrade. Check it out!
“Sequoyah — a great man whose life was shrouded in mystery,” column in Tennessee Magazine