Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chake Thlocko

Chake Thlocko

Chake Thlocko was the Indian term used for the river crossings of trails fording the Tennessee River at the Muscle Shoals.  These crossing were extremely important to Indian people and many of their larger towns were located at these sites.  My soon to be released book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief gives more details about the Chickamauga Indian towns along the river in north Alabama.

Governor William Blount referred to Doublehead as the principal chief of the lower Tennessee River Indian towns along the Muscle Shoals.  During his time in the Great Bend, Doublehead helped establish several Chickamauga towns along the Tennessee River with the help of the Creek, Shawnee, Yuchi, white sympathizers, relatives, and his loyal mixed bloods of Scots-Irish ancestry.  With this motley mix of warriors, Doublehead ruled the great crossing place of the Muscle Shoals known to the Indians as Chake Thlocko, Big Ford, or Great Crossing Place.  The Great Bend of the Tennessee River is the southernmost loop of the river where it turns south out of Tennessee into Alabama and runs east to west across the northern portion of Alabama before turning north back into Tennessee and through Kentucky to the Ohio River.

Numerous Indian trails, basically unknown to the white settlers encroaching into Chickamauga country, crossed along some 37 miles of the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River.  The trails crossed on a series of shoals which included:  Elk River Shoals, the most upstream; Big Muscle Shoals; Little Muscle Shoals; Colbert Shoals; Bee Tree Shoals; and, Waterloo Shoals, the most downstream of these rapids.  The shoals were created by a geologic feature consisting of layers of chert (flint) outcroppings that were very resistant to erosion.  This resistant rock formed stretches of rushing waters cascading over sharp rocky defiles which created very hazardous conditions for water travel. These shoals also had numerous sand bars and islands that only experienced Indian guides were able to safely navigate during high water levels and rainy seasons of the year.  The Tennessee River at the shoals dropped 134 feet vertically within some 37 miles from Elk River Shoals to Waterloo Shoals and created corridors for trail crossings.

The trails that crossed Chake Thlocko were used for hundreds of years by Indian inhabitants and were well known to Doublehead and his Chickamauga people.  These trails and roads provided easy routes east to the main Lower Cherokee towns, north to the Cumberland settlements, west to the Chickasaw towns on the upper Tombigbee, and south to the Creek towns including the Atlantic and Gulf Coast.  The routes also connected Indian towns to each other and to sacred hunting grounds that sustained Indian people for centuries.  In addition, most of these Indian trails were established along old animal paths that were initially used by huge herds of buffalo, elk, deer, and other wildlife for thousands of years as they migrated back and forth across the Tennessee Valley.

It was mainly the north-south routes that Doublehead’s Chickamauga warriors used to conduct raids against the Cumberland settlements from the Muscle Shoals.  The major northern routes to the French Lick or Big Lick (Nashville) included:  1). Mountain Leaders Trace crossed the Tennessee River at the mouth of Bear Creek at the Mississippi-Alabama state line and became portions of the Natchez Trace; 2) Old Buffalo Trail ran from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and became portions of the Byler Road.  After Doublehead upgraded the northern portion of the trail to a road, the Old Buffalo Trail became known as Doublehead’s Trace and portions of present-day highway101, to present-day Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, then to Nashville; 3) Sipsie Trail was made into the old Cheatham Road through Moulton, Alabama and was known as the Lamb’s Ferry Road after establishing the ferry crossing of the Tennessee River to Rogersville, to Minor Hill, Tennessee, then to Nashville; 4) Black Warriors’ Path from St. Augustine, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee was later called Mitchell Trace after a post route was established from Fort Mitchell in Russell County, Alabama to Fort Hampton in Limestone County, Alabama, to Elkton, Tennessee then north to the French Lick; 5) Old Jasper Road lay along the present-day corridor of highway 41 from Jasper, Alabama, crossed the Tennessee River at Rhodes Ferry in present-day Decatur, Alabama, and followed portions of highway 31 to the French Lick; and, 6) Great South Trail crossed the Tennessee River at Ditto’s Landing and became the Old Huntsville Road from Nashville to Tuscaloosa.

Doublehead and his raiders were not noted for taking prisoners unless he was accompanied by the Creek faction of the Chickamauga that would take captives deep into Alabama territory along the winding routes.  During most of the raids made by Doublehead's warriors, scalps and horses were highly prized items to take and bring back to the shoals along these numerous trails that crossed Chake Thlocko.  In addition, the rough Appalachain terrain to the east, Warrior Mountains to the south, and the Cumberland Plateau to the north of the Muscle Shoals added a protective but difficult barrier to access the Great Bend towns of Doublehead’s Chickamauga.

For more information about Doublehead and his Chickamauga people of the Muscle Shoals, be sure to sign up for your copy of the book today.  Also if you want to receive all the articles I write, become a member of my blog. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr Walker , my family comes from Lawrence Co. & i am fascinated by your book of wonders on the peoples & places there . it is my roots & they run deep . Thank you . my Mothers relatives are the Mcvays , the Flanigans ,& Peoples . my Fathers family is the Gibsons & the Sparks . you have a picture of my Mothers Uncle & Aunt Kay & Savannah Mcvay . how do we prove that heritage ? if you know , & dont mind me asking you . i dont know where to start . Thank you so much . Rhonda Gibson my mother is Cora Opaline Peoples Gibson & she would like very much to talk to you . my email is our phone number is (352)495-9959