Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Gourd

The Gourd

           The Gourd was a Cherokee Indian who first lived on the south side of the Tennessee River near present-day Courtland, Alabama according to Captain Edmund Pendeleton Gaines on December 28, 1807.  However, by the time Anne Newport Royall came through the area in January 1818, she described his home on the west side of Town Creek in present-day Colbert County, Alabama.  Gourd fought with General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the Creek Indian War.  He was a member of Doublehead's Chickamauga people and settled on the south side of the Tennessee River along the Muscle Shoals during the 1770's.  He has an island that is his namesake in the Elk River Shoals of the Tennessee River.  Gourd's Island is near the mouth of Elk River and is now under the backwaters of Wheeler Dam.  After the Turkey Town Treaty in September 1816, Gourd left the Muscle Shoals area of north Alabama.

           The Cherokee village called Gourd’s Settlement was at the present-day Town of Courtland in Lawrence County, Alabama. On December 28, 1807, Captain Edmund Pendleton Gaines made this note on his survey from Melton’s Bluff to Cotton Gin Port: “8th mile…. At 119 chs. Cross the path which leads from the Shoal Town, eastwardly, to the Goard’s Settlement, about 3 miles distance” (Stone, James H., 1971).  Based on Gaines measurements of some 8.7 miles westerly from Melton’s Bluff, then easterly for three miles, Gourd’s settlement was in the center of present-day Courtland, Alabama.

           Gourd’s Settlement was named after a Cherokee soldier called The Gourd. According to Letters from Alabama 1817-1822 written by Anne Royall on January 12, 1818, page 131, is the following: “Guide says Gourd was very kind; he knew him for fifteen years. He helped subdue the Creeks, and made an excellent soldier.” Anne Royall described Gourd’s log house as being on the west side of Town Creek, ten years after Captain Edmund Pendelton Gaines’ account of Gourd's Settlement; however, she wrote her letter after Indian removal from the area and Gourd might have moved to the location described by Royall; furthermore, Gaines was a surveyor for the United States Army and made precise measurements of locations; therefore, he accurately described the location of Gourd's Settlement.

           Anne Royall's description of Gourd's homeplace given on January 12, 1818, is so interesting it is worth repeating.  She was traveling with her guide from near Florence along the south side of the Tennessee River to Melton's Bluff, and her description is as follows:  "About ten o'clock we came in sight of the first Indian farm--but Indian farm no longer!  The smoke was issuing slowly through the chimney. Why, these Indians have been like us!--could not be savage--cornfields--apple trees, and peach trees.  Fences like ours, but not so high--trusted to their neighbor's honesty--perhaps these being more civilized had more reason to fear their neighbor.  Provoked with my guide because he could not tell me the original cause of these enclosures among the Indians--from four to five rails high--this would not do among us--t'would breed a civil war.--There were the lusty corn stalks--looked grayish--some were standing erect, some were broken off at the middle and hung together still, some were prostrate.  The house looked tight and comfortable; the fruit-trees are large, and show age--there the Indians sat under their shade, or stood up and plucked the apples--wonder he did not plant more--suppose he did not know how to make cider.  Blockhead!--better than whiskey.

           My guide says peaches are delightful in this country.  Poor Gourd! That was the Indian's name; had he still been there, I would have called to see him: but I felt no desire to see his successor.  Guide says Gourd was very kind; he knew him for fifteen years.  He helped subdue the Creeks, and made an excellent soldier.  There was a portico over the door--there Gourd used to sit in the warm summer days.  We rode close to the fence, built by his hands, or perhaps his wife's; no matter which it was, it was no less dear!--It was his home!  The sun, at this moment, overcast with clouds, threw a solemn gloom upon the Indian farm.  Nothing moved but the smoke from the chimney--all was silent and hushed as death!--Poor Gourd had to leave his home, his cornfield, and his apple trees.

           There could not exist a greater evidence of unbounded avarice and ambition which distinguished the Christian world, than the one that lay before me.  There was a time when owners of this beauteous country flattered themselves that distance alone would screen them from the intrusion of the whites. Vain hope!"

           Eventually, three Indian roads intersected at Gourd’s Settlement which were the South River Road, Browns Ferry Road, and the Sipsie Trail.  The South River Road was traveled by Reverend Patrick Wilson in 1803 along the south side of the Tennessee River and follows the corridor of Highway 20.  The Browns Ferry Road came from Hunt's Spring (Huntsville), to Doublehead's Town at Browns Ferry, and then to Gourd's Settlement (Courtland).  Sipsie Trail, which followed the Cheatham Road or corridor of Highway 33 from Moulton through Gourd's Settlement to Lamb's Ferry, was an early Indian route from Tuscaloosa to the French Lick (Nashville, Tennessee). 

           A prehistoric village containing an Indian mound was located at the site on the banks of Path Killer Creek which later became known as Big Nance. According to Captain Edmund Pendleton Gaines on December 27, 1807, “we proceeded, same course…6th mile…At 116 [chaines] (west of Melton’s Bluff) Path Killer’s Creek, 3 chains wide from tops of banks” (Stone, 1971). In 1807 when Captain Gaines identified Path Killer Creek (named after Cherokee Chief Path Killer), he was surveying a line from Melton’s Bluff on the Tennessee River to Cotton Gin Port on the Tombigbee River; therefore, he basically followed parallel to the corridor of the Old Chickasaw Trail to the heart of the Chickasaw Nation.

           According to a February 1829, Lawrence County court record, “a road from Gourd Landing on the Tennessee River to intersect the road from Courtland to Lamb’s Ferry (Sipsie Trail) at or near Gordon’s fence the nearist and best way... Order, 1829, Jury of Review of a road from Courtland to Gourds.”  Gourd's Landing was on the Tennessee River near present-day Spring Creek in Lawrence County, Alabama.  This road intersected portions of both the Sipsie Trail and Gaines Trace.

Charles Melton and Elick Melton signed a letter along with The Gourd requesting Negro Fox to be returned after two Cherokees were killed.  It is important to note that this was the last recorded attack on the Cherokees which resulted in the death of two Cherokee men at the Muscle Shoals.  The killings occurred at Mouse Town near the mouth of Fox’s Creek as a result of leases of Cherokee lands started by Doublehead.  In microcopy 208, roll 7, and number 3533, is a letter from a group of Cherokees signed by The Gourd (Goard), the two Melton brothers, John Lamb, and others.  The letter gives an account of two Cherokee Indians killed at Mouse Town which is at the mouth of Fox's Creek just east of Elk River Shoals dated August 15, 1816.

           James Burleson and seven other white men killed two Cherokees. Hope you will cause whites to give up Negro Fox as he is considered one of our people and we wish to try him by our law.
          Signed by Goard X; Charles Melton (x) William Rains, Issac Wade, Breton Wider, Joseph Slauter, John Lambe, Nelson Bonds, Walter Eavens, Elick Melton, and William Phillips.  Notice the names of the Cherokees listed on this statement.   Lamb's Ferry was named for Cherokee John Lamb who operated the ferry on Sipsie Trail crossing the Tennessee River from Courtland to present-day Rogersville, Alabama.

          In microcopy 208, roll 7, and number 3534, is a continuation of the actions:  The Indians were killed by James Burleson, John Burleson, Robert Thrasher, Martin Tailer, Charles Tailer, John Bird, Edward Burleson, Joseph Burleson. They have left and gone to Madison County. 
          Signed: Thomas Lovell, David Danault, William Fears, Don White, Lemuel Lovell, William Cosby, Rudolph McDaniel, George Cosby, Sam Cosby, Robert W. Woods, Sam B. McClure.

           The incident was recorded on August 15, 1816, when two Cherokee Indians were killed by white people near the head of Muscle Shoals on August 12, 1816.  The settlers in the area sent the following letter from Mississippi Territory to the chiefs of the Cherokees in order for the innocent to avoid punishment.

           To any of the Chiefs or hed men of the Chirokee Nation. Wee feel it our Duty to let you know who commited that offence against your subjects so that the inesant may not suffer. The offence was committed on the twelveth Inst by these under named:  James Burleston, John Burleson, Robt. Thrasher, Martin Tailer, Charle Tailer, John Bird, Edward Burleson, and Joseph Burleson. 
These are all wee have any knowledg of they have left the settlement and gone in to Madison County where they will be delt with acording to law as soon as it can be put in force against them and as for old fox he has went of with those men that committed this offene therfore wee subscribe our names on the other side.
August the 15, 1816
Thomas Lovell, David Devault, William Fears, David White, George Cozby, Samuel Cozby, Robert W. Woods, Samuel Lovell, Samuel B. McClure, William Cozby, Randolph McDaniel
           Additional information is given in microcopy 208, roll 7, and number 3544, dated August 25, 1816, in a letter to Louis Winston.  The letter is, “requesting him (Winston) to have apprehended certain men who murdered two Cherokees.  Two Indians were killed August 12, a few miles above Melton’s at head of Shoals by white men having with them Negro Black Fox who belonged to Cherokee Nation.
         Letter from Mississippi Territory signed by:  Thomas Lovell, David Davolt, William Fears, David White, Lemuel Lovell, William Cosby, Rudolph McDaniel, George Cosby, Sam Cosby, Robert W. Woods, Sam B. McClure informing me that James Burleson, John Burleson, Robert Thrasher, Martin Taylor, Charles Taylor, John Bird, Edward Burleson, and Joseph Burleson were of the number who committed the deed and there were others in party whose names we do not know.  All have gone to Madison County.”

           In microcopy 208, roll 7, and number 3546, a letter from Louis Winston on August 29, 1816, concerning the Burlesons:  “All the Burlisons have absconder others in this country but not this county.”

           Negro Black Fox was probably the slave of the young Black Fox II who was thought to be the son of Chief Black Fox that died in 1811.  The criminals, James, Edward, and other Burlesons, eventually moved to Missouri and by 1820 they were back in Lawrence County, Alabama.  Later after authorities got after them again, James, Edward and other Burleson family members moved to Texas and owned a huge tract of land.  Burleson, Texas was named after James Burleson.  General Edward Burleson fought in the Revolution of Texas and wrote Moulton Democrat in 1887 mentioning Mouse Town and the last Indian fight that occurred there.

           The Gourd along with other Cherokees lived in Lawrence and Colbert Counties at least 15 years and possibly longer.  He and his family were residents along the Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River of north Alabama.  Not much is known of Gourd's family but some historians think Gourd had at least one daughter named Susie Gourd.  Susie married John Anthony Foreman a Scots trader.  Foreman, born about 1751, was thought to have been born in Scotland with some historians claiming he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He married two Cherokee women with Susie Gourd being his second wife.  He and Susie had six children:  John, Sallie, Thomas, Nancy, Richard, and Catherine.

         Read more about Cherokee people in north Alabama in my soon to released book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief.  It will probably be available by February 2012. 

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