Friday, December 21, 2012

Crappie Fishing in Winter

Crappie Fishing in Winter

Since today is the first official day of winter, I decided to give a few hints and pointers that I use to catch winter time crappie; these hints work not only on the Tennessee River but also on Lewis Smith Lake of North Alabama.  According to the calendar, December 21 through March 21 is winter time; many fair weather fishermen wait until the warmer days of spring, but crappie bite very good during the colder months of winter.  The crappie may bite a little slower during the colder months of the year, but it appears that the bigger slabs are a little easier to catch during the cold months of winter.

I consider the most important aspect of winter time crappie fishing is to find good cover; the habitat of winter crappie seems to be some type of structure.  Crappie structure can include stump beds, brush piles that have been placed at appropriate depths, trees that have fell off the banks into deep water, boat house piers on the Tennessee River, and rocky points.  Since there are no permanent boat docks on Smith Lake with supports that extend into the bottom, fishing the supporting poles is limited to the Tennessee River; however, during the spring months, a lot of crappie can be caught around lighted floating boat docks at night on Smith Lake.

Just in the last two weeks, I have caught crappie around structure on Wilson Lake, and I have friends that have been catching crappie on a regular basis on Smith Lake for the last few weeks.  On the river, the small yearling shad are gathering by the thousands around boat docks and tree tops; on Wednesday of this week, my depth finder would not read but four to five deep in water that was 30 feet or more because of the huge schools of fingerling shad blocking the bottom echo.  It seems to me to be the best forage on the Tennessee River that I have seen for crappie in the last several years; crappie are waiting under these huge schools of shad for a slow moving jig.


Two types of jigs seemed to work very well; a lead head equipped with a Bobby Garland grub and a maribou jig.  The type of Bobby Garland grub that I prefer is a small plastic body about one inch long with a long slender straight tail; many colors of Bobby Garlands are available, but the colors I prefer include bluegrass, blue ice, albino shad, key lime pie, electric chicken, monkey milk, bayou booger, and ghost.  Small feathered maribou jigs also work quite well with a cork; I prefer one with white feathers and a red head, but blue heads also seem to work very well.

Cork and Jig

Even though the water is colder during the winter months, do not forget to use a cork and jig especially on Smith Lake, but always look for crappie cover that will hold bait fish that the crappie feed on and eat.  In cork fishing, it is preferable to use a 1/16 to 1/32 ounce head with a small float or cork some two to four feet deep above the jig; cast the cork and jig over submerged structure and twitch the rod gently and slowly retrieve the rig toward the boat.  Keep an eye on the cork because when it disappears, it is time to lift the rod and set the hook.

On the Tennessee River, I have caught numerous slab crappie with a cork and jig during some extremely cold days of winter; I know some boat docks that have structure place under and around the dock where a cork and jig is very effective.  During February, I have caught some of the biggest black crappie that weigh over two pounds on the cork and jig around docks with structure.  Do not forget to try a cork and jig during the winter months while crappie fishing on Smith Lake and the Tennessee River.

Vertical Jigging

Most of my fishing on the Tennessee River is on Wilson Lake where I have a small house and boat dock; I can let my boat into the water and begin fishing without running a great distance.  During the winter months, I love to vertical fish with a 1/8 ounce lead head and Bobby Garland grub around boat dock pilings on the Tennessee River and large trees that have fell off the bank into deep water.  I like to fish boat dock support poles and trees that are in 25 to 35 feet of water, and the method is very simple.

Using four pound test line, just let the jig go to the bottom next to a boat dock pole or in the top of a submerged tree; very slowly wind the jig back toward the surface.  Repeat this process around a lot of boat docks and trees; you should catch a mess of crappie vertical jigging during the next few months.  You should be very careful not to move the boat while vertical jigging a tree top; it is important to be sure that you jig straight up and down in tree tops or you will lose a lot of jigs.  Vertical jigging is a very effective method for catching crappie during the winter months.

Horizontal Casting

Most crappie fishermen only use the horizontal casting method for fishing a jig or grub and lead head; this style of fishing is very effective much of the year, but do not forget the cork and jig and vertical fishing.  This week I fished a rocky point that tapered off into some 30 feet of water, and the shad were constantly moving around the point into a large hollow.  I caught some 12 fish by slowly walking the 1/8 ounce lead head with a Bobby Garland from the point to a depth of some 25 feet.  Walking a jig is to let it settle to the bottom, then lift the rod letting the jig fall until it hit the bottom again; this procedure is repeated until the jig is just about under the boat.  Be sure the point that you are fishing is not covered with brush or you will lose a lot of jigs; over the years, I have caught many crappie walking a grub off of rocky points.

Another place to horizontal cast on the Tennessee River is parallel to boat dock poles; cast your jig along the front edge of a boat dock and let it sink to the bottom in a preferable depth of some 20 to 35 feet.  After the jig reaches the bottom, slowly wind the grub past the supporting poles of the boat dock toward your boat; set the hook when you feel a slight tug on the line.

I hope you get out and enjoy winter fishing for crappie; feel free to ask me questions or comment on this post.  I hope you have great crappie fishing this winter; I look forward to seeing you on the water.  Be sure to join my blog to read all my stories!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012



Bootsville was established by a local Cherokee Indian called “The Boot;” two different Cherokee men were known by the name of “The Boot.”  According to local folklore, these two Cherokee Indian men in the area of Bootsville were known as Big Boot and Little Boot; these two Indians were probably father and son.  One Cherokee known as The Boot, which was probably Big Boot, was listed as being killed at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 17, 1814; he was a member of Captain Jonathan McLemore’s Company.  The Boot that was killed at Horseshoe Bend was known locally as Big Boot; he was more than likely the father of Little Boot or John Fletcher who was also known as “The Boot or Chutcoe.”

John Fletcher was born about 1796; he was a mixed blood Cherokee of Scots Irish ancestry; Fletcher is a Scots Irish name.  Most names in the southeastern United States that end with “er” or start with “Mc” are very likely of Scots Irish lineage.  The family name ending in “er” usually indicates the occupation of the Scots Irish family; for example, baker is one who bakes, miller is one that operates a mill, walker is one who walks horses; carpenter is one who builds, fletcher is one who fletches arrow shafts, and many other “er” type people.

John Fletcher, Little Boot or The Boot, lived in the Indian town that took his name; the Cherokee village was west of Big Wills Creek at the eastern edge of Sand Mountain.  In the late 1800’s, the land was bought by the Horton family who settled in the previous Indian community.  According to family history, when Griffin Ruben Horton moved to Bootsville in the late 1800’s, he lived in the old log cabin that was originally the home of The Boot.  According to the accounts of these first white settlers, there were several Cherokee log cabins still standing that were the homes of the Indian inhabitants of the Town of Bootsville.

John Fletcher’s home was on a hill overlooking a beautiful flat valley between Sand Mountain and Pine Ridge; the large spring of water was known as Bootsville Spring and flowed into Bootsville Branch.  The main branch was to the east of The Boot’s home place and was fed by the big spring within a few yards of his house.  Probably many of John Fletcher’s family members are buried in unmarked graves in the Bootsville Cemetery just less than one half mile west of his original home and spring.

In September 1816, “The Boot” or John Fletcher signed the Turkey Town Treaty with Cherokee Chief Pathkiller and Cherokee Colonel Richard Brown; Turkey Town, some 25 miles south of Bootsville, was the Cherokee town where the treaty was signed.  The Turkey Town Treaty gave up Cherokee and Chickasaw lands in Franklin, Colbert, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties in northwest Alabama.

In 1824 the Methodist missions to the Cherokees were under the direction of Richard Neely and Thomas D. Scales; a Methodist church school was started in 1825 at Oothcaloga under the direction of Asbury Owen.  After urging of Bishop William McKendree, some Cherokees became active in preaching for the Methodist Church; in 1826, Turtle Fields was appointed as the first Cherokee itinerant preacher in Methodist Church.  Other Methodist preachers to follow were John Fletcher (The Boot), Edward Gunter, and Joseph Blackbird; Cherokee Chief John Ross became the most famous Methodist convert.

John Fletcher (The Boot) was converted to Christianity in 1825; he was licensed to preach and became a Methodist Cherokee minister in 1827.  Fletcher was ordained a deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee; he later received ordination as elder in Lebanon and preached effectively in the Cherokee language to his people in Wills Valley.  By 1830, some 1,028 Cherokee people were members of the Methodist Church as a result of personal evangelizing and camp meetings during the 1820s.

In 1826, John Fletcher was a Methodist preacher who spoke in his native Cherokee language; Edward Gunter, the son of John Gunter, interpreted some of the sermons of The Boot into English.  John Fletcher would speak at revival meetings; Turtle Fields, the first ordained Cherokee Methodist preacher, would complete the camp meeting.  According to Henry T. Malone’s 1956 book, Cherokees of the Old South, “At a special conference ceremony in Tennessee celebrating the sixth anniversary of Methodist missions to the Cherokees, John Fletcher spoke in his native language on the subject of the Indian missions.  Edward Gunter then translated Fletcher’s message, and added a speech of his own.  Turtle Fields completed the program with an oration also in English.”  Cherokee Chief John Ross was converted to Christianity at a meeting in the Chickamauga area south of present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee during a Methodist revival meeting and became an active Methodist.

A trail passing through Bootsville Gap came from Coosada (an Indian village on an island in the Tennessee River just upstream from Guntersville), leading east through Bootsville, then Fort Payne, then to Broom Town in Cherokee County, Alabama, and then to High Town (present-day Rome, Georgia) where it joined the High Town Path that led to Charleston, South Carolina.  The third county seat of Dekalb County, Alabama, was at Bootsville; the county seat at Bootsville was from 1839 to 1841.  Dekalb County became a county in Alabama in 1836.

From Bootsville, John Fletcher migrated west during the 1838 removal to Indian Territory and continued to be a Methodist Christian missionary among his Cherokee people for many years.  On September 6, 1839, John Fletcher (The Boot) signed the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation with the reunited Western and Eastern Cherokees at their National Council Convention which met at Tahlequah, Oklahoma in the Cherokee Nation west.  The Boot signed the new constitution document along with several other Cherokees from his Alabama home near Bootsville including John Benge, George Guess, Edward Gunter, George W. Gunter, Jesse Bushyhead, Lewis Melton, and several other Cherokees.  John Fletcher, The Boot, died August 8, 1853, while preaching in the Canadian District of Indian Territory.

The Community of Bootsville is on present-day Dekalb County, Alabama highway 458 that runs off highway 35 at the Community of Pine Ridge on the eastern base of Sand Mountain and west of Fort Payne, Alabama, about two miles.  Through Bootsville Gap, Bootsville is some five miles north of Lebanon, Alabama, which was the approximate location of Wills Town on Big Wills Creek in Dekalb County.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Turkey Town

Turkey Town

Turkey Town was a Chickamauga Indian village named for Cherokee Chief Little Turkey; the town was on the High Town Path that led from Otali (present-day Attalla), to Turkey Town, and then to High Town which is present-day Rome, Georgia.  Turkey Town was just northeast of Gadsden on present-day highway 411 between Gadsden and Centre, Alabama near the Coosa River.  Little Turkey became the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation after the death of Hanging Maw in 1795 and resided in his village that became known as Turkey Town until his death in 1801.

John McDonald

The British were supplying the Chickamauga Confederacy with arms, ammunitions, and powder to help the English defeat the American colonies; even though the Americans had officially declared the Revolutionary War over on April 11, 1783, the Chickamauga fought on with John McDonald supplying war materials from Running Water Town, a Chickamauga town situated at a Creek Indian crossing of the Tennessee River just west of Lookout Mountain.  John McDonald had been appointed as the assistant Superintendent of Indian Affairs by the British under the command of Superintendent John Stuart.  At Running Water, British agent Alexander Cameron and McDonald were being provided supplies, goods, and ammunition from Savannah or Pensacola; however, pressure from the American forces pushed the British arms suppliers farther south to Turkey Town.  The British were using Turkey Town and other Chickamauga villages as their base of operations in the Southwest; they were stockpiling food and military supplies for all tribes of the Chickamauga hostile to the American government.

About 1788, the Scots Irish John McDonald, who had married half blood Cherokee Anne Shorey, moved from Running Water Town together with his family including his daughter Mollie and her husband Daniel Ross to Turkey Town.  Initially, McDonald had been supplying the Chickamauga from his stores some 15 miles south of the Tennessee River on Chickamauga Creek near present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee.  At the time he moved to Turkey Town, McDonald was corresponding with William Panton of Panton, Leslie, & Co., a British supplier of trade goods that had become allied with the Spanish interests; William Panton of Pensacola and Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray were the best of friends.
Turkey Town was also much closer to the old abandoned French Fort Toulouse that was possibly being re-garrisoned by the Spanish; or that a new fort would be garrisoned north of Turkey Town near present-day Ft. Payne, Alabama.  With the help of British agents, McDonald continued to supply arms, ammunition, and powder to the Chickamauga from Turkey Town; it was at Turkey Town where John McDonald’s grandson John Ross was born on October 3, 1790, to McDonald’s daughter Mollie and Daniel Ross.  John Ross was born a true Chickamauga Cherokee at Turkey Town and was destine to become the longest serving chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Leaders

From 1775 to 1792, Chief Dragging Canoe led the Chickamauga in their fight against white encroachment on their ancestral lands.  John Watts, Jr. became Chief of the Chickamauga Cherokee after the death of Dragging Canoe on March 1, 1792, and held that position until 1795 when Little Turkey moved to the position as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  John Watts, Jr., was born about 1752 and died at Wills Town in 1808; he first lived at Watts Town between present-day Reedy Creek and Town Creek some 25 miles east of the present-day Town of Guntersville in Marshall County, Alabama; later, John Watts, Jr. lived at Wills Town just a few miles north of present-day Lebanon, Alabama and some six miles south of Ft. Payne.

Little Turkey resided at Little Turkey’s Town that became known as Turkey Town located near the Coosa River in Alabama; Little Turkey became a leader of great influence with his Cherokee people.  In the Grand Cherokee National Council of 1792, Little Turkey was referred to as the great beloved man of the whole nation; Little Turkey was chief until 1801 when he died and Black Fox was elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Black Fox lived at Mouse Town at the mouth of Fox’s Creek on the northern border of present-day Lawrence and Morgan Counties and remained chief until his death in 1811; Pathkiller took over as chief after the death of Black Fox and served until his death on January 8,1827; Pathkiller lived at Turkey Town and is buried near Centre, Alabama.  John Ross, who was born at Turkey Town, was elected chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1828 and served until his death on August 1, 1866.

Creek Indian War

During the Creek Indian War, Cherokee Colonel Richard Brown raised a group of some 25 local Indians to meet John Strother at Turkey Town; a route led south from Turkey Town to Hickory Ground, and then to old French Fort Toulouse.  Within some 15 miles south from Turkey Town, a large mixed force of Cherokees and Tennessee Volunteers under Jackson’s command attacked the Red Stick Creeks at Tallasahatchee; David Crockett participated in this first major campaign of the Creek Indian War at the Battle of Tallasahatchee.

Turkey Town Treaty of 1816

After the Chickamauga War and Creek Indian War, Turkey Town remained an Indian town of great importance; the Turkey Town Treaty of September 1816 was negotiated at Turkey Town.  The treaty of gave up Cherokee and Chickasaw lands in the north Alabama portion of the Warrior Mountains; both tribes had legitimate claims by previous treaties to the Indian lands in the present-day counties of Franklin, Colbert, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties.  According to the terms of the Turkey Town Treaty, the last Indian lands of the Warrior Mountains were bought from the Cherokees and Chickasaws on September 14 and 18, 1816, respectively.  The Chickasaws were paid $125,000.00 with the Cherokees being paid $60,000.00 for land that now makes up Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties.

The Chickasaws and Cherokees had overlapping land claims with the Cherokees claiming land west to Natchez Trace some 10 to 15 miles west of Caney Creek in Colbert County.  The Chickasaws claimed land east to the old official Chickasaw boundary, which runs from the Chickasaw Old Fields (Hobbs Island) south to the High Town Path then west along the High Town Path to Flat Rock in present day Franklin County.  From Hobbs Island, the boundary ran northwest diagonally across Madison Counties.

The Chickamauga Chief Doublehead and the Cherokees farmed and controlled the Tennessee Valley to Natchez Trace by agreement with Chickasaw Chief George Colbert.  The Turkey Town Treaty signed by the Cherokees on September 14, 1816, ceded Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, and Morgan counties; however, the U.S. Government established the Chickasaw’s new eastern boundary from Franklin County’s Flat Rock Corner on Little Bear Creek to Caney Creek in Colbert County until 1832.  The High Town Path was recognized as the southern boundary of the cessions for both the Chickasaw and Cherokee, until the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816; the treaty identified the new cession boundary as a straight line drawn from Flat Rock on Little Bear Creek in Franklin County to Ten Islands on the Coosa River.  Previous treaties recognized the Continental Divide along which ran the High Town or Ridge Path.

Turkey Town Conclusion

In the 1835 census, the Turkey Town area had only 43 families with 254 individuals with the majority of the people being mixed Indian and white; only five of the families owned black slaves.  In June of 1838, the remaining Indian families of Turkey Town were rounded up and herded into stockades by United States Army soldiers for removal to the west which started in earnest during the fall of 1838.  After the removal, white settler families moved in and claimed the former Indian lands of the Chickamauga Cherokee of Turkey Town; remnants of the Indian settlement fell in ruin.

When I recently visited the site of Turkey Town, a large marble monument marking the location of the prominent portion of the Cherokee settlement and an old well dating around 1810 was all the aboriginal evidence that remained of this once thriving Chickamauga town.  I was disappointed that very little historical structures and information about Turkey Town was available at the site of such an important Indian village; it is sad that we in Alabama preserve very little of our ancestral and cultural landscape.

Thursday, December 6, 2012



Otali, a Cherokee word that means mountain, was a Chickamauga Cherokee Indian town located at the southwestern end of Lookout Mountain between Wills Creek and the Coosa River.  This Lower Cherokee Indian village was originally called Atale a corruption of the Cherokee word for mountain Otali.  The Indian town is now known as the present-day site of Attalla, in Etowah County, Alabama.

A major Indian trail known as the High Town Path passed through the Otali; the old Indian route came from Chickasaw Bluffs at the junction of the Wolf River and the Mississippi River at the present-day site of Memphis, Tennessee.  The High Town Path passed through the Indian village of Flat Rock at present-day Haleyville, Alabama, and followed the Tennessee Divide through Winston, Franklin, Lawrence, and Cullman Counties prior to dropping off the mountain and passing through the Chickamauga Indian town of Browns Village at the Red Hill Community near present-day Guntersville.  From Guntersville, the path went around the end of Lookout Mountain at Otali.  From Otali, the High Town Path went to Turkey Town, then to High Town (present-day Rome), and then to Olde Charles Town which is present-day Charleston, South Carolina.

Otali became the home of Captain John Brown; his father was also known as John Brown, a white trader to the Chickasaws during the mid 1750’s.  The older John Brown married a full blood Cherokee woman; he traded with the Chickasaws along with James Adair.  John Brown was a pack horseman for the Cherokee traders, and later a Chickasaw trader and partner of Jerome Courtonne in the Chickasaw Breed Camp on the Coosa River; Chickasaw warriors would meet the pack trains coming from Charleston, and escort them to the Chickasaw towns to the west.  His sister married Oconostota, a famous Cherokee Indian known as the Beloved Warrior of Great Tellico.

Captain John Brown was half Cherokee Indian and was also known as Yonaguska which translates to “Drowning Bear.”  Captain John Brown was thought to have migrated to Otali after the Turkey Town Treaty of September 1816; he was the ferry operator at the famous Brown’s Ferry crossing of the Tennessee River in present day Lawrence County, Alabama.  Captain John Brown’s step daughter Betsey married a Cox and they operated Brown’s Ferry which became known as Cox’s Ferry for a short period of time; Betsey eventually relocated to Arkansas.  While at Browns Ferry in Lawrence County, another of John Brown’s daughters Patsy Brown, sister of Cherokee Colonel Richard Brown, married Captain John D. Chisholm; Patsy later divorced Chisholm who was the legal advisor of Doublehead; Doubleheads Town was located at the Browns Ferry site on the south bank of the Tennessee River in present-day Lawrence County, Alabama.

The half blood Cherokee Captain John Brown was born about 1756 and died in 1827; it is documented that he had three wives.  His first wife was unknown but he had two children Richard and Patsy Brown who married John D. Chisholm.  Another of the wives of Captain John Brown was a half blood Cherokee woman named Sarah Webber who had Betsey that first married a Cox and Walter Webber; John and Sarah also had David, John, Jr., and Catherine.  His third wife was Betsey or Wattee; they had Polly who married Alexander Gilbreath, Alexander, Edmund, and Susannah or Susan.  Not only did the half blood Captain John Brown have a son named John Brown, but it should be noted that Richard and David both had sons that were also named John Brown; therefore, possibly many of the descendants of the white John Brown and his full blood Cherokee wife were named John Brown which can cause a lot of confusion in genealogy.

Captain John Brown’s daughter Catherine established the Creek Path Mission School in 1820, six miles south of Guntersville.  It was in Attalla that David Brown, the half blood Cherokee Indian son of John Brown, assisted by the Reverend D. S. Butterick, prepared the “Cherokee Spelling Book;” the book was printed in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was ready to use in the schools by January 1820.  David Brown died on September 15, 1829.  Colonel Richard Brown had a son who was called Chief John Brown; Chief John Brown died October 24, 1861, in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Indian Territory.