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.


  1. I have many John Browns in my family. I would love to know if I am somehow related. I do know that some of the John Browns were Indian Traders.

  2. Part of the High Town Path was Clack 's Turnpike and the Black Warrior Trail (Bear Meat Cabin Road), and also Highway 69 from Cullman across Brindley Mountain in Cullman and Marshall Counties).