Will’s Town and Wills Valley (Ahhesahtaskee)
During the American Revolution, John Stuart sent British agent Alexander Campbell to Wills Town to provide support to the Indians during the Chickamauga War against the southern colonies. By 1777, Campbell had his headquarters at Wills Town which was a large Lower Cherokee Indian village located on Big Wills Creek near the present-day Community of Lebanon which is some seven miles south of Fort Payne. Some ten years later in 1788, Campbell was joined by British Agents Alexander Cameron and John McDonald who set up their operations in Wills Valley at Turkey Town some 20 miles south of Wills Town. These British agents were successful in providing arms, ammunition, powder, supplies, and food to the various Indian tribes throughout Wills Valley that were collectively called the Chickamauga. The Chickamauga in Wills Valley included the Lower Cherokee, Upper Creek, and Shawnee; they were given provisions in exchange for the scalps of white settlers who were intruding onto Indian lands.
Half blood Cherokee Will Webber was the namesake for Wills Valley, Big Wills Creek, and Little Wills Creek. The creeks meander along Wills Valley between Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain, through the Town of Collinsville, and to present-day Attala, Alabama where Wills Creek run into the Coosa River. William Webber was also called Redheaded Will; he was the son of a Cherokee woman and a British officer named Webber. Will Webber came to Wills Valley from Nequassee, North Carolina.
Wills Town was the home of the second Chickamauga Chief John Watts, Jr.; he was born at Wills Town about 1752 and died in Wills Town in 1808. John was the brother of Wurteh Watts and uncle of George Guess. It is highly probable that Chief John Watts Jr. lived on the west bank of Big Wills Creek near an old ford of a road crossing coming from Wills Town Mission. A beautiful two story log cabin that had hand split chinking boards between the huge hand hewed chestnut logs still stands near the site, but the Cherokee log home is in the process of rotting down.
Log House on Big Wills Creek
In November 1792, Captain Samuel Handley was attacked and taken prisoner near the Crab Orchard on the Avery Trace or Cumberland Road. He was taken to Wills Town in the heart of Chickamauga country where he met British agents John McDonald and Alexander Campbell. Samuel Handley was interrogated after he was released and you can read the debriefing by Governor William Blount on pages 115 and 116 of the book “Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief.” Samuel Handley wrote a letter from Wills Town on December, 10, 1792, telling of being a captive in the town. Handley also later tells that the Chickamauga had three companies of mounted cavalry commanded by John Taylor and Will Shorey; Will was the half-blood Cherokee brother-in-law of John McDonald. Captain Handley did not know the name of the third commander of the Indian cavalry; Handley also tells of 150 Upper Creeks being at Wills Town.
George Guess (Sequoyah) was the son of Colonel Nathaniel Guess (Gist) and his Indian wife, Wurteh Watts, who was a niece of Old Tassel and Doublehead. When he was a young Celtic Indian boy, Sequoyah migrated with his mother Wurteh Watts and settled at Wills Town in Wills Valley. Wurteh Watts was the daughter of Scots Irish trader John Watts and Wurteh, who was the daughter of Great Eagle and granddaughter of Moytoy. Wurteh Watts was married to four different men: Robert Due, Bloody Fellow, John Benge, and Nathanial Guess (Gist); all her husbands were Scots Irish except Bloody Fellow with whom she had no children.
George Guess (Sequoyah) was a blacksmith, silversmith, and an all-round mechanic; he made metal implements such as hoes, axes, tomahawks, and such other farming tools needed by the Cherokees in Wills Valley. George was an uneducated genius who invented an alphabet for his Cherokee people so they could read and write in their own language. Congress voted George Guess an annuity of $500 per year, and had his picture painted and placed in the government archives at Washington, DC. Sequoyah voluntarily migrated west of the Mississippi River on more than one occasion to visit his people and settled with the “Old Settlers” about 1823. Sequoyah’s half-brother Tahlonteeskee (Talohuskee Benge) of Shoal Town was the leader of the “Cherokees West” that left the Big Muscle Shoals of North Alabama in 1809.
Robert Benge lived at Wills Town and was a quarter-blood, red-headed Chickamauga Warrior; he was the son of the white Scots Irish Trader John Benge and Wurteh Watts. Bob Benge was born about 1766, and took 45 white scalps; he was ambushed and killed April 9, 1794. Benge was also known as “The Bench;” he was the half-brother of Sequoyah and father of Wagon Master John Benge (1788-1854).
Mixed blood John Benge was the son of the most feared Scots Irish Chickamauga Cherokee Robert (The Bench) Benge. John Benge was one of the detachment conductors appointed by then Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross. He served in Morgan’s Cherokee Regiment during the War of 1812. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Andrew Jackson and a militia of more than 600 Cherokee warriors surrounded about 1,000 Creek warriors; John Benge, Thomas Benge, The Boot, The Broom, George Guess (Sequoyah), and many others from Wills Valley fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend for the American forces. John Benge voted against removal and served as a wagon-master of a detachment of Cherokees from the Wills Valley area on the Trail of Tears; his removal contingent followed old Indian roads and trails that became known as the Benge Route.
By 1822, a Cherokee Methodist minister by the name of Turtle Fields was a resident of Wills Town. Turtle Fields was a descendant of Ludovic Grant, and a brother to George Fields; he was born about 1776 and died about September 1844. Turtle Fields married three times. He married his first wife about 1804; she was unknown and born about 1788. His second marriage was Ollie Timberlake about 1816; she was born about 1770. His third wife was Sarah Timberlake in 1837 and she was born about 1815. Turtle Fields served with the Cherokee allies of the American forces in the Creek Indian War and fought at Horseshoe Bend in John McLemore's Company in March 1814.
Today, in Will’s Valley, a very few remnants of the Chickamauga Cherokee are visible such as the Will’s Town Mission Cemetery, a sandstone chimney at the site of Fort Payne cabin where the Cherokees were incarcerated until removal, the home of Andrew Ross-the brother of Cherokee Chief John Ross, Trail of Tears markers that indicate the route of the Benge Detachment led by wagon master John Benge, a few historic markers, and a marble monument at the Turkey Town site. It is sad that practically little physical evidence exists of our colorful and wonderful historic aboriginal Indian ancestors that ruled North Alabama for thousands of years before the coming of white settlers.