Last weekend, I travelled to North Alabama to visit my grandmother for the day. She now lives in Boaz, but we took a drive to nearby Guntersville to visit old haunts. I was born in Guntersville at a hospital overlooking the lake. For years, my Mom and Dad would point out the room I was born in from the road by the red curtains hanging in the window. The hospital is now gone, like so many other things, but my memories of eating at Reid’s restaurant, fishing on the lake, and driving out to Buck Island are fresh.
Since beginning the research on my family history, I have discovered a connection to the Cherokee on both sides of my family. I still find it ironic that I was born in a hospital on the lake my great grandfather helped dig, near the river that served as a final highway for some of my ancestors on the Trail of Tears. I knew none of this as a child, but life has a way of coming full circle sometimes.
Today’s Guntersville was once known as Gunter’s Landing. Back in the 18th century, John Gunter, a white settler from North Carolina, discovered salt deposits and began to trade with the nearby Cherokee. He eventually married into the tribe and opened a store called “Gunter’s Landing.” This store in the middle of nowhere resulted in a small town forming called Gunter’s Landing. When Andrew Jackson travelled through Gunter’s Landing on his way to battle the Creeks, he enlisted many Cherokee to help, including one of John Gunter’s sons. Even today, heading up Sand Mountain on Highway 431, you’ll see indications of Jackson’s path through this area, including a subdivision on the brow of the mountain overlooking Guntersville called “Andrew Jackson Heights.”
By 1820, Gunter was operating a ferry across the Tennessee River. Many settlers coming into Alabama immediately after the first Creek War used the Tennessee River as a highway. This includes the several families such as the Lees on my Mom’s side that would eventually settle in southern Jefferson and northern Shelby counties. Gunter’s Landing became a gateway into the interior of the Alabama Territory. Unfortunately for the Creek and Cherokee, this gateway also served as a means to eventually rob them of their homelands. By the late 1830’s, most of the Cherokee in Northern Alabama would be gone.
Often at our annual family reunions on Lake Guntersville, I wonder down to the water’s edge and sit quietly. While gazing out at the Tennessee River, I try to imagine the thoughts of my Cherokee ancestors as they gazed on their homeland for the last time. As their barge slowly moved up the river away from Gunter’s Landing, I can imagine tears of fear and loss rolling down many a face. I close my eyes and slowly, the modern sounds of family talking and cars passing by fades away. All that’s left is the gentle lapping of the river water…and the silence is deafening.
-cover image courtesy of http://www.backpackingbelievers.blogspot.com
6 thoughts on “Full Circle”
Great post. Very poetic as well as teaching history. >>It is very interesting how people can come full circle. H and I moved out of the city to the country for a number of reasons and I was interested in a rural kind of life long before I realized that many generations back, my father’s people were from rural areas not far from where I now live. Not once, during all the years I lived in Bham, did anyone in my family mention the family’s connections to Marshall County, Arab, or Guntersville–or the relatives we had still living there. So it was mind-boggling to me and to my mother to realize that I had ended up being near those never-mentioned relatives after all. Coincidence. Or not.
What a beautiful story. I love that last picture, too.>>I hope you have a relaxing weekend! Deep breaths…. 🙂
The Country Experience: Wow! What a small world! My grandmother’s family is from Arab and my grandfather’s family is all over Marshall and Etowah counties…maybe we are related somehow?>>countrypeapie: breathing in…breathing out…all’s good and thanks for being such a good friend! Enjoy your weekend and get some rest – Lord knows, you deserve it!!
Journey2thepast:From what I know of the lines going back to 1840 or so I don’t know of any Beans but there are always the lateral (I think that’s the word) lines. We’ll have to compare names sometime. >>In another “it’s a small world”, you and I know each other IRL, I realized when I first came across your blog and read your profile. Your cats’ names tipped me off first, even before the Bean did. We have some catching up to do! E-mail me at TheCountryExperience@gmail.com. >>You know what is even more “small world”? We knew my husband’s g’parents had lived in Blount County and knew where they had lived as adults. What we did not know until recently when I started looking at old censuses was that both lines a few generations ago lived in our small area that we are in right now! Talk about cueing the “Twilight Zone” music, lol.
Okay, y’all don’t laugh, but it took me a really long time to figure out that IRL meant In Real Life (right?) instead of Ireland.
countrypeepie: Don’t worry about it – you translated for me I’m sad to say!! I haven’t quite gotten the hang of all this lingo yet…