Chester Martin Remembers Alice Warner

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I knew Alice Warner Milton late in her life, following her close involvement with the Fort Loudoun Historical Association, She knew more about the Cherokee and early English settlements than any other source. Period. And she was instigator of the famous “Snail-darter Controversy” of the early 1980’s

Alice was born on the banks of the Little Tennessee River, heard the lore of the area from childhood, and personally discovered the postmolds of the long-forgotten British Colonial Fort Loudoun in her early youth.

A lifetime love-affair between Alice and that fort ensued. She personally developed a highly interesting guided nature trail through the area – above the bluffs, which are now under water.

Someone commissioned me to do a painting of Fort Loudoun as it was when new in 1756. I needed expert help for the building details, British flag, etc., etc., so my wife and I welcomed her to our home while that work was in progress.

Mrs. Milton had her own “take” on local history, as do most historians. There was no doubt in her mind that the site designated today as “Ross’s Landing” could not be the true site – because why would Mr. Ross want to drive his horse and buggy so many miles daily from Rossville to the present site of our Tennessee Aquarium? There was NO Chattanooga at Ross’s time, and she thought the actual Ross’s  Landing was more nearly in the area of where Chattanooga Creek empties into the Tennessee River. Furthermore, the later Cravens family which located on the side of Lookout Mountain acquired the former Ross’s Landing (after 1838) and set up their Craven’s Yard in its place. From their vantage on the mountainside, they could look down on their Yard. (“Yard” simply meant a “place where work is done”)

Alice introduced me to the various bands of Cherokee. The “Overhill Cherokee” were the ones who lived in the vicinity of Fort Loudoun, and who had split with the North Carolina band, moving “over the hills” into Tennessee. Sequoyah, the famous developer of a Cherokee syllabary, was said to have been born in one of the several Overhill villages which once existed there. Another village of the area was called “Tenase”, which gave its name to the state. Both those villages are now under water. Directly across the river stood the Tellico Blockhouse, where several treaties between Native Americans and English were signed. A Cherokee Chief of the time, “The Broom” rode from his village of “Broomtown” on the Alabama line, near Menlo, GA, to affix his “X” mark to one of those treaties. “Broomtown Road” still exists as GA Highway 337, between LaFayette and Menlo GA. My father grew up close to it.

The “Little Carpenter” was one of several famous Chiefs from Fort Loudoun days, but that was only one of several names he had at different points in his life. He was called a “carpenter” by the British because it meant someone adept at creating treaties, able to please all sides: a WISE MAN, in short, or facile with words. (Think of how Jesus’s earthly father was said to be a “carpenter”, in King James’s English!).

But the Little Carpenter’s son was not so even-tempered and welcoming to the white man, becoming exasperated with them, and moving his renegade band of followers first, to the site of future Chattanooga. This renegade firebrand Cherokee was the famous “Dragging Canoe”, later getting mixed up with the “James Brown Massacre” (of whites), which got Andrew Jackson’s attention. Go read it!

All this according to Alice Milton. In her eighties she would drive three times a week to teach it at UTK.

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )

Chester Martin
Chester Martin

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