Monday, March 17th, 2014
The Junaluska Memorial Site Museum’s Fort Montgomery research funding is supporting the development of an archaeological report on the historic Fort Montgomery location in Graham County and the digitization of historically documented materials and local residents’ interviews. Fort Montgomery is a pivotal place in both Cherokee and Graham County histories. The Fort was used to hold Cherokee people of the Cheoah area before their forced deportation approximately 175 years ago. Identifying the location of Fort Montgomery will allow the story of removal to be shared with visitors and create a preservation plan for this historic location.
Early records show that the first white settlers lived harmoniously with the Cherokee in western North Carolina. But when gold was found in the region, the Cherokee were forced to leave tribally occupied lands. This movement to the west, known as the “Trail of Tears,” began in 1838.
The roundup of the Cherokee in Graham County, North Carolina, began with the arrival of the forces of General Winfield Scott. A stockade was built in Stecoah and a larger fort constructed on Fort Hill was known as Fort Montgomery. With a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Junaluska Museum is beginning preliminary archaeological research on the Fort Hill property to identify the exact location of Fort Montgomery.
“If we can locate the area in and around the Fort Hill property where Fort Montgomery was situated, it will open new partnerships for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and allow the story of removal to be shared with more visitors,” said TJ Holland, EBCI Cultural Resources Supervisor.
Phase one of the research involves shovel checking for materials and using metal detectors. Once a concentration of materials is revealed, an archeological report will be generated and given to the EBCI Tribal Historical Preservation Office and the State Historical Preservation Office, along with historical documented materials and local residents’ interviews. The Junaluska Museum will be the curator for the digitized versions of the interviews and historical materials and they will go into the Museum’s collection.