By Mike Steely
If you would like to stroll on the same ground that early soldiers and Overhill Cherokee walked then you may want to be at Tellico Blockhouse near Vonore this Sunday morning at 10 a.m. A park ranger will be guiding a mile-long walk around the grounds there. It’s an easy walk and is wheelchair friendly.
Vonore is a curious community with some interesting places in town and nearby. Just to the south of the little town are the Fort Loudoun State Historic Park and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. The Sequoyah museum has been remodeled and worth a visit or a second visit. Fort Loudoun is also worth a visit but is less authentic than the Blockhouse.
The fort’s original location is now beneath the lake waters and the fort was duplicated on the hill above the actual location. The waters of Lake Tellico, created by backing up the waters of the Little Tennessee, flooded not only the fort but inundated the Overhill village sites. Only Tellico Blockhouse, just across the river to the northwest of the ruins of Fort Loudoun, which had been destroyed years early by the Cherokee, was high enough above the waters to escape the rising waters.
The blockhouse was built to protect a treaty with the Cherokee and became the site of several treaties that eventually removed the Overhill Native Americans, who were force marched to settle out west. They left their lands in southeast Tennessee, Norther Georgia, and North and South Carolina which had been granted to them in earlier treaties.
The blockhouse came about when, after years of wars between the Cherokee and the settlements, Cherokee Chief Hanging Maw convinced Territorial Governor William Blount to build Tellico Blockhouse and donated land for its location. The blockhouse fort was manned by militia there and replaced by federal troops. The blockhouse became the headquarters of the national Indian agent.
The original blockhouse was about 120 by 100 feet and enclosed by a palisade about 16 feet tall. It included a guardhouse, captain’s quarters, two barracks, a well and parade grounds and a large gate. A large watch tower was on one corner of the walls.
A trading post was authorized by Congress and at the fort the Cherokee were taught farming and mechanical trades. The fort was then expanded to twice its original size.
A two-story building was added for the use of visitors and officials. Traders visited the blockhouse to exchange furs and raw materials and a section of the expanded fort was used to train the Cherokee in spinning and weaving.
Many officials visited the blockhouse including future French King Louis Phillippe. In 1801 Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs took over as agent and moved the agency to Fort Southwest Point, now in present day Kingston. Four years later the blockhouse fort was abandoned.
In the 1970s a UT archeologist located the foundations of the old blockhouse fort and reconstructed the foundations. Artifacts, many of them from the abandoned well, were removed and are on display at Fort Loudoun.
You can get more information by calling 423-420-2331 and register for the event. The address is 149 Blockhouse Road, Vonore, 37885. You can also Google the historic site. The walk with the ranger is $5 for adults and children are admitted free if they are 12 or younger.
Whether you attend the ranger’s walk or not, anytime you are in the area a visit to the grounds of the original Tellico Blockhouse is worthwhile.