The Great Massacre of the Cherokee Children
by Dan Troxell
On Friday August 10, 1810 the Great Cherokee Children Massacre took place at Ywahoo Falls in southeast Kentucky. The Cherokee village leaders of the Cumberland Plateau territory from Knoxville, Tennessee to the Cumberland River in Kentucky were led by the northern provisional Thunderbolt District, Beloved War Woman Cornblossom, the highly honored daughter of Chief Doublehead.
Several months before this date, Beloved Woman Cornblossom was preparing the people in all the Cherokee villages of southeast Kentucky and northern Tennessee to bring all their children to sacred Ywahoo Falls area of refuge and safety. Once all the Cherokee children were gathered they were to make a journey to Reverend Gideon Blackburn‘s Presbyterian Indian School at Sequatchi Valley outside of Chattanooga Tennessee. In order to save all the children of the Cherokee Nation, remaining in Kentucky and northern Tennessee on the Cumberland Plateau. This area of Sequatchie Valley was very near to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga Tennessee. The once long held Chicamauga National Capital of the Thunderbolts.
For by this time, many Creek and Chickamaugan Thunderbolt Cherokee were defending the rest of the Indian Nations there as well. The arrangements to save the Cherokee children through Gideon Blackburn’s Christian Indian School had been made earlier by Cornblossom’s father, War Chief Doublehead. Who had also several years earlier been assigned by non-traditionalist of the southern Cherokee Nation of the Carolina’s and for eastern Tennessee.
A huge gathering area underneath Ywahoo Falls itself, was to be the central meeting place for these women and children to gather and wait. Then all the children of all ages would go on as one group, southward, to the school to safety.
From many Indian Fighters gathering in neighboring Wayne and Pulasksi counties in Kentucky. These Indian Fighters were led by an old Franklinite militiaman named Hiram ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory who came from Sullivan County Tennessee at the settlement of Franklin. He had fought many Franklinite Indian campaigns under John Sevier to eliminate all the traditional Thunderbolt Cherokee’s totally and without mercy. ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory sanctioned by the United States Government War Department and Governor of the Territory, carried on the ill famous Indian battle cry of John Sevier that “nits make Lice“.
Orders were understood by these Cherokee haters that nits (baby lice) would grow up to be adults and especially targeted in all campaigns of John Sevier’s Franklinites where the Cherokee women, pregnant women and children of all ages. John Sevier, ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory and all the rest of the Frankilites philospy was that if they could destroy the children of the Cherokee, there would be no Cherokee’s or Cherokee Nation to contend with in their expansion of white settlements, the white churches and the claiming of territory for the United States. Orders were issued to the Franklinites to split open the belly of any pregnant Cherokee woman, remove the baby inside her and slice it as well. To the Franklinites the Cherokee baby inside her was the “nit” that would eventually make lice.
In all the earlier campaigns of the Franklinites in the late 1700’s, the blood and screams of the Cherokee children were constantly heard throughout the Cumberland Plateau Territory from today’s Knoxville Tennessee to the Cumberland River in southeast Kentucky and to all the joining territories. From as far as Kentucky, present day Corbin and London and the lands within the present day Daniel Boone National Forest, the cries could be heard. The Lands from London to Cumberland Falls were ruled by many War Leaders. Among them was Great Warrior and friend to Cornblossom, Chief Red Bird, called Chief Cuttsuwah. A descendant of the Great War Woman Cutswah who fell during the French Indian War at Burnside, Kentucky. Red Bird was also close relative of Cornblossom, War Chief Peter Troxell and their descendants.
The cries of Red Bird’s woman and children echoed many times in this genocide campaign of the Franklinites to rid the area of powerful Cherokee leaders. The blood of many warriors, men and women, was spilled trying to defend their Cherokee people. From where Pickett State Park lays in northern Tennessee, just below the Kentucky/Tennessee state line lying south of present day Wayne County Kentucky.
The cries of women and children and fallen warriors of War Chief the Fox could also be heard. The ‘Fox’ was also sometimes called ‘Black Fox’ or ‘Captain Fox’, he became known as ‘Captain Fox’ when Doublehead and his loyal Thunderbolt War Parties in the late 1700’s attacked a militia in Kentucky, killing their leader. Who was a Captain in the American Army. As the ‘Fox’ was the one who killed the Captain, he took his militia overcoat in victory and wore it constantly (side note from Quiet Buck… now you understand the Native wearing the coat on the front page of this site). A frenzied “whoop dance” was performed on Lookout Mountain by Dragging Canoe, Doublehead and the ‘Bloody Seven’ over this victory attack on the Kentucky militia. The Fox became known to all Cherokee’s as Captain Fox. Now the Villages under Chief Captain Fox came under attack by the Franklinites.
Standing Fern from the Ywahoo Falls area sent many warriors and War Women to counter the Franklinites move on boundaries, many times as did Cornblossom and War Chief Peter Troxell. War Chief Peter Troxell had attacked to the west of Ywahoo Falls in 1806 and 1807, the settlers of Wayne and Pulaski Counties. Bringing many settlers to the point of utter fear for their encroachments against the Cherokee’s of the now Daniel Boone National Forest of southeast Kentucky. But in 1807 War Chief Peter Troxell agreed to turn over his scalping knife with 9 notches to the authorities at the Courthouse in Wayne County. Peace would last just a short while, when the settlers of Wayne and Pulaski Counties bonded together in 1810 to break this Peace Treaty at the “Massacre of Ywahoo Falls“.
Many of the Cherokee traditionalist in Southeast Kentucky became more determined to serve their people as ever. And from all this the Thunderbolts endured the militia of Franklinites continued encroachments of white settlers, land speculators, the many southern Cherokee who allied themselves with the United States Government trying to defeat the traditionalist of Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee. All resulting in the Chickamaugan Cherokee separating even more from the southern Cherokee of the Carolina’s to fight this continuing drastic change.
Politically two (2) Cherokee Nations were formed during Dragging Canoe’s and Doublehead’s fight for freedom of the traditionalist. The Southern Cherokee’s of the Carolina’s and far eastern Tennessee and the Chickamaugan Cherokee of Georgia and eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. For you see, over many many years, many of the southern Cherokee of the Carolina’s who lived more closely to white settlements leaned toward the US Government policy of change. Many became inbred within the white society. And as did whites, did collect blacks and Indians for slaves for themselves and to sell. With some becoming rich, many did away with the old ways and played into the hands of politicians and land speculators to steal land as they themselves would now own land unto themselves.
Many of the southern Cherokee would also condemn the Thunderbolt traditional Cherokee in Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky who would not change and accept the the new ways of the European’s. They shamed and banished any Carolina Cherokee and elsewhere isolated themselves in the mountainous way before the Trail of Tears during this social civil strife between the people. These conformed Cherokee would brand any and all who kept their ancient Cherokee heritage as traitors to the Cherokee People. And from all this strife of change, many traditional Cherokee protectors arose. Dragging Canoe and Doublehead arose to defend the people. But by this date in 1810, Dragging Canoe and the rest of the so called ‘Bloody Seven’ had either died a natural death or been killed. And War Chief Doublehead, Cornblossom’s father, had met his death by means of assassination at the hands of Cherokee Conformist from the South.
And now in 1810, one more attempt would be made to destroy the Cherokee’s who kept the old traditional ways. One more attempt would be made to destroy the “nits” that make lice, as many Cherokee women and children came to Ywahoo Falls in order to make the Great children migration to Sequatchie Valley near Chattanooga Tennessee. In southeast Kentucky, underneath Ywahoo Falls itself, was War Woman Standing Fern, and over 100 women, children, and others, who stationed themselves out from the Falls.
Standing Fern was the mighty Woman War Leader of the Ywahoo Falls area and was married to War Chief Peter Troxell, the first born son of Cornblossom. Cornblossom was married to ‘Big Jake’ Jacob Troxell, 1/2 bred Delaware Warrior from Pennsylvania. Who had been sent by personnel staff of President George Washington earlier to sway the Cherokee from the Spanish in Florida and move towards the New America in alliance.
But Jacob had ended up joining the Cherokee instead, which came about over the inhumane cruelty the incoming settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee were inflicting on the Cherokee and other tribes of southeast Kentucky and northern Tennessee. To the New Americans he had turned Injun again. By 1810, ‘Little Jake’ War Chief Peter Troxell was a mighty War Chief riding along side his mother, Cornblossom in Indian campaigns and protecting the sacred sites with his wife, Standing Fern.
They were true Cherokee Thunderbolts and wore the sacred emblem and mark of the Thunder People, The Lightning Bolt. Standing Fern was in charge of gathered children, who by August 10th had almost assembled. Now they would wait for Cornblossom to bring her younger children to the Falls, then all would be ready and they would go southward in a children fleeing journey more closer to the Thunderbolts of the south who arrive stronger.
Runners brought word to Standing Fern at the Falls that her husband, War Chief Peter Troxell and Cornblossom were on their way to Ywahoo Falls with the last of the children. Traveling with Cornblossom and War Chief Peter Troxell was Chief Redbird of the Cumberland Falls area and their children, the youngest children of Cornblossom, and all the children of War Chief Peter Troxell. When they arrived at Ywahoo Falls the journey southward would begin. But before Cornblossom, Red Bird and War Chief Peter Troxell and all the children with them arrived. The old Franklinites Indian Fighter by the name of Hiram ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory had heard of the planned trip and several days prior headed immediately for the Falls area to kill them all with all muster to kill the Cherokee.
Breaking the peace treaty of 1807 between War Chief Peter Troxell and the Governor of Kentucky, ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory’s band of Indian Fighters crossed into Cherokee Indian territory and came in two directions. One group from Wayne County and the other from the neighboring Pulaski County in southeast Kentucky. The Indians on horseback joined together at what is now called Flat Rock, Kentucky and headed into the Ywahoo Falls area with fiery hatred. ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory and his Indian Fighters could not allow these children (nits) to escape.
Being only one good accessible way in by land and one way by water, Gregory’s band of Indian Fighters chose the quick way by land. Sending a few side skirmisher’s by way to block any trying to escape. Before they reached the Falls at todays entrance to Ywahoo Falls, the Indian Fighters encountered a front Cherokee guard consisting of ‘Big Jake’ Troxell, (husband to Cornblossom), a few long hunter’s, friendly to the Cherokee, mainly through inter-marriage, and some remaining Thunderbolt warriors. All who were guarding the entrance to the Falls. This occurred shortly after midnight in the early morning hours of darkness before the rising of the sun. This will be the “night morning of screams“. This will be the last day for many children. This will be the day that will forever mark the Troxell Cherokee Heritage in History.
Jacob Troxell, the long hunter’s and warriors instantly sense trouble. A Cherokee runner takes off in flight to attempt to warn Standing Fern at the Falls, but he is cut down by two side skirmishers on the way. At the same time Jacob Troxell and the front guards lock in a fierce battle of flintlock against flintlock, and hand to hand fighting, trying to keep Gregory and his band out. But are overcome in a short time by the numbers of the Indian Fighters.
All the front guards are killed at the entrance of Ywahoo Falls. It is said through the memories of the Cherokee People of southeast Kentucky that Jacob Troxell and one renowned Great Warrior were the last to fall of the front guards. Jacob, now swinging a 1/2 broken and highly decorated War Club in one hand, and a large skinning knife in the other. Stood fighting hand to hand with blood coming out of his mouth and from several bodily wounds. He was said to have kept screaming to the end in a loud voice over and over “the children“, “the children“.
The Great Warrior witnessed the fall of Jacob Troxell, as the Indian Fighters took sharp aim and fired a whole volley of lead into Jacob’s body. Finally downing and scalping him. Jacob will survive this attack but is mortally wounded and will live two months before he dies as a result of the massacre. So some say Jacob died at this massacre, to denote his final breath to save the children, because that was where his heart was, defending the children of now forgotten people. Lost within the hills and valley’s of southeast Kentucky, waiting for remembrance to their families. The Great Warrior who was still standing, was the last to fall, who was jumped by several Indian Fighters and downed to the ground. Breaking his arms, the Indian Fighters cut his throat and scalped him.
This had all been witnessed and watched by a hidden son of one of the Front Guards, who was given orders to flee into the woods upon the approach of the Indian Fighters. This hidden son would carry down this memory for generations.
Today the entrance of Ywahoo Falls, there is a only one memorial grave marker with the name ‘Jacob Troxell’ only, to mark remembrance of this incident. The Ywahoo Falls Area is a part of the Big South Fork River and Recreation Area of the National Park Service and the tallest waterfall in Kentucky which drops 113 feet. Underneath and behind the Falls is an open huge gigantic rock shelter where the children and Standing Fern gathered.
Gregory with his Indian Fighters, after scalping all the front guards. Then moved onward in a rush to the Falls area. Lining themselves all long the top rim of the bluff surrounding the Falls and large rock house or cave below it. They began firing from all sides down on War Woman Standing Fern and over 100 Cherokee children directly underneath. The ones out from the Falls ran, hid or escaped.
Having trapped 100+ children, old men, pregnant women, and mothers underneath the Falls. Gregory and his men worked their way down the gigantic area of the rock house and on the downward side path. While the ones on top kept them bottled in. As women and children fell all around her from the volley of lead above, War Woman Standing Fern and her few warriors now take the two left and right inclining side paths that lead into the huge rock shelters hoping to meet and stop the Indian fighters looking outward from underneath the Falls itself.
Standing Fern and several warriors took the right path that would lead upward. The trapped Cherokee people and children old enough to hold a weapon grabbed whatever they could in their grasps to defend themselves. Some would have only a rock or a clay cooking bowl to throw or nothing at all to use as a weapon. Some of the ones who escaped out from the Falls hid among the trees, water and rocks and would watch in horror with tears to tell a story for generations. So that we will remember what happened that day, Friday August 10, 1810.
Standing Fern and her warriors were quickly overcome by the Indian Fighters and brutally killed, but not before Standing Fern with a passion of defense taking with her several Indian Fighters in hand to hand combat. Along the right path while other warriors fought with the ever fevered courage of a Thunderbolt as well.
The fall of Standing Fern occurred at a narrow spot in the right path fighting several of the Indian Fighters with a swinging hatchet in hand to hand combat. As she was fighting, she was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the hip, and gutted in the belly with an unseen knife. As the knife entered her belly, at the same time she was shoved over a ravine by several Indian Fighters, but not before taking several of them with her. With Standing Fern and several of her warriors defeated and murdered, the Indian Fighters set upon the children and others that were trapped under the Falls, rushing it with more volley’s of lead and close attack. Using what useless weapons they had, the women, old men and children of all ages fell prey to the evil dark designs of the attackers. They screamed an earthquake of death and tears. The water and ground ran red.
Hiram ‘Big Tooth’ murdered and scalped over 100+ Chickamaugan Cherokee women and children that had been huddled together and screamed and pleaded for their lives.
Meanwhile, the same day, the party of Cornblossom approached the children. As the party came closer to the Falls area, it is said a hawk flew above and sat in a nearby tree and acted strange. Investigating this remarkable occurrence, it was found that the tree was bleeding blood out of its bark, the leaves trembled, and the sound of the hawk was a cry and scream of a baby. Fearing something was wrong, Cornblossom and her party pushed onward in a frantic pace to get her children to the Falls and safety. When Cornblossom arrived at the Falls entrance area, she found all of the front guards brutally scalped and killed, with her husband “Big Jake” Troxell. Leaving the children with some women, Cornblossom and her son War Chief Peter Troxell, Red Bird, and their party of warriors and war women rushed to the Falls itself where they find some of Gregory’s murder’s, who had remained behind still finishing their evil work of rape, torture and scalping.
Cornblossom screams for her warriors, Red Bird (Aaron Brock) and her son War Chief Peter Troxell to kill these remaining men with a blow of passion, her famous cry was once again heard as she had always shouted in her many campaigns, “Shoot twice, not once“. War Chief Peter Troxell, Chief Red Bird and the Thunderbolt Warriors, along with Beloved War Woman Cornblossom, charge the murders with screaming Cherokee War Hoops and passion of justice. A battle ensues with a short volley of rifle fire and close hand to hand combat with all its fierceness. All the remaining Gregory Indian Fighters are cut down to never more harm the Cherokee people.
From this last fight of Cornblossom, her son War Chief Peter Troxell was himself killed at the huge shelter rock underneath the Falls. And Cornblossom herself received an agonizing long rife gun shot injury. Cornblossom will live for 2 days before this wound takes its full toll on her life. Beloved Woman Cornblossom wounded and in such pain from the wound and sorrow, will sing and wail the “Death Song of the Cherokees” underneath and top the ancient sacred grounds of Ywahoo Falls over and over for 2 days and nights. Clinching her raised fists and raised open arms to the Great Spirit, day and night. She kept screaming the words of her father Doublehead, son War Chief Peter Troxell and daughter-in-law Standing Fern, “We are not conquered yet” (side note from QuietBuck.. we are not conquered, for the Thunderbolts still live). And on the 3rd day, as the blazing eastern morning sun rose over the mountains and valley’s of Kentucky, Cornblossom passed onto great Cherokee history as a Great War Woman to her people and a great mother of future generations. May we not forget her or her children. Remember her with a Cherokee tear and honor.
From this massacre, Jacob Troxell, the Great Warrior, all front guards, War Woman Standing Fern, and all her elite Thunderbolt Warriors, all killed defending the children below the Falls. Peter Troxell killed in the last fight, and over 100+ women and children waiting to go south to safety in a children journey Christian Mission School all lay dead, raped, massacred, tortured and scalped by these Indian Fighters.
It was said that, bones and blood ran so deep underneath Ywahoo Falls that the murdered dead were put there together in a heap to be their grave. The place of innocence and the ancient ones now become a place of death of the innocent. The Falls ran red that day of darkness, Friday August 10, 1810.
No more will they witness the blessed Moonbow at Cumberland Falls and receive its sacred blessing. No more will they hear great orations spoke at Ywahoo Falls, by not only the many Cherokee Leaders of the Nation, but the other great orators from other Tribal neighbors as well. William Troxell, the youngest son of Cornblossom, will forever keep the fires of memory alive, so all may know what happened on Friday August 10, 1810. These fires will be carried by William to Alabama were the stories are etched and burned into generations to come of Troxell’s and whoever may listen and remember.
A relative Troxell and a Blevins man of the area reports this incident to the Sheriff of Wayne County, but nothing is done, nor is Hiram ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory brought to justice, for the many non-Indians believed “nits make lice“.
Beloved Woman Cornblossom wails and suffers so much over the dead that she dies of grief a couple of days after the massacre of her husband, son and daughter-in-law and over 100+ loved women, children of her Cherokee people. The grief was so sorrowful and hard. It is said that on her last breath to leave her body was the soft words, “We are not conquered yet, remember my children, remember my people“.
This massacre ended all power of the Chickamaugan Cherokee People in Kentucky to Knoxville Tennessee. Cornblossom and Standing Fern were the last powerful Beloved Women/War Women of the Thunderbolt Cherokee’s of Cumberland Plateau. War Chief Peter Troxell, son of Cornblossom, was the last of the Great powerful Cherokee War Chief’s of Kentucky and the Cumberland Plateau. These people of southeast Kentucky and northern Tennessee held out unto death. And as it has been said, “today was a good day to die” we are not conquered yet. The rest of the children of Cornblossom, the children of Standing Fern and War Chief Peter Troxell and Red Bird were spared from this tragedy to live on. Generation after generation, some keeping the memory and history alive of the Cherokee nation.
With no powerful Cherokee leaders left in Kentucky and the Cumberland Plateau to hold any strong pioneer, many Cherokee leave the southfork area of southeast Kentucky and northern Tennessee after the Great Massacre in fear of white’s. While others became isolated and hide in the mountains. The children’s children of War Chief Peter Troxell, Standing Fern,and Cornblossom will isolate themselves in the Valleys and mountains of southeast Kentucky, with some holding the memory of their great Cherokee heritage, to not speak openly or too much until the time has come for remembrance. (side note from Quiet Buck… this is my direct family, not till my grandfather did we leave those hills. I am the 3rd generation from the hills, and I seek to return.)
After the massacre of Ywahoo Falls, Reverend Blackburn’s illness and grief over many women and children killed at Ywahoo Falls in southeast Kentucky. Reverend Blackburn is caught with a boatload of whiskey and becomes an alcoholic. Chief Red Bird isolates himself and his people that live near Cumberland Falls and sends any remaining people into hiding until remembrance.
The children of Cornblossom and Standing Fern survived. William Troxell, the youngest son of Cornblossom survived and removed himself to Alabama 7 yrs after the massacre and lived with the Creeks, and become a link between the hidden Cherokee of Kentucky and Tennessee before and after the Trail of Tears. But there is more to be told that come after the massacre, events that will shape history into meaning and not only the Doublehead Legacy, but for all that survived the invasion of settlers. Survival of the children and their generations to come, and this will center on the descendants of Southeastern Kentucky and William Troxell, and the legacy that will now transpire in Alabama.
In order to protect the children and their generations, many things were done to preserve, to hide things, things on one hand presented to settlers to be true, while in reality other things came about. And this tactic of survival was given to them by Doublehead. As there were Cherokee survivors to this massacre, many did die a brutal death from it. Doublehead’s descendant of his children were considered by the settlers to be not only a real threat, but a future threat as well.
Also in the last fight of Cornblossom, Peter Troxell and Red Bird, when they attacked the remaining murders at the Falls, 3 of the white men were held and spared briefly and executed personally by the hidden children who had escaped and run into the nearby hills. This execution of justice came shortly after the passing of Cornblossom on the 3rd day, after being weighed in judgment by the Cherokee Council of women of Red Bird. The first blow was said to have been struck by the son of the Great Warrior that fell among the front guards. His name was Tommy Bright Star, who will also remove himself to Alabama later with William Troxell. One of the the 3 white men executed by the children was close blood kin to Indian Fighter Hiram ‘Big Tooth’ Gregory, his name was Homer Gregory, believed to be the brother to Hiram.
The many Indian hating settlers along with the Kentucky and Tennessee militia deemed this massacre the last of the resistance movement of Kentucky Cherokee’s and Northern Tennessee. The aftermath of this Cherokee massacre brought new questionable ideals to the now called victorious gloated settlers. Questions like, is the Cherokee resistance really over, or will it cause retaliation occur somewhere? Are they truly conquered or defeated. And what of the children, will they assimilate into non-Indian society, or must they be dealt with harshly? Many questions and pondering on what is next. The settlers now feeling powerful and self-dominated, ponder on the next steps to take in Cherokee matters.
Foreseeing more tragic events in southeast Kentucky and northern Tennessee, and understanding that the Indian Fighters are now receiving bits and pieces of rumors that some Cherokee leaders are not dead, and probably survived, and that Homer Gregory and 2 others were executed. The Cherokee’s must keep one step ahead of the settlers by making widely known that the massacre event had killed all their leaders, especially the ones of Doublehead/Cornblossom connection and decent who had any Cherokee power.
True: Peter Troxell, Standing Fern, The Great Warrior and many front guards and over 100 Cherokee women and children were slaughtered at the massacre. All who had strong connections with the Doublehead legacy. However, what is kept from the settlers is that Jacob Troxell and some others were the ones who did not die from their wounds. The others were the ones who had escaped before the massacre had begun. But Jacob will suffer much pain from his wounds. William Troxell, 7 yrs after the massacre in 1817, will concealingly take Jacob and some other Cherokee with him to north east Alabama. War Chief Peter Troxell became the last father of his people, father of his brothers and sisters in honor, and that is why some say Peter Troxell is their decent, so no one will forget him as well.
But first things must be concealed from the non-Indian. Jacob’s 3 trading posts are burned by the Cherokee and goods distributed to the people. Caves are deliberately sand walled and collapsed in southeast Kentucky and in northern Tennessee. Some Cherokee traveled into the non-Indian territory of Wayne, Pulaski and Green counties to conceal things of importance. While other things are secretly transported to Alabama, though the guise of Cherokee women acting like non-Indian women. Villages, burial grounds and other important things of past leaders are shuffled to conceal. To the settlers, Jacob Troxell could not be allowed to live, he was politically a threat, as he was married to Cornblossom, daughter of Doublehead which could stir up the Cherokee’s again to resistance. If any of the leaders were to have survived, blood shed after blood shed could have occurred.