Fort Loudon – Sequoyah Birthplace Museum | Tennessee Crossroads


(soft, jazzy music) Sometimes historical landmarks are lost in the name of progress. Sometimes, thankfully, they get recreated. Such was the case of Fort
Loudoun in east Tennessee. Rob Wilds is taking us to the fort and to a nearby museum that
share an important chapter in Tennessee history. (light banjo music) – [Rob] Meet Will Kinton. – I’m a park ranger here at Fort Loudoun. Park ranger two, officially. – [Rob] I’d have to say
the park ranger uniforms have changed since the last one I was at. (Will laughing) (laughs) What do you got on today? – Well, at your cultural
and your historic parks, we do a lot of living
history interpretation. Today I’m dressed as a soldier would have been here at
Fort Loudoun 250 years ago. – Fire! (cannon firing) – [Rob] Back when the enemy the walls were meant to keep out was the French. (cannon firing) – Fort Loudoun was in use
from 1756 through 1760. It was the first English beacon settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. First one in what would
one day be Tennessee. The people came here and built this fort because of the military
might of the Cherokee. They had to have that alliance. – [Rob] So out marched British soldiers from South Carolina to build the fort. And the alliance with the Cherokee, well, it lasted for a while. – Large, powerful Cherokee nation. Our enemies aren’t coming
through this valley unless the Cherokee let them. So in so many respects,
Fort Loudon is the testament of the military might
of the Cherokee nation, even down to the way it fell. When Fort Loudoun fell to the
Cherokee in August of 1760, it was the only British
fort in North America to fall to a force made up
solely of American Indians. – [Rob] The Cherokee
burned the original fort, and later the creation of
Tellico Lake flooded the area. But a replica was built on this site, sticking close to the original plans. – Here at Fort Loudoun, they had sawyers as part of their construction crew. It was their job to rip the boards and make these clapboard buildings. That’s Barracks Road that you
see stepping down the hill. In the early stages of construction, the design had for there to be one chimney connecting each two buildings. Captain Demeré saw the
work the mason was doing was not impressed and had
the chimneys pulled down thinking those were going
to fall and kill his troops. They went instead with the chimneys being on the backside, the
west side of those buildings. But the buildings you see here today are built on the footprints of originals. The grounds have been raised up 17 feet to get the lower part of the fort above the high water mark, but we’ve got the archaeological data. We’ve even got the diagrams, the drawings written up in the early days of Fort Loudoun to base those on. (snare drum music) – [Rob] So visitors come
from around the world to see what used to be. – [Man] Present! Fire!
(gunshots firing) – [Rob] In one of those ironies that history so often presents us, the Cherokee destroyed the fort, then much later the lake destroyed
much of Cherokee history. – The nearest Cherokee town of Tuskegee, birthplace of Sequoyah, was
just beyond that building. It’s now flooded. So a huge piece of world history is underneath the water
just beyond that house. That town of Tuskegee sprung
up outside the new Fort Loudoun to be close to the British fort. Just a short distance further up, the Cherokee town of Tanasi,
namesake of our state, it’s also flooded. But the Overhill country, this is home to numerous Cherokee towns. It’s the birthplace of
many Cherokee leaders. It’s very rich in Cherokee history. (low, mysterious music) – [Rob] Fortunately, just down
the road from Fort Loudoun Cherokee history is recalled
and one giant of a man is remembered. The Cherokee Sequoyah, who
created a singular achievement, according to Charlie Rhodarmer, director of the Sequoyah
Birthplace Museum. – Sequoyah never had an education. He never learned English, German, French, to read or write in any language. Here, he’s challenged
with academic deficiency. On his own, over a 12-year period develops the writing system by himself. And no one else has done that. – [Rob] Sequoyah was an artist, a trader, a silversmith, a blacksmith, and the creator of a whole language, even though he had his
challenges from birth. – Sequoyah can translate from Cherokee into English to mean pig’s foot. Sequoyah had a limp that he walked, had a physical challenge. – [Rob] Of course, that didn’t stop him. He first created a numbering system to allow him to keep
track of who owed him what in his blacksmith business. And then… – In his blacksmith shop in 1809, there’s a group of
Cherokee standing around, and Sequoyah announces to
this group of Cherokee, “We could create a writing system. We could put our words on paper just like the English can
put their English on paper. We could do that.” So in 1809 he begins a 12-year journey in trying to create a writing system, which he finally finished in 1821. – [Rob] The museum tells us about the man and about his people. – What you’ll see is some
of the different periods of the different peoples that were here in the Overhill over the
last 10,000, 12,000 years. Then we have exhibits that talk about the fort period, when
Fort Loudoun was built. We also have exhibits that
talk about the syllabary and show you the examples
of Sequoyah’s work. – [Rob] Work that was historic,
places that are historic. recalled for us at Fort Loudoun and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, both in Loudoun County.

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