The Cherokee People
Nancy Still and the Trail of Tears
In 1835, nearly 9,000 Cherokee lived in Georgia, including the area now known as Cobb County.
The Cherokee used local natural resources for food, water, medicines, tools, clothes, construction materials and trade goods. Their intricate knowledge of local vegetation, animals, climate and geography was essential to their ability to create everything from sassafras tea to dugout canoes to turtle-shell rattles.
In short, every aspect of Cherokee life was based on a keen understanding of their specific environment.
Given this, the forced removal of Cherokee and other Native Americans from their homelands in the 1830s was especially devastating.
Nancy Still represents the plight of the Cherokee during that era.
Nancy, thought to be a middle-aged widow with six children, owned a farm just north of current-day Vinings, near Sewell Mill Creek. In 1830, Congress passed, and President Andrew Jackson signed, the Indian Removal Act. Georgia then began to include Cherokee territory in its land lottery, allocating their land to white settlers.
In 1835, Cherokee who remained along the western side of the Chattahoochee River were required to move away from the river. It was the first step in the forcible removal of the remaining Native Americans from Georgia.
Nancy, her children, and her sister Sally Still relocated with others to the capital of the Cherokee Nation at New Echota, Ga. There, she wrote a desperate letter in broken English to Georgia Gov. Wilson Lumpkin:
“I write…to on form you of the troble an distress I am in concerning (my property). I went thare eight years ago in the woods bilt my hous an cleared my ground an improved it a little every year sence an never has bin off it sense…my little children has made all the improvements with thare hands and know to looseit this time of yeae an go in the woods they cant make nothing to live on…if we are turnt out my children will perish.”
Lumpkin wrote the state Survey Department, asking it to exempt Nancy's property from the land lottery. Why Lumpkin, a supporter of Indian removal, did this, is unknown. Regardless, his directive was ignored.
The Still family was forced to leave Georgia, joining an estimated 16,000 other Cherokee on the long journey to Oklahoma now known as the Trail of Tears. Nearly 4,000 died on the 800-mile walk. Nancy's fate is unknown, as there is no record of her reaching Oklahoma.