Structures relocated, saved for exhibition

By Danny 'The Vagabond' CrownoverBy Danny 'The Vagabond' Crownover

 There is a little old log cabin that’s set up about 100 yards to the west of the Little River Canyon Center on Ala. 35. It came from Cedar Bluff just across from the Cedar Bluff School at the older Eugene Turner Mann’s place.

Early in his life Eugene Mann became interested in the mining industry and took an active part in the development of iron ore mines in middle Tennessee and Round Mountain, Cherokee County, Alabama. He later served as an official of the Lookout Mountain Coal and Iron Company in their development of coal and iron mines at Battelle in DeKalb County, Alabama. Later, when the Lookout Mountain Coal and Iron Company was forced to close its operations due to competition from the United States Steel Company, Mann became manager of the commissary department at Birmingham. He contracted pneumonia while on a hunting trip and died shortly thereafter. He was a brilliant conversationalist, humanist, devoted student of history, and had many friends in all fields of endeavor. Mann was married to Lola Josephine Williamson, the daughter of pioneer David N. Williamson who settled near the old Fort Armstrong site sometimes after the Cherokee Removal.After the death of Mr. Mann, his widow and three children returned to Cedar Bluff in Cherokee County which was her native home.

The late Gail King was instrumental in getting the cabin relocated to the Little River Canyon Center. She writes:

“The cabin at Little River Canyon Center was donated by Eugene Mann [son of the earlier mentioned Eugene Turner Mann] to me while I was working in the archaeology department at JSU. Catherine Mann lived next door to Eugene. Her daughter is Warwick, who lives in Birmingham. Eugene stated that the cabin had been moved from Williamson Island. Marty and I, (even Jay McGirt) along with some other volunteers dismantled the cabin. The cabin contained a large loom, a cotton gin, and an asunder of iron tools. When the archaeology department fell apart at JSU, I gave it to Dr. Kelly Greg (JSU).  He restored the loom and put the cabin back together at the Little River Canyon Center. The loom and cotton gin are in the storage room at the Center. I would like to see dendrochronology done on the cabin to get some dating information, for that matter all of the cabins.”

This cabin originally came from the old Williamson plantation. It, along with two other cabins now located at Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, were on land threatened to be flooded by the newly formed Weiss Lake. To rescue these three buildings from rising waters, then Gadsden Mayor Les Gilliland and Park and Recreation director Ray Bullock hired a ferryboat.

The Williamson Estate, Inc. consisting of President Colonel Robert N. Mann, Vice President Margaret Williamson Campbell and Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Turner Mann, Sr., donated two of these buildings to Noccalula Falls. All three of them had been in use until the 1960’s. The buildings were dismantled, numbered and assembled by late August of 1968.

Around 1840, after removal of the Cherokee Indians, the D.N. Williamson family arrived in Alabama. They settled on land that was once part of or near Fort Armstrong.

Fort Armstrong was built in the latter part of 1813 under the command of Andrew Jackson and General Cocke. It was part of an overall plan to prepare for the battle of Horseshoe Bend which removed the Creek Indians. The fort was south of today’s Cedar Bluff.

The Noccalula Falls cabins are today the Loom House and the Country Store. These two have very unique characters indicating they could have come from the old Fort Armstrong.

The Williamson family considered the today’s country store to originally be an early military commissary used to store and furnish provisions. It had only one well-locked door and no windows to prevent goods from being stolen or easily entered into during a siege.

John Ross, Cherokee Indian Principal Chief, managed a commissary at one time during the fort operation. Ross was born in nearby Turkeytown on Oct. 3, 1790. The commissary was used by the Williamson family as a corn crib for many years. Because of its association as a commissary, both Mayor Gilliland and Park & Recreation Ray Bullock decided to convert this building as a country store.

The Loom House was used by the Williamson family as such but originally, it was said to have been a blockhouse, which served as a ‘fort within a fort’ and was the last line of defense. If one was to look at it today, several holes in the walls above the 2nd floor appears to have been cut out for mounting guns against Indian assault.

The cabin that went to the Mann’s property from Williamson Island is believed to have been a blacksmith shop and was built in 1832, six years before the Cherokees went on the Trail of Tears.

Sources: Gadsden Times articles, e-mail from Gail King, Williamson family history and the Mann family history

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