The Vagabond: Remembering local parks

October 25, 2019 chris
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By Danny Crownover

The purchase of Noccalula Falls and its surrounding 169-acre tract in 1946 by the City of Gadsden for park purposes recalls the fact that the city has smaller parks that contain much historical interest.

On the west brow of Lookout Mountain, less than a mile from Noccalula Falls, is Sequoia Park, a 13-acre tract donated to the city by the late E.G. Cole and named in honor of George Guest, son of Nathaniel Guest and a Cherokee Indian. George Guest was one of the most remarkable men ever produced in this region.

George’s Cherokee Indian name was Sequoia, or Sequoyah. He grew up at Willstown, a Cherokee Indian village established just northwest of the city by Chief Wills.

Sequoyah’s childhood was spent playing and hunting in Wills Valley and on Lookout Mountain. One of his favorite spots was supposedly the beautiful spot now incorporated into the park system of Gadsden.

Inspired by his Cherokee Indian mother and the instincts of his white blood, Guest invented the Cherokee alphabet, the only one ever possessed by any of the North American Indians. He produced the type for a newspaper published in the Cherokee language and thus established the first newspaper to be published in this area in any language. Guest’s alphabet is now in use by the Cherokees in Oklahoma and North Carolina.

For the invention the United States government gave Guest a cash bonus of $500 and had his portrait painted for the national gallery. This portrait shows him wearing a silver medal given him by his tribe in recognition of his great service. On the medal, his name is spelled “Gist.”

George Guest moved to Oklahoma in 1823, afterward wandering into California to discover a giant redwood forest. His discovery was later verified by the U. S. Government and officially became the Sequoia National Park.

Moragne Park, once a virgin forest of bark and white oak trees (probably the largest of their kind in Alabama), was donated to the city by the late Joe S. Moragne in honor of his grandfather, John S. Moragne, who came to Gadsden, which was then a wilderness, in 1830 from Charleston, S.C., accompanied by his widowed mother.

Moragne was 16 years old and was of pure Huguenot stock. With Gabriel and Joseph Hughes, also from South Carolina, he founded the town of Gadsden.

John S. Moragne was the first white man to explore the mineral wealth of North Alabama. Years ago, the city bought 51 acres of land on Black Creek between Forrest Avenue and Alabama Avenue for a re-creation park that was developed into a fine baseball field built for Gadsden’s Class B team in the Southeastern League. The facility was used by all schools and for all recreation purposes.

In East Gadsden, the city owned the seven and one-half acre Litchfield Park and one unnamed park of 13 acres on East Broad Street opposite the Gypsy Inn.