Richard Ratliff, Sr.- A British Tory living in the Cherokee Nation and what is now Etowah County


For the next few weeks The Vagabond will be discussing about some of the folks that settled in the area west and north of Attalla before the Cherokees were removed.

This area was from around Highways 77 and 431 all the way up to Sand Valley Road and over to Reece City.

This area once occupied the site of an Indian village which was of considerable importance during the Creek War of 1813.

Some says that the Indian relics found in the vicinity are “Tsu-sanya-sah – Ruins-of-a-Great-City.

”Never the less, this area has some of the most unknown events in American history.

Last week the Vagabond discussed about Silas Chote and his Cherokee Indian family that lived near Sand Valley Road.

This week Richard Ratliff, Sr. is the topic.

He is mentioned as a “person residing in the Cherokee Country, not natives of the land, 1797.”

Richard Ratliff appeared in Alabama shortly after the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Hawkins, a government surveyor, met him and documented their contact in Alabama in 1792.

He said he was from the Halifax section of North Carolina and had been in Alabama “several years.”

His presence was also documented by Andrew Jackson, Davy Crocket and others during the Creek Indian Wars about 1813.

He was married to an Indian lady and had a trading post used by Jackson.

Two of his sons fought for Jackson.

One of his sons was called “Whooping Boy” and he turned out to be sort of a hero.

However, some of Jacksons men did not trust Richard.

They thought he was a Tory from the Revolutionary War and also thought he may be helping the Creeks. Jackson defended him totally.

They had taken away Richard’s slaves and stock but Jackson made them give them back and threatened to punish the culprits.

After the Creek War Ratliff’s place became sort of a center of commerce. In 1818 it was the Post Office as well as the trading post.

It is believed that Richard was indeed a Tory (British sympathizer). 

When passing through the Indian nation (Joseph Hughes) came across an old refugee Tory named Radcliff, living in the midst of the Indians and negroes.

Hughes eyed him very closely for sometime, and suddenly exclaimed ”I know you sir. You are a scamp of a Tory.

“I ran into you, sir, from Chester District and nothing but an accident saved your life.”

Ratliff’s reply was “No, I guess not, sir, I don’t know you.”

By 1835 the Cherokee Census reports Richard and his son, Richard Jr. at Turkeytown.

At that time there were only five slave holders in the area, James Lesley,Richard Ratliff Sr., Richard Ratliff Jr., John Ratliff and John Campbell. 

The two Richards lived by each other and had an array of kids, slaves and halfbreeds according to the census.

From the autobiography of David Crockett, Crockett and his men crossed Raccoon Mountain and came to a settlement occupied by Ratliff.

This family was in a pivotal location. They were situated between two creeks that are known today as Ratliff’s or Line Creek and Clear Creek.

They lived at the foot of Racoon or Sand Mountain in Will’s Valley.

Their home and accommodations were utilized by travelers for many years during and after the Creek War.

He had previously lived at the settlement of Creek Path on the Tennessee River. Ratliff’s wife was Indian and Crockett said they were Creek, but Jackson later referred to the family as Cherokee.

Davy Crockett had picked up a rumor at one point of an Indian attack and made this statement…

“After meeting the main army we went on to Radcliff’s, where I had been before while out as a spy, and when we got there we found he had hid all his provisions.

“We also got into the secret, that he was the very rascal who had sent the runner to the Indian camp, with the news that the Red Sticks were crossing at the Ten Islands; and that his object was to scare me and my men away, and send us back with a false alarm.

“To make some atonement for this, we took the old scoundrel’s two big sons with us, and made them serve in the war.”

One of the Ratliff boys was called the Whooping Boy, and Jackson wrote to General John Cocke that he fought bravely at Talshatchey.

After the Creek War, the land where the Ratliffs lived was ceded to the United States and they had to relocate back into the Cherokee Nation in the Turkeytown area.

More on Ratliff next week.

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