The Vagabond – Cherokees and speculators

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By Danny Crownover

In September of 1870, it was reported in Gadsden that 20 Cherokee Indians had arrived in this area and were encamped on Lookout Mountain, ready to act as guides in pointing out silver and lead mines in the vicinity.

These Native Americans were descendants of the supposed celebrated Chief Kuskov. The Indians were to point out some lead and silver mines within one and one-half miles of Double Springs, located just outside the corporate limits of Gadsden. The springs were located at what is now the corner of Third Street and Tuscaloosa Avenue.

In the 1840s, the settlement of Double Springs included a post office and a general store. The town eventually was abolished in favor of Gadsden, which was situated on a bluff overlooking Coosa River and was to build a railroad station.

The news that 20 Native Americans were encamped on the outskirts of town ready to show the white landowners where their ancestors mined lead and silver in great quantity caused old miners to become excited and the promised strike to lead to hysteria.

Land prices went skyrocketing, and some owners would not fix any price at all on their holdings. The mere thought that such fabulous wealth was located less than two miles out of Double Springs excited people for miles around, until the bubble burst.

The Cherokees undoubtedly obtained lead and, possibly some silver, from the hillsides of this part of Alabama, but there were no extensive deposits of such minerals that could be worked at a profit.

Up to the 1890s, Native Americans in this part of the state claimed to know where lead, silver, gold and other precious metals had been mined by their ancestors, but nobody ever heard of anyone coming across the real thing. Many landowners believed the tales about Native Americans coming back from the west and revealing the location of valuable mines along with veins of lead and silver on their farms.

For years, local Native Americans made a good thing of it by claiming they had knowledge of where the minerals were located, until a Cherokee who had pointed out a mine was promptly killed.

Small deposits of valuable minerals have been found in northeast and east Alabama ever since white men first came into the state. Lead, silver and gold deposits are spread out over a large area, making them too small and too scattered for commercial purposes.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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