Fort Butler and the Trail of Tears

fortbutlerLocated on a hill overlooking present-day Murphy, North Carolina on the Hiwassee River, Fort Butler was the headquarters of the Eastern Division of the U.S. Army overseeing the  forced Cherokee emigration.

On a late July day, my husband and I found the remnants of Fort Butler along Hitchcock Street near Lakeside Street in what today is a private residential neighborhood. Down the hill and overlooking the river, Cherokee Street follows the former Unicoi Turnpike along which the Cherokee were marched to Fort Cass, Tennessee and on to Indian Territory as depicted in Beyond the Cherokee Trail.

By early 1838 it became clear that most Cherokee would not willingly leave their land. After a deadline in May passed, the Army prepared for forced removal. Fort Butler was enlarged with barracks, officers’ quarters, offices, shops, kitchens, and other buildings.

The military removal of the Cherokee began in Georgia in late May, but reports of abuse and mistreatment of the prisoners caused General Winifred Scott, the overall commander stationed at Fort Cass, to halt operations until early June.

Southwest North Carolina was one of the most densely populated regions of the Cherokee Nation and was believed to be rife for violent resistance. Therefore, General Scott travelled to Fort Butler in order to personally direct the roundup of Cherokee in the North Carolina.

During the early summer of 1838 more than 3,000 Cherokee prisoners from western North Carolina and northern Georgia passed through Fort Butler en route, via the Unicoi Turnpike, to the larger internment camp at Fort Cass. Unlike the long imprisonment at Fort Cass, most of the prisoners spent only a few days at Fort Butler, although some remained for a few weeks.

fortbutler1Despite the housing development, one isolated clearing in a grove of trees gives a haunting reminder of the atrocities which took place here.

For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit


My Real Life #Inspiration for the Characters of Beyond the Cherokee Trail

I don’t often share photos of what characters from my novels look like—what they look like in my head, that is. I prefer for readers to form their own conclusions, to utilize their own unique experiences and backgrounds in forming their mind’s eye view of my characters.

While I will leave the modern-day inhabitants of fictional Cartridge Cove like Linden, Walker, Marvela and Ross to your imagination, I will share the historical photos I found which somehow launched the full-blown characters who peopled the events of the Trail of Tears portion of Beyond the Cherokee Trail.

For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit




Sarah Jane and Pierce


The family portrait of Sarah Jane, Pierce, Dr. Hopkins, Jonathan and David


The grave


The real LilyRose, a photo shared by Garnet Redman


Leila Hummingbird

#Quilts from Beyond the Cherokee Trail

Here are some of the quilts featured in Beyond the Cherokee Trail

14_07_29_3857The Cherokee Rose quilt is a quilt block I designed and created for the novel. The pattern is based on the legend of the Cherokee Rose. It is said that when the Trail of Tears began in 1838, the Cherokee mothers were grieving so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. So the elders prayed for a sign that would give the mothers strength. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where their tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem represent the seven Cherokee clans. Even today the wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears all the way into eastern Oklahoma.


This 1830s era quilt played a prominent role in Sarah Jane’s story of the Trail of Tears—With its pesky Y seams, this is a challenging quilt block. One day, I’d love to make my own Carolina Lily quilt.


Close up detail of Carolina Lily motif


Carolina Lily

This pattern was developed by Cherokee quilters in the NC and SC area in the 1930s. In the book, Cartridge Cove quilters adapt the pattern to reflect the Trail of Tears.


The Road to Soco quilt pattern

For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit

North Carolina Quilt Barn Trails

Inquiltbarntrail 2009, the Graham County Cooperative Extension started the Graham County Barn Quilt trail. The trail highlights the area’s history and creates a tourism activity.



I borrowed this idea in creating my fictional quilt barn trail in the Snowbird Mountains of North Carolina as featured in Beyond the Cherokee Trail. My quilt barns incorporate Appalachian and Cherokee quilting traditions.

quiltbarn2Just like in real life, many volunteers from the fictional Cartridge Cove community had to come together to donate supplies, paint and hang the quilt squares on local barns in Beyond the Cherokee Trail.




The Graham County Trail winds from Stecoah to Robbinsville, and Yellow Creek to Snowbird.



For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit

Blueberry Pie #recipe

blueberrypieThis would work equally well for blackberry pie. I cannot go to the mountains of North Carolina without purchasing blackberry jam—my all-time favorite.

The key to any great pie is the crust. So I’m sharing my mother-in-law’s Foolproof Pie Crust Recipe. Yes, I realize I’m the let’s-do-things-as-easy-as-possible chef. But this pie crust is worth the trouble. You won’t be sorry, I promise.

Foolproof Pie Crust—Ingredients:

•4 cups all-purpose flour

•1 3/4 cups vegetable shortening

•1 Tbsp sugar

•2 tsp salt

•1 Tbsp vinegar

•1 egg

•1/2 cup water


1. With a fork, mix first 4 ingredients. In a separate dish, beat remaining ingredients. Combine the 2 mixtures, stirring with a fork till all ingredients are moistened.

2. Mold dough into a ball. Chill at least 15 minutes before rolling into desired shape. Dough can be left in the refrigerator up to 3 days or frozen until ready to use. Divide into 4 dough balls.

3. Roll out one ball for crust of blueberry pie.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour to thicken
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp butter (unsalted), cut into small pieces

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk


1. Roll out one dough ball to 1/8-inch-thick circle on a lightly floured work surface, about 13 inches in diameter. Position the dough over a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.

2. Stir the blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Pour into the bottom crust of the pie pan. Dot with butter pieces. Roll out another dough ball to the same size and thickness as the first. Drape on top of the berry filling. Fold the top dough over and under the edge of the bottom crust. Crimp the edges. Chill until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425°F.

3. Whisk egg and milk together for egg wash.

4. Brush the top crust with egg wash. Score the top pie crust with 4 cuts of knife (so steam can escape while cooking). Place the pie on the middle rack of the oven. I usually set pie in a shallow baking pan to catch any dribbles that may bubble over. Bake for 20 minutes at 425°. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until juices are bubbling and have thickened. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.



Behind the Scenes Photos in the Creation of Beyond the Cherokee Trail

Our home away from home while researching Beyond the Cherokee Trail.

Our home away from home while researching Beyond the Cherokee Trail.


Loved the signs in Cherokee

Loved the signs in Cherokee

The View of the Snowbird from the Cabin

The View of the Snowbird from the Cabin

Inspiration for Meetinghouse Church

Inspiration for Meetinghouse Church

Near Cherokee, NC—recommended by TJ Holland, Cultural Historian—we were not disappointed.

Near Cherokee, NC—recommended by TJ Holland, Cultural Historian—we were not disappointed.


Cherokee County Historical Museum—Excellent Trail of Tears exhibit—Murphy, NC

Sunset over the Snowbird

Sunset over the Snowbird

Imagine hundreds of souls trudging through these mountains—6000 men, women and children would die before reaching modern-day Oklahoma.


For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit

The mysterious, hauntingly beautiful Snowbird.

The mysterious, hauntingly beautiful Snowbird.

The gouge marks bear testimony of the tragedy perpetrated here in 1838.

Though birds trilled in this peaceful forest setting, the gouge marks bear testimony of the tragedy perpetrated here in 1838.

The wagon ruts are still visible. The trees haven't quite grown back together even after 180 years.

The wagon ruts are still visible. The trees haven’t quite grown back together even after 180 years.

Hunting Waterfalls in Snowbird Country

In the middle of the Snowbird Backcountry far, far away from any road—I kid you not. Moonshiners?

In the middle of the Snowbird Backcountry far, far away from any road—I kid you not. Moonshiners?

I’m a great believer in treasure hunts. When my husband and I went to Ireland, I searched high and low for obscure Celtic crosses—often found in the middle of a pasture filled with grazing cows. And yes, I climbed over barbed wire fences to get my photographs. Much to the amusement of Irish farmers, who laughed and shook their red Irish heads at the antics of those crazy Americans.

Then there was last summer when I—read family—researched Beyond the Cherokee Trail. Up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, across the Great Smokies and Nantahala National Forest, we hiked in search of the perfect waterfall. Perfect for my upcoming scene at the end of the novel.



Ever since Last of the Mohicans, I’ve been a fan of waterfalls. If my editor lets me get away with it, I insert one into every novel I write.




14_07_29_3876I believe I became a bit obsessed with finding the waterfall under which the Snowbird Cherokee hid during the roundup for what became the Trail of Tears—aka Last of the Mohicans, be still my heart—and successfully eluded the U.S. army.


14_07_29_3874Obsessed because after a four hour hike of finding nothing, crossing knee-deep streams of rushing water, scrambling over rocky outcroppings perched precariously over river torrents, I had to be dragged off Snowbird Mountain. A mountain still so remote and isolated, it doesn’t surprise me that the Cherokee evaded capture. In this age of satellites and reconnaissance planes, I feel sure most of the modern-day 14_07_29_3879Cherokee Nation could hide out there again and not be found.

Let’s not forget that fugitive Eric Rudolph hung out thereabouts for 7 years and only was arrested when he stumbled into town.

14_07_29_3868We—my husband and I, not “we” as in me and Eric Rudolph—traipsed over hill and dale without sighting another human being for over four hours. David estimates we covered about 10 miles of rugged terrain—I’m not talking Park Service Marked Pathways, either. No, we had to bushwhack our way through. I even went one foot in front of the other across a moss-covered log suspended over a ravine—Indiana Jones style.


‘ Cause I don’t just write the adventure, I live the adventure.14_07_29_3884

I’d retreated temporarily to the gravel parking lot at the base of the mountain to rehydrate and formulate my next foray onto the mountain when a vacationing family stopped and mentioned spotting a black bear.

That—not my husband’s pleas—convinced me not to return to the mountain. So I left and did the next best thing—I went shopping.

14_07_29_3882But since I’m quoting movies today, to quote Scarlett—”Tomorrow is another day.” One day I will return and I will find that missing waterfall. I’ve been studying geographical maps and I think I know where I took a wrong turn. I just need to ford the creek . . .turn left . . . and head up the eastern face until I either run smack into it or fall off.

Who’s with me?



For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit


Beyond the Cherokee Trail Cover Reveal

Releasing today—

“Carter (Vines of Entanglement) pays tribute to a tragic event in American history with this compelling contemporary story about the power of forgiveness, prayer, and faith in God. A solid choice for fans of Lori Benton’s Burning Sky and other inspirational cross-cultural romances.”—Library JournalBeyond-hi

RT Book Reviews — 4 1/2 stars and September’s Top Pick—

“Carter does a phenomenal job in bringing the Trail of Tears to life through the journal of Sarah Jane Hopkins, a nurse who walked the trail alongside the Cherokee. The juxtaposition of Sarah Jane’s story alongside that of Linden Birchfield, who moved to Cartridge Cove 180 years later, keeps the story fresh and engrosses readers throughout the novel. Walker and Linden’s struggles—with each other and with reconciling their own pasts—helps create realistic characters who readers love.”

Paper Tape and Pins Book Review

“This is my favorite hands down of Lisa Carter’s books so far. I have a few reasons for this, such as for the story, which is present day blended every chapter or so with an 1800’s storyline telling first hand the story of the Trail of Tears. This is a method I often find irritating but it was done top notch here and I was equally invested in both stories. I really appreciated the deeper themes woven in dealing with grief and fear, and finding your home not in a place or family but ultimately in God who is the only one who will never fail you.

Beyond The Cherokee Trail is a well written story, rich with history and makes you think deeper than you may have expected to, but it is not slow nor does it drag at any point. I was not tempted to skip ahead a few pages, or breeze over the sermon (there are none), you know how that can be. It’s fantastic, add this one to your reading list!

Trail of Tears Hymn 2 minute #video

Powerful Cherokee rendition of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”.



For behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit

Summertime Tomato Sandwich #recipe

tomatosandwStraight from your garden or the local farmer’s market

Slice one ripe tomato.

Slather white bread with your favorite mayonnaise.

Mayo loyalty in the South ranges between Duke’s or Miracle Whip.

indexSalt and pepper tomato wheels.

A taste of summer brought to you from Beyond the Cherokee Trail. Enjoy.

For more recipes or photos from Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit