Heroes on the Trail of Tears

The jessebushyheadReverend Jesse Bushyhead (1804-1844) was a Cherokee religious and political leader. Although he opposed the policy of removal to the west, he accepted the inevitable and led a party of about 1,000 people on the Trail of Tears. The group led by Bushyhead followed the same northern route taken by the group led by Evan Jones. The route led them north through Tennessee and Kentucky to an Ohio River crossing at Golconda, Illinois, then west to cross the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. After that, they turned southwest to Indian Territory. At the start of the trek, the group numbered 950 people. During the journey, the group experienced 38 deaths and 6 births, so that 898 arrived safely at their destination on February 23, 1838. On his arrival near present-day Westville, Oklahoma he established the Baptist Mission, which marked the end of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. He became chief justice of the Cherokee nation in 1840 and remained in that office until his death.

I love the inscription on his grave marker. Front side—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'” An inscription in Cherokee is at the bottom.

And on the back—“Rev. Jesse Bushyhead was a man noble in person and noble in heart. His choice was to be a true and faithful minister of his Lord and Master rather than any high and wordly position. He loved his country and people, serving them from time to time in many important offices and missions. He united with the Baptist Church in his early manhood and died as he had lived, a devoted Christian.”

evan jonesEvan Jones (1788–1872) was born in Wales. He emigrated to the United States in 1821. Jones became a Baptist missionary and spent over fifty years as a missionary to the Cherokee people. The Baptist Foreign Mission Board initially sent him and his family to work among the Cherokees living in North Carolina, where he learned to speak and write in the Cherokee language, taught school at the Valley Town Baptist Mission, and became an itinerant preacher. Jones vehemently opposed the expulsion of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands. But Jones volunteered to lead one group of Cherokees to Indian Territory. His group consisted of 1, 033 people who left Valley Town on Febraury 2, 1838 just ahead of the group led by his close friend and ministerial colleague, Jesse Bushyhead. Jones’ group experienced 71 deaths and five births on the Trail.  When they finally arrived, he reestablished the Baptist Mission and school and resumed his missionary activities. With the help of his son, John Buttrick Jones, he continued his work preaching, translating religious books, and serving as an advocate for the Cherokee. One author claims that Evan and his son “…converted more American Indians to Christianity than any other Protestant missionaries in America”.

images6Junaluska, (Cherokee: Tsunu’lahun’ski) (c.1775 – October 20, 1868), was a leader of the Eastern Band of Cherokee in western North Carolina. He fought alongside Andrew Jackson and saved his life at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, though later in life he regretted having done so. At the start of the infamous Trail of Tears in 1838, Junaluska and many other Cherokee people were incarcerated and held in nearby stockades. Fort Montgomery was located near present day Robbinsville, North Carolina. From this stockade, Junaluska was forced to march to Indian Territory in present day eastern Oklahoma. Junaluska was assigned to Jesse Bushyhead’s detachment. About seven weeks into the journey, Junaluska deserted and led approximately 50 other Cherokee in a bid for freedom. As noted in fictional Beyond the Cherokee Trail, he was captured and returned to Oklahoma but after several years Junaluska made the trip back to North Carolina on foot. In 1847, after a plea by Colonel William Thomas of the future Thomas’ Legion fame, the state legislature rewarded Junaluska for his service by making him a citizen and giving him land near Robbinsville. A museum and memorial stand in his honor at his gravesite.

For more information and behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.


Cherokee Handicrafts and Keeping it Fun

CHcrafts4The Qualla Arts and Crafts Cooperative is the largest and oldest preserver of traditional Cherokee handicrafts. Here I bought the Cherokee vase which sits on my desk.


index2But it was deep in the Snowbird, just outside of Robbinsville at Hunting Boy Wood Carving that I acquired a Billy Welch turtle. BTW, I collect wooden turtles from all the indigenous people groups of the Americas. And as my husband says, only I could go to the Snowbird to research a book on the Cherokee and meet America’s top moonshiner, Jim Tom, from the Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners.

Not only do I write adventure, I live the adventure.

But that’s a story for another day.

Here’s a wooden bear similar to Billy Welch’s wood-carving at Hunting Boy. Next time I go, I intend to add this little guy—the bear, not Billy or Jim Tom—to my collection.CHcrafts5

Other great Cherokee handicrafts—CHcrafts3



An oldie but goody place to start educating yourself on Arts and Crafts of the Cherokee—CHcrafts2




For more behind-the-scenes photos from Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.CHcrafts

Cherokee “Come Thou Fount” 2 minute #video

Another favorite hymn of the displaced Cherokee on the Trail of Tears—the photos in this video remind me of my travels through the wildly remote and hauntingly beautiful Snowbird backcountry of North Carolina.

For behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.

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 https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.

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 https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.




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 https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.

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 https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.

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.

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 https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in the Nantahala National Forest

“This forest is one of the America’s most impressive remnants of old-growth forest. The forest contains magnificent examples of more than 100 tree species, many over 400-years-old, and some more than 20 feet in circumference and 100 feet tall. This 3,800-acre forest was set aside in 1936 as a memorial to the author of the poem “Trees,” Joyce Kilmer, who was killed in action in France during World War I. This forest, part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slick Rock Wilderness, is maintained in its primitive state. The only way to see this forest is on foot. A 2-mile trail leads to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial and loops through giant trees. ” Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

There’s something ethereal about the Joyce Kilmer National Forest. Like Walker Crowe states in Beyond the Cherokee Trail, here lies a green cathedral made not with human hands but divine hands that arch toward the Creator of all things.JK2JK4JKforestJK6JKforest1

Once when my girls were very small, we took them hiking in the Joyce Kilmer. To rest for a moment, I settled them next to each other on top of a very large boulder in the middle of the forest. When I turned around, a shaft of light fell upon them from the sky through the immense tree canopy. Dappled in light, the beam created a sort of halo around their little heads. It was one of those blink of the eye moments, like a blessed benediction from God. I immediately snapped the photo and that picture remains one of my favorites.

So I’m a true believer. There is something very special about the Joyce Kilmer. Have you ever ventured there?

For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.