McMinn County Courthouse
6 East Madison Ave.
Directions: I-75 to Exit 49. Follow TN 30-E approximately 3 miles. Turn right on Jackson St. a short distance, bear right on North White, then left on East Madison.
The McMinn County Courthouse stands on the square where the original brick courthouse stood in 1834, the site of the trial of Cherokees James Foreman and Addison Springston, accused of the September murder of Cherokee leader Jack Walker. The “calaboose” where the two were held, and for a while escaped from, was located at the north end of Knight Park on Jackson Street. The trial, ultimately heard by the Tennessee Supreme Court the following summer, held that the Cherokees were subject to the laws of the State of Tennessee, which then propelled the forced removal.
A transportation crossroads, Athens served as a stopping point for North Carolina Cherokee prisoners on their way from Fort Butler, at Murphy, North Carolina to the main emigrating depot at Fort Cass, in Charleston, Tennessee. Dunlap Coke Ovens
Person of Interest-
Brigadier John Ellis Wool was ordered to the Cherokee Nation on June 20, 1836 by Secretary of War Lewis Cass. At that time, the Federal Government feared the unpopularity of the Treaty of New Echota among the Cherokees could lead to bloodshed. When Wool arrived to take control of the removal operations, he found 1,200 local militia soldiers with no rations, tents, or supplies. And contrary to expectation, spent much of his time attempting to protect the Cherokees from the whites. He established his headquarters at the Bridges Hotel on the southeast side of the courthouse square, and set up Camp Wool a hundred yards away on the banks of Oostanaula Creek until supplies could be acquired. He utilized the Athens Post Office for communications and the Planters Bank for receiving funds.
Wool was accused by the Governor and legislature of Alabama of “having usurped the powers of the civil tribunals, disturbed the peace of the community, and trampled upon the rights of the citizens.” A military Board of Inquiry headed by Major General Winfield Scott cleared Wool of charges. Nevertheless, Wool left his position embittered and perplexed. He was replaced by Col. Lindsay the following year, and Lindsay was replaced by Scott. It was at Athens that Scott printed his orders that the Cherokees surrender peacefully and for his soldiers to treat the Indians with dignity and respect.
A marker beside the present Robert E. Lee Hotel indicates Wool’s Headquarters, and the site of Camp Wool is visible two blocks south in the area of Veterans Park.