Robbinsville Historic Sites and Points of Interest
Junaluska Memorial Site and Museum
1 Junaluska Rd
P.O. Box 1209
Robbinsville, NC 28771-1209
The Junaluska Memorial Site & Museum is located at the burial site of Cherokee Leader Junaluska near Robbinsville. His grave is marked with a memorial stone surrounded by monuments representing the seven clans of the Cherokee.
The museum is dedicated to preserving Cherokee history and culture. Displays include: arrowheads, spear points and other artifacts found here in the Cheoah Valley, artwork and crafts by Snowbird Indian community members, and information about this valley, its people and its place in American history as the starting point of the Trail of Tears.
Located in the center of downtown Robbinsville, the Graham County Courthouse currently houses the administrative and judicial branches of county government. It is the third courthouse to be built on that site. The two-story, native stone building was first used in 1942. Works Projects Administration (WPA) of North Carolina built the structure and workers laid the rock for the building with rock they gathered from Tallulah Creek. In 1940, Barber and McMurry, an architectural firm based in Knoxville, Tennessee, designed the courthouse and assisted with the proposal to WPA. Construction of the new courthouse appears to have begun in early 1941.
The Graham County Courthouse was officially dedicated on September 8, 1942, with Felix E. Alley of Waynesville, resident judge of North Carolina’s 20th judicial district, delivering the keynote address. A. F. Weaver represented the state administration of the WPA and formally presented the building to J. B. Crisp, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. During the dedication it was noted that the building was constructed at a cost of $81,778, with Graham County contributing $30,989 of the total amount.
In 1994, the courthouse was used as a film location for the movie Nell which starred Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson. Other Robbinsville locations can be seen in the film as well. These include Snider’s Store, Joyce Kilmer Restaurant, and North Main Street.
Civil War Surrender
Robbinsville boasts the last surrender of the Civil War east of the Mississippi. The surrender by Thomas’ Legion, the 1st Battalion, and the remnants of other companies took place at Will Thomas’ store on May 14, 1865. Earlier in the month, troops had participated in two skirmishes. It is hard to imagine how remote this area was in 1865, but there were only a few trails and fewer wagon roads. News was slow to travel. As a result, the troops in Robbinsville were among the last to hear of the war’s end. Visit the memorial marker located on East Main Street adjacent to the Graham County Courthouse.
The Oldest Structure
The oldest building in the Town of Robbinsville is the Hoke Phillip’s house on North Main Street. At one time it was the Cheoah Post Office, a school, a church, and a community meeting place. The structure is currently being used as a private dwelling and is not open to the public.
The Old Mother Church
The Old Mother Church was founded May 3, 1872. It was also used as a courtroom and schoolhouse. In 1972, the church was about to be destroyed from neglect and abuse when a local resident, Charlie Buchanan, said he had a call from God to “Take care of My church.” He found the church building in severe disrepair.
Charlie raised the money to remodel the church and served as its caretaker until his death. Today, the church has services each Sunday morning and evening services at 5:30 pm. Old Mother Church is located off Five Point Road in the middle of the Old Mother Church Cemetery.
No plaque exits to mark the existence of Fort Montgomery. The Fort did exist in 1838 and was located on what is now known as Fort Hill near the water tower on West Fort Hill Road. The Fort served as one of the gathering areas for Cherokees who were forced from their land because of the Indian Removal Act.
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, setting the stage for the removal of Cherokees from western North Carolina and began the chapter of history known as the Trail of Tears. In 1835 a small group of Cherokees signed a treaty with the United States government ceding all remaining land in the southeastern United States. The treaty led the federal government, under President Andrew Jackson, to order the forced removal of the native people and their resettlement on Cherokee territory in Oklahoma. The forced removal was dangerous and often deadly for the Cherokee, who protested throughout that the treaty was nullified by the signers’ lack of authority.
President Martin Van Buren upheld President Jackson’s orders, and in April 1838 ordered General Winfield Scott to orchestrate the move. Scott, a veteran commander, was ordered to conduct about 16,000 Cherokee people to land west of the Mississippi River. Supported by over 5,000 militia and other troops, General Scott forcibly evacuated the Cherokee people to temporary camps.
Camps constructed in western North Carolina were built poorly and quickly. The forts served as temporary internment camps, where most Cherokees remained for only a few days, although some people stayed for up to two weeks. Disease was widespread and epidemics of dysentery, bilious fever, measles, and whooping cough were common. The Cherokee practiced traditional medicine unsuccessfully against the diseases. Over 1,500 Cherokee people died in the camps, before beginning their trip to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.
Scott set up his headquarters in New Echota in Georgia, and the troops under his command for the removal operation built forts throughout the region. In North Carolina, the forts included Fort Lindsay on the south side of the Little Tennessee River, Fort Montgomery at present-day Robbinsville, Fort Hembree at present-day Hayesville, and Fort Butler at present-day Murphy.
Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears is the name given to the movement of Cherokee from Georgia to Oklahoma. Backed by the federal government and President Andrew Jackson’s desire, American troops forced thousands of Cherokee to leave their homes in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama and move to the “Indian Territory” in what is now Oklahoma. A small group of Cherokee agreed to a treaty with the United States that allowed for the removal. In 1838, American troops moved in and began the forced removal. The journey was hard, and many Cherokee suffered or even died. Many cried. That’s why this journey is called the “Trail of Tears.”
In this area, Cherokees were gathered at Fort Montgomery to begin the journey to Oklahoma. From the Fort, they traveled by horse, wagon, and on foot through Tatham Gap and on to Fort Butler. With the exception of the descendants of Junaluska, the ancestors of the present-day Cherokee living in the Snowbird area were never removed to Indian Territory in the West. They hid in the rugged mountains and like the Cherokee at Qualla they were left unmolested after the execution of Tsali.
The Snowbird Indians
In the 1800’s, the Cherokee People were forced from their homes in the mountains of western North Carolina and marched to western Indian Territory on what become known as the Trail of Tears. Some Cherokee evaded or escaped and their descendants became the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Snowbird Cherokee were part of this group.
Held since 1986 on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the Cherokee people of the Snowbird community invite members of the public to join them in an “Annual Demonstration Day” that includes a mound-building ceremony, arts and craft, performances of music and storytelling, and Cherokee food. Fading Voices has become an annual event that highlights the unique culture of the Snowbird Cherokee.
Today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation of 100 square miles, with more than 13,000 enrolled members. There are about 900 Cherokee currently living in Graham County.
Cheoah Ranger Station
The Cheoah Ranger District located at 1070 Massey Branch Road serves Graham County and the phone number is 828-479-6431. The new facility has an information desk for visitors and a small shop with gifts, books, and maps. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
CCC Camp F-24 – Company #3447
One of the most popular programs in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal proved to be the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The program’s goal was to conserve the country’s natural resources while providing jobs for young men.
CCC camps were organized like a military style camp. The men lived in large tents that could sleep up to 50 people. Army or Army Reserves Officers stayed next to the tents to supervise the typically 200 men. There were several other buildings nearby including: a shower house, outhouse, mess hall, hospital and infirmary, administrative unit, garage and shop.
Unemployed and unmarried men, ages 18 to 25, volunteered to work in a CCC camp for six months at a time. They were paid $35.00 a month, but $25.00 of it went to their parents. The men helped to improve structures, transportation, erosion control, flood control, forest culture, forest protection, landscape and recreation, range and wildlife all over the country.
In North Carolina, the men in CCC helped to build the Blue Ridge Parkway by planting trees to build a forest, building bridges and roads, restoring watersheds, and constructing and revitalizing parks and recreation.
In Graham County, they helped build trails, fire towers, roads, wildlife and fish habitats, and recreational facilities. They also planted trees and reclaimed eroded areas. Camp Santeetlah opened in 1934 with 200 recruits and staff. In its seven years of operation, over 2000 young men went through the program. The CCC camps influenced and benefited people in the 30s as well as people today. Today, a marker recognizing CCC Camp F-23 can be seen on Massey Branch Road across from the Cheoah Ranger Station.
Source: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) North Carolina by Allison Kroeger, USDA NRCS Intern and CCC Camp List F-24 – Nantahala National Forest – Robbinsville, Graham County.
A handicap accessible fishing pier is located on Massey Branch Road near the NC Forest Service Office. It is a beautiful location and would also be a great place to take some photographs.