Fort Payne’s construction began on April 13th, 1838. This was at the same time the U.S. government was removing the Cherokee Indians from their homes in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia and routing them to Oklahoma—known as the Trail of Tears. The fort was used as an internment camp for the Native Americans that were unwilling to leave their homes. It was named after Captain John G. Payne who selected the site of the fort because it was near a large spring that would aid both the soldiers and Native Americans, and their livestock. The last group of Cherokee people were moved from the area in October of 1838. Today, the site of the fort is not open to the public but the only piece remaining of the fort, the chimney, can be seen from a distance. The historical marker is located in the city park.
Fort Payne was built by twenty-two men from the Alabama
militia in April 1838 and was located in, what was then known as,
Willstown. Willstown was an important
village to the Cherokee Indians. (2) The fort consisted of a large stockade and
a log house. General Winfield Scott was
the commander of military forces. He
ordered the fort to be built as he was responsible for the removal of the
Cherokee Indians. (5) It was Captain John G. Payne who selected the site of the
fort because it was close to a large spring that would benefit all of the
people as well as the livestock. The
fort was named after Captain Payne. (1)
Fort Payne acted as an internment camp for the Native
Americans that did not willingly leave their homes until they were eventually
forced to move to Oklahoma. The “forced
exile” became to be known as the “Trail of Tears”. (2) The government did not provide a lot of
transportation needs for the Cherokee people.
Because they lacked enough wagons to carry everything, a lot of their
possessions ended up having to be left behind.
There was a lot of suffering and hardship for the Cherokee on their way
to Oklahoma –hence the name “Trail of Tears”.
It was one in every seven Indians that died before they reached their
intended destination. (4)
Sequoyah, a very important Cherokee Indian, was among those
who walked the “Trail of Tears” with his people. He had invented the Cherokee alphabet in the
1820s. “Sequoyah is the only man in
history to conceive and perfect in its entirety an alphabet or syllabary”. (3) It took him twelve years, and it was while he
was in Willstown he finished the alphabet.
The Cherokee people now had a way to write letters home, record events,
and read military orders.
The last group of Cherokee people left Fort Payne on October
3rd, 1838. Useless to the
military now, the fort was abandoned.
Later on, settlers ended up occupying the site. They lived in the log house at the fort and
built other structures around the site.
The stockade was dismantled, but until it was torn down in 1940, the log
cabin still stood. The only remains of the fort today is the chimney from the log
cabin. The site of the fort is fenced off
and preserved. It is not accessible to
the public, but can be seen easily not too far away. The historical marker is located in the city