Ribbons cut at Charleston Cherokee heritage sites

Historic Trail, Heritage Center Open

Posted 3/31/19

More than 100 invited guests turned out Friday for a double ribbon-cutting in downtown Charleston.It was the grand reopening of the renovated and expanded Hiwassee River Heritage Center, and the …

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Ribbons cut at Charleston Cherokee heritage sites

Historic Trail, Heritage Center Open


More than 100 invited guests turned out Friday for a double ribbon-cutting in downtown Charleston.

It was the grand reopening of the renovated and expanded Hiwassee River Heritage Center, and the opening of the initial phase of the National Historic Trail Experience from the Heritage Center to Hoyt Berry Park.

Enthusiasts of history, especially Cherokee history, were in attendance in grand numbers. There were representatives of local, regional, and national governments and agencies.

The celebration was sponsored by the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society, which manages the Heritage Center.

Center manager and Society treasurer Darlene Goins and Melissa Woody, of the Society and the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, did the lion's share of coordinating the program, the guest list and the catered meal.

Many of Friday's attendees returned on Saturday for a formal open house for the general public, with several featured speakers throughout  the middle of the day.

CCH Society President Joe Bryan provided the welcome, and introduced current and former society officers.

These officers included Vice President Connie Hayden, Secretary Laura Bryan Spann, Goins, Past President Faye Callaway, and board members John Hiefner, Mary Tim Burgin, Lugh Lemley, and Chairman Carl Colloms. 

Recognized guests included Tennessee Trail of Tears Association President Debbie Moore of Cleveland, and state directors Shirley Lawrence, Doris Trevino and Faye Callaway, as well as National TOTA directors for Tennessee, Cleata Townsend and Vicki Rozema

Attendees also included Dave Jones of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, representing State Commissioner Mark Ezell.

Several Charleston, Cleveland, and Bradley County officials were present, and recognized, as well as state Rep. Dan Howell.

Carl Colloms, chairman of the CCH Society board, provided a prayer at the start of the program, and the Charleston Elementary School's Panther Club Choir sang the National Anthem.

Woody, who is vice president of Tourism Development for the Chamber and Development chair for the Society, provided a timeline of the society, the Heritage Center, fundraising and planning, and the latest accomplishments and growth.

"In all, we've raised more than $750,000 (to promote Cherokee history in Charleston)," said Woody.

She and Goins then acknowledged supporters, partners and donors of the multi-year efforts of the CCH Historical Society. "This doesn't happen with just a few people," they emphasized.

In attendance Friday were Troy Wayne Poteete and Jack Baker of the Cherokee Nation, Dr. Carroll Van West of Middle Tennessee State University, and Dr. Brett Riggs of Western Carolina University.

Riggs later provided a special program at Walker Valley High School, sharing research of his archeology team on Cherokee history in Charleston during the Removal years.

Partners of the Heritage Center's expansion include Cleveland's Museum Center at Five Points, McClung Museum, Lee University, Cleveland State Community College, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, U-T Smart Communities Initiative, Bush Brothers and Company, and all the sponsors of Charleston's International Cowpea Festival, where proceeds go to the Heritage Center.

Others recognized included architects, Hands on Trail representatives, members of the National Park Service, and the Cleveland Greenway Board.

Bryan, in his welcoming speech, said, "We have reached a huge goal today, but this is not the end of this project. The Heritage Center is constantly developing.

"We plan to grow the exhibit, and always seek the most effective ways to share the important stories of Charleston, Calhoun and the river that connects us," he added.

Bryan said the society wants to continue the National Historic Trail Expereience, and eventually connect the Heritage Center with the Hiwassee River, and the Cleveland/Bradley Greenway.

The second phase of the Historic Trail will be from Berry Park to the observation deck constructed by the Tennessee Valley Authority along  the Cypress Grove to the north.

In closing, Bryan said, "We are happy you joined us today, and that you are all on this journey with us. We want to do good things for the community. Thank you for your part in building this dream." 


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