Step Into History at the New Echota State Historical Site
Summertime is family time. We like to spend time together having fun and doing things together that build memories for a lifetime. We do that by going to the beach, hiking through nature, and visiting historic sites that not only educate, but help us understand the world around us.
Last weekend our family visited the New Echota State Historical Park in Gordon County, Georgia. The Historical Park was entertaining, enlightening, and offered us a view into historical events that we knew little about and was brought to life. We were, for a time, immersed in the 19th century and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
The settlement of New Echota is one of the most significant Cherokee Native American sites in the nation. In fact, it was where the tragic “Trail of Tears” officially began. In 1825, the Cherokee national legislature established a capital called New Echota at the headwaters of the Oostanaula River. During its short history, New Echota was the site of the first Native American language newspaper office, a court case which carried to the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the earliest experiments in national self-government by a Native American tribe, and the signing of a treaty which relinquished Native American claims to lands east of the Mississippi River. It also served as the assembly point for Native Americans for removal west on the infamous Trail of Tears.
Today, visitors can see 12 original and reconstructed buildings, including the Council House, Court House, Print Shop, and an 1805 store. In the visitor center, guest can purchase souvenirs, books, music, plus view interpretive exhibits and a 17- minute film.
The educational offerings were amazing. Since we all had our phones (even the kids), we could listen to detailed interpretation via QR codes that gave us stories and information right on our phones. The staff was attentive, knowledgeable, and eager to answer questions…and our kids had many of them.
We learned that the original town disappeared for more than a century and the site was designated as the New Echota National Memorial in 1930. A couple of decades later, an archaeological excavation found more than 1700 historical artifacts in the area, including the remains of many buildings and the type syllabary that was used to print the Cherokee Phoenix, the first indigenous tribal newspaper.
The kids were fascinated to learn about the workings of the printing press and how much work went into getting the weekly newspaper printed. A volunteer told them that they stored all the type (individual letters to form words) in cabinet drawers. The capital letters were in the top drawer and the rest in lower drawers. Hence the term uppercase and lowercase letters.
After spending a few days putting the type together in columns, print shop workers would ink the press, lay the paper down and press with the large lever. Then, they had to hang up the paper to allow the ink to dry before printing the other side.
Reconstruction of the town of New Echota began as a state park project in 1957 and was opened to the public in 1962. In 1973, the Department of Interior designated the park as a National Historic Landmark. the highest recognition in the US.
We also strolled around the two hiking trails, which leads visitors to New Town Creek and a small beaver pond. All in all, it was a fantastic experience…educational, relaxing, and immersive. It was a fantastic learning experience (for us all) and a relaxing way to spend a sunny Southern day. For a family outing that really satisfies the mind and body, spend the day at the New Echota State Historical Site.
New Echota State Historical Site
1211 Chatsworth Highway NE
Calhoun, GA 30701