Willstown (Cherokee town)
Willstown (sometimes Wattstown or Titsohili) was an important Cherokee town located in the southwesternmost part of the Cherokee Nation (in present-day DeKalb and Etowah counties in Alabama) prior to the Indian removal. Willstown was part of the Native American trade network in the region.
The settlement of Willstown began at the southernmost perimeter of Lookout Mountain near the banks of Lookout or Little Wills Creek. Willstown sat in the present right-of-way of the Great Southern Railroad; bordered to the northwest by an ancient Indian trade path or trail.
Willstown was one major trade center along the trade path. The trail, which coincides with the current route of US Highway Eleven since the 1920s, ran through what is now Attalla, Alabama, and continued north along the edge of the mountains through what is now Reece City, Crudup, Keener, Collinsville, Killian, and Fort Payne into Valley Head and the old mining settlement of Battelle. There are three known Indian trading sites along the stretch between Attalla and Collinsville, as well as numerous burial sites, home-sites and remnants of farms.
The site of Willstown is north of the present day city of Ft. Payne, close to the Valley Head area. There are still remnant earthworks at the site.
The settlement was located in what was then the southwesternmost part of the original Cherokee Nation (in present-day DeKalb and Etowah counties of Alabama) prior to the Indian removal of 1836. It was commonly called "Willstown" after its headman, a red-headed man of mixed-race named Will Weber (also known as "RedHead Chief Will"), who was famous for his mane of thick red hair. The town, which had sometimes also been called Wattstown because Chickamauga leader, John Watts, had used it as his headquarters, was founded during the Chickamauga wars, and served as the council seat of the Lower Cherokee well into the 19th century. According to Major John Norton, a more accurate transliteration would have been Titsohili. He had stayed at Willstown several times.
Weber emigrated to the Arkansas country in 1796; and Watts died in 1802.
- Note: The former Fort Payne was built to intern Cherokees prior to their removal on the Trail of Tears. Its site is in downtown Ft. Payne.
- Note: The son of a mixed-blood Cherokee adoptee of the Mohawk, Norton grew up among Native Americans and traveled extensively in the region in the early 19th century.
- History of DeKalb County; on-line page at DeKalb County Tourist Association.
- The journal of Major John Norton; Klink, Karl, and James Talman, ed.; Toronto Champlain Society; 1970.
- McLoughlin, William G. Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
- Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee. (Nashville: Charles and Randy Elder-Booksellers, 1982).
- Wilkins, Thurman. Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People. (New York: Macmillan Company, 1970).