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Johnny Vardeman: Red Men were once were active tribe in Northeast Georgia
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

Hall County once was Cherokee Indian territory until white gold seekers ran them out. But years after the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, the county also was a hotbed of another breed of Indians, an organization known as “Red Men.”

Some even called their members “Injuns,” though that would be frowned on in today’s world. It was a fun group, but also a service club that promoted love of country. Non-members were called “palefaces.”

In Hall County, Red Men “tribes” were particularly active. Pacolet’s textile mills, especially New Holland, were strong supporters and helped organize other tribes throughout Northeast Georgia. Among them were Chattahoochee Tribe No. 19, which met in the Odd Fellows Hall and had about 90 members, Yahoola Tribe 79 at Gainesville Mill, which met over G.C. Mills’s store and Chestatee Tribe 52. Other tribes expanded to Oakwood and Cornelia, Yonah Tribe 58, and Oconee in East Hall.

In newspaper articles of that day, the organization sometimes was called the Independent Order of Red Men or the Improved Order of Red Men. One that was organized at Tadmore in east Hall County was called “the Imperial Order of Red Men.”

Sometimes one of the Red Men’s sites was referred to as “the hunting grounds of the New Holland reservation.”

The leader of a Red Men tribe was called the “Sachem.” Other officers were senior Sagamore, junior Sagamore, prophet, chief of records, guard of forest, guard of wigwam and the treasurer, “keeper of wampum.” The head of the state organization was called the “Grand Sachem.” Chattahoochee’s Sachem W.B. Sloan also was a member of the Great Council, the statewide organization.

When new officers were elected, they were “raised on their stumps.”

There was great competition for a meeting of the Great Council. Gainesville was host for a couple of the state gatherings. For the one in 1904, those who voted on sites for the meetings chose Gainesville with 80 votes to seven for Augusta, 18 for Athens and only two for Savannah. About 400 Red Men attended the Gainesville meeting.

Headquarters in Gainesville was the Arlington Hotel, just across the street from the State Bank and upstairs home of the local tribe. At that meeting, charters were granted for three new tribes: Jefferson, McRae and Buchanan. Activities also were held at Hunt’s Opera House. 

Milton J. Turk, deputy Great Sachem, was a big organizer. He sent 18 of his members to Cornelia to organize Yonah Tribe No. 88, the fourth tribe he had formed in 20 months. The Gainesville group rode the Bell Train to Cornelia, worked through the night on the organization and returned to Gainesville on the same train the next morning.

Red Men members included ministers and “some of the most prominent citizens of the state in the forefront of business and political life.”

The organization joined with the mills in July Fourth celebrations. The mills provided barbecue, and Red Men in New Holland paraded with the community’s cornet band down Mill Street, to Main to Quarry and then to New Holland Park. That was followed by all sorts of races, games, competitions, a baseball game and a $10 prize for the best garden in New Holland.

“Squaws” weren’t entirely left out of Red Men activities. Women formed “Pocahontas” chapters and had their own meetings. David Lintz, director of the Red Men Museum and Library, said there were two Degrees of Pocahontas councils, Nacoochee No. 9 and Musgrove No. 27.

The Atlanta History Center has extensive archives on both the Red Men and Pocahontas organizations, Lintz said. Cherokee Tribe No. 1 Red Men was the first in Georgia in Atlanta in 1867. Red Men continued active in Georgia into the 1960s, he said.

Red Men isn’t exactly extinct. It has a website, www.redmen.org, on which it says it is the oldest fraternal organization in the country. The museum and library are located in Waco, Texas.

A wedding and palefaces

Here’s a wedding announcement from Wilson’s District that appeared in the local paper Dec. 7, 1904:

“Married on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, in the wigwam of the bride’s father, H.C. DeLong, Berry Patterson, a Red Man, to the daughter of a Red Man, Miss Annie DeLong. Several palefaces were present. T.R. Dyches, a paleface, performed the ceremony.”

Watch for more local history in this column next Sunday.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville; 770-532-2326; johnny.peggy1956@gmail.com.

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