Historic Structures

Cherokee Plantation, Fort Payne Alabama

Date added: October 16, 2020 Categories: Alabama House Plantations & Farms Greek Revival

Cherokee Plantation is reputed to be the oldest home in Alabama, dating to 1790. Oral history indicates that the house was built by Daniel and Molly Ross in 1790 when they moved from Turkey Town, near Gadsden, to Will's Town, now Fort Payne, with infant son, John Ross. The two-story log cabin they built fronted the Great War and Trading Path which traversed Alabama from north to south. In 1838 the Path became the Trail of Tears and was used when the Cherokee Nation in this portion of Alabama was removed from the stockade at Fort Payne. John Ross, who grew up in the house, later moved to the area around Chattanooga, founded Ross' Landing and Rossville, Georgia. Ross became one of the most famous and influencial chiefs of the Cherokee Nation and was Chief of the Nation at the time of its removal in 1838.

In 1834 Andrew Ross, brother of John Ross, son of Daniel and Molly Ross and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Cherokee Nation, resided in the house which had by that time been greatly expanded. Being 1/8 Cherokee, he was regarded as a full Cherokee and as such was required, under the terms of the Treaty of 1828, to make a valuation of all his property. Ross was evicted from the house in 1838 during the removal of the Cherokee Nation from the area.

Following the removal of Andrew Ross from the house, the next confirmed owners of the property were William W. and Letitia McFarlane who were granted the land in 1845 by President James K. Polk under land Patent #6292. When William McFarlane died, he left his property to his wife, Letitia, who in turn deeded the property to her daughter, Cornelia, who married William J. Haralson in 1855. The Haralsons lived in the house until 1875 when Captain Joe Nix, who was later mayor of Fort Payne, purchased the property from Cornelia Haralson and lived there for a short time and made no improvements.

Major C. 0. Godfrey, who later became the first mayor of Fort Payne, bought the property in 1890 and later deeded it to his daughter-in-law, Mrs. H. R. Godfrey. H. R. Godfrey, Major Godfrey's son, and his wife made additions to the house at Cherokee including a water system which they installed by piping water from a spring on top of Lookout Mountain to a cyprus holding tank about 1/2 mile from the house and then to the house.

On June 20, 1902 H. R. and Mai Godfrey deeded the property to A. L. Campbell, who owned the property only a short time and sold it in 1902 to T. F. Steele.

T. E. Steele sold Cherokee on May 8, 1914 to C. G. Kershaw. Kershaw began modifications to the house in 1931. These modifications were most extensive and consisted of leveling all the floors, adding extra foundation supports, new windows and a bay window in the dining room, French doors in the living room opening onto a formal garden, a bathroom upstairs, a powder room, and new servants' quarters and garage. The Kershaws used Cherokee as a summer home until 1936 when it became their permanent residence until the death of C. G. Kershaw in 1946. Shortly after Kershaw's death the estate was sold to C. T. Skidmore. In 1950 Henry C. Christopher purchased Cherokee and resided there with his family until 1960 when Albert Hildebrant purchased the home. The Hildebrants sold the home to Pierre Noel in 1964 who resided there until 1969 when he sold the house to Royce Kershaw, son of C. G. Kershaw. The Royce Kershaws did extensive remodeling to the house and property but made no structural changes. The property was sold in 1974 to Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Brewer.