Chieftains Musuem / Major Ridge Home
Type:Museum, Home

Home of Cherokee Chief Major RidgeCherokee tradition held that anywhere three rivers met was holy, and Head of Coosa was just that. The Oostanaula, Etowah and Coosa meet here near the center of present-day Rome. Two hundred years ago the town was probably the largest in the dwindling Cherokee Nation and home to Major Ridge, a leader of the Cherokee Nation.

High on a bluff near the banks of the Oostanaula River stands Chieftains Museum / Major Ridge Home. The cabin that Ridge and wife Susanna would call home probably was built before 1792 and given to Ridge by his father, or Ridge possibly built it himself as a homestead for his beloved wife prior to moving permanently to Head of Coosa from Pine Log in the early 1800's. Either way, the home was established near the banks of the Oostanaula, just above the flood plain.

South of the home ran a ferry which provided Ridge with income. Staffed by a white tenant, the ferry was one of the few ways of crossing the rivers to head west and the income from this endeavor was significant.

By the 1820's Ridge, who had been given the title "Major" by Andrew Jackson, expanded and modernized the home with weather-boarding and ceilings. Doors made of walnut and a carved pine staircase was added.

Ridge, who signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, left the home to white settlers a year before The Trail of Tears. The widow who won the house in the Georgia Lottery of 1832 sold it for $5000.00 to Augustus Verdery. He lived in the home until 1853. His daughter described Chieftains:

The mansion, two and a half stories high, was of hewn logs, weather-boarded and painted white. The ceilings, walls and floors were of hard wood; the windows were large and well placed. An arched triple window at the turn of the fine staircase looked out on a line of poplars, then on to the shining Oostanaula, with its fringe of reeds and lilies, and beyond to the spurs of the Blue Ridge mountains in the near distance.

After the sale of the home by Verdery, the house passed into the hands of Augustus R. Wright in 1856. Wright, a lawyer, judge and preacher who served two terms in the U. S. House of Representatives while he owned Chieftains used the house until sometime after the start of the Civil War. An ardent Unionist, Wright abandoned the house shortly after the start of the war and moved to Alabama. It is probable that in September, 1860, Alexander Stephens, fellow Unionist and future vice-president of the Confederacy, slept in the house for at least one night.

Stairs at the Chieftains Museum
Staircase at Chieftains Museum
From here the house passed through a number of hands, eventually being donated to the Junior League. The house is now run by the Chieftains Museum Association, a non-profit organization.

While the entire mansion is impressive, a number of individual highlights are worth mentioning. The staircase is some of the finest craftsmanship of the time in North America. Both Morovian and Cherokee craftsmen worked on this. A cutaway upstairs shows a small portion of the original cabin, and the museum boasts an impressive collection of books both on and by the Ridge family and the Cherokee Nation in Georgia. The main section downstairs (wings were added to both sides of the house in 1923) has large rooms with high ceilings and period furniture.

Update Since we first visited the museum/home in 1995 it has grown significantly with information on clothing, customs and the traditions of the Cherokee during the time of Major Ridge. It also explores the issues facing the American Indians in the Southeast before the Cherokee Trail of Tears

Location: 501 Riverside Parkway, Rome, Georgia
Directions: I-75, exit 306 west(State Road 140). Left on State Road 53, right on Highway 1 Loop to Riverside Road. Follow signs.
Additional information:
Hours:Tues. - Sat., 10-4
Fees: Adults 3.00
Web site:Cheiftains Museum / Major Ridge Home
Date added: November 16, 2003
Last update: December 3, 2003

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Rome Depot
Clock Tower
Rome Area History Museum
The Martha Berry Museum
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Fort Norton
Noble Brothers Foundry
Myrtle Hill

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