Hiwassee River Heritage Center receives grants to fund expansion

Hiwassee River Heritage Center receives grants to fund expansion

June 28th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Sarah Elizabeth Ross, niece of Cherokee Chief John Ross, is buried in the Calhoun (Tenn.) First Baptist Church Cemetery. The 2-year-old girl died in 1824 and her stone is one of the oldest in the town.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

CHARLESTON, Tenn. - The Hiwassee River Heritage Center, which opened in May, has received notice that it will receive $40,000 in grants to help with operational and expansion objectives.

Officials with the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society recently announced a $20,000 rural development grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and $20,000 from the Tucker Foundation.

The USDA grant will be used for projectors, chairs and other supplies, said Melissa Woody, vice president of the visitors and convention bureau of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

The Tucker Foundation money will be set aside for the second phase of the heritage center, which calls for increasing the site's interior space, said Darlene Goins, treasurer for the historical society.

Combined, the grants will allow the center to house temporary exhibits and create a multimedia meeting space, said Joe Bryan, president of the historical society.

With $20,000 put back for expansion, it may make more sense to tackle the center's second phase along with its third phase, Bryan said. The third phase entails connecting the center to a greenway that will tour Charleston's historical sites and touch the Hiwassee River.

"As we start Phase II and III, where that Tucker grant is a great seed for us to work from, then we'll start a new [fundraising] campaign," Woody said.

She said the society will accept donations in conjunction with the initial opening of the site until Aug. 31.

Woody said the heritage center, a refurbished bank office on Hiwassee Street, serves as an educational tool. Interpretive panels cover the walls, offering insights on the impact of natural resources, the Cherokee Nation, the Civil War and industrialization upon the region.

The Historical Society also hosted a presentation on Gideon Morgan, one of Calhoun's early leaders, as part of its first meeting at the heritage center.

Researcher Laura Spann discussed how Morgan -- a friend of Andrew Jackson -- and his family shaped Calhoun and Charleston during the 19th century. Genealogies, photographs, correspondences and government documents were used to bring the subjects to life as she reviewed their activities in relation to the last decades of the Cherokee Nation presence on the Hiwassee River, the Civil War years and beyond.

In other business, Bryan said he would like to rehabilitate the oldest parts of the Calhoun First Baptist Church Cemetery in hopes of unearthing any sunken headstones dating back to the 1820s.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.