Historical discoveries made in Cleveland, Calhoun

Historical discoveries made in Cleveland, Calhoun

November 15th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Hassan Najjar, executive director of the Museum Center at Five Points in Cleveland, Tenn., left, and Lisa Chastain, curator of collections, exam a recently donated 19th century amendment to the city's charter that addresses concerns regarding upkeep of horses, protection of shade trees and gambling.

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Pieces of Cleveland and Hiwassee-area history recently were recovered through dedicated research and the preservation of a collection of records dating as far back as the 1840s.

The Museum Center at Five Points recently received a collection of 19th-century legal documents and city charter amendments donated by the Cleveland City Council. The collection was given to the city by Jo Day, widow of local columnist and cartoonist Ned Day.

"It's a pretty nice find," said Hassan Najjar, executive director of the museum. "It was like we were opening Christmas presents when we first got to unbox these old records."

Most of the documents, primarily deeds and property transfers, date between 1880 and 1901, museum officials said.

One of the most interesting pieces is a list of amendments to the city's first charter that were probably drafted between the 1840s and 1864, based on the frequent mention of "freemen" in the document, said Lisa Chastain, the museum's curator of collections.

About the only other clue to the publication date of the charter amendments is a publisher's watermark that appears on the top left corner of the pages, Najjar said.

Cleveland, which was founded in 1838, adopted its first charter in 1842, officials said. That charter lasted until 1879, when the city adopted its second charter.

Highlights of the charter amendments include regulations on the upkeep of horses, protection of shade trees, and gambling, she said.

"You could be fined $1 for injuring a shade tree," Chastain said. "That was a lot of money."

Museum officials speculated that the collection might have originated as part of an attorney's record cache.

The documents, Chastain said, will be transcribed after they undergo preservative treatments.

To the north of Cleveland, nearly two dozen 19th-century veterans' graves at the Calhoun Cemetery have been identified by Laura Spann, a researcher associated with the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society.

"For many years, various groups in Calhoun have placed flags on the graves of veterans buried in the cemetery, and this recent finding will give these newly discovered veterans the recognition they deserve as part of history," Melissa Woody, vice president of the convention and visitors bureau with the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release.

Several of the veterans served in the War of 1812, while others served in the Civil War, she said. Many played key roles in the Cherokee Removal or took active roles in county government and the founding of Calhoun, she said.

Spann will give a presentation on her findings on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston.

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