Charleston, Tennessee

The land around the Hiwassee River was a different place 200 years ago. It was a thriving Cherokee community with missions, farmlands, stores, and families. Present-day Charleston was once the location of the federal Cherokee Indian Agency providing protection for the Cherokee people. This was a gateway to a separate nation from the United States of America, the Cherokee Nation.

In the fall of 1838, the agency area was the scene of one of the greatest American tragedies in history, the forced removal of the Cherokee from their eastern homeland on what is now known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee Agency site and the miles around it became Ft. Cass, a collection of encampments where Native Americans, mostly Cherokee, were assembled and held under supervision of federal troops. Ft.Cass was the headquarters for the entire removal operation.

Years later during the Civil War, Charleston’s position on the Hiwassee made it a pivotal position in war strategy. Several historic structures were used by both Union and Confederate soldiers including an overnight stay by Union Gen. William T. Sherman at the historic Henegar House.

Charleston’s social and cultural history is significant as the town with the first black mayor and first black police chief in Tennessee. The 20th Century Fox motion picture Wild River was filmed in and around Bradley County and the Hiwassee River was a focal point in the film. This small town has a big story, one largely untold until recent years.


Latitude: 35.2798191 Longitude: -84.7615814 Elevation: 704 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Melissa Woody

How to Get There

From I-75, take exit 33. Travel east on Lauderdale Hwy. until it ends. Turn north on US Hwy 11 and head straight into Charleston, TN.


i remember when i was young the film company bought my mom and dads house we lived in in cleveland tn. across the street from a graveyard in cleveland tn. they moved our house up to where they filmed the movie wild river.the house is still there today in 2014.

william denise thompson, 8/12/2014

the house that the film co bought from my mom and dad was on 14th. st across from ft. hill cemetary.the stairs are still there today going up to the vacant lot.they did not actually burn the house its still there today.but instead built a hollow replica of our home and than burned the replica.

william thompson, 8/12/2014

My "Trail of Tears" video may be of interest to you. It's at

Bill Kendall, 2/11/2017

Leave a Comment