A former student at Reinhardt, Wanda Pirtle Cronauer, has sent me a typed transcription of an interesting article from the Weekly Constitution (Atlanta), from Nov. 26, 1889, a mere six years after Reinhardt was founded. Entitled “The Cherokees Remembered,” it relates the reminiscences of older residents of Pickens and Cherokee Counties about the local Cherokee Indians before they, as the article puts it, “went away.” They were “remarkable for paying their debts” and were “a very kind, friendly people who did harm only in retaliation.” The article tells about the corn dance, the ball game, and how white people traded with them (not always in bad faith). The most interesting revelation is about Walesca (so spelled). As the reader is no doubt aware, Reinhardt University is found in the city of Waleska, at the junction of GA-140 and GA-108 in Cherokee County. According to the city’s Wikipedia entry:
Early settler Lewis W. Reinhardt established a church in 1834 in the settlement known as Reinhardt Chapel and befriended many of the native Cherokee population. When the Trail of Tears forced the movement of Warluskee, the daughter of a local Cherokee chief and friend of Reinhardt’s, westward, he named this settlement in her honor.
According to “The Cherokees Remembered,” however, Walesca was:
an Indian who lived in now Cherokee County, and was quite a noted man among his settlement. He was distinguished for always wearing feathers from eagles that he shot himself. He had six children, and among them quite a handsome daughter. Mr. Rheinhardt [sic] was one of the earliest settlers in that county, and lived near Waleska [sic], the Indian.
The article relates how Mr. (and Mrs.) Reinhardt, on account of their good relationship with Walesca and other Cherokee Indians, convinced them to leave peacefully “when the time of the removal came.”
The true origin of the town’s name, whether it be Reinhardt’s male friend or the “handsome daughter,” is worth further investigation. But such things are often hard to pin down with any certitude.
Although I do think that a monument to Cherokee removal from what is now Cherokee County might be in order.