Anyone who has an interest in Native American history will want to be at the Cartersville Public Library Saturday morning.
During the May meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, speaker Wanda Patterson will present John Rollin Ridge: Cherokee Scribe from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Nathan Dean Meeting Room of the library at 429 W. Main St.
Ridge, son of John Ridge and grandson of Major Ridge, was an important figure in Cherokee history from 1840 to 1880, according to a press release.
He was born March 19, 1827, near present-day Rome, and in 1839, at the age of 12, he witnessed his father’s execution in Oklahoma.
Ridge spent the last 17 years of his life working as a newspaper editor and writer for the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Herald, among other publications. He also was a poet and is considered to be the first Native American novelist.
He died Oct. 5, 1867, at age 40.
A member of TOTA for 19 years, Patterson will discuss the life and works of Ridge during her presentation, which is free and open to the public.
“Having taught high school English and journalism at Sprayberry High School for 30 years, I have been riveted to Ridge’s work as a poet, a novelist and the editor of eight different newspapers in California during the 1850s and ’60s,” the Marietta resident said. “Additionally, I have been interested in John Rollin Ridge because of grandfather Major Ridge and father John Ridge, both numbered among the leaders in the Cherokee Nation prior to the Trail of Tears.”
Patterson’s fascination with Ridge, who was described by a contemporary as "the most handsome man I have ever seen," began in 2005, when GA TOTA reprinted a book of his poems published posthumously in 1868 by his wife, Elizabeth Wilson Ridge.
“Cartersville's J.B. Tate spotted the book in the Etowah Valley Historical Society and presented the idea of a TOTA reprint as a fundraiser,” she said. “J.B. and I co-edited the reprint. He handled all the legal and business aspects of publishing the book. My job was to research the life of John Rollin Ridge and write a biography/introduction for our edition of the book. My job became an adventure when I discovered what a fascinating character Ridge was. A Ridge ancestor living in Texas shared with me a number of their family photos of Ridge, etc.”
GA TOTA is producing a second edition of its reprint of “Poems” “so my presentation will introduce Ridge to a new audience of readers,” Patterson said.
The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by Congress in 1987.
TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the Southeast and consists of state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian territory (Oklahoma) — Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
Meetings are free and open to the public, and attendees do not need to have Native American ancestry, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in American history.
For information about TOTA, visit the national website at www.nationaltota.com and the Georgia chapter website at www.gatrailoftears.org.