Have you heard of Granny Dollar? I had heard of her many times, but never knew the whole story; until today. A nice man named Don Hall from Geraldine, AL shared a Landmarks of DeKalb county booklet with me all about Granny Dollar.
She was a fascinating Cherokee woman born in Buck’s Pocket as Nancy Callahan in approximately the mid 1820’s. Her father, William Carnahan, was an adventurous full-blooded Cherokee. Little is known about her mother Mary Sexton Callahan, but that she was part Cherokee, and half Irish, Scot, or Scot-Irish.
As the oldest child in a very large Cherokee family Nancy Emmaline helped care for and mid-wife the babies born into the family, and tended her father’s whiskey still by the time she was ten. They ate wild turkey, deer, and fish, along with the vegetables they grew in their garden.
Nancy recalled her father fighting in what she called the “Florida War” which was actually the Second Seminole War that began in 1835.
Ironically, at the time that Callahan was fighting for the United States Government, his own Cherokee nation was facing immediate extinction. In that same year a small minority agreed to sell their Cherokee lands and the Treaty of Echota was signed. Although Chief John Ross, spokesman for the Cherokee Nation, proved that a majority of his people opposed the treaty, which had not been signed by a single major chief, was approved and enforced by President Andrew Jackson.
The Indians were ordered to leave voluntarily for the Oklahoma reservations, with threats being made of forced marches for stragglers. Two years later Gen. Winfield Scott ordered Capt. John Payne to build a log fort and stockade in northeast Alabama to hold all the Indians still in the area after they had been rounded up by the soldiers. Indians were tracked down on the mountains and throughout the valleys of this section of the former Cherokee Nation.
Whether or not Nancy Callahan personally witnessed any of the forced march to the fort or on the beginning of the Trail of Tears is not clear. But one way or another, she learned about some of the hardships of the Indians, especially those about to give birth. She later related tales (confirmed by other accounts) of Indian women marching when one had to stop by the roadside to deliver. She would then be surrounded by a circle of Indian squaws, while a midwife entered the circle to provide aid. After the baby arrived, it was wrapped in a blanket and strapped to the mother’s back so she could fall in line and continue the march.
For a time the Indians rounded up in this area were herded into the local stockade, and some (perhaps the most defiant males) were placed in a dark round hole which had been dug beneath the one room log fort and were fed through a hatch. William Callahan was determined that he and his little tribe would never submit to such humiliation.
Her later-life memories placed Nancy’s age at this time at about thirteen or fourteen. The Callahans trekked through the mountain wilderness to the west side of Sand Mountain to an area near the Tennessee River at what is now Jackson County.
They were hidden in the black recesses of Saltpeter Cave, one of many such caves in the rugged terrain of this region. The brave hunter did not venture out to bag game and the family was miles away from their productive corn and vegetable patches. To keep the frightened fugitives from starving, Nancy crept out at night to search for something for herself and her family to eat. The resolute young Indian maiden managed to capture, discover, or “borrow” enough food to keep her family alive.
Other families hiding in the sandstone caves fared less well. Many of the babies slowly starved and their scattered skulls throughout the cave bore evidence over a century later of this pathetic result of a particularly sad chapter of history.
After 1838 the government discontinued its search for the few remaining Cherokees who still evaded capture. The Callahans were free to leave their sandstone prison and to return, with much happiness and thankfulness, to their beloved Buck’s Pocket home.
William Callahan’s pride, stubbornness, and courage had helped his family avoid the forced march to a far-away territory. But his violent temper and natural combativeness were to yet cause them to flee the home of their most tranquil and happy days.
Nancy Callahan was married to Nelson Dollar for some twenty years and lived on Lookout Mountain. When he died in 1923, Granny sold her last cow to buy a tombstone for his grave.
Then, at approximately 100 years old, the homeless Indian who had lived through so much of American History, simply walked down a mountain road to look for a place to live. She settled into a cabin on the new Master School’s property owned by Col. Milford Howard. Fortunately for later generations, the Colonel would write often about Granny Dollar in his articles.
Remains of Granny Dollar’s cabin can be seen off County Road 89 through the trees. Granny Dollar is buried at Little River Baptist Church next to her husband.
Funds were raised by Mrs. Annie Young to put up a tombstone matching her husbands and it reads:
Nancy Callahan ‘Granny’ Dollar 1826-1931
“Daughter of the Cherokee”
“She was admired for her individuality, her determination, and her unwavering courage.”
Jamie Godwin, Fire Keeper
Tending the Fire
My boys A, B, and C were playing outside in the fall leaves and building homemade carts out of spare building materials behind the studio at River Bank Productions while recording was in session with Dee Lee Ann, the phenomenal internationally known singer. Theydidn't know what was happening, they didn't know of Dee or of her powerhouse singing ability. To them, all they knew was that if Dee was singing, they were supposed to be quiet.
So, looking out at the lake and feeling the breeze starting to get colder, we gathered fallen tree branches from the yard, some logs left over from last year, and stacked them on the fire pit. I lit the papers and the fire immediately blazed up, crackling in the pit.
There I was, sitting around a camp fire, with my boys and the discussion led to the importance of tending a fire so that it won't get out of control. My Cherokee name is Fire Keeper after all.
"The fire is a living thing." I told them as I poked at the flames with a fallen branch. "It eats, it grows, it multiplies, it gives off waste... it breathes. When you stop feeding it, or it stops breathing, the fire dies."
The fire dies a death like any living thing. The spirit goes out of it, and the ashes left are the body of evidence that it once was alive.
We discussed how the logs and sticks were like the food that we eat, and how the fire needs oxygen like you and me. It was altogether magical. I mean, did we just prove something that had never been proven before?
Coming to you from the mountains of Alabama.
The Fire is A Living Thing.
Jamie Godwin, FireKeeper
On this New Years Eve, I don't want to look back, I want to look forward. This year 2017 will be a banner year for us here at Riverbank. Not only have we started recording albums, have a super fun Side A project underway, a successful model calendar, AND our first documentary to be released any day now, but we are also launching a new think tank. It's very exciting and wonderful!
You may or may not know, we have a physics theory to roll out based upon Einstein's work and a hypothesis about neuro-care that could lead to huge medical advancements in Alzheimer's research, as well as Multiple Sclerosis, and many other brain related diseases.
We want to give back, we want our brains to work and solve some of humanity's greatest challenges and mysteries.
Our think tank consists of outgoing professionals who have the ability to problem solve and tackle big ideas with a fresh perspective. Please feel free to comment and share our posts as we share them. The more people we have talking about solutions, the more likely we are to make real headway in putting our future on the right track for our future generations.
Happy New Year to you all,
The Riverbank Blog
If you have followed Jamie and her blogs before, you know she's got some good stuff to say!
Whether it is sharing her thoughts on music, her home town, or sharing stories that were nearly forgotten,
or making waves politically (maybe even more controversial topics!?
**We're transferring the blog as we go. Some items may not be immediately visable. Meanwhile, enjoy!
The Legend of Granny Dollar
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MS IN THE US
We thought we'd share the thoughts of our first Think Tank. The owner of Riverbank Productions, Darren Camp, has Multiple Sclerosis. His life has been forever changed by the diagnosis of this disease. If you or someone you love has also been affected, this post may be of particular interest to you.
At the end of this blog, we ask that you think it over, get back to us, tell us what you think or know about MS. The more minds we have working together, the better chance we have to make a difference. No matter your background or level of education, we want our Think Tank to be inclusionary, and for you, the reader, to be a part of it. This Think Tank has participants with medical degrees to independent thinkers without college experience.
First off lets go over what MS is. To aid in explaining this dibilatating disease, please watch this short video made by Jeremy Weichsel.
Okay so that has a lot of big words but basically the immune system attacks the myelyn protective coating on some of the nerves in the brain. When someone is diagnosed with this disease, medicine is given to the patient to treat the symptoms and suppress the immune sytem to slow the detriment of the myelyn. These medicines do improve life quality and does slow down the progression. But they are costly, and there are many doses that need to be taken daily.
If our goal is to cure the disease, let us now think about WHY the immune system would be attacking the myelyn. From our Think Tank discussions we have come up with some possible reasons why this could be happening.
It seems that the medical community has settled on there being a problem with the immune system itself. Did the immune system suddenly decide to "go rogue" and falsly attack such a vital part of the body's existence? This is contrary to the role of the immune system, but is a possible theory. Suppression of the immune response is a treatment to prevent further damage to the myelin: it also puts the patient at risk for contracting other illnesses.
*Is there a problem with the patient's brain pH level? We know that pH levels are hugely important in the body's ability to function properly. Just like the soil, if the pH levels are off, the harvest or in this case output will be diminished. We know the stomach pH needs to be a certain level or it can't perform fully. What we don't know is what a normally functioning brain pH level supposed to be? Is this currently not known? If normal brain pH is known, it could lead to the cure of not only MS but other diseases.
*Could there be a problem with the brain's neurotransmitters? The neurotransmitters known as messengers, send signals to neurons, or nerve cells. Neurotransmitters play a major role in shaping everyday life and functions. Their exact numbers are unknown, but more than 100 chemical messengers have been uniquely identified. Are they sending the wrong signals out to the immune system telling it to attack the myelyn coating?
* Is there some bacterial, viral, or fungal component which signals the immune response? In which case the immune response is not flawed, but is operating as it should and is either destroying myelin in order to effectively destroy the bacteria, virus, or fungus. IF one of these are responsible, is it because they have somehow errantly breached the blood-brain barrier? Is it because the environment of the brain is such that it allows them to thrive where it normally wouldn't? (hint: PH level)
* Are there any environmental factors at play? Have any studies been done within the MS community which survey patients looking for commonalities which may alert researchers to a common thread? Examples of such environmental influences could be electro-magnetic interference, environmental toxins, drug/pharmaceutical use. We want all possible thoughts on the table and to look at presenting solutions.
*Recent studies have shown that the spleen and the brain work together to control the immune system. Science Daily reports that the Feinstein Institure and the labratory run by Kevin J. Tracey, MD are looking into preventing Sepsis deaths and autoimmune disorders. Does this mean MS, too? Can they research that too? Will they? We need them to.
The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates that more than 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people around the world have MS. About 200 new cases are diagnosed each week in the United States.
River Bank Think Tank
The Story of the Quilt
As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to tell you a story. I want you to think and remember the first Thanksgiving: know what it was really about. I celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, I think of the official U.S. Celebration as not the survival of the Europeans that invaded America, culminating in the death of 10 to 30 million natives, but as the survival of the Native peoples. When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry -- half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger.
When Squanto found them, they were pitiful. Squanto spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow Native food. These were not merely "friendly Indians." They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so. But, it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing.
Since that initial sharing, Native American food has spread around the world. Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. The "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoags provided most of the food -- and signed a treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth, the real reason for the first Thanksgiving.
What did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years, European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags. Most diseases then came from animals that Europeans had domesticated. Cowpox from cows led to smallpox, one of the great killers of our people, spread through gifts of blankets used by infected Europeans. Can you say biological warfare?
This past September, while in North Dakota filming my documentary, “We The People,” it was cold. I had worked all day sorting donations, serving meals, and laying the foundation for the new permanent building in Sacred Stone Camp, and I was tired. I was cold. I was hungry. The Sioux of the camp made sure I was fed, gave me a blanket, and helped me pitch my tent. It was the Native American way on the first Thanksgiving, and it still is today.
Upon opening the bag that my quilt was in, this Cherokee noticed a note inside. “Hello, My name is Michael, I wanted to include this note so whoever received (the quilt) it would be aware of its origin. My grandparents Hooley and Ollie Redbird were Cherokee and owned a small farm in Ashland, Oregon. They raised 3 daughters and a son, my father, on it and sent them to college. It was through them I learned to Be proud of my heritage. The quilt was made from the clothes from my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my 3 aunts. I received it when graduating high school and I've slept with it for nearly 50 years. I think my grandmother would like that it survived and is being passed on. I wish you luck, health, and happiness.
Mike Redbird and the Sioux Camp took care of me. They fed me, they gave me a blanket to stay warm. This blanket wasn't a disease-ridden death trap. It was a treasured family heirloom that I will keep for the remainder of my days. It is on display at The Grove Oak Store.
Keep your head held high this Thanksgiving. We are the survivors.