In the early 1800s, the valley below was inhabited by Cherokee Indians who had lived there for generations farming the fertile soil‚ fishing the teeming river‚ and hunting the bountiful game. Each spring‚ they would take their ponies and supplies up the mountain to the “Summer Pasture”‚ a series of mountain meadows with spring fed creeks and cooler temperatures. These Native Americans would reopen their hunt lodges built many years earlier by their ancestors and gather the food that was necessary to live thru the following winter.
In the fall, before the first freeze‚ they would take their supplies‚ and horses (but not all of them) back down to the villages in the valley. The horses that were left behind were the mares and their foals that were born over the summer. These they left to graze on the rich winter grasses and have time to grow into strong yearlings. When they returned in the spring‚ the young braves’ job was to round up these colts and train them over the summer. This pattern continued for decades and each spring the mares were excited to see the return of their fellow horses and their riders.
But‚ in the spring of 1838‚ the mares were confused. Long after the expected arrival of the spring hunting parties‚ they had still not arrived. One mare was particularly disturbed and began running from meadow to meadow neighing for her missing herd. Well into summer and still no return of the hunters and their ponies and the mare grew more desperate and each evening she would go to a different ridge looking down on the valley and whinny and neigh deep into the night. The new settlers in the valley could hear her cries of anguish and spoke of her as the “Squealing Mare” Little did she know that her tribe and their ponies were on what is now known as the “Trail of Tears”