Monument at Mission Site
A stone monument marks
both the mission site and the
grave of Rev. Ard Hoyt, early
missionary to the Cherokee.
Historic Cherokee Cemetery
The old cemetery was used
as a burial ground by both
Cherokee Indians and early
white settlers of the area. - Wills Town Mission and Cemetery, Alabama - Wills Town Mission and Cemetery, Alabama
Wills Town Mission and Cemetery - Fort Payne, Alabama
Site of Wills Town Mission
A preserved Cherokee and pioneer cemetery is all
that remains of the historic Wills Town Mission.
Christianity and the Cherokee
On the northeastern edge of the city of Fort
Payne, Alabama, can be found a historic
Native American and pioneer cemetery
marking the site of the Wills Town Mission.

Authorized by the American Board of
Missions as part of its effort to bring
education and Christianity to the Cherokee
Indians, the mission was established in the
Cherokee settlement of Wills Town in 1823.

While the effort was well-intentioned, it bears
note that one of the greatest Native American
scholars of all time had lived in Wills Town
during the years prior to the establishment of
the mission. It was here between 1818 and
1821 that Sequoyah developed the Cherokee
alphabet, bringing a written language and
literacy to thousands of members of his tribe.

Born in around 1770 at the Cherokee village
of Taskigi in Tennessee, Sequoyah was an
interested observer of how the whites used a
written language to communicate and
advance their culture through books and
literature. He became convinced that a
similar written alphabet could be developed
for the Cherokee.

Sequoyah moved to Wills Town in 1818 and
perfected his 86-character Cherokee
Alphabet over the next three years. He
demonstrated it in 1821 and the impressed
leaders of the nation eventually approved his
efforts. The Cherokee became the only
Native American tribe to develop and use a
written language of their own.

Sequoyah left Wills Town in 1823, the same
year as the establishment of the Christian
mission. He relocated to Arkansas and
eventually to present-day Oklahoma where
his log cabin home still stands. Although he
died while on a trip to Mexico in 1843,
Sequoyah's alphabet remains in use today
and his statue stands in the U.S. Capitol in
Washington, D.C.

The Wills Town Mission was operated from
1823-1828 by Rev. Ard Hoyt, its resident
missionary and superintendent. He is buried
in the historic cemetery along side many of
the Cherokee people he served. Later
settlers also used the historic cemetery.
The mission remained active until 1838
when the U.S. Government, joined by state
militia forces, forced most of the Cherokee to
relocate to new lands in what is now
Oklahoma. The residents of Wills Town were
among those forced to make the long journey
via what is remembered today as the Trail of
Tears. Many died along the way.

The fields of the Cherokee were used by
early white settlers of the area and the little
mission cemetery remained in use as a
burial ground through much of the 19th

The cemetery is all that remains of the
historic Cherokee town and mission today. It
is located a little over three miles northeast of
downtown Fort Payne on 38th Street, just
south of its Godfrey Avenue intersection.
Natural stones and the stumps of cedar
trees mark the Cherokee grave sites, while
headstones designate the sites of white
burials. A stone monument and historic
marker can be found at the site, while a
second marker is at City Park downtown.
Cherokee Grave Marker
Natural stones and cedar
trees were used by the
Cherokee to mark grave sites
at Wills Town Cemetery.
Wills Town Mission Marker
A marker telling the story of
the mission stands at City
Park in downtown Fort Payne,
Alabama. The actual mission
site is a little over three miles
to the northeast.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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