Although Connie Chastain has changed the status of her Facebook group to closed, she continues to provide ample opportunity for readers of this blog to comment on her views … because she’s a frequent visitor and commenter here (it’s as if she’s never gone away). Recently she brought attention to her Cherokee ancestry, much as she’s in the past highlighted her family ties to Elijah Webb Chastain, a member of Congress from 1851 to 1855.
There is, of course, more to the story.
Elijah W. Chastain’s father, Benjamin Chastain, was born in North Carolina, moved to South Carolina, and then moved again to Georgia, where he served in the Georgia state legislature intermittently between 1826 and 1834. He also served as an Indian agent in the Toccoa Falls area. Fort Chastain was named after him: it was established to assist in the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia along the Trail of Tears. As one source put it, Benjamin Chastain “worked to help round up the Indians for the Trail of Tears.”
Connie Chastain delights in telling us of her Cherokee heritage. But she’s declined to reveal the role of some of the members of her family tree in deporting other members of her family tree … or perhaps she never knew about it. Now she does. Who do you think you are, Connie?
This is what we call history, not heritage.
By the way, some family members suggest that another Elijah in the Chastain family had a Cherokee mistress.
Update: Connie Chastain’s reaction to this was to claim both that this did not bother her and that it took advantage of a painful family history … evidence that she just can’t make up her mind. Then she tried to disprove it, but that didn’t work too well. I note that she passed quickly over the following information:
In 1838 the Cherokees were removed from their lands in Georgia and marched along the Trail of Tears to be relocated in what is now Oklahoma. Their lands were made available to white settlers, and many Chastains took advantage of the situation. In fact, this area still has the largest concentration of Chastains anywhere. But the settling of the Indian lands is a story for another time. Here we deal with the removal. Even before the deportation, forts and encampments were established to gather and hold the Cherokee as illegal settlers began filtering in. One of these was Fort Chastain in present-day Fannin County, Georgia. Chastains served in the East Tennessee Cherokee Removal Militia which escorted the Cherokee to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).
It appears that it was Chastain’s ancestors who took advantage of a tragic situation.