The Charles Hall Museum is a popular free attraction for tourists in Tellico Plains. The museum and gift shop spans multiple buildings beside the welcome center for the Cherohala Skyway and feature an extensive collection of weapons, photographs, and Native American artifacts.
As for why it is called the Charles Hall Museum, you can ask the man yourself during a visit to the facility. Hall, now in his mid-80s, started the museum to preserve and highlight the area's history.
"I guess I have always loved history," said Hall. "I had some great history teachers in school and feel like this area has so many stories to share."
Hall is well-versed in the town's history considering he observed much of it first-hand.
"I was born and raised here. I ran the telephone company, was an
alderman, and served as mayor for 31 years," said Hall. "There is no
place like home and we have a lot to be proud of.""
Make no mistake; the museum is not about Charles Hall. He is merely one of the museum's messengers for other stories about the region's rich history. Hall helped design and assemble many of the large glass displays that showcase the items in the museum. That includes many photographs of the struggle to build the road where the museum now sits.
"For a long time, this town was the end of the line. This is where all of the highways ended and the railroad tracks stopped. They built the railroad here in 1888 and put the switch on the plains where the trains could turn around and head back," said Hall. "The only way to get to North Carolina from here was on old wagon roads. In 1958, we were discussing the need for a connecting highway out of here to North Carolina."
The town's residents decided to bring attention to the issue by using horsepower to mock the existing infrastructure.
"The decision was made to have a wagon train. We had old covered wagons pulled by horse and took the first few trips to Murphy, North Carolina. As the years went by, we then started organizing the wagon train to Robbinsville, North Carolina. The last few trips we took, there were 700 to 800 horseback riders," said Hall.
Officials eventually responded by constructing the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico Plains to Robbinsville. The skyway goes through the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest. The word "Cherohala" is a combination of the words Cherokee and Nantahala.
Today Tellico Plains promotes itself as the gateway to the Cherokee National Forest. At one time, it was the capital of the Cherokee Nation.
"Tellico was the capital of the Cherokee Nation in the 1700s," said Hall. "It was called Talikwa by the Cherokee. The meaning of the word in Cherokee is not known anymore. The town was situated along the river where it now opens up into farmland."
The definition of the term Talikwa was lost, as was its original pronunciation.
"You can imagine what it was like when the Spanish, the English, and the
French started settling this area. You can see how it [the name] became confused. There are also different Cherokee dialects."
There are several phonetic variations for the spelling of Talikwa, including Teliquo, Talliquah, Tallequah, Great Terriquo, and Talico. Some of these spellings exist in other locations where the Cherokee resettled around the country. In Monroe County, the final moniker was made official when Tellico Plains incorporated on July 4, 1911.
While some of the historical facts may be lost or altered by time, Hall and others in the community strive to preserve what they can.
"There is a lot to see in the museum, but the first things when you walk through the door are the various items used by the Indians," said Hall. "There are collections of tomahawks, arrowheads, beads, smoking pipes, and other items from the Cherokee. There are a lot of small pipes, but there is a large ceremonial peace pipe that was dug up here at the council site for the Cherokee tribe."
Hall also works to maintain what he believes is the area's greatest natural resource, the kind spirit of its people.
"We have the skyway, the forest, and the river. The thing we're just really proud about is that visitors often compliment the town for having such good country people. People here are friendly and we're going to keep it that way," said Hall.
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