As the early Cherokee Nation met up with outside influences, starting with Spanish explorers and continuing with traders (from England, France, and Spain), various government representatives, English and American soldiers, missionaries, and American pioneers, the Cherokee adopted and adapted what they thought was useful, and rejected what was considered offensive or unnecessary. Over time, some unnecessary things would become fashionable (and thus desirable), or would become useful in a new context as the social and political environment changed. But, some citizens of the Nation were more resistant to change, and served as Tradition Bearers.
The Adams Corner Traditional Log Cabin represents the home of a 19-century family that preferred the old ways. They would have believed that a less-commercial life, a more natural way of living, was superior to most modern adaptations. They would have believed that their ancestor’s ways should be honored and practiced. They sang old songs, made their own clothes following an older style, furnished their homes with crafts they continued to practice. They engaged in the ceremonial life they had been taught, and ceremonial materials might be seen in their homes.
The log cabin in Adams Corner was originally built in the Lost City area, and reportedly pre-dates the Trail of Tears. Log cabins were common in the early days of settlement because people were moving into an area without any commerce. They were no sawmills, no general stores, no railroads to bring in materials. The cabin might have been built before there was a road. By cutting down logs for house construction, a farmer was simultaneously clearing land for crops and helping create roadways. Simple tools were all that were needed: an axe could do it all, but the added use of an adze and a saw would provide a more handsome dwelling. If the family had purchased a window and brought it with them, it would brighten their home. The walls, floors, shingles, and doors would all be wood. A fireplace could be built of native stone, or wood could be used if the interior of the chimney were coated with clay to prevent it from catching on fire.
Chairs could be whittled and rush seats could be made, a peg on the wall became a closet, and the fireplace provided a cooking space. Mattresses were stuffed with corn shucks. In the early days, game was plentiful, along with wild fruits, nuts, and roots. According to lore, human illnesses started when humans became disrespectful of the animals they hunted, causing the animals to inflict the humans with sickness, but the plants took pity on humans and decided to provide medicines to relieve sickness. Many traditional Cherokee people have retained knowledge of the plant medicines which have healed and comforted countless generations of Cherokee citizens. Many of today’s modern medicines are derived from plant extracts, some of them the same plants that comforted our ancestors.