Massacre at Yahoo Falls
Yahoo Falls is located in McCreary County Kentucky and a creek plummets 113' from the top. It would be hard to imagine anything terrible had ever happened there. And that’s what many think…especially something as horrifying as what has become known as the 1810 Yahoo Falls Massacre.
According to Samuel D. Perry, an avid researcher on the subject and author of Yahoo Falls--A Historical Overview and South Fork Country, the Yahoo Falls Massacre was a complete fabrication. True, Chief Doublehead, Cornblossom, and Tuckahoe, were major participants in the tale and real people, but the events attributed to them, Perry claims, have no basis in historical documentation. The story concerns the alleged murder of over 100 Cherokee Indians, mostly women and children.
It seems, Robert F. Collins, a professional forester and supervisor of the Cumberland National Forest was an avid history buff and devout admirer of American frontiersman Daniel Boone. That fact may well explain the later name change to the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Collins began looking for historical data of the area. During his search he found a little known booklet called Legion of the Lost Mine published in 1958 by Thomas Harlan Troxell. The author was a descendent of “Big Jake” Troxell a prominent character in the supposed tragedy.
The booklet was a short collection of stories based upon the Troxell family and Cherokee Chief Doublehead. Although Troxell notes in the books’ foreword, names of some of the characters were fictitious, many have built a history upon the story as being fact. Oddly enough, Troxell never mentioned a massacre at Yahoo Falls in his booklet.
After retiring in 1970, Robert Collins was commissioned by the Forest Service to write a history of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Collins published A History of the Daniel Boone National Forest in 1975 apparently based on information in Troxell’s publication. Collin’s book carries on the legend without historical documentation.
The booklet told the story of a massacre at Yahoo Falls: "Big Jake" Troxell, was a half-breed Delaware Indian Warrior from Pennsylvania who had been sent by President Washington’s staff to convince the Cherokee to ally with the Americans instead of the Spanish. But after witnessing firsthand how settlers brutally treated the Cherokee, he joined them instead.
Chief Doublehead's daughter was Cornblossom. Big Jake married her and later when Doublehead was assassinated, she became the leader of her tribe. It had been about forty years since Daniel Boone and the first fort on the Kentucky River had been built. During that time the war between the Cherokee and settlers had gone from bad to worse and the tribe’s number had steadily dwindled. Cornblossom believed what remained of her people would only be safe by enrolling them in a Presbyterian school for Indians and trying to assimilate with the whites.
According to the story several individual groups had embarked on their journey to the Sequatchie Valley near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cornblossom led one. Her people were to meet at a rock house beneath Yahoo Falls to begin their migration south. However, unbeknownst to them word of the meeting had reached Hiram “Big Tooth” Gregory, a man well known for his hatred of Indians.
Gregory decided to take advantage of the opportunity and wipe out the last vestige of Cherokees in the area. He rounded up a group of other likeminded individuals and headed southwest into Cherokee territory towards Yahoo Falls. Big Jake had suspected there might be trouble so he and a small band of Chickamauga warriors were keeping an eye out for any suspicious signs.
It was about midnight when Gregory's men arrived. A young Indian boy who spotted them ran to warn those gathered under a rock shelter but was immediately shot down. As the shot rang out, warning those who had not yet reached the rock shelter were able to hide and escape, but not the 100 or so already there. Big Jake and his small group immediately sprang into action, but were quickly overpowered and scalped.
Gregory’s men formed a line along the edge of the bluff and opened fire on the defenseless Indians now trapped under the rock shelter. Some of Gregory’s men worked their way down toward the floor of the rock house while those up top kept their prey penned down. Gregory's men senselessly murdered, raped and scalped over 100 Chickamauga Cherokee women and children.
Later, Cornblossom’s group arrived at the falls area. She found her husband and his guards brutally scalped. Leaving the children and women behind, Cornblossom, her son War Chief Peter Troxell, Red Bird, and a party of warriors rushed to the falls where the butchery was still in progress. Cornblossom’s warriors were ordered to attack. Peter Troxell died underneath the falls and Cornblossom sustained a gunshot wound. She died two days later.
Most of those fortunate enough to escape with their lives moved on to Arkansas and other areas. But “Little Jake,” youngest son of Jake and Cornblossom stayed. He was at the massacre along with his mother and had killed some of Gregory's men. Only three whites had survived their counter attack. Little Jake grew up and terrorized white settlers in the Big South Fork area for many years afterwards, never letting them forget. However, Little Jake finally surrendered in return for a promise of amnesty. He died in 1880, and is buried at Parmleysville, Kentucky.
A History of the Daniel Boone National Forest is thought to be the only definitive documentation on the subject. And even that has been the object of some controversy within the forest agency, itself. But, there are those who still insist the account is true.
*Note: The author is particularly interested in this subject because many names listed herein are in his family tree. If any readers have documentation to verify whether or not this incident actually occurred, please provide it.