Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home is a National Historic Landmark and one of only a few private entities to be certified by the National Park Service as a site on the Trail of Tears. There are forty-five such sites in Georgia and only seven north of Atlanta. Major Ridge, whose old home Chieftains now occupies, was one of the signers of the Treaty of New Echota, which resulted in the forced relocation of the Cherokee people.
Transformed into a museum in 1971, Chieftains Museum is owned by the Junior Service League of Rome, Inc. and operated by Friends of Chieftains, Inc. which is committed to telling the story of the house while preserving the site for future generations.
On October 29th, 2002 Chieftains Museum announced its participation with the National Park Service as a site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. At that time we also officially changed our name to Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home and announced the revised mission statement above. These changes reflect our strengthened commitment to presenting and preserving Cherokee history and culture.
At the core of the house is a two-story “dogtrot” log cabin that once served as the home of prominent Cherokee leader Major Ridge and his family. The house has grown significantly since Ridge’s departure and important examples of Northwest Georgia architecture can be seen in the various additions to the structure. It is the connection with the Cherokees, however, that gives the site a prominent position in America’s history.
Today, the museum presents interpretive exhibits (permanent and temporary), educational programs, and special events that pertain to the Ridge family and Cherokee history and culture. In recent years, the Floyd County Master Gardeners have worked hard to create The Major Ridge Demonstration Garden. The garden features trees, shrubs, and raised beds to demonstrate the types of plants native to our area, those used by Native Americans, and those that were grown on the Ridge farm to provide visitors to the campus with a “living” classroom. Our campus also includes a replica ferry (similar to the one Major Ridge would have operated on the Oostanaula River), an archaeological dig site, and a small orchard.
The museum also offers schools programs that are directly related to Georgia curriculum requirements at the historic property of Major Ridge and presents a unique opportunity for students to experience a significant part of American history in their own community.