Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…Colossians 3:23
Trust in the Lord and do good…Psalm 37:3
In 1817, in a small clearing in the wilderness, Brainerd Mission was founded among the Cherokee Indians by the American Board of Foreign Missions whose headquarters were in Boston, Massachusetts. This Board secured the assistance of the United States government and established a mission and a school at Brainerd for the education and Christianization of the Cherokee. During the twenty-one years of its existence, the mission at Brainerd drew many prominent people as visitors, including some from Europe. Among them was James Monroe, President of the United States, who spent the night of May 27, 1819, at the mission. The mission closed its doors in 1838, at the time of the removal of the Cherokees west of the Mississippi.
The only visible part of this important story that still remains today is the mission’s cemetery. Since September 26, 1933, when Henry H. and Dorothy D. Hampton deeded the overgrown cemetery land to the local chapters of DAR and SAR, our organizations have cared for this beautiful sacred acre that is rich in history. At the request of the DAR in 1933, a Chattanooga-based architect designed the cemetery’s Colonial Revival landscape. A Georgian-styled geometric pattern of boxwoods, trees, paths, and cemetery furniture was installed in and around the remaining original tombstone. A stone wall with vertical capstones to enclose and protect the cemetery was constructed. This design of 1933 remains largely intact today. The six chapters who own the property provide annual dues for upkeep and members convene at least three times a year to rake leaves and ensure that the grounds are well-kept. On the second Wednesday in June, the Annual Flag Raising takes place at the cemetery – a meaningful ceremony that is important to all DAR and SAR members in our district, as well as to those of Cherokee heritage, community leaders, and many long-time residents of Brainerd.
The mission and its history has become the keystone to the revitalization of the Brainerd. In the future, the Brainerd branch of the public library will be positioned next to the cemetery and will feature as its central theme the story of the Brainerd missionaries and their work to bring unity to this region. At the core of the story is the fact that all children at the mission – Caucasian, Cherokee, and Negro were taught to read, write, and do arithmetic.
The role that the DAR and SAR played in the preservation of this story is an important one that will also be told. A history of Brainerd Mission Cemetery has been compiled from the 2003 National Park Service Update of National Register of Historic Places.