The Tellico Blockhouse was a United States fortification used officially from 1794 through 1807. The site functioned in some smaller capacity through December 1811. The Tellico Blockhouse served as a check against white encroachment as those of European decent were required to have written passes from the commander of the Blockhouse before entering deeper into Cherokee land. This site was also home to the Tellico Factory, part of Henry Knox’s civilizing policy and its aim of teaching modern methods of agriculture and industry to the American Indian.
As a trading post, the Tellico Blockhouse offered trade items for hides. Furs and hides were the primary currency that the Cherokee could barter with. Through years of such trade the fur-bearing animals of the region were decimated. This trade had an economic and environmental impact on the area. The Tellico Factory offered a solution when spinning wheels, cotton seed, looms, and training were brought to the Cherokee at the Tellico Blockhouse. Much of the Little Tennessee River Valley was planted in cotton. This new commodity took some of the stress off of fur bearing animals and provided the Cherokee with a valued item of trade.
The Tellico Blockhouse was in use during a time when the future of the United States was uncertain. Spain controlled the Mississippi River, the port city of New Orleans, and had built a fort where Memphis now stands. At times, Spain and the United States seemed close to war. The young U.S. Army had suffered devastating losses at the hands of American Indian confederations. The United States could not face both American Indian and Spanish forces.
Through establishments such as the Tellico Blockhouse better relations were fostered between the U.S. and many American Indian cultures. The Cherokee people and the U.S. citizens could remember recent atrocities. This garrison of American soldiers was a symbol of military power but also of the government’s intent to keep order. No longer would roaming militias and bands of Cherokee repay violence for violence. Negotiations would take the place of violence. Much of what is now known as Tennessee was signed over by the Cherokee at the Blockhouse.
By 1807 few Cherokee remained in the Little Tennessee River Valley. The Blockhouse was no longer a convenient place for them to meet. The garrison was relocated down along the Hiwassee where many of the Cherokee had moved. A few soldiers did remain at the Blockhouse through December 1811 but official functions were taking place elsewhere.
Today the Tellico Blockhouse is in a state of stabilized ruin. Visitors can walk the ground once walked by the Cherokee, soldiers, and agents of government. The site is part of Fort Loudoun State Historic Area and is a day use area. This establishment, spurred by the governor of the Territory Southwest of the River Ohio, is now overseen by the State of Tennessee.