The Blue Ridge Mountains
Tourists visiting the Blue Ridge
Mountains are given “historical information” that couldn’t be further from
the actual history of the region. As discussed in article three of this
series, Spanish gold miners, probably Sephardic Jews, had occupied the
Nacoochee Valley for a century. They were gone by the early 1700s.
So who exactly were the Native peoples that replaced the Spanish miners as
the owners of the Nacoochee Valley? The answer will surprise you.
During the mid-17th century the most feared Native American tribe in the
Southeast was the Rickohockens. Their capital was at Otari in the
southwestern Virginia Mountains, but the tribe was divided into three
divisions; one in SE Kentucky, one in the southern tip of what is now West
Virginia, and the largest concentration in SW Virginia. A map made in 1692
shows the Rickohocken also controlling the mountains of North Carolina.
Terrified by their ferocity in
battle, the leaders of Virginia “bought off” the Rickohockens in 1660 by
giving them firearms and setting them loose on the agricultural societies of
the Lower Southeast to obtain Native American slaves for Virginia
plantations. Several prominent English nobles had been awarded ownership of
the proposed Colony of Carolina. They wanted the landscape “cleared” of
native peoples to make it easier to subdivide and sell.
American slave raiders depopulated broad swaths in the Southeast to obtain
youth and young women to sell in the coastal slave markets. Toddlers,
elders and adult males were usually killed in these raids. At least 600,000
Native Americans are believed to have been enslaved during this period.
Probably, an equal number were killed in the raids.
Something very odd happened
around 1693. At the peak of their power and territorial acquisition, the
Rickohockens suddenly disappeared from the English colonial records.
Instead, they were now called Cherokee; the name formerly assigned to a
small cluster of polyglot Indian towns in NW South Carolina, which spoke
Muskogean and Siouan dialects - not any dialect similar to modern Cherokee.
All territory that earlier English maps had labeled “Rickohocken,” was now
labeled “Cherokee.” From 1693 on, the biggest players in the slave trade
were the Cherokees. The English colonies issued branding irons to each of
the 14 "Cherokee" bands so they could be correctly compensated for Native
slaves delivered. Their population, territory and power swelled as they
raided as far as southern Florida, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River
to obtain more slaves for Carolina and Caribbean plantations.
Chaloqui: In the spring of
1541 the de Soto Expedition briefly had contact with a apparently primitive
tribe that their Muskogean guides called the Chalokees. Virtually all books
and history web sites state that the word Chalokee means “foreign speaker”
in the Creek Indian language.
It does not! That word is
chiliya. Chaolokee means “trout-people
or bass-people.” Most references also state that the Chalokee were one and
the same as the Cherokee. They were not!
A 1703 map by the master French cartographer, Guillaume Delisle, showed the
Chaloqui living in SE Georgia and the Cherokee located in NW South Carolina,
NE Tennessee and SW Virginia. (See attached slide.)
Chorakee: In 1674, explorer
Henry Woodward submitted a report to the Lord Proprietors of Carolina, which
mentioned a cluster of Native towns near the sources of the Savannah River,
which called themselves, the Chorakee. The word means “splinter group” in
the Creek language. A 1676 map of the Province of Carolina denoted numerous
towns in that area that were also mentioned in the chronicles of the 1567
Juan Pardo expeditions. Most of these “Chorakee” towns had names that can be
translated by a contemporary Creek Indian dictionary.
occupation of the Nacoochee Valley
Archaeological studies have
determined that the Creek Indians continued to occupy all of northern
Georgia until at least 1700. More likely an ethnic change occurred in
1715. In that year, the Cherokees invited the leaders of all the Creek
towns in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee to a diplomatic
conference at the Yuchi town of Tugaloo, which was about 24 miles east of
the Nacoochee Valley. All of the Creek leaders were murdered in their
sleep. With its leaders dead, the Creek Confederacy was temporarily
This is when the Lower Cherokees
most likely moved into the Nacoochee Valley. They established three small
villages there. However, the Cherokees’ treachery also precipitated a 40
year long war. They were not able to expand any further into Georgia,
because of the Cherokee-Creek War. The mountains to the west and south of
the Nacoochee Valley remained in Koweta-Creek hands until after the French
and Indian War. Virtually all literature labels these mountains as Cherokee
occupied during that period. They were not.
The French called this region, the Koweta Mountains. English maps placed
various branches of the Creek Confederacy in the mountains.
Two colonies wage war by
The colonial archives of the
Georgia Historical Society in Savannah give a very different description of
events in the mid-1700s than what one typically reads in history books,
tourist brochures and on state historical markers. Both South Carolina and
Georgia claimed the land that is now the northern half of Georgia. (See
slide 8.) Although primarily located in what is now North Carolina and
eastern Tennessee, the Cherokees were allies of South Carolina. North
Carolinians generally disliked the Cherokees. After the Colony of Georgia
was founded in 1732, the Creeks became close allies with its government.
They were soon able to obtain sufficient munitions to keep the Cherokees on
the defensive. Each colony encouraged its own “pet Indian tribe” to occupy
and defend what is now northern Georgia.
In the archives, one can find
numerous letters from South Carolina to Georgia complaining about the
steadily declining fortunes of the Cherokees in their four decade long war
with the Creeks. Georgia’s officials expressed official concern, but in
reality were delighted that their Creek Indian allies were pushing South
Carolina’s main allies out of territory claimed by both colonies. In 1754
the British authorities from Charleston, SC were able to arrange a peace
treaty between all but one of the Creek’s many towns and the more united
The town of Koweta on the
Chattahoochee River (near modern day Carrollton, GA) refused to sign the
treaty. Even though Koweta was an ally of the British, it immediately
dispatched a “hit squad” into South Carolina which murdered 21 Cherokee
leaders on the streets of Charleston. The assassins then killed several
Cherokees they found traveling between the mountains and Charleston.
In the meantime, the
Koweta dispatched a highly disciplined army
challenged the entire Cherokee Nation to battle. In quick
succession the army of Kowita destroyed every Cherokee army sent its way.
The Kowetas then burned all of the Cherokee towns in Georgia and the lower
third of western North Carolina. Since the boundaries of SC, GA and NC were
not surveyed at that time, it is clear that the Koweta Creeks were doing “an
ethnic cleansing” of the Cherokees in the lands that both Georgia and South
Carolina claimed. (See 1755 map in the slides.)
Koweta held the re-conquered
territory until 1763, when it traded it back to the British for a vast
territory vacated by the French in Alabama. Over the strenuous objections
of the Colony of Georgia, the more politically influential South Carolinians
succeeded in persuading the Crown to give the land of the Apalachicola
Creeks (allies of France) in northwest Georgia to the Cherokees. This
decision set the stage for the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Georgians always
considered the Cherokees to be unwelcome squatters. The fact that the
Cherokees were not indigenous to the state was the main legal argument
Georgia’s attorneys used in seeking their removal by the Federal government.
occupation of the Nacoochee Valley
The Koweta Creeks continued to
occupy northeast Georgia, east of the Chattahoochee River. As this river
flowed through the Nacoochee Valley, the Valley became the frontier with the
still hostile Creeks. As a precaution, the British placed remnant Creek
tribes from South Carolina inside Cherokee
territory. That is why most of the geographical place names in NE
Georgia are Creek words. The British also created a 20 mile wide buffer
beyond the Chattahoochee to hopefully keep the Koweta Creeks separated from
the Cherokees. Only one Cherokee village is shown in the Nacoochee Valley
from 1763 until the end of the Revolutionary War.
The late 1700s was probably when
the Nacoochee Valley had its largest Cherokee population. However, even
then, the total was probably no more than about 2-300 persons. After 1793
when the renegade Chickamauga Cherokees of northwest Georgia were decisively
defeated, peaceful Cherokees steadily moved into that region. Land cessions
made by the Cherokees to pay debts were made in 1816, 1817, 1819. The
Nacoochee Valley was included in those cessions. By 1820 there were
probably no more than a 100 Cherokees living in the entire Upper
Chattahoochee River Valley of Georgia.
In 1828 gold was re-discovered
on Dukes Creek in the Nacoochee Valley. The State of Georgia immediately
sent officials and militia to inform the Cherokees living on gold lands that
they had misunderstood past treaties and that the gold-bearing lands were
outside the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries. After 1828, the only Cherokees
legally living in the Nacoochee Valley area were Cherokee women, who were
married to white men or employees of mining companies. The Native American
occupation of the Nacoochee Valley had ended.