Hernando de Soto Expedition to Georgia
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The earliest recorded visit of Europeans to the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains was in 1540. De Soto’s Conquistadors spent several summer weeks at the capital of Kvse (pronounced Kău-shĕ in Itsate-Creek, but known as Kusa in English.) Kvse means “forested mountains” in Itza Maya.
Florida Indians told Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528 that the Apalachee People, who lived in the mountains many days to the north, mined and traded gold. The people, whom the Spanish called Apalache, called themselves the Palache, which is the Creek word for the Biloxi Indians. This is not general knowledge because the media has relied on commentaries about de Soto, rather than actually reading the chronicles.
Just before heading north from the Florida Panhandle in 1540, de Soto was told that the capital of the Apalache province in the mountains was named Yupaha. Yupaha means “Horned Lord.” The Florida Indians stated that Yupaha had much gold. De Soto set off to find Yupaha, but his chroniclers never mentioned the town again. Historians have traditionally assumed Yupaha to be a fable.
After leaving Kusa, de Soto passed through the towns of Tali-mochase (New Tali), Itapa, and then, what the chroniclers wrote as Ubahali. However, this would be a typical manner that Castilians would write the word, Yupaha-le, which is a Coastal Plain Itsate word meaning “Horned Lord People.” So Yupaha really did exist. It probably was the Track Rock archaeological zone, because that is largest known town site in the gold-bearing section of the Georgia Mountains.
Add an “s” to Itapa, and you have Itsapa. This may or may not been the town’s real name. On occasion, the Spanish chroniclers did leave out letters or sounds from known Muskogean words.
While staying in Kvse, de Soto would have been about 47 miles (75 km) west of Track Rock Gap. He dispatched a party to travel up Talking Rock Creek, which flowed into the Coosawattee River from a source in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east. The party stopped in present day Pickens County, GA because they heard that there were witches living upstream. That stopping point would have been 32 miles (51 km) from Track Rock Gap.