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Collection: The Appalachian Colonists

Eyewitnesses who were never called to the witness stand

Between about 1585 and 1600 AD, something catastrophic happened in the Southern Highlands.  The effects are most notable in northwest Georgia, southeast Tennessee and the northwestern North Carolina Mountains.  A native population remained in the heartland of the Apalache “kingdom” in the north-central and northeast mountains of Georgia. In fact the large town of Ustanoli on an island in the Tugaloo River was not sacked and burned until after 1700.  It was eventually replaced by a Cherokee hamlet. All mound building stopped.  Some of the largest indigenous towns north of Mexico were suddenly abandoned.  Archeologists working in northwestern Georgia found a village in which skeletons were scattered haphazardly across the landscape, as if all died with no one left to bury the dead. In another nearby village they found a cache of adolescent bones, chopped into meal-size chunks by sharp steel weapons.  Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s farmers in northern Georgia plowed up the remains of rusting European weapons and armor from the late 1500s or early 1600s.  The vestiges of the past sparked dozens of folklore tales that “De Soto Slept Here.” Archaeologists have speculated that a massive plague caused by a European pathogen killed most of the indigenous population in a few days or weeks.  The long concealed evidence says something else.  There was an invasion of Europeans into the mountains at the end of the 16th...

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Archaeological Research in the Southern Highlands

Between about 1585 and 1600 AD, something catastrophic happened in the Southern Highlands.  The effects are most notable in northwest Georgia, southeast Tennessee and the northwestern North Carolina Mountains.  A native population remained in the heartland of the Apalache “kingdom” in the north-central and northeast mountains of Georgia. In fact the large town of Ustanoli on an island in the Tugaloo River was not sacked and burned until after 1700.  It was eventually replaced by a Cherokee hamlet. All mound building stopped.  Some of the largest indigenous towns north of Mexico were suddenly abandoned.  Archeologists working in northwestern Georgia found a village in which skeletons were scattered haphazardly across the landscape, as if all died with no one left to bury the dead. In another nearby village they found a cache of adolescent bones, chopped into meal-size chunks by sharp steel weapons.  Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s farmers in northern Georgia plowed up the remains of rusting European weapons and armor from the late 1500s or early 1600s.  The vestiges of the past sparked dozens of folklore tales that “De Soto Slept Here.” Archaeologists have speculated that a massive plague caused by a European pathogen killed most of the indigenous population in a few days or weeks.  The long concealed evidence says something else.  There was an invasion of Europeans into the mountains at the end of the...

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Chronology of European Occupancy in the Southern Highlands

The following is a chronological outline of archival and physical evidence that Europeans were living in the Southern Appalachians long before the region was officially settled by Anglo-Americans: 1564 – Captain René de Laundonnière named the mountains in Georgia and western North Carolina, Les Apalachiens in honor of the Apalache Indians after an exploration team returned with glowing reports of the Apalache’s friendliness and advanced culture. 1Hakluyt, Richard, The Voyages of René de Laundonnière (1582) The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation, vol. IX. For the next 130 years French maps claimed the Appalachian Mountains and stated that gold could be found there in abundance. 1565 – Several Frenchmen, who were away when Fort Caroline was massacred, were given sanctuary by the Apalache. 2Rochefort, Charles, History of the Caribby-Islands (1665 in French, 1666 in English) Chapter 8, “Paysage au Apalache” p. 241. French Huguenot survivors were allowed to remain in the capital of Apalache and converted the king to Christianity. They lived near the capital and married Native women. According to Rochefort, they eventually converted the king of Apalache to Christianity.  However, very few commoners became Christians.  Rochefort stated that as public observance of the elite’s sun worship religion declined, the commoners fell back on their traditional religious practices 1567 – Captain Juan Pardo built five forts to protect the route between Santa Elena, SC...

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Opechancanough and Don Luis

Jamestown was founded in 1607 on land recently conquered by the Powhatan Confederacy. Movies about Pocahontas have given the impression that the “Powhatan Indians” were concentrated on the Chesapeake Bay.  They were not. The villages on the coastline of the Chesapeake were the vassals of the Pamunkey Indians, who forged the confederacy. 1Egloff, Keith and Deborah Woodward, First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992. The capital of the confederacy, Werowocomoco, was originally on the north side of the York River, not near Jamestown. Note that the town’s name ends with “moko” which is...

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Sir William Berkeley and Native American Slavery

Sir William Berkeley was a highly educated courtier in the regime of Charles I, then twice governor of Virginia. 1Billings, Warren M, Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2004. As governor, he stacked the Council and House of Burgesses with Royalist planters then institutionalized race-based slavery in 1661 and 1662.  Prior to that time in Virginia, Native American and Africans were theoretically forced laborers; legally classified as indentured servants like their European counterparts, who would be supposedly set free after seven years of work for a master.  After passage of this...

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Castaways, Deserters, Refugees and Pirates

There is no accurate measure of the number of shipwrecks along the South Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the number must be in the hundreds or even over a thousand. Also not known is how many shipwrecked sailors and passengers survived in North America during the 1500’s and 1600’s, or how many Sephardic Jews, Muslim Moors and European Protestants, escaping the Spanish Inquisition, landed on the shores of the present day Southeastern United States. Surviving archives, however, do furnish credible evidence of these peoples settling in the interior of the Southeast, while officially England was only colonizing the coastal regions.

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The Rickohockens

The word, “Rickohocken,” appeared suddenly in the discussions of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1644, and was frequently mentioned thereafter until 1684. No word similar to Rickohocken appeared on Virginia maps before 1644, while such southwestern Virginia tribes as the Tomahitan, Saponi and Occaneechi did. The Rickohockens were shown on British maps to control southwestern Virginia, southeastern Kentucky, northeastern Tennessee and northwestern North Carolina until the early 1700s.

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The United Provinces of the Netherlands

Because the peoples of the Netherlands and the United States have always had the warmest of relations, contemporary American historians have typically overlooked the less than benign role that Dutch entrepreneurs played in the early development of the Virginia Colony. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, England and the rebelling peoples of the Low Countries were close allies. The Dutch rebels were dependent on English sea power to maintain access to the North Sea. That was to change.

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Chronology of Early Virginia History 1607-1715

1607 – Jamestown colony founded. 1609 – Based on the voyage of Henry Hudson, the Netherlands claimed the region in what are now the Middle Atlantic States. Their claim extended from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Massachusetts Bay. 1Martin, John B. & Mauldin, Margaret M., Dictionary of Muskogee/Creek, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. First Powhatan War (1610 to 1614) coincides with secret Dutch explorations. (See further: The Indian Wars of the Colonists of Virginia) 1611-1614 – The Admiralty of Amsterdam sent four covert voyages to North America.  The ships were captained by Jan Cornelisz Mey and Symon Willemsz Cat. 2New Netherland, Wikipedia Encyclopedia. The area between present-day Maryland and Massachusetts was explored, surveyed, and charted. 1613 – “Regular Joes” were seldom recorded by history, especially in an era where nations were ruled by kings and nobility.  There is an exception in the history of New York City. 3Simon, Ellis, “CUNY Publishes Monograph on New York’s First Resident,” May 14, 2013. Dominican trader Juan Rodriguez hitched a ride on a sailing ship and then was dropped off at Manhattan Island. He was born in Santo Domingo of Portuguese and African descent. During the winter of 1613-1614, he trapped animals for pelts and traded with the local Natives.  He became the first non-Native American to live in New York. There is a high probability that if a Dominican would...

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Things Your History Teacher Didn’t Tell You

American history textbooks typically provide a cursory chapter on the period of the 16th century Spanish explorers of the Southeast and a few sentences to the attempts of French Huguenots to establish a colony in the region. They jump to the failed attempt to establish an English colony on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, then lavish attention on Jamestown, VA and Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts. The texts then proceed to describe the founding of the various colonies which became the original United States. Very little, if anything, is said about the French and English explorers who ventured into the interior of the Southeast between 1568 and 1700. University level Colonial History courses might go into more detail on these intrepid people, but the general public in the United States never learns about them. Author Richard Thornton shares some interesting facts your history teacher didn’t tell you about early colonial America.

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Map Making, from Majorca to Appalachia

From the moment that Europeans learned that a New World existed across the waters of the Atlantic, map makers in Western Europe began turning maps of that New World. At first these maps were grossly inaccurate and assumed the either the Americas were part of the Orient or merely consisted of islands off the shores of Asia. As more and more log books and navigation charts were returned to Spain, Portugal, France and England by explorers, the maps grew more precise.

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Fossilized Anthropology

Author Richard Thornton overhead a simple statement in a 2005 speech before the Society of Georgia Archaeology “We now know everything there is to know about the Southeastern Indians. It is time to move on to other things.” This statement was intended by a select group of academics to freeze the study of Southeastern United States to what they believed was the truth, and to stifle further research, even if new facts began to emerge.

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Will the Real Sequoya Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Sequoya Please Stand Up? The preponderance of biographical information online and published in manuscripts concerning Sequoyah conflicts. Author Richard Thornton jovially delves into the conflicting information and tries to establish the true identity of this man called the “inventor of the Cherokee Alphabet.”

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The Lost Silver Mine

By mid-May of 2011, my camp site on Lake Santeetlah had been attacked at night several times by small groups of local patriots carrying baseball bats.  Apparently, they wanted to drive the supposed sexual predator-crazy man with three dogs out of the county.  Then one night about 1:30 AM a long line of pickups was headed toward my campsite. There were far too many patriots coming for me to fight off. I threw my rifle and sleeping bag in the car, screaming at the dogs to jump in.  We took a loop road around the convoy just as they arrived at the campsite.  I drove south out of Graham County on Tallulah Road then turned left on US 19-74 in Topton.  I headed into the Nantahala Gorge where I knew there would be campsites and civilized human beings. There was fog that night in the gorge.  The visibility was almost as bad as on the Cherohala Skyway.   All the visible campsites were filled.  I turned onto a side road and pulled into a graveled space next to a noisy mountain stream.  We spent the night in the back of the Explorer. I was awakened the next morning by a woman standing near my Explorer.  She was amazingly polite considering that I had unknowingly pulled into a commercial campground without paying.  It was the Lost Mine Campground.  The woman was...

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