Myths & Legends


Cherokee: Historical Record to Colonial Times

What follows is from Charles C. Royce, The Cherokee Nation of Indians: A Narrative of their Official Relations with the Colonial and Federal Governments. This excerpt starts with Hernando de Soto and ends at the creation of the Federal Government.
— Orly



The Cherokee Nation has probably occupied a more prominent place in the affairs and history of what is now the United States of America, since the date of the early European settlements, than any other tribe, nation, or confederacy of Indians, unless it be possible to except the powerful and warlike league of the Iroquois or Six Nations of New York.

It is almost certain that they were visited at a very early period following the discovery of the American continent by that daring and enthusiastic Spaniard, Fernando De Soto.

In determining the exact route pursued by him from his landing in Florida to his death beyond the Mississippi, many insuperable difficulties present themselves, arising not only from an inadequate description on the part of the historian of the courses and distances pursued, but from many statements made by him that are irreconcilable with an accurate knowledge of the topographic detail of the country traversed.

A narrative of the expedition, "by a gentleman of Elvas," was published at Evora in 1557, and translated from the Portuguese by Richard Hakluyt, of London, in 1609. From this narrative it appears that 135after traveling a long distance in a northeasterly direction from his point of landing on the west coast of Florida, De Soto reached, in the spring of 1540, an Indian town called by the narrator "Cutifachiqui." From the early American maps of De L'Isle and others, upon which is delineated the supposed route of De Soto, this town appears to be located on the Santee River, and, as alleged by the "gentleman of Elvas," on the authority of the inhabitants, was two days' journey from the sea-coast.

The expedition left Cutifachiqui on the 3d of May, 1540, and pursued a northward course for the period of seven days, when it came to a province called Chelaque, "the poorest country of maize that was seen in Florida." It is recorded that the Indians of this province "feed upon roots and herbs, which they seek in the fields, and upon wild beasts, which they kill with their bows and arrows, and are a very gentle people. All of them go naked and are very lean."

That this word "Chalaque" is identical with our modern Cherokee would appear to be almost an assured fact. The distance and route pursued by the expedition are both strongly corroborative of this assumption. The orthography of the name was probably taken by the Spaniards from the Muscogee pronunciation, heard by them among the Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws. It is asserted by William Bartram, in his travels through that region in the eighteenth century, that in the "Muscogulge" language the letter "r" is not sounded in a single word, but that on the contrary it occurs very frequently in the Cherokee tongue.

Through this province of Chalaque De Soto passed, still pursuing his northward course for five days until he reached the province of "Xualla," a name much resembling the modern Cherokee word Qualla. The route from Cutifachiqui to Xualla lay, for the most part, through a hilly country. From the latter province the expedition changed its course to the west, trending a little to the south, and over "very rough and high hills," reaching at the end of five days a town or province which was called "Guaxule," and two days later a town called "Canasagua," an orthography almost identical with the modern Cherokee name of Canasauga, as applied to both a stream and a town within their Georgia limits.

Assuming that these people, whose territory De Soto thus traversed, were the ancestors of the modern Cherokees, it is the first mention made of them by European discoverers and more than a century anterior to the period when they first became known to the pioneers of permanent European occupation and settlement.

Earliest map.—The earliest map upon which I have found "Chalaqua" located is that of "Florida et Apalche" by Cornely Wytfliet, published 136in 1597. This location is based upon the narrative of De Soto's expedition, and is fixed a short distance east of the Savannah River and immediately south of the Appalachian Mountains. "Xualla" is placed to the west of and near the headwaters of the "Secco" or Savannah River.


Haywood, in his Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee, records many of the traditions concerning the origin and the primal habitat of the Cherokees. He notes the fact that they were firmly established on the Tennessee or Hogohege River before the year 1650, and exercised dominion over all the country on the east side of the Alleghany Mountains, including the headwaters of the Yadkin, Catawba, Broad, and Savannah Rivers, and that from thence westward they claimed the country as far as the Ohio, and thence to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and Alabama. One tradition which he alleges existed among them asserts their migration from the west to the upper waters of the Ohio, where they erected the mounds on Grave Creek, gradually working eastward across the Alleghany Mountains to the neighborhood of Monticello, Va., and along the Appomattox River.

From this point, it is alleged, they removed to the Tennessee country about 1623, when the Virginians suddenly and unexpectedly fell upon and massacred the Indians throughout the colony. After this massacre, the story goes, they came to New River and made a temporary settlement there as well as one on the head of the Holston; but, owing to the enmity of the northern Indians, they removed in a short time to the Little Tennessee and founded what were known as "Middle Settlements." Another tribe, he alleges, came from the neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, and settled lower down the Tennessee. This branch called themselves "Ketawanga," and came last into the country. The tradition as to those who came from Virginia seeks also to establish the idea that the Powhatan Indians were Cherokees. The whole story is of the vaguest character, and if the remainder has no stronger claims to credibility than their alleged identity with the Powhatans, it is scarcely worthy of record except as a matter of curiosity.

In fact the explorations of De Soto leave almost convincing proof that the Cherokees were occupying a large proportion of their more modern territory nearly a century prior to their supposed removal from the Appomattox.

Pickett, in his History of Alabama, improves upon the legend of Haywood by asserting as a well established fact what the latter only presumes to offer as a tradition.

However, as affording a possible confirmation of the legend related by Haywood concerning their early location in Eastern Virginia, it may be worth while to allude to a tradition preserved among the Mohican or Stockbridge tribe. It appears that in 1818 the Delawares, who were then residing on White River, in Indiana, ceded their claim to lands in that region to the United States. This land had been conditionally given by the Miamis many years before to the Delawares, in conjunction with the "Moheokunnuks" (or Stockbridges) and Munsees. Many of the latter two tribes or bands, including a remnant of the Nanticokes, had not yet removed to their western possessions, though they were preparing to remove. When they ascertained that the Delawares had ceded the lands to the United States without their consent, they objected and sought to have the cession annulled.

In connection with a petition presented to Congress by them on the subject in the year 1819, they set forth in detail the tradition alluded to. The story had been handed down to them from their ancestors that "many thousand moons ago" before the white men came over the "great water," the Delawares dwelt along the banks of the river that bears their name. They had enjoyed a long era of peace and prosperity when the Cherokees, Nanticokes, and some other nation whose name had been forgotten, envying their condition, came from the south with a great army and made war upon them. They vanquished the Delawares and drove them to an island in the river. The latter sent for assistance to the Mohicans, who promptly came to their relief, and the invaders were in turn defeated with great slaughter and put to flight. They sued for peace, and it was granted on condition that they should return home and never again make war on the Delawares or their allies. These terms were agreed to and the Cherokees and Nanticokes ever remained faithful to the conditions of the treaty.

The inference to be drawn from this legend, if it can be given any credit whatever, would lead to the belief that the Cherokees and the Nanticokes were at that time neighbors and allies. The original home of the Nanticokes on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is well known, and if the Cherokees (or at least this portion of them) were then resident beyond the Alleghanies, with sundry other powerful tribes occupying the territory between them and the Nanticokes, it is unlikely that any such alliance for offensive operations would have existed between them. Either the tradition is fabulous or at least a portion of the Cherokees were probably at one time residents of the Eastern slope of Virginia.

The Delawares also have a tradition that they came originally from the west, and found a tribe called by them Allegewi or Allegans occupying the eastern portion of the Ohio Valley. With the aid of the Iroquois, with whom they came in contact about the same time, the Delawares succeeded in driving the Allegans out of the Ohio Valley to the southward.

Schoolcraft suggests the identity of the Allegans with the Cherokees, an idea that would seem to be confirmatory of the tradition given by Haywood, in so far as it relates to an early Cherokee occupancy of Ohio.


Whatever the degree of probability attending these legends, it would seem that the settlers of Virginia had an acquaintance with the Cherokees prior to that of the South Carolina immigrants, who for a number of years after their first occupation, confined their explorations to a narrow strip of country in the vicinity of the sea-coast, while the Virginians had been gradually extending their settlements far up toward the headwaters of the James River and had early perceived the profits to be derived from the Indian trade.

Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, equipped an expedition, consisting of fourteen Englishmen and an equal number of Virginia Indians, for the exploration of the country to the west of the existing settlements. The party was under the command of Capt. Henry Batt, and in seven days' travel from their point of departure, at Appomattox, they reached the foot of the mountains. The first ridge they crossed is described as not being very high or steep, but the succeeding ones "seemed to touch the clouds," and were so steep that an average day's march did not exceed three miles.

They came upon extensive and fertile valleys, covered with luxuriant grass, and found the forests abounding in all kinds of game, including turkeys, deer, elk, and buffalo. After passing beyond the mountains they entered an extensive level country, through which a stream flowed in a westward course, and after following it for a few days they reached some old fields and recently deserted Indian cabins. Beyond this point their Indian guides refused to proceed, alleging that not far away dwelt a powerful tribe that never suffered strangers who discovered their towns to return alive, and the expedition was therefore compelled to return. According to the historian, Burke, this expedition took place in 1667, while Beverly, not quite so definite, assigns it to the decade between 1666 and 1676. It is believed that the powerful nation of Indians alluded to in the narrative of this expedition was the Cherokees, and, if so, it is apparently the first allusion made to them in the history of the colonial settlements.

That the Virginians were the first to be brought in contact with the Cherokees is further evidenced by the fact that in 1690 an Indian trader from that colony, bearing the name of Daugherty, had taken up his residence among them, which is alleged by the historian to have been several years before any knowledge of the existence of the Cherokees reached the settlers on Ashley River in South Carolina.


The first formal introduction of the Cherokees to the notice of the people of that colony occurred in the year 1693, when twenty Cherokee chiefs visited Charleston, with proposals of friendship, and at the same time solicited the assistance of the governor in their operations against the Esau and Coosaw tribes, who had captured and carried off a number of Cherokees.

The Savannah Indians, it seems, had also been engaged in incursions against them, in the course of which they had captured a number of Cherokees and sold them to the colonial authorities as slaves.

The delegation urgently solicited the governor's protection from the further aggressions of these enemies and the return of their bondaged countrymen. The desired protection was promised them, but as their enslaved brethren had already been shipped to the West Indies and sold into slavery there, it was impossible to return them.

The extreme eastern settlements of the Cherokees at this time were within the limits of the present Chester and Fairfield districts, South Carolina, which lie between the Catawba and Broad Rivers.


We next find an allusion to the Cherokees in the annals of Louisiana by M. Pericaut, who mentions in his chronicle of the events of the year 1702, that "ten leagues from the mouth of this river [Ohio] another falls into it called Kasquinempas [Tennessee]. It takes its source from the neighborhood of the Carolinas and passes through the village of the Cherokees, a populous nation that number some fifty thousand warriors," another example of the enormous overestimates of aboriginal population to which the earlier travelers and writers were so prone.

Again, in 1708, the same author relates that "about this time two Mobilians who had married in the Alibamon nation, and who lived among them with their families, discovered that that nation was inimical to the Mobilians as well as the French, and had made a league with the Cheraquis, the Abeikas, and the Conchaques to wage war against the French and Mobilians and burn their villages around our fort."

On various early maps of North America, and particularly those of De L'Isle, between the years 1700 and 1712, will be found indicated upon the extreme headwaters of the Holston and Clinch Rivers, "gros villages des Cheraqui." These villages correspond in location with the great nation alluded to in the narrative of Sir William Berkeley's expedition.

Upon the same maps will be found designated the sites of sundry other Cherokee villages, several of which are on the extreme headwaters of the "R. des Chaouanons." This river, although indicated on the map as emptying into the Atlantic Ocean to the west of the Santee, from its relation to the other streams in that vicinity, is believed to be intended for the Broad River, which is a principal northwest branch of the Santee. Other towns will also be found on the banks of the Upper Catawba, and they are, as well, quite numerous along the headwaters of the "R. des Caouilas" or Savannah and of the Little Tennessee.

Mention is again found of the Cherokees in the year 1712, when 218 of them accompanied Colonel Barnwell in his expedition against the hostile Tuscaroras and aided in the subjugation of that savage tribe, though along the route of Barnwell's march the settlers were very nearly persuaded that they suffered greater damage to property from the freebooting propensities of their Indian allies than from the open hostilities of their savage enemies.

The old colonial records of South Carolina also contain mention in the following year (1713) of the fact that Peter St. Julien was arraigned on the charge of holding two Cherokee women in slavery.

In 1715 the Yamassees, a powerful and hitherto friendly tribe, occupying the southwesterly portion of the colony of South Carolina and extending to and beyond the Savannah River, declared open hostilities against the settlers. In the desperate struggle that ensued, we find in full alliance with them the Cherokees, as well as the Creeks and Appalachians.

In his historical journal of the establishment of the French in Louisiana, Bernard de la Harpe states that "in January, 1716, some of the Cheraquis Indians, who lived northeast of Mobile, killed MM. de Ramsay and de Longueil. Some time after, the father of the latter gentleman, the King's lieutenant in Canada, engaged the Iroquois to surprise this tribe. They sacked two of their villages and obliged the rest to retreat towards New England."


At the time of the English settlement of the Carolinas the Cherokees occupied a diversified and well-watered region of country of large extent upon the waters of the Catawba, Broad, Saluda, Keowee, Tugaloo, Savannah, and Coosa Rivers on the east and south, and several of the tributaries of the Tennessee on the north and west. It is impossible at this late day to define with absolute accuracy the original limits of the Cherokee claim. In fact, like all other tribes, they had no definite and concurrent understanding with their surrounding savage neighbors where the possessions of the one left off and those of the other began. The strength of their title to any particular tract of country usually decreased in proportion to the increase of the distance from their villages; and it commonly followed as a result, that a considerable strip of territory between the settlements of two powerful tribes, though claimed by both, was practically considered as neutral ground and the common hunting ground of both.

As has already been stated, the extreme eastern settlements of the Cherokees in South Carolina in 1693 were in the district of country lying between the Catawba and Broad Rivers, and no claim has been found showing the existence at any time of any assertion of territorial right in their behalf to the east of the former stream. But nevertheless, on Bowen's map of 1752 (obviously copied from earlier maps), there is laid down the name of "Keowee Old Town." The location of this town was on Deep River in the vicinity of the present town of Ashborough, N. C. It was a favorite name of the Cherokees among their towns, and affords a strong evidence of at least a temporary residence of a portion of the tribe in that vicinity. A map executed by John Senex in 1721 defines the Indian boundary in this region as following the Catawba, Wateree, and Santee Rivers as far down as the most westerly bend of the latter stream, in the vicinity of the boundary line between Orangeburg and Charleston districts, whence it pursued a southwesterly course to the Edisto River, which it followed to the sea-coast. The southern portion of this boundary was of course a definition of limits between Carolina and the Creeks, or rather of certain tribes that formed component parts of the Creek confederacy. No evidence has been discovered tending to show an extension of Cherokee limits in a southerly direction beyond the point mentioned above on the Edisto River, which, as near as can be ascertained, was at the junction of the North and South Edisto. Following from thence up the South Edisto to its source the boundary pursued a southwesterly course, striking the Savannah River in the vicinity of the mouth of Stevens Creek, and proceeding thence northwardly along the Savannah.

On the borders of Virginia and North Carolina the ancient limits of the Cherokees seem to be also shrouded in more or less doubt and confusion. In general terms, however, it may be said that after following the Catawba River to its source in the Blue Ridge the course of those mountains was pursued until their intersection with the continuation of the Great Iron Mountain range, near Floyd Court-House, Va., and thence to the waters of the Kanawha or New River, whence their claim continued down that stream to the Ohio. At a later date they also set up a claim to the country extending from the mouth of the Kanawha down the Ohio to the ridge dividing the waters of the Cumberland from those of the Tennessee at the mouths of those streams, and thence following that ridge to a point northeast of the mouth of Duck River; thence to the mouth of Duck River on the Tennessee, and continuing up with the course of the latter river to Bear Creek; up the latter to a point called Flat Rock, and thence to the Ten Islands in Coosa River, &c.

That portion of the country thus covered, comprising a large part of the present States of West Virginia and Kentucky, was also claimed by the Six Nations by right of former conquest, as well as by the Shawnees and Delawares.

Adair, a trader for forty years among the Cherokees, who traveled extensively through their country about the middle of the eighteenth century, thus specifically outlines the boundaries of their country at that period: "The country lies in about 34 degrees north latitude at the distance of 340 computed miles to the northwest of Charlestown,—  142 miles west-southwest from the Katahba Nation,—and almost 200 miles to the north of the Muskohge or Creek country. They are settled nearly in an east and west course about 140 miles in length from the lower towns, where Fort-Prince-George stands, to the late unfortunate Fort Loudon. The natives make two divisions of their country, which they term 'Ayrate' and 'Otarre,' the one signifying 'low' and the other 'mountainous.'"


Adair alleges that in 1735, or thereabouts, according to the computation of the traders, their warriors numbered 6,000, but that in 1738 the ravages of the small-pox reduced their population one-half within one year. Indeed, this disaster, coupled with the losses sustained in their conflicts with the whites and with neighboring tribes, had so far wasted their ranks that a half century after the census taken by Governor Johnson they were estimated by the traders to have but 2,300 warriors.
— Orly

In point of numbers the Cherokee population now considerably exceeds that first enumerated by the early colonial authorities. As early as 1715 the proprietors of the South Carolina Plantation instructed Governor Robert Johnson to cause a census to be taken of all the Indian tribes within that jurisdiction, and from his report it appears that the Cherokee Nation at that time contained thirty towns and an aggregate population of 11,210, of whom 4,000 were warriors. Adair alleges that in 1735, or thereabouts, according to the computation of the traders, their warriors numbered 6,000, but that in 1738 the ravages of the small-pox reduced their population one-half within one year. Indeed, this disaster, coupled with the losses sustained in their conflicts with the whites and with neighboring tribes, had so far wasted their ranks that a half century after the census taken by Governor Johnson they were estimated by the traders to have but 2,300 warriors. By the last report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs the total population is estimated to number 22,000.11 It is true that considerable of this increase is attributable to the fact that several other small tribes or bands, within a few years past, have merged their tribal existence in that of the Cherokees. Independent of this fact, however, they have maintained a slow but steady increase in numbers for many years, with the exception of the severe losses sustained during the disastrous period of the late southern rebellion.


It is perhaps impossible to give a complete list of the old Cherokee towns and their location; but in 1755 the authorities of South Carolina, in remodeling the old and prescribing new regulations for the government of the Indian trade, divided the whole Cherokee country into six hunting districts, viz:

1. Over Hill Towns.—Great Tellico, Chatugee, Tennessee, Chote, Toqua, Sittiquo, and Talassee.

2. Valley Towns.—Euforsee, Conastee, Little Telliquo, Cotocanahut, Nayowee, Tomatly, and Chewohe.

3. Middle Towns.—Joree, Watoge, Nuckasee.143

4. Keowee Towns.—Keowee, Tricentee, Echoee, Torsee, Cowee, Torsalla, Coweeshee, and Elejoy.

5. Out Towns.—Tucharechee, Kittowa, Conontoroy, Steecoy, Oustanale, and Tuckasegee.

6. Lower Towns.—Tomassee, Oustestee, Cheowie, Estatoie, Tosawa, Keowee, and Oustanalle.

About twenty years later, Bartram, who traversed the country, gives the names of forty-three Cherokee towns and villages then existing and inhabited as follows:

No.  Name.  Where situated.

1  Echoe On the Tanase east of Jore Mountains.

2 Nucasse

3 Whatoga

4 Cowe

5 TicoloosaInland, on the branches of the Tanase.

6J ore

7 Conisca

8 Nowe

9 Tomothle On the Tanase over the Jore Mountains.

10 Noewe

11 Tellico

12 Clennuse

13 Occunolufte

14 Chewe

15 Quanuse

16 Tellowe

17 TellicoInland towns on the branches of the Tanase and other waters over the Jore Mountains.

18 Chatuga

19 Hiwasse

20 Chewase

21 Nuanba

22T allaseOverhill towns on the Tanase or Cherokee River.

23 Chelowe

24 Sette

25 Chote, great

26 Joco

27 Tahasse

28 Tamahle

29 Tuskege

30 — — Big Island

31 Nilaque

32 Niowe

33 SinicaLower towns east of the mountains on the Savanna or Keowe River.

34 Keowe

35 Kulsage

36 TugiloLower towns east of the mountains on Tugilo River.

37 Estotowe

38 QualatcheLower towns on Flint River.

39 Chote

40 Estotewe, greatTowns on waters of other rivers.

41 Allagae

42 Jore

43 Naeoche

Mouzon's map of 1771 gives the names of several Lower Cherokee towns not already mentioned. Among these may be enumerated, on the Tugalco River and its branches, Turruraw, Nayowee, Tetohe, Chagee, Tussee, Chicherohe, Echay, and Takwashnaw; on the Keowee, New Keowee, and Quacoretche; and on the Seneca, Acounee.

In subsequent years, through frequent and long continued conflicts with the ever advancing white settlements and the successive treaties whereby the Cherokees gradually yielded portions of their domain, the 144location and names of their towns were continually changing until the final removal of the nation west of the Mississippi.13


In the latter portion of the seventeenth century the Shawnees, or a portion of them, had their villages on the Cumberland, and to some extent, perhaps, on the Tennessee also. They were still occupying that region as late as 1714, when they were visited by M. Charleville, a French trader, but having about this time incurred the hostility of the Cherokees and Chickasaws they were driven from the country. Many years later, in the adjustment of a territorial dispute between the Cherokees and Chickasaws, each nation claimed the sole honor of driving out the Shawnees, and hence, by right of conquest, the title to the territory formerly inhabited by the latter. The Chickasaws evidently had the best of the controversy, though some concessions were made to the Cherokees in the matter when the United States came to negotiate for the purchase of the controverted territory.


Treaty and purchase of 1721.—The treaty relations between the Cherokees and the whites began in 1721, when jealousy of French territorial encroachments persuaded Governor Nicholson of South Carolina to invite the Cherokees to a general congress, with a view to the conclusion of a treaty of peace and commerce.

The invitation was accepted, and delegates attended from thirty-seven towns, with whom, after smoking the pipe of peace and distributing presents, he agreed upon defined boundaries and appointed an agent to superintend their affairs.

Treaty of 1730.—Again, in 1730, the authorities of North Carolina commissioned Sir Alexander Cumming to conclude a treaty of alliance with the Cherokees. In April of that year the chiefs and warriors of the nation met him at Requasse, near the sources of the Hiwassee River, acknowledged King George as their sovereign, and sent a delegation of six warriors to carry the crown of the nation (consisting of five eagle tails and four scalps) to England and do homage to the King, where they concluded a treaty of peace and commerce at Dover on the 30th of June.

In this treaty they stipulated:

1. To submit to the sovereignty of the King and his successors.

2. Not to trade with any other nation but the English.

3. Not to permit any but English to build forts or cabins or plant corn among them.

4. To apprehend and deliver runaway negroes.

5. To surrender any Indian killing an Englishman.

Treaty and purchase of 1755.—November 24, 1755, a further treaty was concluded between the Cherokees and Governor Glenn, of South Carolina. By its terms the former ceded to Great Britain a territory which included the limits of the modern districts of Abbeville, Edgefield, Laurens, Union, Spartanburg, Newberry, Chester, Fairfield, Richland, and York, and deeds of conveyance were drawn up and formally executed therefor.  This cession included a tract of country between the Broad and Catawba Rivers which was also claimed and generally conceded to belong to the Catawba Nation, the boundary line between the latter and the Cherokees being usually fixed as the Broad River.17 One of the main objects of this treaty was to prevent an alliance between the Cherokees and the French.

Treaty of 1756.—In the year 1756 Hugh Waddell was commissioned by the authorities of North Carolina to treat with the Cherokees and Catawbas. In pursuance of this authority he concluded a treaty of alliance with both nations. Governor Glenn, also, in the same year erected a chain of military posts on the frontiers of his recent purchase. These consisted of Fort Prince George, on the Savannah, within gunshot of the Indian town of Keowee; Fort Moore, 170 miles farther down the river; and Fort London, on the south bank of Tennessee River, at the highest point of navigation, at the mouth of Tellico River.19

Captain Jack's purchase.—A grant signed by Arthur Dobbs, governor of North Carolina, et al., and by The Little Carpenter, half king of the Over-Hill Cherokees, made to Capt. Patrick Jack, of Pennsylvania, is recorded in the register's office of Knox County, Tennessee. It purports to have been made at a council held at Tennessee River, March 1, 1757, consideration $400, and conveys to Captain Jack 15 miles square south of Tennessee River. The grant itself confirmatory of the purchase by Captain Jack is dated at a general council held at Catawba River, May 7, 1762.

Treaty of 1760.—The French finally succeeded in enlisting the active sympathy of the Cherokees in their war with Great Britain. Governor 146Littleton, of South Carolina, marched against the Indians and defeated them, after which, in 1760, he concluded a treaty of peace with them. By its terms they agreed to kill or imprison every Frenchman who should come into their country during the continuance of the war between France and Great Britain.

Treaty of 1761.—The hostile course of the Cherokees being still continued, the authorities of South Carolina in 1761 dispatched Colonel Grant with a force sufficient to overcome them. After destroying their crops and fifteen towns he compelled a truce, following which Lieutenant Governor Bull concluded a treaty with them at Ashley Ferry, or Charleston. By this instrument the boundaries between the Indians and the settlements were declared to be the sources of the great rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1767 the legislature of North Carolina made an appropriation and the governor appointed three commissioners for running a dividing-line between the western settlements of that province and the Cherokee hunting grounds.

Treaty and purchase of 1768.—Mr. Stuart, the British superintendent of Indian affairs, on the 14th of October, 1768, concluded a treaty with the Cherokees at Hard Labor, South Carolina. Therein it was agreed that the southwest boundary of Virginia should be a line "extending from the point where the northern line of North Carolina intersects the Cherokee hunting grounds about 36 miles east of Long Island in the Holston River; and thence extending in a direct course north by east to Chiswell's mine on the east bank of the Kenhawa River, and thence down that stream to its junction with the Ohio."

This treaty was made in pursuance of appeals from the Indians to stop further encroachments of settlers upon their lands and to have their boundaries definitely fixed, especially in the region of the north fork of Holston River and the headwaters of the Kanawha.

Treaty and purchase of 1770.—The settlements having encroached beyond the line fixed by the treaty of 1768, a new treaty was concluded on the 18th October, 1770, at Lochabar, South Carolina. A new boundary line was established by this treaty commencing on the south bank of Holston River six miles east of Long Island, and running thence to the mouth of the Great Kanawha.

Treaty and purchase of 1772.—The Virginia authorities in the early part of 1772 concluded a treaty with the Cherokees whereby a boundary line was fixed between them, which was to run west from White Top Mountain in latitude 36° 30'.26 This boundary left those settlers on the Watauga River within the Indian limits, whereupon, as a measure of temporary relief, they leased for a period of eight years from the Indians in consideration of goods to the value of five or six thousand dollars all the country on the waters of the Watauga. Subsequently in 1775 [March 19] they secured a deed in fee simple therefor upon the further consideration of £2,000.27 This deed was executed to Charles Robertson as the representative or trustee of the Watauga Settlers' Association, and embraced the following tract of country, viz: All that tract on the waters of the Watauga, Holston, and Great Canaway or New River, beginning on the south or southwest of Holston River six miles above Long Island in that river; thence a direct line in nearly a south course to the ridge dividing the waters of Watauga from the waters of Nonachuckeh and along the ridge in a southeasterly direction to the Blue Ridge or line dividing North Carolina from the Cherokee lands; thence along the Blue Ridge to the Virginia line and west along such line to the Holston River; thence down the Holston River to the beginning, including all the waters of the Watauga, part of the waters of the Holston, and the head branches of New River or Great Canaway, agreeable to the aforesaid boundaries.

Jacob Brown's purchase.—Jacob Brown, in 1772, for a horse load of goods leased from the Cherokees a tract on the Watauga and Nonachuchy Rivers.

Three years later (March 25, 1775) for a further consideration of ten shillings he secured from them a deed in fee for the leased tract as well as an additional tract of considerable extent.

The boundary of the first of these bodies of land ran from the mouth of Great Limestone Creek, thence up the same and its main fork to the ridge dividing the Wataugah and Nonachuchy Rivers; thence to the head of Indian Creek, where it joins the Great Iron Mountains, and along those mountains to the Nonachuchy River; across the Nonachuchy River, including its creeks, and down the side of Nonachuchy Mountain against the mouth of Great Limestone Creek and from thence to the place of beginning.

The second purchase comprised a tract lying on the Nonachuchy River below the mouth of Big Limestone on both sides of the river and adjoining the tract just described. Its boundaries were defined as beginning on the south side of the Nonachuchy River below the old fields that lie below the Limestone on the north side of Nonachuchy Mountain at a large rock; thence north 32° west to the mouth of Camp Creek on the south side of the river; thence across the river; thence pursuing a northwesterly course to the dividing ridge between Lick Creek and Watauga or Holston River, thence along the dividing ridge to the rest of Brown's lands; thence down the main fork of Big Limestone to its mouth; thence crossing the Nonachuchy River and pursuing a straight course to the Nonachuchy Mountains and along such mountains to the beginning.

Treaty and purchase of 1773.—On the 1st of June, 1773, a treaty was concluded jointly with the Creeks and Cherokees by the British superintendent whereby they ceded to Great Britain a tract beginning where the lower Creek path intersects the Ogeechee River, thence along the main channel of that river to the source of the southernmost branch thereof; thence along the ridge between the waters of Broad and Oconee Rivers up to the Buffalo Lick; thence in a straight line to the tree marked by the Cherokees near the head of the branch falling into the Oconee River [on the line between Clarke and Oglethorpe Counties, about 8 miles southeast of Athens]; thence along the said ridge 20 miles above the line already run by the Cherokees, and from thence across to the Savannah River by a line parallel to that formerly marked by them.

Henderson's purchase by the treaty of 1775.—On the 17th of March, 1775, Richard Henderson and eight other private citizens concluded a treaty with the Cherokees at Sycamore Shoals, on Watauga River. By its terms they became the purchasers from the latter (in consideration of £10,000 worth of merchandise) of all the lands lying between Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers, under the name of the Colony of Transylvania in North America. This purchase was contained in two deeds, one of which was commonly known as the "Path Deed," and conveyed the following described tract: "Begin on the Holston River, where the course of Powell's Mountain strikes the same; thence up the river to the crossing of the Virginia line; thence westerly along the line run by Donelson * * * to a point six (6) English miles east of Long Island in Holston River; thence a direct course towards the mouth of the Great Kanawha until it reaches the top of the ridge of Powell's Mountain; thence westerly along said ridge to the beginning."

This tract was located in Northeast Tennessee and the extreme southwestern corner of Virginia.29 The second deed covered a much larger area of territory and was generally known as the "Great Grant." It comprised the territory "beginning on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Kentucky, Cherokee, or what, by the English, is called Louisa River; thence up said river and the most northwardly fork of the same to the head-spring thereof; thence a southeast course to the ridge of Powell's Mountain; thence westwardly along the ridge of said mountain to a point from which a northwest course will strike the head-spring of the most southwardly branch of Cumberland River; thence down said river, including all its waters, to the Ohio River; thence up said river as it meanders to the beginning."30 This tract comprises nearly the whole of Central and Western Kentucky as well as part of Northern Central Tennessee. Although a literal reading of these boundaries would include all the territory watered by the Cumberland River and its branches, the general understanding seems to have been (and it is so specifically stated in the report of the treaty commissioners of 1785) that Henderson's purchase did not extend south of Cumberland River proper.31 The entire purchase included in both these deeds is shown as one tract on the accompanying map of cessions and numbered 7.

In this connection it is proper to remark that all of these grants to private individuals were regarded as legally inoperative, though in some instances the beneficiaries were permitted to enjoy the benefits of their purchases in a modified degree. All such purchases had been inhibited by royal proclamation of King George III, under date of October 7, 1763, wherein all provincial governors were forbidden to grant lands or issue land warrants locatable upon any territory west of the mountains or of the sources of streams flowing into the Atlantic. All private persons were enjoined from purchasing lands from the Indians. All purchases made of such lands should be for the Crown by the governor or commander-in-chief of the colony at some general council or assembly of the Indians convened for that purpose.

In the particular purchase made by Henderson and his coadjutors, the benefits thereof were afterwards claimed by the authorities of Virginia and North Carolina for those States, as the successors of the royal prerogative within their respective limits. In consideration, however, of Henderson's valuable services on the frontier, and in compensation for his large expenditures of money in negotiating the purchase, the legislature of North Carolina in 1783 granted to him and those interested with him a tract of 200,000 acres, constituting a strip 4 miles in width from old Indian town on Powell's River to the mouth, and thence a strip down the Clinch River for quantity 12 miles in width. The legislature of Virginia also granted them a tract of like extent upon the Ohio River, opposite Evansville, Indiana.

Treaties and purchases of 1777.—In consequence of continued hostilities between the Cherokees and the settlers, General Williamson in 1776 marched an army from South Carolina and destroyed the towns of the former on Keowee and Tugaloo Rivers. General Rutherford marched another force from North Carolina and Colonel Christian a third from Virginia, and destroyed most of their principal towns on the Tennessee.

At the conclusion of hostilities with the Cherokees, following these expeditions, a treaty with them was concluded May 20, 1777, at De Witt's or Duett's Corners, South Carolina, by the States of South Carolina and Georgia. By the terms of this treaty the Indians ceded a considerable region of country upon the Savannah and Saluda Rivers,36 comprising all their lands in South Carolina to the eastward of the Unacaye Mountains.

Two months later (July 20) Commissioners Preston, Christian, and Shelby, on the part of Virginia, and Avery, Sharpe, Winston, and Lanier, for North Carolina, also concluded a treaty with the Cherokees, by which, in the establishment of a boundary between the contracting parties, some parts of "Brown's line," previously mentioned, were agreed upon as a portion of the boundary, and the Indians relinquished their lands as low down on Holston River as the mouth of Cloud's Creek. To this treaty the Chicamauga band of Cherokees refused to give their assent.

The boundaries defined by this treaty are alluded to and described in an act of the North Carolina legislature passed in the following year, wherein it is stipulated that "no person shall enter or survey any lands within the Indian hunting grounds, or without the limits heretofore ceded by them, which limits westward are declared to be as follows: Begin at a point on the dividing line which hath been agreed upon between the Cherokees and the colony of Virginia, where the line between that Commonwealth and this State (hereafter to be extended) shall intersect the same; running thence a right line to the mouth of Cloud's Creek, being the second creek below the Warrior's Ford, at the mouth of Carter's Valley; thence a right line to the highest point of Chimney Top Mountain or High Rock; thence a right line to the mouth of Camp or McNamee's Creek, on south bank of Nolichucky, about ten miles below the mouth of Big Limestone; from the mouth of Camp Creek a southeast course to the top of Great Iron Mountain, being the same which divides the hunting grounds of the Overhill Cherokees from the hunting grounds of the middle settlements; and from the top of Iron Mountain a south course to the dividing ridge between the waters of French Broad, and Nolichucky Rivers; thence a southwesterly course along the ridge to the great ridge of the Appalachian Mountains, which divide the eastern and western waters; thence with said dividing ridge to the line that divides the State of South Carolina from this State."

Emigration of Chicamauga band.—The Cherokees being very much curtailed in their hunting grounds by the loss of the territory wrested 151from them by the terms of these two treaties, began a movement further down the Tennessee River, and the most warlike and intractable portion of them, known as the Chicamaugas, settled and built towns on Chicamauga Creek, about one hundred miles below the mouth of the Holston River. Becoming persuaded, however, that this creek was infested with witches they abandoned it in 1782, and built lower down the Tennessee the towns usually called "The Five Lower Towns on the Tennessee." These towns were named respectively Running Water, Nickajack, Long Island Village, Crow Town, and Lookout Mountain Town. From thence marauding parties were wont to issue in their operations against the rapidly encroaching settlements.

Although comparative peace and quiet for a time followed the heroic treatment administered to the Indians by the expeditions of Williamson, Rutherford, Christian, and others, reciprocal outrages between the whites and Indians were of frequent occurrence. The situation was aggravated in 1783 by the action of the assembly of North Carolina in passing an act (without consulting the Indians or making any effort to secure their concurrence) extending the western boundary of that State to the Mississippi River, reserving, however, for the use of the Cherokees as a hunting ground a tract comprised between the point where the Tennessee River first crosses the southern boundary of the State and the head waters of Big Pigeon River.

Treaty and purchase of 1783.—On the 31st of May of this same year, by a treaty concluded at Augusta, Ga., the Cherokee delegates present (together with a few Creeks, who, on the 1st of November succeeding, agreed to the cession) assumed to cede to that State the respective claims of those two nations to the country lying on the west side of the Tugaloo River, extending to and including the Upper Oconee River region.41 With the provisions of this treaty no large or representative portion of either nation was satisfied, and in connection with the remarkable territorial assertions of the State of North Carolina, together with the constant encroachments of white settlers beyond the Indian boundary line, a spirit of restless discontent and fear was nourished among the Indians that resulted in many acts of ferocious hostility.

Treaties with the State of Franklin.—In 1784, in consequence of the cession by North Carolina to the United States of all her claims to lands west of the mountains (which cession was not, however, accepted by the United States within the two years prescribed by the act) the citizens within the limits of the present State of Tennessee elected delegates to a convention, which formed a State organization under the name of the State of Franklin and which maintained a somewhat precarious political 152existence for about four years. During this interval the authorities of the so-called State negotiated two treaties with the Cherokee Nation, the first one being entered into near the mouth of Dumplin Creek, on the north bank of French Broad River, May 31, 1785.42This treaty established the ridge dividing the waters of Little River from those of the Tennessee as the dividing line between the possessions of the whites and Indians, the latter ceding all claim to lands south of the French Broad and Holston, lying east of that ridge. The second treaty or conference was held at Chote Ford and Coytoy, July 31 to August 3, 1786. The Franklin Commissioners at this conference modestly remarked, "We only claim the island in Tennessee at the mouth of Holston and from the head of the island to the dividing ridge between the Holston River, Little River, and Tennessee to the Blue Ridge, and the lands North Carolina sold us on the north side of Tennessee." They urged this claim under threat of extirpating the Cherokees as the penalty of refusal.


Source:  Charles C. Royce, The Cherokee Nation of Indians: A Narrative of their Official Relations with the Colonial and Federal Governments.  Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology


Related Reading

History of the Conquest of Peru

Iroquois: The Life of Joseph Brant