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Cherokee villages in the Nacoochee Valley

Nacoochee and Chota

The first detailed written account of the Cherokee Country is found in the journal kept by one of the officers serving in the 1715/16 expedition into the region that took place in the context of the Yamasee War. The journal documents the presence of two Cherokee villages in the Nacoochee Valley. Nacoochee was located somewhere on the eastern end of the valley; Chota was centered at the mound on the western end of valley.

Archaeology of the Nacoochee Mound

Chattahoochee River

Chota’s mound is a highly visible contemporary landmark, found even on the USGS Helen topo quad.

The mound at the eastern end of the valley is one of the more prominent landmarks in North Georgia. Its notoriety is due in part to traffic volume, the mound being located at the point at which Georgia State Route 75 and the Unicoi Turnpike become concurrent (the latter discussed as Trail 35 of William E. Myer’s “Indian trails of the Southeast”). The post-Cherokee flattening of the summit and addition of a gazebo make the mound absolutely impossible to miss.

Sautee Valley

Nacoochee Mound and its gazebo, with Sal Mountain in the background.

The current landmark is actually a reconstruction of the original mound and its post-colonial alterations, made following the 1915 excavation of the mound. That work is reported in volume 4, no. 3 of Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation. Mark Williams directed brief testing of the mound and adjacent terrain in the summer of 2004. Results are available via LAMAR Institute Publication no. 72.

Textual records

Three relevant primary documents—two narratives and a census—are available as part of relatively easily accessible publications. Specifically, the narratives have been edited and annotated (nota bene that the footnotes should be read with a critical eye) for publication, and the census has been photographed for inclusion with a collection of scholarly essays.

The 1715/16 journal

The following description is given as the 02 January 1715/16 entry in the journal typically attributed to George Chicken. The journal was edited for publication by Langdon Cheves and appeared in the Yearbook of the City of Charleston (1894). I have modernized the wording of the published text as well as fiddled with the punctuation and added spacing, all for ease of reading. Those with a knowledge of Eastern Woodlands ethnology and colonial history will recognize that the passage deserves scholarly annotation in a more formal medium.

This day [we] continued our march west [from Soque] to another town about twelve miles [away] called Nocouchee. The way that we came is very hilly and stony with several small creeks.

We stayed a little from this town until our company came up and the Indians painted themselves. Then we marched to a town of peace adjoining to called Chotte where we were met by the headmen of that place and most towns from ye other side of the Hills who received us with abundance of ceremony as is usual in their making of peace. Then [they] went before us into their roundhouse firing their guns as we went up. Then they with their eagles’ tails began dancing. The warriors of this town received our flags, the red and the white, and set them atop their roundhouse.

In the evening Major Herbert and myself went to the roundhouse where Ceaser was telling the warriors and the young men all [that had passed] in the settlment and his promises to the Governor and the necessities of going to war against the Creek Indians. The young men and the warriors very readily joined with him and went to call the rest of their company to begin the war dance but were interrupted by several of their old men telling them several reasons for them to desist at present, but the young men continued all night dancing.

The c. 1720 Hatton account

Rena Vassar edited the c. 1720 account of William Hatton for publication in Ethnohistory, where it appeared under the title “Some short remarkes on the Indian trade in the Charikees and in management thereof since the year 1717.” That document reveals that Nacoochee suffered a devastating raid in the years immediately after the observations recorded in the 1715/16 journal entry. The quoted text below is again slightly modified from the published account in the interest of readability.

In the mean time the Creeks came upon a town called Nogoutchee and destroyed it, carrying off an abundance of slaves and killed most of the rest of the inhabitants. The next morning before they left the place they killed three of our factors on the path between Chottee and the aforesaid town, [the two] being about a mile asunder.

The 1721 Varnod census

Nacoochee is enumerated as #31 and Chota as #32 in Francis Varnod’s census of Cherokee settlements as of the year 1721. Chota’s population is given as 221—59 men, 97 women, and 65 children. The effects of the Creek raid upon Nacoochee are immediately apparent via Varnod’s tabulation. Of the 90 inhabitants listed for Nacoochee, only 11 are women and only 7 children.

References

Chicken, George. “Journal of the march of the Carolinians into the Cherokee Mountains, in the Yemassee Indian War. 1715–1716.” In Yearbook of the City of Charleston (1894), edited by Langdon Cheves, 324–52. [Charleston, S.C.], 1895.

Hatton, William. “Some short remarkes on the Indian trade in the Charikees and in management thereof since the year 1717.” Edited by Rena Vassar. Ethnohistory 8, no. 4 (Autumn 1961): 401–23.

Heye, George Gustav, Frederick Webb Hodge, and George H Pepper. “The Nacoochee mound in Georgia.” Vol. 4, no. 3 in Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation. New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1918.

Myer, William E. “Indian Trails of the Southeast.” In Forty-Second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1924–1925, edited by John R. Swanton, 727–857. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office; Smithsonian Institution, 1928.

Varnod, Francis. “A true and exact account of the number and names of all the towns belonging to the Cherrikee Nation, and the number of men, women and children inhabiting the same taken anno 1721.” Census. London, April 1723. United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. [Reproduced as figure 1 of “The changing population of the colonial South: an overview by race and region, 1685–1790” by Peter H. Wood in the 1st edn.—but not in the Revised and Expanded edn.!—of Powhatan’s mantle.]

Williams, Mark. “Nacoochee revisited: the 2004 project.” LAMAR Institute Publication 72. Box Springs, Ga. 2004.

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