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A Blog by Gary Wright II

The Dark Corner: A Documentary

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

The following text consists of my notes taken while watching The Dark Corner: A Documentary and cover the first segment concerning the history of the Cherokee people in South Carolina.

[Speaker: Wes Breedlove / Archaeological Researcher]
Ancestors of the modern Indians residing in Southern Appalachia can be traced back to thousands of generations with archaeology discoveries going back 11,500 years ago. The Dalton Culture / Phase was 10,500 years ago and many stone arrowheads were used by paleo-Indians at the end of the ice age. As the forest began changing due to the climate change, NDNs had to change their strategy from hunting mastodon and other large animals, to hunting smaller animals such as deer and bears. The focus changed from mostly hunting to more of gathering vegetables, nuts, and berries from the forests. This lasted for 6,000 years - the "Archaic Period" and NDNs lived in small groups of 20-50 people. They would form a "base camp" and then split up into smaller groups and go foraging. They would then take their food and supplies back to the base camp. As the natural resources became exhausted, they would move their camps to a new area within the region. The majority of the artifacts (90%) we have are from this period due to the length of time spent in the area, and the movement of the people which scattered the relics over a large area.

Tsalagi: Based on current knowledge, the Cherokees in Southern Appalachians can be traced back 1,000 years (the beginning of the Mississippian period). In western North Carolina, archaeology shows they descended from the earlier archaic and woodland NDNs which had lived there for thousands of years. Some [such as Breedlove] disbelieve that this crossover ever happened, and they point to linguistics as proof. The Cherokee spoke a branch of Iroquois dialect and linguistically they are related to the Iroquois tribes in the American north-east. Linguists believe they separated around 2,000 years ago, and that they originated in the Great Lakes region. The Iroquois split into two large groups: one group went into the north-east becoming the Iroquois tribes and the other group moved into the southern Appalachians and became the Cherokees. The names that most NDNs gave themselves (or given to them by other tribes) usually translates into a form of "the people" or "the original people." Some think that Tsalagi was derived from the Choctaw term for them meaning "cave people" or "hill people."

In 1696, Dr. Henry Woodard from Charleston made first contact with the Cherokees, but it wasn't until 1711 that trade was established. The glass beads, cloth, metal tools, and guns rapidly and dramatically changed their way of life (called "acculturation"). They continued to hunt and gather, but also became agriculturists. Their villages were created in the "bottom lands," and they had large fields beside them where they primarily grew three crops (the "three sisters"): corn, beans, and squash.

In 1755, a treaty was signed at DeWitt's corner where they relinquished all of the piedmont except what is now known as Anderson, Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville counties (the north-western corner of South Carolina). They kept that area for themselves, but soon after the treaty, Scotch-Irish settlers began entering the area from Pennsylvania by moving down the "The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road." They settled all the way up to the NDN territory on the Greenville and Spartanburg county lines. The Cherokees owned and claimed the majority of the South Carolina piedmont, except that area which the Catawbas controlled. Their land was primarily used as their hunting and foraging grounds.

[Speaker: Dean Campbell / Author of "Squire of Black Corner"] The 1755 treaty defined the boundary line between the Cherokee and colonial settlers. It started at the block house in the Tryon, NC area, and was a line due south to Enoree river (just below present day Greer) near the state line between North Carolina and South Carolina. Today, the city of Greer is split between Greenville and Spartanburg counties. Line Street in Greer is the old NDN boundary line. The Cherokees and a band of Tories [colonists loyal to the British monarchy] would hold raids on the white settlers in the area. The "strong NDN line" was formed by a series of twelve forts built for protection against the NDNs. Fort Gowen, which is on the Blackstock Road and to its south was Fort Prince. [NOTE: "Fort Prince" or "Prince's Fort" is not related to "Fort Prince George" constructed in South Carolina in 1753.]

1897: A book by Dr. John Belton O'Neall Landrum was on the Colonial and Revolutionary History of Upper South Carolina stated there were three forts on Blackstock Road: Block House, Fort Gowens, and Fort Prince. Some of the settlers began crossing into NDN territory which broke the treaty.

[Speaker: Wes Breedlove] By the summer of 1776, rumors reached the frontier that the Cherokee people were being stirred up by British agents. A number of family massacres began taking place and the settlers flocked to the block houses for protection. Many were met by Cherokee war parties which tortured and slaughtered them, taking their scalps as war trophies. As word of the murders spread, fear broke out among the settlers, who eventually organized a group to go fight the Cherokees (Chief Big Warrior's camp in a mountain gap). By then, sixty years of trade with the whites had given them guns and knives which they used to fight against the raiding party of settlers.

[Speaker: Dean Campbell] The 1776 Battle of Round Mountain near modern day Tryon, NC was a defining moment for those militia who were no longer able to defend themselves effectively as NDNs chose the use of guns over tomahawks. 16 year old Captain Thomas Howard organized a small group of militia and befriended a young Cherokee boy named Schuyuka who showed them an unknown path (now known as the Howard Gap) through the hills above Tryon. This gave them the element of surprise and they defeated the Cherokees for the first time. Campbell jokes that they named it the "Howard Gap" and not the "Schuyuka Gap," which reminds the viewer about how history often records events from a one-sided perspective.

[Speaker: Wes Breedlove] The Cherokees were prepared for a frontal attack, but the gap allowed them to be struck from behind. Many Cherokees were killed, but they still took time to bury their dead before retreating south to Richard Perry's Trading Post in Greenville. They gathered more supplies and recruited many Tories as allies. Colonel Rutherford gathered up an army in North Carolina and marched through Swannanoa Gap near the Swannanoa river and began laying waste to the Cherokee towns, fields, and orchards. By that time, every Cherokee town had a Peach Orchard.


Source: The Dark Corner: A Documentary

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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