The Turkeytown Treaty

From 1721 through 1868, the Cherokee people had more than forty treaties with the white people, at first with the British and colonists and later with the American government.  So far as I can tell, all of them seem to have been broken.

One that is of interest to us here in dealing with place names of Cherokee origin is the Treaty of 1817, also called the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency.  There had been, in 1816, two other treaties which, as usual, required the Cherokee to cede more lands.  In March of that year, they had ceded all remaining lands in South Carolina,  a small section in and around what is now Oconee County.  In September, the tribe in a general meeting at Turkeytown [Alabama] had ratified the Treaty of the Chickasaw Council House, ceding most of their lands in Alabama and nearby border areas, some 3,500 square miles.

On 8 July 1817, the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency was signed by 31 Cherokee leaders from North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, and by 15 Arkansas Cherokee chiefs, as well as by Major General Andrew Jackson—he did not become President until 1829—and by Governor McMinn of Tennessee.  It is often somewhat erroneously called the Turkeytown Treaty.  Including the Arkansas chiefs constituted the first formal recognition of the Western Cherokee.  Most of the Cherokee bitterly opposed this treaty and that of 1819.

Together with the Treaty of Washington in 1819, the Cherokee Nation ceded almost all their remaining lands in the East, except for northwest Georgia and some adjacent lands in Tennessee, Alabama, and the extreme western part of North Carolina.  The details of the cessions can be found in the map at this link.

A key provision of the Treaty of 1817 that came to affect some place names was Section 8:

“And to each and every head of any Indian family residing on the east side of the Mississippi river, on the lands that are now or may hereafter be surrendered to the United States, who may wish to become citizens of the United States, the United States do agree to give a reservation of six hundred and forty acres of land in a square to include their improvements which are to be as near the centre thereof as practicable, in which they will have a life estate with a reversion in fee simple to their children reserving to the widow her dower, the register of whose names is to be filed in the office of the Cherokee agent, which shall be kept open until the census is taken as stipulated in the third article of this treaty [June 1818]. Provided, That if any of the heads of families, for whom reservations may be made, should remove therefrom, then, in that case the right to revert to the United States. And provided further, That the land which may be reserved under this article, be deducted from the amount which has been ceded under the first and second articles of this treaty.”

The treaty promised a square mile of land to every Indian family east of the Mississippi River living on the lands that were ceded to the government if they would become citizens of the United States and give up their status as Cherokee [or other] Indians.  Six hundred forty acres for their very own, with their present home as nearly as possible to the center of that acreage–that was the promise.  All they had to do was file a request with the Indian Agent within almost a year.  Very few of the people had ever owned any land, and the concept was somewhat foreign to them.  Perhaps the main attraction for becoming “citizen Indians” may have been staying in the East, on familiar lands.  Only about 311 Cherokee people applied for the land.  A few of those actually got some land, usually less than the promised amount, and almost all of them lost what they did get.  Still, for a time, some of them remained among the white settlers.

Without going into historical details about the frustrations and thwarting of the allotments, we can see what effects some of these citizen Cherokees had on local place names.  [If you would like to examine some of the efforts by the states to deprive the Cherokee of the promised allotments, you could read the efforts of the state of Tennessee, which were probably typical of most of the states involved, possibly excepting North Carolina.  Georgians were especially inimical to the Cherokee, as later events would prove.]  You can find more depth on Cherokee history at this link.

Cherokee people who applied included The Cat, who lived near Sugartown [Cullasaja].  The creek he lived on is now called Cat Creek.  His name was probably a translation of Gvhe, wildcat, or  it may have been a translation of Tlvdatsi, the mountain lion, which the white settlers called “painter” [panther”].  Wesa was merely a Cherokee attempt at the English word “Puss,” the word used for a domestic cat.

One applicant, Little Betty, lived near the whites a little longer than most.  She was a widow with several children, we are told.  Her reserve was to be at Eastertoy, which later became Dillard, Georgia.  Betty’s Creek is named for her.  I am surprised to see its name showing up with increasing frequency as Betty Creek, an example of the gradual erosion and changing of place names as outsiders move into the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina.  Among people who grew up near Dillard, the name is always pronounced as if it were “Bettis Creek.”

Near Betty’s Creek is Betty Whitecloud Street.  As of now, I do not know if there is any connection with Little Betty, and I am inclined to doubt that there is.

Another applicant was Old Mouse, who lived “below Cowee,” that is, downstream from Cowee [NC].  He is remembered in the names of Old Mouse Creek and Mouse Mountain.  His name is a translation of the Cherokee word talasgewi [or possibly tsisdetsi or tsistetsi], with “Old” having apparently been appended in English.

The reservee listed in application documents as Musk Rat was living on Cartoogechaye Creek [on Ca-tur-as-joy Creek, the document says].  Muskrat Creek, Muskrat Valley, and Muskrat Road are named for him. His English name was a translation of salaquisgi [or salagisgi or selagisgi].

Otter Creek, about halfway between Franklin and Robbinsville, in the Nantahala Community, takes its name from citizen Cherokee Otter.  His name is a translation of Tsiyu.  His neighbor to the northwest was one Taylor Eldridge, white husband of Pathkiller’s daughter Ailcey.  Pathkiller himself had applied for his reserve about 2½ miles above the mouth of Sweetwater Creek, further to the northwest in the same general area.  Otter’s daughter Jane, while working for some of the white settlers, is said to have been killed by a panther [tlvdatsi, mountain lion].  Her name was given to Jane Otter Creek, a tributary of Otter Creek.

In 1818, Eu-chu-lah of Cowee applied for his 640-acre reserve just west of the Cowee Mound, and it seems to have been granted.  In old documents, it is recorded as the Euchella Farm.  It seems to have been taken over by the state of North Carolina almost immediately, whether by sale or by force.  In 1821, 299 acres of it was sold by the state to Joseph Welch.  The name survives in Euchella Cove, Euchella Church, and some other modern developments some miles to the west of the original farm.

About Turkeytown, Alabama:  The present community lies about halfway between Weiss Lake and Gadsden; the historical Cherokee town site, Gvna-digaduhvyi, is under the water of the lake.  The community, Little Turkey Road, and Turkeytown Gap are named for Gvna [or Gvnastee, Gvnusdi], the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  His name translates to Turkey [or Little Turkey].  John Ross was born at Gvna-digaduhvyi in 1790, and he was one of the people requesting a reserve under the “Turkeytown Treaty.”

Advertisements

Cherokee Place Names, Part 11

Cherokee Place Names, Part 11

A few miles southwest of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a little known stream called Agana Branch. It is named for the groundhog (woodchuck, Marmota monax). I have no idea how it came to be so named. The modern word in Cherokee is “oga’na.” Agana was the first element in the name of the great 18th-Century Chief Oconastota, and the second part meant something like “ground up” or “mashed up”; that is why his name was sometimes translated as “Groundhog Sausage.”

Obviously, there is no connection at all with Agana, the capital of Guam.

In Monroe County, Tennessee, is Coker Creek and the community of the same name. Once it was called Coco Creek; the name seems to have been changed a hundred years or so ago. Perhaps it sounded too much like “cocoa” or, worse yet, like the original Cherokee word “gugu” (pronounced roughly like “koo-kuh,” accent on the second syllable), reminding one vaguely of cuckoos. The plant for which it is named is Asclepias tuberosa, commonly known as butterfly weed or pleurisy root. In Cherokee medicine, the large tuberous root was used to make a tea for treating colds and other lung ailments; the bruised root was used to make poultices for treating minor wounds and bruises. The plant contains enough cardiac glycosides that it also helped with swellings of the legs arising from heart problems. There exist local stories of a Cherokee chief or a Cherokee “princess” named Coqua, whose name the white people distorted into Coker; however, as with many colorful legends about Indian place names, there is no historical evidence of such a person or persons. “Gugu” is the modern Cherokee word for “bottle.”

Not far from Coker Creek is the community of Waucheesi. A nearby mountain and the creek have the same name. The original meaning is lost, but the name was that of an old Cherokee man who lived near the route of the Unicoi Turnpike, a road built in the period 1813-1816 to connect the Tugaloo and SavannahRivers to the Cherokee capital of Echota on the Little Tennessee River. His name was Wachesa (Watsi’sa), and he lived in the vicinity of the present Murphy, North Carolina. The Unicoi Turnpike was usually referred to as the Wachesa Trail. One rendition of Wachesa was Waucheesi.

Also in Monroe County is the Notchy Creek community.   The community and the nearby creek take their name from the Cherokee word for the Natchez Indians [Ani-Natsi].  Remnants of that tribe had lived in the area.  “Notchy” is a fairly close pronunciation of Cherokee “Natsi.”

There was a very old Cherokee settlement, No’natlugv’yi [“spruce tree place”], about where Jonesborough, Tennessee, now stands. A few miles to the south is the Nolichucky River. The river’s name comes from a distortion of the settlement name. The community of Chucky and the stream Little Chuck(e)y Creek, in the same general area, take their names from a shortening of Nolichucky.  In 2016, archaeologists unearthed the remains of a sizable Cherokee town on the Nolichucky in southern Washington County, Tennessee.  It is believed to date from about 1500, and it contained some European glass trade beads, so it still existed after some contact directly or indirectly with white people. There is no way to know what may have been the settlement’s name.

Coytee Spring seems now to be under Tellico Lake. Near it was an ancient Cherokee town about which little is known, save a few references in English with varied spellings. It seems to have been destroyed in 1776. The town’s name is preserved in the area as Coyatee and even as Kai-a-tee. The Cherokee pronunciation and meaning are forever lost. Each such loss—and there are many—leaves us poorer.

Ooltewah, Tennessee, stands about where the Cherokee settlement of Ultiwo’i was. The meaning is unknown and does not appear to have been originally a Cherokee word.

South Mouse Creek runs through the heart of Cleveland, Tennessee.  On this creek was the old Cherokee town of Tsistetsi’yi, which translates as “mouse place,” from which the creek took its name.   The area had probably been occupied by Yuchi people for a long time before the Cherokee pushed them away.

Toxaway Creek has its headwaters near the Brasstown community in Oconee County, South Carolina. Somewhere on it was the old Cherokee town of Duquasa’i, pronounced approximately “Duksa’i,” which became Toxaway to English speakers. The meaning of the word is lost. The creek joins the Chauga River and the upper reaches of Hartwell Reservoir.

Tamassee, South Carolina, gets its name from the Cherokee town of Tama’si, in OconeeCounty. There was another Tamasi in Macon County, North Carolina. The word has no meaning in Cherokee.  Tamassee is pronounced <ta-MAHSS-ee>.

To the east, in Pickens County, South Carolina, is the Oolenoy River, a tributary of the South Saluda. Its name derives from “u’lana’wa,” the Cherokee name of the spiny soft-shell turtle (Apalone spinifera). How it came to be applied to the river is uncertain, but it is no coincidence that this very same turtle lives in that stream. I suspect that some place along the river served as a good source of the principal ingredient of turtle soups. And, I am sorry to report that Oolenoy was not a Cherokee word for “land of grain and clear water” as I have read elsewhere.

We have already seen that the state of Tennessee and the Tennessee River took their names from the several Cherokee settlements called Tanasi. One of these was in Jackson County, North Carolina; it left its name in the form of Tanasee Creek and Gap, and in the more modern Tanasee Lake.

In the Great Smokies, we find Wasulu Ridge. Wa’sulu’ was the name of a particular kind of moth, but it is now wa’sohla, the generic word for any moth, in some modern dialects.

Just west of Franklin, North Carolina, near the Appalachian Trail, are Wayah Creek and Wayah Bald. The Cherokee word “wa’ya” or “wa-ha-ya” means “wolf.” There is general agreement that the animal’s name began as an imitation of its howl. I will write more of wolves in a later section.

To the southwest of Franklin is Standing Indian Mountain and the Wildlife Management Area. The Cherokee called the mountain Yv’wi-tsulenv’yi, “where the man used to stand.”

A little to the southeast of Brevard, North Carolina, is the community of Connestee, with Connestee Falls. Here was the legendary “lost village” of Ka’nastv’yi, the ancestral name of Connestee. Kana’sta was a shorter form of the village name. There is some evidence that the Connestee people may have been a tribe which preceded the Cherokee, or they may have been ancestral to the later Cherokee.

In the far northern part of Whitfield County, Georgia, was one of the ancient meeting grounds for the Cherokee. This one was called Elawo’diyi, “red earth place.” It translates well into Red Clay, the community which now occupies the same place.

The great Chief John Ross was born at Gv’di’gaduhv’yi, in the northeastern part of what is now Gadsden, Alabama. The name of that Cherokee town translates to “Turkey Town Place,” from which Turkeytown takes its name.

The Tennessee River enters Alabama at very near the state’s northeastern corner, and it swings across the northern part of the state, making a southwesterly detour near Florence, and then proceeds to exit the state at precisely its northwestern corner. Before the dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority were built, there were shoals in the vicinity of Florence, and these shoals were rich in freshwater mussels. In fact, there are more than 50 species of mussels in the Alabama portion of the Tennessee. To the Cherokee, this section of the river was Daguno’hi, “mussel place,” from “dagu’na,” mussel, plus the locative -hi. English speakers translated Dagunohi as “Mussel Shoals” and then misspelled it to name the city of Muscle Shoals. It appears exactly that way on old maps of the Alabama area, including the 1794 map I recently examined, so the “Muscle” spelling is not a recent development.  On a 1750 map, we find the shoals clearly shown in the correct place, but without any name.

[Incidentally, for reasons unclear, the place where Nashville, Tennessee now stands was known to the old Cherokee as Dagunawelohi, “mussel liver place,” according to Mooney.]  Dagvna survives in modern Cherokee, meaning oyster, clam, pearl, or pimple.

It is not especially relevant to our discussion here, but the English words muscle and mussel both derive ultimately from the same Latin word, musculus, which meant both mouse and mussel; it is a diminutive of the word mus, mouse.  In ages forgotten, someone decided that both muscles [which ripple under the skin] and the shellfish [grey and not large] somehow resembled small mice.

Just across the Georgia line, to the south of Chattanooga, is Catoosa County. Its name is from the Cherokee word “ga-du-si,” accent on the second syllable. The plural form is the same as the singular, so the meaning can be interpreted as “a hill,” “on or at a hill,” “the hills,” or “in the hills.” It is not likely that it means “between two hills,” as is sometimes reported, but that is still a reasonable translation. The old Cherokee word for “mountain” was “o’tali” [sometimes written “a’tali”] except in the Lower Dialect, the one with the “r” sound; among those speakers, it was “o’tari.” Some Eastern Cherokee speakers use the word “gadu’shi” for “mountain,” but another word has evolved for more widespread use there. Otari has been made into Ottaray, with many associations in upstate South Carolina and even into Kentucky; however, the root means only “mountain,” not “beautiful mountains,” as I see written in a few places. Gadusi remains Oklahoma Cherokee for “hill,” and the Oklahoma word for mountain is “odalv’i.”

High in the Smokies, on the Haywood County line, is Inadu Knob; to the northeast in Cocke County is Inadu Mountain, of which the knob is really the summit. Inadu Creek is nearby, and to its west is Snake Den Mountain. The area seems to have a long history of being a very snaky place, seeing that “inadu” [modern form: “inada”] is the Cherokee word for “snake.”

Rattlesnake

In the early 19th Century, there was a Cherokee chief whose name was translated as Going Snake.   His Cherokee name was Inadunai, which, translated somewhat more accurately, would have been “a snake goes along with him” or “he travels in company with a snake.”  The famous Goingsnake District in Adair County, Oklahoma, takes its name from him.  For the interesting story of the Goingsnake Massacre and Zeke Proctor, click this link.

By the way, if you are interested in mountains, take a look at http://www.mountainpeaks.net