GATEWAY TO THE WEST
By J. M. Moseley
Manuscript on file in the Archives of The Historical Society of Southwest Virginia. A small overall history of Lee County, VA.
Powells Valley is a natural gateway between the Atlantic coast region and the great west. Lee Co., VA, lies as a great spearhead thrust deep into the mountains toward the west, and is guarded by mountain passes on the north, east, south and west. This makes it a natural stronghold and a notable center of isolation. This unique position has made it at once a useful and precarious section in trying times which have often come during its brief span of history.
In the history of Lee County only two brief centuries are involved. Much of this time is shrouded in mystery behind meager or inadequate records. It is varied and difficult history, some of it being almost impossible to recover at this late date. It is our purpose, in this our humble effort to write its annals, to try in a general way to gather and record what can be learned from the time of the Indians and the earliest advent of the white man to the middle of the twentieth century. This study necessarily takes us into other related counties and into several states, and beyond, in order to understand its history more clearly. A record of the Wilderness Road is inseparable from any history of this section, for it is a natural Gateway through which that famous Trail had to pass.
No comprehensive history of Powells Valley has ever been written. It may never all be written because of long neglected and delayed recording. Even the early traders, who could have been the real historians among the Indians, did not keep journals. To write a history now, such material must be collected and studied. Everything must be checked and rechecked. We even find inconsistencies and contradictions in some records that have been attempted. The journals that were kept by early explorers are often meager and insufficient. The best that can now be done is to draw information bit by bit from many sources, selecting with care, and using what seems most reliable, reasonable and authentic, discarding many folklore tales and traditions that do not stand the test. A few of our readers may be disappointed to find that some of the fond traditions they have heard had to be omitted because of lack of proof or consistency. But we are compelled to give more weight to records than tradition wherever reasonable records can be found.
We have included such records as we think may be of interest to posterity. Many things not deemed valuable by one age or people may prove worthwhile to another. There may be other sources of information yet revealed. It is hoped that the present work may be of some value in preserving our history and in leading to a revival of interest in research along these lines, as neglected history may be soon lost forever.
We here record our gratitude to many friends who have encouraged us and have offered their valued cooperation in this work. We wish to give credit to the following sources of information, and to many others from which material has been drawn in shaping our conclusions on subjects and events here recorded. We owe much credit to the services of the Virginia State Library for the many books they have supplied us for study. We have been benefitted by reports from William and Mary College, by Virginia State papers, and by Draper Manuscripts recorded with the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Smithsonian Institute has given valuable information in answer to our inquiries.
The University of Virginia has supplied valuable papers and maps. In this connection we are indebted to Dr. Tipton R. Snavely, himself a native of Lee County. We are due credit to the Virginia Geological Survey, and the United States Bureau of Mines for information about mineral resources of the region.
We are due credit to a host of individuals who have been very cooperative in giving information, and by aiding, encouraging and inspiring us in this work. To many of these we offer our apology for imposing on their time, patience and good nature in asking many questions, and seeking interviews.
The following are a few of the books read or reviewed in our research in this work: Wilderness Road to Kentucky by Pusey; Resources of Southwest Virginia by Boyd; History of Tazewell by Pendleton; Annals of Augusta by Waddell; Virginia Counties by Robinson; Mirror of Border Life by Pritts; History of the Valley of Virginia by Kerchaval; First Eplorations of Trans-Allegheny by Alvard; Early Southwest Virginia by Brown; Firearms of the Confederacy by Fuller and Steuart; Life of William Waters by Coale; Trans-Allegheny Pioneers by Hale; History of Wise County by Johnson; First Explorers of Kentucky by Johnson; Handbook of American Indians by Hodge; Government and Religion of the Indians by Henderson; Discoveries of John Lederer by Lederer; Conquest of Virginia by Sams; Daniel Boone by Daugherty; The Siouian Tribes by Mooney; Old Frontiers; The Cherokees in Pre-Columbian Times; Memoirs of Timberlake; Annals of Southwest Virginia by Summers; Sketch of Early History of Southwest Virginia by Brown; William and Mary College Quarterly’s; Draper Manuscript by Lyman C. Draper; Virginia State Papers; History of Scott County by Addington; Historical Highways by Hulbert; The Wilderness Road by Kincaid; Surrender of Cumberland Gap by McFarland; Blue Ridge Country by Thomas; History of Southwest Virginia by Kegley; Sequoia by Starkey; The Cherokee Nation by Thomas; The Forest Primeval by Sams; Pioneers of the Old Southwest by Skinner; Double Destiny by Loving
It is springtime in the Alleghenies. We stand on a high elevation overlooking a rolling panorama of wavelike mountains and valleys. We watch the setting sun touch green fields and blue woodlands with gold. There comes a haunting reflection of other days of long ago. Splashes of forest lands and fields of fresh turned earth make mosaics on the background of velvety grazing lands with their cattle on a thousand hills. All up and down the distant landscape we see inviting homes showing white in their soft green setting. Over all is a peaceful benediction. Lights in the dwellings come out like stars, and we are lulled into a forgetful complacency that tends to overlook the mighty transformation which has taken place. The evolution from a howling wilderness to a peaceful, industrial community has not been easy.
Railways with their heavy freightage for a busy world, broad ribbons of thoroughfare dotted with cars and buses for speedy travel, and trucks for rapid transportation, have left the pack train and the Conestoga wagon far behind. Miles of wire span the hills and valleys with power and communication. In towns and farm homes electric lights and power await the touch of a button. The telephone makes everybody next door neighbors, and brings the world within immediate speaking distance.
Turning back the pages of time a century and a half, there looms up before the mind a different picture. We see unbroken forests, with a fabulous wealth of timber, teeming with buffalo, bear, deer and wild turkey. We view with cautious reverence the tortuous trails up and down the valleys and through the mountain passes, trails made by the buffalo thousands of years ago, along which glide stealthy bands of painted warriors. We see picturesque figures moving grimly across the stage. Strange and horrible events are reenacted before our eyes.
Along such a trail we see the adventurous pioneer and his family, with meager belongings, on foot, on horseback or in a jolting wagon, over rough, ungraded grounds, advancing boldly but vigilant, scanning the virgin landscape for a likely spot on which to erect a rude log cabin and make a new home. Flintlock rifle in hand, he advances, cautious and keenly alert to signs of lurking danger behind every stone and tree.
At length we see him turn aside into the unbroken woodland where a spring of cool sparkling water pours forth its freshness, and winds its way into the uncharted forest. Not far away the pioneer halts and makes his camp. With tow and tinder, flint and steel, unrestrained by former decades of religious intolerance and political oppression, he lights a new campfire, lonely and far away from former environment, but in freedom.
Each day the sound of the woodman’s axe is heard as the log cabin goes up, and the land is cleared. There are clapboards to rive for the roof, and rails to split for the fencing. Here are toils and struggles, dangers and uncertainties, bounteous crops and living hopes. Here also are Indians, hatred, scalps, and lonely vigils. Here is rich domain for the taking. But at what a price!
Greatest of all, here is the building of muscle, brawn and courage of pioneer life, the indomitable will, the undefeated purpose, the steel and fiber of character from which is forged the true spirit of America, the guardian of religious and political freedom that commands the respect and admiration of the world. This is the priceless heritage that still requires eternal vigilance to maintain.
To understand our history it is necessary to take a glimpse far back into the past, and get the background of our early beginning as a nation. The English, in settling this country, had to contend with the Indians already in possession, and with Spain, the strongest world power at that time. They also had the French as a strong rival.
When our history began, in 1584, Elizabeth was Queen of England. She was a firm Protestant, while our great rivals, Spain and France, were both thoroughly Catholic. The world was divided on one great principal - Religious Freedom. Such was the setting in which we find ourselves as the conquest opens before us for the new world.
The foundation of the Virginia Colony was really undertaken by the English for the extension of the Protestant Faith, against the Catholic threat of extermination. For almost a century, the mighty conflict raged. Bloody deeds marked the years with horrible conflict in the Catholic effort to exterminate the Protestants.
Sir Walter Raleigh’s first expedition for Virginia in 1584 was to try to establish a Protestant colony in the New World. This was when the mighty religious struggle was at its height. The foothold he would gain in America would be as a direct rival to Catholic Spain and France. He perished in the effort, and lost his life and his labors to the Catholic influence at home.
But the battle for supremacy was on. Raleigh’s work was taken up by others, and encouraged by Queen Elizabeth, by King James, and by members of Parliament, men of affairs and representatives of all classes of the English. There was a determination to claim and hold for England and for Protestantism the chief part of the New World which would otherwise fall into the hands of the Catholic Powers. We can clearly see that had the Catholics won at that time, Protestantism would have perished from the earth, and religious freedom would have been no more. The Catholics tolerated no dissent, and plainly stated this as their position.
On and on the conflict raged, until Virginia became the outpost of Protestantism, with the Atlantic and the Catholic powers behind, and the treacherous and hostile Indians in front, along with the hardships of the wilderness. Through it all, the religious principles of the movement were steadily maintained. As political government advanced, churches advanced. Of course human errors by leaders were made, but there was on the whole admirable character in leadership and in orderly government, coupled with sincere devotion which had to be admired and respected.
During the first century of the settlement near the Atlantic, the Allegheny mountains stood as a great mysterious barrier to westward advancement. One was thought foolhardy to venture beyond the mountains into unknown dangers.
We leave our people for awhile, and briefly study the aborigines, that we may get a clearer view of what our forefathers found when they came. More than a thousand years ago, there came a strange primitive people out of the mysteries of the far northwest. They have been traced by their traditions, languages, beliefs, and by their relics and remains in burying places. They came to the Great Lakes region and on the head waters of the Mississippi and St. Lawrence Rivers. Following these there came another wave of primitive warlike people, and encountered the first out of the north. Those in lead were known as the Tallegwi. Those who followed and opposed them out of the north were the Lenni Lenap.
The Tallegwi began to build fortifications to better defend themselves against their adversaries. Their fortifications were turned into mounds as burying places for their dead. Thus they became the Mound Builders. They spread from Illinois and the Great Lakes region into Ohio. Some of them moved on eastward into New York and the St. Lawrence Valley. One branch was pressed southward and became the Cherokee Nation, an offshoot from the Huron-Iriquois tribes as traced by their language.
Leaving the level country of the Ohio, they drifted southward into the Allegheny Mountains. This “land of caves” and natural fortifications they liked best of all, and thus became permanently settled in Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, and part of Alabama, also in Southwest Virginia. They became so thoroughly fixed here that they developed new traditions, and rejoiced in their “land of caves”.
Another branch of the northern tribes was the Shawnees who followed the Cherokees in the Ohio Valley. They even contested the “land of caves” with the Cherokees. Sometimes they were on “friendly terms and sometimes at war.” The no-man’s-land between them was Powells Valley or the isolated country now constituting Lee County and adjoining territory. The Shawnees were more cruel and treacherous than the Cherokees. Some notable characters from the Mingo tribes mingled with the Cherokees and played a leading role in causing trouble with the whites. The Cherokees, as a whole, were more peaceful and merciful in their natural tendencies than any other tribe of North American Indians.
“Cherokee” is derived from “tsaragi” (Tse-rag-he), the name the Indians called their own tribe. This name may have developed from the Chocktaw word “chiluk-ki” which meant “cave people”. The Chreokees were referred to by themselves and their relatives the Iriquois to the north, as “dwellers of the cave country”. This was due to the fact that the mountain territory they occupied has many caves. Cherokee means “divine fire” as applied to their warriors only. It appears that they sometimes used caves as burying places but not dwellings.
Archaeological studies indicate that the Cherokees came to these mountains from the north. Their traditions claim the same, though their coming to the “land of caves” must have been in very remote times. In the year 1540, when De Soto was making his explorations of the Mississippi Valley, they were here. He first took note of the “Chelaqes” about the head of the Savanna River in the northeastern part of Georgia in 1540.
The anthropology of the American Indian indicated that they date back to the Neolithic or New Stone Age, and not to the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. They used chipped or polished stone implements. The Cherokees were barbarous, that is cultivators of the soil.
West of the Rockies were found savage, (hunting and fishing only). The Mexican tribes and those of Central America were half-civilized, (having some knowledge of arts and sciences).
Origin of the Indians
The origin of the Indians has never been worked out, though it seems most probably that they came from Asia into Alaska and spread over America through a long period of time. They then could have reached their various stages of development in different parts of America, influenced by different climates and various environmental factors. Much search has been made for pointers to indicate the origin and past of the Indians. But their beginning as a race is yet securely locked in the dim vaults of millenniums. Now and then someone comes out with a “clue” which soon fade. One notable example was the so called “Grave Creek Tablet,” claimed to have been found in a mound in West Virginia, near the Ohio, in 1838. It was a small flat stone, an oval perhaps two inches in length, with hieroglyphic writing on it. For a hundred years there were, from time to time speculative articles in newspapers, magazines and books on this little tablet as a possible clue to the past of the Mound Builders. At last, in 1928, the writing was deciphered by Andrew Price, president of the West Virginia Historical Society the inscription read: “Bil stumps stone, October 14, 1838.” It was clearly a hoax. The stone has disappeared.
Some have subscribed to the theory advanced by James Adair, the Scotchman from North Carolina, forty years a trader among the Indians, and Daniel S. Butrick, a missionary, that the Indians were the real Israelites thus scattered far from their original place in Southwestern Asia. There was a surprising parallel between some of the features of the Mosaic Laws and certain practices. They showed marked evidence of having brought down through the many centuries traditions which somehow bore relationship with those Biblical principles. Yet we maintain that this is not proof of the theory. There were many other people besides the Israelites who learned of such vital principles as were given by inspiration in that age to the chosen people.
Some have claimed for the Indians that they were Ishmaelites, the tribes of Abraham by his son Ishmael the archer, the son of the bondwoman Hagar. But we know that the Ishmaelites are the Arabs. Their history is not too difficult to trace. There is no proof that any of these could have reached America as a possible Indian origin, any more than other Asiatic tribes. The feature, traditions, and languages do not bear out this theory. So at present we are compelled to just leave the origin of the American Indian as an unsolved mystery.
The Mound Builders
Archaeologists once thought that the Mound Builders of the Ohio Valley were an earlier race that had given way to the Indians and become extinct. This theory has now been largely abandoned. The Mound Builders were evidently just Indians. It is also very apparent that the Cherokees in a former period of time were among the Mound Builders before they occupied the Appalachian section.
Cherokee tradition claimed the Powhatans once belonged to them, and the Cherokees removed westward when the whites massacred so many Indians in 1632. They came to New River and also the head of the Holston. This could not be true of the whole nation. It must have occurred centuries before that time. There could have been a small band of Cherokees living in the vicinity of Monticello, VA.
But there is clearly a close resemblance between the Mound builders of the Ohio and the Cherokees. This corresponds with the Cherokee tradition that they came from the north and west. The Tallegwi Indians of the north were doubtless Cherokee mound builders who later occupied the Appalachian Mountains. It is sure that the Cherokees lived for a while in Ohio, and built some of the mounds, both monumental and defensive. In the ancient mounds of that section that have been looked into, have been found similar items and arrangements to mounds and burying places and Ohio burial mounds. But it is estimated that one thousand years elapsed between the Tallegwi of the northwest and the present time. A mound in Lee County will be discussed under Archaeology.
Arrow heads were made by Indians in the eastern part of the continent from quartz. Of course flint was preferable when available, because it is easier chipped. A piece of flint or quartz was broken into fragments by striking with a stone hammer.
Such pieces as were suitable were selected, and a piece grasped in the left hand, usually in a fold of deer skin to protect the hand. Then a stone tool or tough piece of stone was taken in the right hand, and by continuous sharp blows on the edge of the pebble, it was chipped into the shape of an arrow head. It required skill and patience. An arrowhead could be made in twenty to sixty minutes. A few white men have mastered the art of making flint arrow heads. They have been made in as short a time as two minutes by white men.
Another method is to heat a piece of flint in the fire, then with a pointed stick dipped in water, touch the hot flint at points to be reduced. The flint will chip or flake at the point touched. Keeping the stick wet, the process is continued until the flint is nicely shaped into an arrow head. It is doubtful if the Indians had discovered this improved method.
Most of the material for this work was supplied to eastern tribes from the extensive quarries in the northern part of the District of Columbia. Knives were made in the same manner and of the same material. On Piney Branch in the District of Columbia is a great flint quarry covering several acres, mostly on the north side of the Branch, which had been worked for centuries.
The Cherokees were tall and robust. Their complexion was clearer than most Indians. Their young women were often as fair as the whites. The Cherokees were proud, haughty, arrogant, brave, and ambitious of conquest. They called white people “yun-wun-e-ga,” yunwi meaning person and unega white.
The type of shelter mostly used by the Cherokees and other eastern tribes was the “wetu” and “wituom”. This word was later corrupted by the whites into “wigwam,” which is not an Indian word, but now commonly used everywhere. The wigwam was usually made by setting up poles in the ground or by bending several saplings and binding them together at the top with skin ropes into a conical or oblong framework. It was then enclosed with bark or the skins of large animals, or even flags or rushes. Sometimes wickerwork was woven between the posts, and the house plastered with mud and grass, and usually covered with bark. There was an opening in the top for smoke to escape, as the fireplace was in the center. One opening in the side served for a door, which was closed with skins. Fire was kept in a pit dug in the center of the earth floor. This kind of shelter had to be renewed or rebuilt about every two years.
The primal foundation of social organization, including all government and society of man, is based upon blood relationship springing from common ancestors through legal marriage. The home and family is the vital unit of all enlightenment, according to what each terms legal as family relationship. This principle holds good in the Indian, though we have been inclined to think of their home life and relationship as superficial.
Among the Cherokees, separation of man and wife was rare. Infidelity was unpardonable. Adultery was considered on a par with murder. The man was left to the will of the injured party, which usually meant death. The woman guilty of adultery either had her nose cut off, or her long hair was cut away leaving her in open and dreadful shame, which made her an outcast to wander in the woods until she died or fell a prey to some roving enemy who took her for a slave.
The duties of the family were very well apportioned, contrary to common belief that the Indian woman was not much more than a slave. The man had to do the hunting and providing of game for a large part of the food and clothing. We must remember that this was done with very poor equipment, the chief of which was the bow and arrows. He had to do the fighting in defense of his home and rights. He made most of his equipment, even including items of clothing for the squaw.
The women kept the house, reared the children, helped on the home equipment, and cultivated the small bits of land which furnished part of the food of the family. It is a fallacy which would have us believe that the woman was a silent and trembling slave at her master’s bidding.
The women of the tribe had the power to elect or select the chief. They likewise had the power to impeach and depose him for sufficient cause. Only mothers or child-bearing women could take part in this feature of government. The father and mother both took affectionate interest in their offspring. The father made the cradle for the infant, and cooperated with the squaw in child training. They seldom resorted to punishment of the child beyond an immediate slap on provocation. Yet the children were well trained in their primitive duties. The girls were well trained in a woman’s duties, and the boys as hunters and warriors.
The Cherokees of the Allegheny section clothes mostly in deer and bear robes, waistcloth and moccasins. The animals from which they obtained meat, skins and furs were beaver, otter, muskrat, deer, elk, bear, raccoon, woodchuck, rabbit, squirrel and opossum. Every stream was filled with fish of many kinds. Cherokees liked to keep close to streams with their dwelling where fish could be obtained and because of their religious habit of bathing in cold water daily. They caught fish with rude hooks, nets and spears. They would also stupify fish by throwing bruised walnut bark into the water.
In the wigwam the room was apportioned among the various family groups. A place was assigned to the children, and they were not allowed to meddle in other parts of the house. Visitors were expected to sit at the back of the wigwam farthest from the doorway.
There was a well-defined system of etiquette, with principles not unlike our own rules of manners. If one passed between others and the fire, or accidentally treaded upon one’s toes, an immediate apology was due. Elders were always respected by younger persons. If one could not eat all that was served him at meal time on a dish, he did not push it back as we do, but handed it to the woman in charge with an apology to show no objections to the food, but thanks. He would address the woman as mother, wife, aunt or daughter.
Women stood with feet together, or sat with both feet under them and turned to one side. Men usually sat cross-legged. Between sexes conversation was never familiar except between relatives. Being too frequent guests was denounced as low caste.
In their native land and primitive way the Cherokees cultivated corn, squash, pumpkins, beans, sweet and Irish potatoes, gourds, sunflowers, melons, and tobacco. They also had apples, peaches, plums, cherries, strawberries and grapes. Of course all fruits were wild, untamed, or what we could call seedlings. There were plenty of native wild berries. They used chestnuts, acorns, chinquapins, hickory nuts and walnuts. They pounded hickory nuts with water and made a milk of it. They preferred pond or river water to fresh spring water for drinking when they could get it.
They made bread of corn, wild oats, or sunflower seed. The sunflower seeds were parched and then ground like corn. The grinding was done with a stone pestle in a hollowed out stone or log. Indian corn pone was made from meal and hot water, and baked in the fire bed, covered with hot ashes. The pone was then dipped in water to remove the ashes, and allowed to dry by its own heat. They used no salt, but seasoned with hickory ashes. They were very fond of roasting-ears roasted by the fire.
They dried squash in the sun for winter use. Potatoes were stored in the ground near the fire pit or hearth, somewhat like the mountain folks sometimes store sweet potatoes for seed. They stored corn, potatoes, beans, grass seed, dried fruits, and berries, and dried meat, for food.
Clearing land for cultivation was done by girdling trees and, when dry, burning them down. Their cultivating implements were of wood, stone or shells. They used ashes, shells, and fish, for fertilizer. In planting corn, they would put in four grains and see that no two touched in the hill. A good size fish dropped in the hill and covered with the corn would be excellent fertilizer.
They would draw and pluck fowls for eating, but cooked fish whole, scales, entrails and all. They would eat the meat and throw away the scales and entrails. They ate bread by itself, not with meat or other food. They had no set time for meals, but ate any time, day or night. They often sacrificed before meals, throwing bits of food on the fire.
Indian civics was vested in a chief over all, then the Werowance or commander over clans, towns or settlements, resembling little democracies, but with despotic power while in authority. There was also the War Chief in command in time of war with the Werowance as military officers in command of war groups, or in hunting and traveling. The sachems were what we would term magistrates. These could be women or men. They stayed at home to direct the affairs, but with little authority.
The old men of the tribe constituted a very important tribal council of advisors. But the priests, conjurors or Medicine Men were the real ruling spirit among the Indians. These Cherokee “wise men” or conjurors were called Adawehi. Sickness and death were supposed to be caused by evil spirits, and the Adawehi were empowered to frighten them away by ceremonies, ridiculous songs, and dancing around the patient while rattling a gourd containing pebbles. They also administered herb remedies.
There was another official or personage in the Indian tribe who had final authority in extreme cases. The “Beloved Lady,” an important woman in the nation selected for bravery and good service, had the power to release captives about to be executed. She rarely used this prerogative, but when she did, it was not questioned. There were notable instances of its being used in the knowledge of white people.
The religion of the Cherokees was very complicated and filled with many superstitions, but they were very strongly devoted to their beliefs. They kept their ritual constantly before them. Even the act of bathing each morning in cold water, winter and summer, was done in something of the spirit of baptism, but as a conjure. They offered a bit of food each time they ate, casting it upon the fire as a sacrifice. They visioned a spirit within a deer that must be apologized to or its permission requested as a silent prayer, in the act of shooting the animal.
The Indians belief in the “Great Spirit” has been greatly overdone. The Indians had many deities, some good and some bad. They believed in a spirit of the mountains, the wind, the sun, the lightning, and all forces and phenomena of nature. They sought to appease their many gods by conduct, prayer, ceremony, and offerings, but no definite belief in One God over all, by any name, was apparent among them.
Likewise the “Happy Hunting Ground” is largely a misnomer. They had a vague idea of a future existence somewhere beyond this life, but no definite conception as to what it would be like. They believed in transmigration or the return and rebirth of the soul into life on earth again, after experience elsewhere.
The Indians hardly believed in One God, though they referred to the Great Spirit. Their conception was of a God composed of many spirits. They believed that this composite God showered down all blessings indiscriminately, created all things, and yet gave all things without being influenced by man’s prayers, conduct or sacrifices. Their appeal was not to the Good god, but to the Evil that could do them harm or bring failure.
Oki (Okee) the Devil was the object of Indian supplication. He was likewise a composite power, the consumation of many spirits found in anything that could do them harm. There was the god of lightning, of thunder, birth, death, game, corn, war, and all the forces of nature. These spirits could be appeased or appealed to in the hopes of warding off evil. They believed that the good god would do no evil anyway and need not be appealed to. The evil spirits had to be placated to avoid evil results. The Cherokees believed the Oki, the great composite spirit of evil, had his throne among the peaks of White Side Mountain in North Carolina.
The Iroquois word for the Great Spirit of composite of good gods indicated the Spirit of Dawn or Great Light, Great White One. An early error in etomology construed this term to mean “Great Hare.” Hence the tradition that the Indians worshiped the Great Hare as the creator of all things. It was rather the sense of sun worship, as the sun was taken in a sense as the spirit of life or the Great Spirit of creation.
Longfellow, in his beautiful poetic fancy, refers to the Indian god Shawandase, in the “moon of falling leaves,” as smoking his pipe before taking his winter sleep.
From his pipe the smoke ascending
Filled the sky with haze and vapor,
Filled the air with dreamy softness,
Gave a twinkle to the water,
Touched the rugged hills with sunshine
Brought the tender Indian summer.
But Indian Summer had quite a different significance to the pioneer from Longfellow’s poetic fancy. Indian Summer was named from the fact of added danger of attack from Indians during the gloomy, smoky days of autumn. They were almost sure to take advantage of the season for a final attack upon the settlers before winter set in. The Indians often burned the leaves carefully under chestnut trees to more easily obtain the nuts. This augmented the smoke of Indian Summer.
The Green Corn dance was a great occasion, a religious festival, held usually in September, two weeks, as a thanksgiving celebration. On this occasion all fires were extinguished, and the Adawehi made a new sacred fire by friction. Then all wigwam hearths were refired from this as a consecration. A new mound as a burying place was usually begun on the occasion of the Green Corn Dance. The offering of the first fruits was made, contributions being laid in the community house for the poor. From the Indian community store many white people were supplied in great need in pioneer days.
C. W. Sams, in The Forest Primeval, says:
While endowed thus by nature with poetic form of expression, and with traits of character admirable in many respects, the Indians of Virginia were as bloodthirsty savages as ever existed. They reflected and presented all the phases of barbarism. They scalped their enemies when dead; and practiced upon them when alive, such tortures as make the blood run cold when we read of them. It is noticeable, however, how little the Indians were criticized in this regard by the early writers. The explanation is found in the fact that in 1607, and for many years thereafter, torture just as bad was practiced by the highly civilized nations of Europe.
This savagery is not far under the surface of our boasted civilization today, as demonstrated in recent wars.
The wilderness of the Indian occupied Alleghenies was traversed by a system of trails or War Paths, which were traveled by buffalo, by Indians in war and in hunting, and later by the white settlers. The main line which concerns us in this study was the long trunk trail leading from Pennsylvania to Georgia and Alabama with its branches. It passed southward from Pennsylvania by York, Martinsburg, Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, Buchanan, Roanoke, Salem, Fort Chiswell, Rural Retreat, Marion, Glade Springs, Abingdon, and three miles west of Bristol, and on by where Kingsport now stands. A branch from this trail extended northward from Abingdon by Saltville, New River, and on into Ohio and western Pennsylvania. A branch which was very important and which interests us most, left the Potomac trail westward through Moccasin Gap, through Scott County, and into Lee County at Kanes Gap, then by Stickleyville, Station Creek, Powells River, Glade Springs (Jonesville), Martins Station, Rose Hill, Cumberland Gap, and on into Kentucky. A branch led southwestward into the Cumberland region where Nashville is located.
There was also a less used trail, sometimes called the Hunters Road, from Jonesville by Cane Creek, Pennington Gap, Lovelady Gap, Wildcat Valley, Rye Cove, Dungannon, St. Paul and up Clinch Valley.
To be continued.....