Two hundred and fifty years ago, the land along the Haw River and its tributaries was still a wild and unknown frontier, the home of the red man and "yanasa," his buffalo. The first white men, traders and explorers, pushed across the Roanoke River into the Haw's Old fields in the late 1600s, and attractive stories of this country soon began to spread northward into Virginia and Pennsylvania.
BEFORE the English claimed the Carolinas, this entire region - appeared on Spanish maps as a part of Florida. In 1654, Provincial Governor Yardley described the "Haynoke" Indians, a tribe settled near Hillsboro on the Eno River and later called the Eno Indians, as a great nation which resisted the northward advance of the Spanish.
Dr. John Lederer, a German explorer, led an expedition through Haw's Old Fields in the year 1670, and of the wilderness and its inhabitants, he wrote:
"The fourteenth of June, persuing a South southwest course, sometimes by a beaten path and sometimes over hills and rocks, I was forc'd to take up my quarters in the woods the ways were such, and obliged me to go so far about that I reached Oenock* until the fifteenth. The country here, by the industry of these Indians, is very open and clear of woods. Their town is built around a field, where in their Sports they exercise with so much labour and violence, and in so great numbers, that I have seen the ground wet with the sweat that dropped from their bodies; their chief recreation is slinging of stones. They are of mean stature and courage, covetous and thievish, industrious to earn a peny, and
* Oenock was the "Haynoke" or Eno Indian village on Eno River.
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
therefore hire themselves out to their neighbors, who employ them as Carryers or Porters. They plant an abundance of Grain, reap three crops in a summer . These and the mountain Indians build not their houses of bark, but of Watling and Plaister.
"In Summer the heat of the weather makes them chuse to lie abroad in the night under thin arbors of wild Palm. Some houses they have of Reed and Bark; they build them generally round: To each house belongs a hovel made like an oven, where they lay up their Corn and Mast to keep it dry. They parch their Nuts and Acorns over the fire to take away their rank Oyliness, which afterwards pressed, yield a milky liquor, and the acorns an Amber colour'd Oyl. In these mingled together, they dip their Cakes at great entertainments, and so serve them to their guests as an extraordinary dainty. Their Government is Democratick; and the Sentence of their old men are received as Laws or rather Oracles, by them.
"Fourteen miles West Southwest of the Oenocks dwell the Shackory Indians* upon a rich Soyl, and yet abounding in antimony, of which they shewed me considerable quantities. Finding them agree with the Oenocks in Customs and Manners, I made no stay here, but passing thorow their town . . . " 1
In the year 1700, John Lawson, Surveyor General for His Royal Majesty's Province of North Carolina, organized an expedition in South Carolina and headed northward to explore the wilderness country.
When the expedition reached the Keyauwee Indian village, near what is today the City of High Point, the other explorers decided to continue their journey northward, but Lawson and one other white man secured an Indian guide and set out eastward, "resolving with God's leave to see North Carolina."
After setting the two white men on the trail to the Occaneechi Indian village on Eno River, the red skinned guide bade them farewell. Lawson and his partner pushed forward alone, averaging about twenty miles a day on foot. The wilderness was a wild, beautiful paradise, with rich soil
*The Shackory or Shokori Indians at this time inhabited Haw's Old Fields, and were later identified as the Sissipahaw whose villages were in what became Alamance County,
1. Lederer, John. The Discoveries of John Lederer, London, 1672
for farmland, good timber for building homes, wild turkey and other game in abundance, and streams crowded with fish. It fascinated John Lawson.
"Tis a great misfortune," he wrote, "that most of our travellers who go to this vast continent in America, are persons of the meaner sort, and generally of very slender education; who, being hired by the Merchants to trade among the Indians . . . are yet at their return, incapable of giving any reasonable account of what they met withal in those remote parts."*
The two adventurers scarcely noticed the hardships they had to endure as they crossed the wide, picturesque savannas, passed through the silent forests, and forded the swift-flowing and treacherous streams. The country abounded with curiosities, and the imaginative Lawson let few of them escape him.
On the second day of their journey, the two travellers crossed a flat, rocky region, filled with marble and other stone. "All the pine trees had vanished," Lawson wrote of the third day's journey. "We pas'd thro' a Delicate Rich Soil this Day; no great hills but pretty Rising and Levels, which made a beautiful country. We likewise passed over three Great Rivers this Day; the First about the bigness of Rocky River, the other not much differing in Size . . . "
Late in the afternoon of the third day the two men reached the Haw River. A cold, northwest wind whistled about them, whispering strange mysteries of loneliness and isolation, and hunger and the winter twilight had begun to overcome them. Hours before, they had breakfast on a handful of parched corn.
The sight and sound of the river gave them new strength and caused some of their weariness to vanish, Lawson wrote. "The swiftness of the current gave us some cause to fear, but at last we concluded to venture over that night. Accordingly we stripped, and with great difficulty (by God's Assistance) got safe to the north side of the famous Hau . . .
"It is called Hau River from the Sissipahau Indians, who dwell upon this Stream, which is one of the main branches of the Cape Fair River, there being Rich Land enough to contain some thous-
Lawson, John, The History of North Carolina, etc., Dublin, 1711.
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
ands of Families; for which reason I hope in a short time it will be Planted. This River is much such another as Sapona; both seeming to run a vast way up the Country. Here is good Timber, and the Land is extraordinary Rich . . . "
On the east bank of the river, Lawson and his companion built their campfire and lay down to sleep. Perhaps they dreamed that night of the day when this wilderness would be as teeming as the industrial citizens of their native Britain; or perhaps their dreams were of far-off places and other times.
"As soon as it was Day we set out for the Achonechy Town, it being estimation twenty Miles off. We were got about half way, (meeting great Gangs of Turkies) when we saw at a distance 30 loaded Horses, coming on the road, with four or five Men, on other Jades, driving them. We charg'd our Piece, and went up to them. Enquiring whence they came from? They told us, from Virginia. The leading Man's name was Massey, who was born about Leeds in Yorkshire. He asked from whence we came. We told him. Then he asked again, Whether we wanted anything that he had? Telling us that we should be welcome to it. We accepted of two Wheaten Biscuits and a little ammunition; He advised us by all means to strike down the country for Ronoack, and not think of Virginia, because of the Sinnagars, of whom they were afraid, tho' so well armed and numerous.* They persuaded us also to call on one Enoe Will, as we went to Adshusheer, for that he would conduct us safe among the English giving him the character of a faithful Indian . . .
"The Virginia Men asked our Opinion of the Country we were then in? We told them it was a very pleasant one. They were all of the same opinion, and affirmed That they had never seen 20 Miles of such Extraordinary rich Land, lying all together, like that betwixt Hau River and the Achonecy Town. Having taken our leaves of each set forward; and the country thro' which we passed was so delightful t hat it gave us a great deal of satisfaction ."1
The "Occaneechi village was the first Indian settlement which Lawson and his partner encountered since leaving "Keyauwee Town. "About three o'clock," continues the explorer's account, "we
* Roanoke Island. The Sinnagar Indians were a Canadian tribe who ranged as far South as the Appalachians of western North Carolina , terrifying the settlers for many years.
1. This was the section known as Haw's Old Fields, lying between Haw and Eno Rivers. Many accounts mention the fertility of this tract. The community of Haw Fields today marks this "historic part of Alamance County".
reached the town, and the Indians presently brought us a good fat Bear, and Venison, which was very acceptable at that time .. no Indians have greater plenty of provisions than these. The Savages do, indeed, still possess the Flower of Carolina; the English enjoying only the Fag-end of that country.
"We had not been in the Town two Hours when Enoe-Will came into the King's Cabin; which was our quarters. We ask'd him if he would conduct us to the English, and what he would have for his pains; he answered that he would go along with us, and for what he was to have he left that to our discretion.
"The next Morning we set out with Enoe-Will towards Adshusheer, leaving the Virginia Path and striking more to the Eastward for Ronoack. Several Indians were in our Company belonging to Will's Nation, who are Schoccories, mixed with Enoe Indians, and those of the Nation of Adshusheer. Enoe-Will is their chief Man, and rules as far as the banks of the Reatkin."*
The Trading Path
Explorers and traders had visited the Sissipahaw and other tribes of the piedmont before John Lederer or John Lawson journeyed through this territory. The Trading Path, or trail from the north, had become the most famous North-South highway. From the Roanoke River of Virginia, this trail crossed the Tar, the Flat and the Little Rivers to the place where Hillsboro now stands; thence it crossed Haw River not far from the present-day village of Swepsonville. At that point it divided into two paths, an upper trail which crossed Little Alamance and Great Alamance Creeks, and a lower trail which led southward and which was designated as the Western Trading Path.
In the late seventeenth century, the natural wealth of the frontier began to attract the merchants of Virginia and other northern colonies, and soon traders were driving their packmule trains into Carolina to do business with the red man.
"Firewater," potent corn whiskey on which young braves frequently became murderously intoxicated, was one of the chief commodities offered by the traders to the red man. Guns with powder and shot to use in them, brillantly colored dyes and paints, knives and other implements of metal, all new to the wilderness, were wanted by the savages.
* Lawson, op cit By the name Reatkin, Lawson meant the Haw River.
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
Were these not peaceful "savages, who covet a Christian Neighborhood for the Advantage of Trade?" 1 Could the traders have realized that the things which they gave to their red brothers would soon be used as weapons and warpaints against the white man. The Indian chiefs also protested the sale of whiskey in their villages, but the traders failed to heed such warnings.
When he departed from an Indian town, the trader carried great bundles of deerskins, furs, and other wilderness products, which he had bought cheaply and would resell to English markets for many times that amount.
The tribes were friendly toward the white man in those days, and elaborate banquets and entertainments were staged when a trader arrived. Traders frequently spent a year or more in the wilderness at a time, seeing no other white man. Some of them settled among the Indians, married squaws and spoke the language and practiced the customs of their adopted people. Such hospitality and amity deceived many frontier merchants into believing that the Indians were a simple people, unaware of the white man's duplicity.
John Lawson relates the following story about the Indian traders:
"This night we got to one Scipio's Hut, a famous hunter. There was nobody at Home, but we having (in our Company) one that used to trade amongst them, we made ourselves welcome to what his Cabin afforded, (which is a thing common) the Indians allowed it practicable to the English Traders, to take out of their Houses what they need, during their Absence, in Lieu whereof they must commonly leave some small quantity of Tobacco, Paint, Beads, etc ...
"About three in the afternoon," Lawson writes of another occasion, "we reached the Kadapau King's House, where we met one John Stewart, a Scot, then an inhabitant of James River in Virginia, who had traded there for many years. Being alone, and hearing that the Sinnagers were abroad in that country, he durst no venture homewards until he saw us, having heard that we were coming along twenty days before. It is very odd that news should fly so swiftly among these people. Mr. Stewart had left Virginia ever since the October before, and had lost a day of the week, of
1. Lawson, op. cit.
which we informed him. He had brought seven horses along with him loaded with English goods for the Indians, and having sold most of his cargo, told us that if we would stay two nights, he would go along with us...
Although John Lawson did not visit the Sissipahaw Indians on his Journey through what is now Alamance County, it is quite plausible that Indian traders did business with the villages in this section. Unfortunately, none of them left an accurate description of the Sissipahaw, and only from general descriptions of the red man of Carolina by Lawson and his contemporaries, can we form a picture of the tribe which once roamed the forests and tilled the soil of the present Alamance County.
The People Of The Wilderness
Gliding swiftly and silently through the forest, the Sissipahaw hunter sought a trace of the deer. His dark eyes read carefully the signs of the wilderness: the tracks of small animals leading toward the river; broken twigs and fallen leaves, which told him that the lumbering brown bear had recently passed this way; silent brush-piles and dark patches among the branches of tall oak and hickory trees, which hid the rabbit or the opossum. Hunting here was good, and the long, dexterous fingers of the red man could speed an arrow straight to its mark. A fattened doe would provide venison to be roasted over the fire of his wigwam, or perhaps the delicacy of an unborn fawn which he would cut from the doe's belly and boil in the bag with which nature had covered it. The deer-skin would bring a supply of whiteman's goods from a trader, or would be turned into a handsome garment to be worn against the chill of winter.
At the edge of the forest lay a broad field or savanna where great flocks of wild turkies gathered noisily. Occasionally, the keen eyes of the hunter detected the trail of a buffalo. The forest was alive with the chatter and song of the birds and beasts.
The trail of the deer grew shorter, and finally the hunter halted and bent close to the ground to listen and to reflect. Cautiously, he moved forward again until he could see the magificent horns and the sleek brown body of the animal he sought. Without taking his eyes from the deer, the red man fitted an arrow into his bow and sent it flying through the air.
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
With his game slung over his shoulder, the hunter retraced his steps toward his village. His muscular body bore the weight of the deer effortlessly. From a distance he could smell the wood fires of the village and could picture his squaw bending over the flame in the center of his hut, as the smoke drifted upward towards the hole in the center of the roof.
In the gathering eventide, the red man made a handsome figure. He was tall, erect, and well-proportioned, and had a lithesome and majestic stride. His face was beardless, for he continually plucked out the hairs by their roots. His tawny skin was darkened with bear's grease, with which braves and squaws alike anointed themselves. His black eyes were streaked with red, a common characteristic of his race, and his teeth were yellowed with excessive use of smoking tobacco. About his waist he wore only a loin cloth, a pair of buckskin or bearskin moccasins on his feet, and perhaps a necklace of tiny shells or a bracelet on his arm or leg. His squaw wore an apron, about a half yard wide and two yards long which was made of dressed deerskin and fringed around the hem. A beaded or shell necklace, earrings, sometimes a pair of moccasins, and a few feathers in her hair completed her costume.
In cold weather, men and women wore a "match coat" or shawl of fur or cloth, or perhaps a cloth coat purchased from some white trader. The squaw never painted her face, and only during war time did the brave disguise himself with war paints, decorating his face with circles around his eyes and other artistic patterns.
The home of the red men was a small hut, often occupied by several relations, who slept on fur covered benches around the wall. These quonset-type hovels were frequently as heated as an oven, and in summer the family slept out of doors.
In the nearby forest the hunter found plenteous game, the beaver, the polecat, the wild panther and the bear as well as rabbits and squirrels, 'possums, the great flocks of quail and turkies. There were also nuts and berries which he could mix with the vegetables that were grown in village gardens. Peas, potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, radishes, parsnip, beets, lettuce and cabbage, asparagus, kidney beans, and many other vegetables were raised by the red man. And, of course, there was Indian maize or corn, which the squaws pounded into meal for bread, leaving the green stalks
which could be pressed and boiled to make a sweet, intoxicating beer.
Life for the Indian was simple and happy. He frequently enjoyed banquets, at which fierce dances and contests were performed. With persimmon seeds or a handful of reeds, the red man played a type of dice game; and with a bat and ball, a game
Before the first white settlers came, the wilderness of Alamance was the home of the once-powerful Sissipahaw or Saxapahaw Indian tribe. This sketch is the artist's conception of a Sissipahaw brave.
similar to modern baseball. Music for the festive occasions came from two old men who accompanied one another with a gourd rattle and a drum made of deer skin stretched over a clay pot.
All of these customs may not have been practiced by the tribes who inhabited Alamance County, but Lawson observed that "no Indians have greater plenty than these."
INDIANS OF ALAMANCE
Several Indian tribes were settled in the area that is now Alamance County, before the white man came. The largest of these tribes was probably the Sissipahaw or Saxapahaw but few facts about them are known.
The Sissipahaw were apparently a branch of the Sioux family which crossed the Mississippi River many generations ago. The first mention of the tribe is probably in the Spaniard Vandera's account of the Juan Pardo expedition of 1567, in which the name is spelled SAUXPA or SAUAPA, and was located near the Santee
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
River in the northeastern part of South Carolina.
Because the tribe gave its name to the Haw or Saxapahaw River, it is believed to have been a large and powerful tribe when it migrated to this section. In 1701, however, Lawson estimated that there were less than 1,000 Indians of several tribes in this area.
Jesse Miller, Mebane archeologist, has located within the past few years what he believes to be the site of twelve Indian villages which once flourished along Quaker Creek, Alamance Creek, Haw River and other streams in this county.
When the bloody Indians Wars came in 1711, the Sissipahaws must have fled these villages and joined their kinsman in the east. Colonel John Barnwell who led the English troops against the Tuscarora and other warring tribes in 1712, mentioned the Sissipahaws:
"I crossed the Neuse River the 28th of January at night, at the place the SAXAPAHAWS were lately settled, and 30 mile below the place appointed to meet Major Gale . . . The SAXAPAHAWS (called by some SHACIOES) were forced to desert their settlements in the beginning of this month by reason the Tuscaruros of this town fell upon them and killed 16 of them, because they refused to join with them against the English . . .
"They were just come among the Wattomas, when I came and were going to pay Tribute to your Honor the Governor and to beg your protection, but I . . .persuaded . . . them not to do it until our Return, and go with me, they seeming to be brave men and good. . . "*
Colonel Barnwell listed twenty-two Sissipahaw or Saxapahaw warriors among his troops, and reported that several of them were injured in battles against the rebellious tribes of eastern Carolina. Later in his journal, the crusty old Indian fighter remarked that scores of his native troops were deserting and that they were carrying t he loot from captured villages with them.
Even though some historians have stated that the Sissipahaw Indians fought against the English during the Indian Wars, Colonel Barnwell's story seems to disprove such claims. The Sissipahaw, apparently, remained friendly toward the white man and
* "Journal of John Barnwell," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, v. 5, No. 4, Richmond, 1898.
fought bravely against their warlike kinsmen.
The ultimate fate of the Sissipahaw tribe remains unknown. There seems to be no record of them following the close of the Indian Wars. Ethnologists aver that the remaining members of the tribe united with the Kewyauwee, Shakori, Eno and Cheraw tribes, and finally fused with the Catawba tribe. Some may have moved southward, uniting with the Indians of Lumber River in Roberson County, and others may have settled in the area between the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.
Relics Of The Indian Days
Traces of the red man and his time are still prevalent in Alamance County. Arrowheads, pieces of broken pottery, stone heads of tommyhawks and other relics have been discovered in widely scattered sections of the county, and Indian "graveyards" are numerous.
Local archeologists have excavated the sites of what they believe to have been several Indian villages along the Haw River and its branches. These settlements were along Quaker Creek, northeast of the town of Haw River; along Meadow Creek, between Swepsonville and Saxapahaw villages; on Stinking Quarters Creek, southwest of Bellemont; north of Burlington; and along the banks of the Haw itself. In nearly every case, the trained eye of the archeologist found these Indian towns near or on the banks of a convenient stream.
The Indians of Alamance made an abundance of arrowheads from white quartz, multicolored flints, and, sometimes, from a rarer transparent crystal quartz. Tommyhawk beads, fashioned with crude instruments of stone and measuring about four to eight inches in length, have also been collected. Soapstone or clay pipes of varying shapes and sizes, and tiny shells and beads used by the Indians as wampum or money are among collectors' items.
Using clay from the banks of a nearby stream, the Sissipahaw pottery-maker moulded a variety of useful implements. Such pottery was often decorated with incised lines or intricate scroll designs, and holes were punched near the rim for fitting a handle. Larger vessels made of soapstone have been found as well.
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
There are many legends concerning the Indians who once farmed this countryside and roamed these fields and forests. Burial mounds and peculiar rock formations are usually the setting for such stories.
Such a legend surrounds Pix Head Rock, a jutting mass of stone towering thirty feet, which is located southwest of Alamance Village on a farm off the Kimesville Road. Pix Head, according to the story, was the quiqozon or tomb in which the red man buried the cleansed, polished and rejointed bones of his dead chieftains. A small, narrow cleft or cave extends a short way into the rock. Nearby, on the edge of the woods, are two rectangular stone pits, approximately seven feet long and three feet deep, which may have been graves hewn for lesser nobility. One of the pits has an aperture "for the dead Indian's bows and arrows," and a chisel-shaped cavity that "affords an ideal stone sheath for his hunting knife."*
Despite the relics and legends which remain of the red man, the story of these people remains an unsolvable mystery. When the first white settlers began to venture into the Haw River County about 1720, the Indians of Alamance had vanished. Except for the occasional raids of Cherokee bands in the earliest years of settlement, Alamance was no longer the red man's hunting grounds.
* Amick,Nila Garnette, "Mysteries of 'Stinking Quarter'," Greensboro Daily News, p. 10, sec. A, January 26, 1936
British Surveyor-General John Lawson and a fellow-explorer crossed the famous Haw River in the winter of 1701, at a place similar to this site near Saxaphaw.