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African, Jewish, Spanish, Portuguese and Armenian villages were erased from the Southern Appalachian landscape

African, Jewish, Spanish, Portuguese and Armenian villages were erased from the Southern Appalachian landscape

 

However,  one African-American lady bit off a little more than she could chew

Rightfully so,  Chickasaws, Creeks and Uchees complain that during the 20th century,  US Department of Interior mapmakers and Anglo-American academicians erased our existence from vast areas of the Southeast . . . in particular the Southern Highlands.  I will never forget the “oh he’s crazy” smiles on the faces of Western North Carolinians in 2010, when I told them that Chiaha, Tuskegee, Oconaluftee, Talulah, Tennessee and Tucksegee were Creek words.  Well, Chiaha was originally an Itza Maya word, but we will discuss it in a forthcoming article. 

However, we are not the Lone Rangers in this matter.  At least, we, the descendants of these Chickasaw, Creek and Uchee villagers are recognized as having ancestors, who existed somewhere.   History textbooks never mention the Jewish, African, Spanish, Portuguese and Armenian colonists.  It is as if they never existed . . . even though Colonial Period maps and eyewitness accounts place them in the Southern Highlands.  Armenians?  Yes, either Armenians or Christian Anatolians were described in 1673 by James Needham and Gabriel Arthur as living in a large town built of brick near the confluence of the French Broad and Holston Rivers in Northeast Tennessee.  Nearby was a town built of wood, occupied by Africans.   They did not say whether they were North Africans or Sub-Saharan Africans.

Sundown towns and erased African villages

One of the most interesting days that I spent during my six years near Dahlonega was when sociologist and best-selling author, James William Loewen and his wife, journeyed down to Georgia from Washington, DC on an Amtrak train to come visit with me.  Loewen is the author of at least 11 books, including, The Truth About Columbus (1989), Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong  (1995) and The Sundown Towns (2005).    While visiting with me, he was particularly interested in my knowledge of the Sundown Towns.   I had none, because MY high school textbooks had done such a thorough job of fabricating the past.  Sundown towns were and are those communities that chased out their African-American residents and then would not let any African-American visitors stay there after sundown.

Since that day, I have been more determined to find evidence of Africans once living in Appalachian valleys and indeed, have found it . . . almost everywhere in the region.   Needham’s and Arthur’s account was just the tip of the iceberg.  Even as late as the American Revolution, there were African villages in Western North Carolina.  There was a brief account that several “Negroes” were murdered by Patriot troops when they invaded western North Carolina, even though they were not hostiles.

There is a classic example of African-Americans being erased from the history books in Gilmer County, GA, whose county seat is Ellijay.  Drive along the Appalachian Freeway near Ellijay and you will see several signs announcing the location of the great Cherokee town of Turniptown and the birthplace in 1760 of its great chief,  Whitepath.   You are told that Whitepath helped John Ross with the wagon train for the Trail of Tears and died along the way in Hopkinsville, KY in 1838.

Both National Park Service research and several genealogies published by Ancestry.com tell a very different story.   Turniptown was one of several “Negro” villages in what is now Gilmore County.  The cabin was built in 1800 by a 40 year old white Quaker, Armajor White ( with a little bit of unknown Native ancestry) and his wife, Absilla Knight.  White and his wife appear to have been Quaker missionaries.Their children soon moved away to several parts of the Southeast.  He could not possibly have been born in this cabin and apparently was mixed up by historians or Cherokee-philes in the late 20th century with the real Chief White Path, who ended up in northeastern Alabama.

This couple and all their children were always listed on the US Census as white. None of them went on the Trail of Tears.   Amajor White died four years AFTER the Trail of Tears while living with one of his children in Hopkinsville.   There is no information on the fate of the African residents of Turniptown. They are not listed as being rounded up by federal troops for the Trail of Tears.  Perhaps they also moved to Kentucky OR did they stay in the Georgia Mountains?  We may never know.

I have recently learned that near where I live was a very old African community, which dated back at least to the Georgia Gold Rush days in the 1830s.  “Colored” (mixed African-Native American) freemen laborers worked at the commercial gold mines and later on the large farms in the especially fertile part of the Nacoochee Valley or logging companies.   The community had a “Colored Only” school until the 1950s, when the Supreme Court ordered Georgia to desegregate its schools.   It also had a General Store-Post Office on Amy’s Creek and a church.  After the colored residents of the community were “persuaded” to move elsewhere, their residential, religious and commercial buildings were demolished. 

Prejudice can get one in a tizzy

Shortly after moving here,  the Habersham Historical Society sponsored a program on the “Black History” of the county at Daes Memorial Methodist Church on the Soque River near Downtown Clarkesville, GA.  It was an interesting program that filled in a lot of gaps left out of the history books.  I knew my phone had been tapped by someone in the county government. Two hours after the phone was turned on, when I had no furniture in the house, the inspector for business licenses called me up and told me that I would be arrested if I didn’t immediately get a business license for my architecture practice.  I told him that this was a residence.  I hadn’t even moved into the house, I had not practiced architecture anywhere since early 2009 and that there had been no work for me in Georgia since the Republicans took control of everything in 2006.  He responded by saying that he would be watching me. 

This marked the 22nd year of Georgia “Law Enforcement” illegally tapping my phone.  The first time that BellSouth Security caught an illegal police wiretap on my phone was in Cartersville in 1996,  when I was on the county planning commission and the city Board of Zoning Appeals.  Since 2000, the “law enforcement” officers obtain warrants for surveillance based on bogus criminal investigations.  Most of the early taps were to obtain insider information to sell to general contractors about the bid on my projects.  More recently the taps were done to show their support for the Party.  I assumed that there would be no one at the Historic Society meeting, who would be involved in such nonsense.

Google Maps placed the church at a veterinary hospital a mile away, so I was one of the last persons to arrive and had to sit in the back.  Almost immediately, an attractive black lady plopped down beside me,  held my hand and then squeezed her thigh against our hands and my thigh.   I told her, “I’m gonna like living  here.  Even the historical society fixes you up with hot dates. Gosh, your hand’s so soft and warm.”  She looked very confused and then bragged that she had a college degree . . . in a tone of voice that inferred that I didn’t.

When I started greeting the other black folks in front of me, she pulled her hand away and eventually stood up to walk away.  A little later, she was handing out the lyrics to the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”   It is considered the Black National Anthem, but I wasn’t sure I knew the song at first.  I told her that.  She snarled back, “Either you know it or you don’t know it.   You wouldn’t know this song.”

Periodically, during breaks, she would stop by to make sarcastic remarks to me, like black women would say to bigoted white men to intimidate them.   Then a female and a male law enforcement officer sat down beside me.  They looked like FBI, who have a bit more polish to them than the GBI.   They were there to see if I was committing any crimes, but were clueless to the fact that a Russian on our row (yes Russian) was taking photos of the key Black speakers with her smart phone then sending them to a telephone number in the Roswell-Alpharetta, GA area.  Good ole FBI.   Fortunately, the Creek side of my family has been used as scouts and spotters since the French and Indian War.  The high falluting cops left after awhile.

I finally figured out what was going on.  The Gestapo told her that I was an uneducated redneck, infiltrating their meeting.  Many white southerners are terrified at the thought of touching an African American or American Indian.   There are is a legion of bad apples in the federal barrel, who have the maturity of pre-adolescents and who are too incompetent to do anything, but commit political crimes against honest citizens  

This has been going on for 21 years.  When I bought a house near Downtown Cartersville 1997, my elderly neighbors were telephoned to be told that I was a peeping tom. Those on the street, who were neo-Nazi’s, were told that I was an FBI agent.  Families with children were told that I was a gay sexual predator of young boys, even though my girlfriend spent every weekend with me.  As a result,  nearby Tabernacle Baptist mounted a campaign to have me driven out of the neighborhood.   A deacon from Tabernacle, who looked like Porky the Pig wearing a straw hat,  followed me around town . . . telling people that he was an FBI agent following me.  He ultimately made the mistake of telling a real undercover FBI agent that little lie.

I recognized “Lift Every Voice and Sing” after I heard the first few notes and sung it heartily.  Afterward the black lady came up to me and demanded to know how I knew “Lift Up and Sing.”   I told her that we used to sing it at the Wesley Foundation (Methodist Campus Church) at Georgia Tech.  One of our ministers told us a lot about the inner workings of the Civil Rights Movement and the many horrors they experienced, which were rarely described by the news media.

She laughed and blurted, “White preachers don’t know shit of how we have suffered. Give me a break.”

I responded, “Well Andy sure did.  Most people don’t know that Andy was an ordained minister long before he was a politician.  He stayed with the Wesley Foundation until he decided to run for Congress.  Then he went on to be Ambassador to the UN and then Mayor of Atlanta.”

Her eyes grew as wide as a jumbo size egg in Walmart.  She asked, “Andy Young was your minister?” 

Yep . . .  I always thought that he was a really decent, honest person.”

The lady quickly rode off into the sunset and was never heard from again. 

Moral – Never believe what some stranger tells you about somebody else.

 

 

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

25 Comments

  1. zakiyablake@gmail.com'

    i wanted to do some research and i learned a court house burned down recently.
    my family is from hancock county, sparta ga, i have great aunts who are 101 100 95
    They all have clear memories of our native american descent but we can’t find a lot of info.
    I talked to them about henry louis gates saying that black people feel like they have native american ancestry only because we were in denial that we have european or mulatto ancestry and our grandmothers lied to hide the shame but what always confused me about this is my grandmother and great aunt have been honest about the mixed heritage and white side of the family so that logic doesn’t work. Do you know if I can find any more information and also my father has a distinct memory of one of his grandmothers saying we were of wings descent. a famous relative has some document muskogean (sp) heritage but that is all i have found and that was in her autobiography. i hope i didn’t leave this comment before.

    Reply
    • ACTUALLY . . . Hancock County was where I first applied my graphic techniques for architecture to Native American sites . . . back in 2003! There will be no records that validate your family’s Creek and Uchee ancestry, but I would say that at least 75% of the old time African families are part Creek or Uchee. The percentage is also rather high for the long time European families there. I gave a talk to the Hancock County High School that year. About 75% of the students had Creek knots, which is a bony knob on the base of the back of the skull. We planned to create a Native American drum corps from the nominal black and white Creeks-Uchees in Hancock County, but the people on the County Commission, who were Creek or Uchee descent were voted out of office by rightwingers. Those people made a mess of things and so the original people came back into office. Hancock was originally Uchee, but they were allies of the Creeks. It was common in the 1600s and 1700s to interbreed Native American and African slaves to produce stronger offspring, who could tolerate the winters better. Thanks for writing.

      Well, most of those nominally African families look much more Creek than they do African. Well, look at the photos of Amanda America Dickson and her mother, Julia. They look like Creek Indians.

      Reply
      • theeps1@hotmail.com'

        Thank you holsey & Mr. Thornton for your reply content above . . . I’ve quite similar ancestry there through my paternal GF

        Edward Plummer

        Reply
  2. jesstowns@gmail.com'

    You keep finding more and more stuff in that mound of suppressed history in the Southeast. And I hope you collect these stories of your run ins with the Gestapo flunkies into a book. The scene at the Historical Society in today’s chapter is a must include.

    One side benefit for me of your accounts is that you’re giving me a better idea of what I was up against when I was in North and South Carolina last year and asked for permission to see the Topper site and the Native American artifacts collections at both UNC Chapel Hill and USC Columbia. I was denied access to all of them. The only sign of hope was when someone at Archroma, the company that owns the land where Topper is, said he’d try to get me on the list for this year. Can’t say I’m too surprised that I haven’t heard a thing from anyone about it since. It seemed a bit suspicious that there were so few public exhibits of ancient Native American artifacts down there.

    Reply
    • You hit the nail on the head. One would think that the Topper artifacts would be on display with pride at the South Carolina State Capitol. Instead, they are being concealed for only those of the select elite to see.

      Reply
  3. cyndikinsj@hotmail.com'

    Sounds like the forebears of the Melungeons. My family is SW Virginia and I have the “Creek knot”.

    Reply
    • I think you are right Cynthia, but academicians refuse to either study these populations or even recognize their existence for fear of offending the Cherokees. You see the Cherokee’s claim now of being in the Lower Southeast for 10,000 years makes the study of the people, who really were here, an act of heresy.

      Reply
  4. urisahatu@yahoo.com'

    Very interesting post. The fact that many people of different origins lived near or with eachother is probably the basis for Sequoyah’s (George Gist) syllabary.
    It is believed that Sequoyah was a mixed African who created a script syllabary that was similar to scripts/syllabaries used in the Caucasus region.
    When Armenian ;who were originally from the Caucasus; and African communities lived near or next to eachother it would be indirect proof that Sequoyah / George Gist was probably a descendant of mixed Armenian and African perhaps also Native American.

    Reply
    • Now that is an interesting thought that no one else has considered. Really! There were a lot of different ethnicities relatively close together in the region that would be later assigned to the Cherokees.

      Reply
      • urisahatu@yahoo.com'

        Again, Thanks to your information others are able to connect the dots.
        The region that would be later assigned to the Cherokees would also explain why many Cherokees show up having Caucasian, Anatolian and Jewish (Middle Eastern?) DNA.
        With that in mind virtually everything is falling into place when it comes to the Cherokee mystery.

        1. Cherokee migration stories say they came via the Great Lakes Region; on early Colonial French and Dutch map the Cherokees are in the Great Lakes Region = Check
        2. Cherokees show up with Caucasian, Anatolian, Jewish (Middle Eastern) DNA because of the many different ethnicities in a region that would be assinged to the Cherokees = Check
        3. Cherokees used a syllabary script similar to syllabary scripts in the Caucasus which they adopted from the Caucasian (Armenians etc.) settlers = Check

        Reply
  5. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, Yes history is still a mystery of the South’s different peoples in the 20th century. A Viking saga identifies African looking peoples in boats rowing by one of their settlements (that received no snow for a winter) Carolina ? “Tuska” is a Creek word meaning dark?

    Reply
    • Please tell me your source on that one! Verrazano recorded two towns with Scandinavian names on the section of the South Atlantic Coast where there were many barrier islands. That would either be the Georgia Coast of the lower South Carolina coast.

      Reply
      • markveale@hotmail.com'

        https://books.google.com/books?id=J1JTAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA64#v=onepage&q&f=false (Page 95) in this book

        The Vikings had sailed far south of Vinland to a (very shallow lake?) that a river poured into by the Sea. They might have found the Okefenokee swamp lake that used to be much bigger than todays. Or maybe one mistranslated word and the description would fit well for North Carolina’s Pamlico sound and it’s sandy beaches. African’s were seen by the Vikings in this saga.

        Reply
        • Vin or Ven is the archaic Swedish-Danish word for grass or pasture. That’s how Ven Island, Sweden got its name. I have always been convinced that Vinland got its name from the Vikings seeing the coastal tidal marshes of the South Atlantic Coast.

          Reply
  6. urisahatu@yahoo.com'

    Mark and Richard T., The book “The Discovery Of America By The Northmen, In the Tenth Century, With Notices Of The Early Settlements Of The Irish In The Western Hemisphere” (1841) by North Ludlow Beamish is very interesting since it also mentions Irish settlers prior to the Northmen (Vikings).
    On page 95; The so-called black people could have been native Americans with darker skin complexion compared to the Vikings. It is common for people with light skin complexion to call people with dark skin complextion “black” people.

    That’s where one should be careful not to classify every dark skinned (black) people readily as African.

    The Inuit were (some still are) present in Greenland and north eastern Canada/America by the time the Vikings reached The Americas; compared to the Vikings the Inuit have dark skin. You can imagine native Americans further south having even darker skin than Inuits.
    Furthermore, In the current post it mentions an African town from the 17th century long after the Vikin saga; probably a settlement of post Columbian migrants be it slaves or freemen from Africa.

    Having said that, it’s good research material that you’ve provided. Keep doing research and provide POOF members/readers with more information.

    Reply
    • Would you believe that the first history of the State of Georgia by William Bacon Stevens starts out by saying that early settlers in Georgia encountered Gaelic speaking “Indians” with light complexions near Savannah? However, the descriptions of Africans I quoted were in the late 1600s and 1700s. They came after Columbus.

      Reply
      • abdulkarem3@gmail.com'

        “However, the descriptions of Africans I quoted were in the late 1600s and 1700s. They came after Columbus.”
        how can you make that assumption that those towns that were fortified in the area as witnessed by the very “indians” themselves, were post-Columbus?

        Reply
        • I didn’t make any assumptions. I merely quoted from the report made by the eyewitnesses in 1673.

          Reply
  7. urisahatu@yahoo.com'

    The Gaelic speaking “indians” with light complexions are also a mystery. Perhaps they were from the same migration wave or at least in the same time period as the so-called “black” Irish which were/are most likely the Uchees.

    In the case of possible pre-Columbian Africans in the Americas:

    If there ever was a pre-Columbian African presence in the Americas it would be the descendants (survivors) of the Abu Bakr II also known as Abubakari Expedition.
    It is believed that Abu Bakr II / Abubakari II was a “mansa” / sultan of the Mali empire which existed from circa 1230 to 1670 AD. Mali is a country in west Africa.
    Abu Bakr ordered an expedition (now known as the Abubakari expedition) to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean. The first expedition was a disaster with only one boat out of two hundred boats returning to Mali.
    The second expedition consisted of three thousand boats and Abu Bakr II joined the second expedition and sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean never to be heard from again.

    There is little known about the Abubakari expeditions however the expedition year was 1311 AD. Now that the expedition year is known one can clearly see that it’s far too late for the Mali-Africans to be the so-called black people the Vikings encountered in the early Viking Sagas.
    Vikings were already present in the Americas around 900-1000 AD which would mean that if Mali-Africans reached the Americas they were at least 300 years if not 400 years after the Vikings already settled the eastcoast of north America from a north to south direction.

    Source/Links:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lost_expeditions – (List of lost expeditions)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_II#Trans-Atlantic_travel – (Abu Bakr II – Trans Atlantic travel)

    Reply
  8. theeps1@hotmail.com'

    Mr. Thornton: Since discovery of my ancestral connections to AL/GA, I’ve become interested in the history of the area/region as never before . . . Your mention of the treatment of AFRICAN, JEWISH, SPANISH, PORTUGUESE AND ARMENIAN villagers is consistent with my suspicions in the area & is another reason for my great interest in genetic admixture studies as made accessible by 23andme & AncestryDNA . . . I hope we’ll soon have more in depth/proven information made available to us to better understand the ethnic admixture of the area/region so common to many of us

    Reply
    • First, let me say that there are highly credible monastic journals in France and Ireland, which describe the migration of Gaelic and Norse Christians from NW Europe to Witmansland on the other side of the Atlantic to escape persecution by the Inquisition. These Christians on the fringe of Europe followed the simpler, egalitarian practices of the original Christian church before Constantine. For that they were being tortured and burned at the stake. Also, the navigation map of the Verrazano Voyage shows two towns on the South Atlantic Coast that were Nordic names, Normanvilla and Longvilla. It seems quite plausible that survivors of the Greenland Colonies traveled to North America.

      On the other hand, many of the supposed Norse words in Native villages are highly questionable because the author, a professor in Michigan over a century ago, took Anglicized Native American place names and matched them to Scandinavian words. Jag taler svenska. Many of his supposed Scandinavian meanings just ain’t so, plus he was comparing them to Anglicized words. For example, he said that Muskogee was the Nordic word for a marsh. Well, the actual Native word is Mvskoke and it means “Medicine People.”

      Reply
      • jesstowns@gmail.com'

        Thanks Richard, that’s helpful. I’d like to read those French and Irish monastic journals. I’ve done some research into the Lindisfarne monastery, the Cathars, etc. so I know some of the history of those run ins with the Catholic/Roman church. First I’ve heard of that Verrazano map, I’ll also look into that. Guess I’m not too surprised that the proposals in that article related to linguistics don’t completely pan out.

        In case you haven’t already found this, here’s a guy with a youtube channel focusing on the Norse. This video on Norse tattoos has some interesting history and it gets into Norse symbology. I can’t vouch for how historically accurate it is, but it’s definitely interesting!

        Reply
        • Go online to “The Early History of Georgia” by William Bacon Stevens. His opening paragraphs have footnotes that will take you to the European references.

          Reply

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