Apalachee, Apalachicola, Appalachian . . . What your history teacher never told you
Part Five of the series:
Horse Manure in Your History Books
In the spring of 2013, Marilyn Rae, a highly educated Renaissance woman, who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, stumbled upon an engraving on the website of the Carter Brown Library at Brown University. It portrayed a Native American city, built of stone, in North Georgia! The long forgotten scene was created by Dutch printer, Arnout Leers in 1658 for the second edition of a book by a French ethnologist and Protestant minister, the Reverend Charles de Rochefort. The first edition of his book had been published anonymously in France the previous year, because until the French Revolution, it was illegal for Protestants to publish books in France. De Rochefort subsequently moved to Rotterdam to be permanently rid of religious persecution.
Rae thought that she had discovered an eyewitness description of the Track Rock Terrace Complex, which was then part of a controversy in Georgia. Today, we are fairly certain that it portrays the Nacoochee Valley in Northeast Georgia, because the image contains both a “sun temple” on a cone-shaped hill and a nearby Spanish trading post with a small mission attached.
Intrigued, Rae tracked down the book . . . , l’Histoire Naturelle et Morale des isles Antilles de l’Amérique. It had lain for many generations, gathering dust, in the “Fantasy and Utopia” bin of the Carter Brown Library. Some long-forgotten Ivy League professors had condemned the book to ignominy in the 1800s because two chapters of the book described an advanced indigenous civilization in the Georgia Highlands.
Knowing for a fact, that civilization couldn’t have possibly occurred in the backward South before Anglo-Saxons arrived, the entire book was labeled “fiction.” Little did these academicians realize that this book is still considered the premier reference on North America in the 1600s by European scholars.
The trail of evidence necessary to understand who the Apalachee and Apalachicola really were, will require a lengthy article . . . but it is very important information . . . and well worth the time of reading.
As it turned out, this book would be the key to unraveling many mysteries about the Southeast’s past that have baffled North American scholars for over 250 years. It helped explain who the Apalache were and intriguing details for where they came from.
Because Charles de Rochefort’s description of the immediate ancestors of the Creek Indians seemed so different than how the history books portray the Creeks in the late 1700s, I was also intrigued by the book, but assumed that much of it was fictional or at least exaggerated.
The two chapters about the Lower Southeast in the mid-1600s were thoroughly studied by Marilyn Rae, Michael Jacobs and me. One by one, the details that seemed preposterous to Ivy League professors long ago were “fact-checked” and found to be either true or probable. Currently, the only item that has not been verified is a 200 feet long, 20 feet high cavern, which De Rochefort said was used as a temple. Another dubious worship site . . . a temple overlooking a waterfalls with a second temple in a cave under the waterfalls . . . turned out to be none other than De Soto Falls in Mentone, AL on top of Lookout Mountain.
In the same approach that POOF used in analyzing the myth about the Battle of Taliwa, we will next take a step by step approach to chronologically list the key events that will help us understand the real history of the Apalachee, Apalachicola and Appalachian Mountains.
The final article on the Apalachee and Apalachicola will include a linguistic analysis of the words Apalache, Apalachicola, Appalachian, Palache, Palachicola and Chicora. This will be grounded in the cultural information furnished by René de Laudonnière, Commander of Fort Caroline (1564-1565) and the Rev. Charles de Rochefort in 1658.
Colonial Era archives and literature
1536 – Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
The first mention of the Apalache was the report made by one of the four survivors of the Pánfilo de Narváez Expedition (1528-1536). De Vaca stated that the Natives in the vicinity of Tampa Bay, Florida told him that the Apalache, living in the mountains about two weeks journey north of them had so much gold that the important buildings in their towns were covered with gold. Actually, as we will learn from the Rev. De Rochefort, this was true. Nevertheless, the story kicked off a century of fruitless search by Spanish for the “Seven Golden Cities of Civola” . . . somewhere in the hinterland of North America.
Note: The Wikipedia article on “Apalachee People,” inaccurately attributes events during the De Soto Expedition to the Narváez expedition.
1539 – Hernando de Soto Expedition
When the Spanish first explored Florida, the only region that was conducive to growing Indian corn was the Red Clay Hills east of the Apalachicola River. The first village that the Spaniards encountered in this region was named Apalachen. De Soto assumed that he had found the Province of Apalache, but never could find any evidence of gold deposits. From then on, the Spanish called these people Apalache, even they did not call themselves by that name. The significance of Apalachen will be explained under linguistics.
The people that de Soto encountered in northwest Florida were not living in the town sites with large mounds at this time. The capital of their province, Anihaica, was 5.33 miles southeast of Lake Jackson Mounds, which archaeologists believe was abandoned around 1500 AD. It is quite possible that a smallpox plague had decimated the population of the original capital.
Note: Anihaica is labeled a “Southern Muskogean word of unknown meaning” by Florida anthropologists. Actually, its meaning is known by the People of One Fire. It is a Southern Arawak word from Peru and means, “Elite – Place of.”
In late February of 1540, as De Soto was departing the Florida Panhandle, he asked the locals where he could find gold. They told him that two week journey northward was the King of Yupaha. That province had plenty of gold. Yupaha appears to be the words Yupa Ahau or Yupa Lord. It is not clear where this lord lived in 1540, but the ethnic name survived among the 18th century Creeks as the Upataw (Upitoi) People. The chroniclers of DeSoto never mentioned Yupaha or Apalache again.
When the De Soto Expedition reached the southern edge of the Kingdom of Apalache at the towns of Tama and Okvte (Ocute in Spanish), it was encouraged to turn eastward by talks of a wealthy province in what is now eastern South Carolina. Otherwise, the conquistadors would have headed straight toward the heart of Apalache.
A sketched map prepared in 1544 that accompanied the final report on the De Soto Expedition to the King of Spain does not mention either Apalachen in Florida or the Apalache People in the Highlands. The first map to mention the Apalache was drawn by Spanish Royal Cartographer, Diego Guttierez, in 1562. It is shown above. The province is called Apalchen and placed far beyond the first range of mountains in the Southeast . . . appearing to be somewhere around Tennessee or Kentucky. Civola (Seven Cities of Cibola) is in the Southern Piedmont. There is no mention of an Apalache People in Florida. This map seems to be based on information obtained by the Narvaez Expedition with some of the towns and villages mentioned by De Soto’s chroniclers in arbitrary locations.
1562-1565 – René de Laudonnière
The commander of Fort Caroline wrote that he dispatched six small expeditions in a northwestward direction up the May (Altamaha) River to establish trade contacts with powerful provinces in the Piedmont and Mountains of Georgia. At least one expedition, led by La Roche Ferrière visited for a period of time with the Apalache in the Georgia Mountains. They were friendly and interested in establishing a trade partnership with the French. Ferrière confirmed that the Apalache had access to large deposits of gold. They fabricated the gold into foil and chains for trade with other provinces. However, their greatest wealth came from the export of a particular type of greenstone, which occurs in the Georgia Gold Belt. The greenstone was considered the best material for wedges and axes. Apalache greenstone was traded all over eastern North America.
De Laudonnière was so impressed with the report brought back from the Kingdom of Apalache that he planned to build the capital of New France at the headwaters of freight canoe transportation on the May River. The location was about two days walk from the Apalache centers of gold mining activity around present day Dahlonega and Helen, GA. The French considered the Oconee River to be a continuation of the May River. The campus of the University of Georgia is located where the capital of New France was planned. Obviously, the geography of the May River bears no resemblance to that of the St. Johns River in Florida, where a 1/12th scale reproduction of Fort Caroline is now located.
The Thamagoa (Tamakoa), who lived upstream from Fort Caroline about 20 miles on the May River, were living in Jackson County, GA on the Middle Oconee River in the 1700s. By then, they had joined the Creek Confederacy. This is more proof that Fort Caroline was in Georgia. Ironically, Tamakoa is the origin of the ethnic name Timucua, which the Spanish gave to all tribes in Northeast Florida.
1565 – Evolving names of the Appalachian Mountains
In his memoirs, René de Laudonnière took credit for naming the mountains of present day Georgia after the Apalache. Resident Fort Caroline artist, Jacques Le Moyne, painted a water color map of Florida Française, which labeled this range Montes Apalatci. A section of the painting is presented above. The town name, Appalou, in the bottom center, is the Europeanization of the the Native word, Aparu, which means “From Peru” in several Peruvian languages. In 1618, French cartographer, Marc Le Carbot, labeled the Georgia Mountains by their French name, Montangnes Palasi.
A French map from 1620 labeled the range, Monts Apalatay, ou Palan. The place name Palan is very important, because, as will be described in Linguistics, it provides grammatical evidence. The 1657 map of Florida Française by Nicholas Sanson labels these mountains, Apalachi Montes, and correctly labels the indigenous people, south of them, Apalache. It makes not mention of the Apalache in Florida, but rather shows the names of a few major villages.
The 1684 Carte du Louisianne by Jean Baptiste Franquelin did not even name the mountains, but includes detailed cartographic and ethnological descriptions of the Chattahoochee and Upper Tennessee Rivers. The Apalache are shown to live in Northeast Georgia, while the Apica Creeks occupy the headwaters of the Chattahoochee.
The 1688 Vincencio Coronelli Map of the Southeast labeled these mountains,”Montes Apalatay o Apalatchi o Palassi. He also spelled the ethnic name, Apalache, and clearly places them within the Georgia Mountains.
The 1693 Map of North America by Robert Morden was the last English language map to mention the Apalache People, but he did not label the mountains. A town in the Nacoochee Valley, roughly where the Kenimer Mound sits, was labeled, Apalache.
An earlier Morden map labeled Northeast Georgia, Domus Regae, which in Latin means “House of the King.” The last High King of Apalache was named Mahdo (Mvto in Muskogee). His name has become the word for “thank you” in modern Creek.
The 1701 map of La Louisiane by Guillaume De Lisle also does not label the mountains, but placed the Apalates (using the Itza Maya suffix for people) farther south in Northeast Georgia than earlier maps.
The 1715 map of the Lower Southeast by John Beresford was the first British Colonial document to specifically mention the Cherokee People. Their main location was then in the northeast corner of Tennessee. All earlier claims by Cherokee histories are based on ignorance by the authors of the Creek languages and cultural history. It labeled North Georgia, “the Appalachee Mountains.”
De Lisle’s 1717 map of La Louisiane is the first European map to mention the Cherokees (Charaquis). He placed the Apalachicolas in North Georgia along the Etowah and Chattahoochee Rivers. He included a note, which stated that “the people called the Conchaqui’s by the French, were called the Apalachicola by the Spanish.”
The 1721 map of South Carolina by Colonel John Barnwell, was the first to provide detailed information on the locations and names of the branches of the Creek Confederacy. Over North Georgia, it contains this statement: “A Ridge of High Mountains Reaching to the Charokees, called by the Spaniards, the Apalachean Mountains.” (Actually, the Spanish word was Apalachen.) For many decades that name would only apply to the mountains in Georgia. It is significant that Cherokee territory began, where the Apalachean Mountains ended. . . roughly the North Carolina line. Nevertheless, from 1721 onward the North Georgia Mountains were called the Appalachian Mountains. After the Cherokees were forcibly removed from the Southern Highlands, this geographic label was gradually extended northward to include all the mountains, except the Adirondacks, from Alabama to Quebec and Newfoundland in Canada.
Guess what? Apalachen is the plural of Apalache in the Panoan languages of Eastern Peru.
1565 – Melilot
Ten members of the Fort Caroline colony were away on trading expeditions when the fort was massacred by the Spanish. They were invited to take refuge in the Kingdom of Apalache, but only six survived the journey to the mountains, because the Spanish had placed a bounty on their heads. These six married Apalache women and founded the French Protestant-Sephardic Jewish colony of Melliot in late 1565. Through the decades that followed, they were joined by hundreds, if not thousands of European Protestant and Jewish refugees. The region became known to European Jews as New Jerusalem. Melilot and Apalache remained on European maps until 1707.
1567-1568 – Juan Pardo Expedition
Juan dela Bandera, the notary for Pardo, made no mention of Apalache in his journal. However, the expedition did pass through towns such as Nokose and Cauche, which were within the boundaries of the Apalache Kingdom.
1568-1584 – Trade between Apalache and Spanish Colony of Santa Elena
According to sworn depositions, obtained by English scholar, Richard Hakluyt in 1587, covert trade occurred between the Spanish colony of Santa Elena and the Apalache. Usually, the Spanish were not allowed to enter the higher mountains where the Itsate lived and traded only with the Apalalache in the vicinity of the Nacoochee Valley and Dahlonega, GA.
1599-1610 – Blocked Spanish expeditions
The governor of Spanish Florida heard repeated rumors of non-Spanish Europeans living in what is now North Georgia. The most alarming story was that a large company of white men were riding back and forth across the countryside. Four small military expeditions were sent up the Altamaha River to investigate these rumors. All four were told if they continued northward or westward, they would be killed. Either direction would have taken them into the Kingdom of Apalache.
1633-1638 – Establishment of missions among the Florida Apalachee
Florida Governor Luis de Horruytiner sponsored two Franciscan missionaries to convert the Florida Apalachee to Catholicism. This governor also negotiated a peace treaty between the Florida Apalache, Apalachicola, Chatot and Amacano Peoples. This is one of the earliest, if not the earliest mention of the Apalachicolas. There is no mention of the Apalachicola on 16th century maps of the Southeast.
1645-1715 – Locations of the Spanish Apalache and the Apalachicola
During the 1600s, the people that the Spanish labeled “Apalache” lived on BOTH SIDES of the Apalachicola River AND along the Chattahoochee River in deep southwestern Georgia. The Apalachicola lived in the vicinity of present day Columbus, GA and Phenix City, AL until their towns were attacked and burned by the Spanish in 1645. They then moved northward into the West Georgia Piedmont and Etowah River Valley of Northwest Georgia. By the late 1600s, Muskogee-speaking towns had taken their place in the Columbus, GA area. This confirms De Rochefort’s statement that the Apalache preferred to live near shoals, rapids and water falls . . . “white water.” The Chatot occupied the Choctawhatchee River Basin in Alabama and Florida.
So the belief by 20th century ethnologists that the Apalachicola were “the people on the other side of the river” as stated in almost all contemporary references is totally erroneous. Apalachicola towns would not show up on the Apalachicola River in Florida until after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, when Great Britain took control of Florida. However, the Muskogee-speaking towns would always be located near the shoals at Columbus, GA. A close examination of 18th century maps revealed that all of the towns south of the Columbus Area were occupied by ethnic groups, who had moved there from the Georgia Coastal Plain or the Savannah River. They were members of the Creek Confederacy in the 1700s, but were not ethnic Muskogeans.
1646 – Spanish trading post in the Nacoochee Valley
Florida Governor Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla established a fortified trading post in the Nacoochee Valley on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. That same year, English Royalist Edward Bland, ended his five year exile in Spain by first traveling to Virginia then immediately heading southward to the Southern Appalachians. Presumably, he went to the Nacoochee Valley, since he had been heavily involved with international trade, while in Spain.
1653 – Richard Briggstock
Briggstock was a Royalist planter in Barbados and first cousin of Edward Bland, who spent an extensive period of time in the Kingdom of Apalache. He provided an extensive description of the indigenous people in Georgia to ethnologist Charles de Rochefort. At the time, Barbados was under attack by a fleet from the English Commonwealth. Briggstock was considering the relocation of Royalist families to Mellilot or establishing another European colony elsewhere in the Kingdom of Apalache.
After touring most of North Georgia, plus the De Soto Falls temples on Lookout Mountain in Alabama and Spanish-speaking gem miners in the Franklin, NC area, Briggstock decided to move to Virginia instead. The Kingdom of Apalache did not allow slavery and considered all Europeans to be subjects of their High King, whose title was Paracusiti. The Briggstocks moved to Virginia around 1658 and eventually became, along with the Blands, members of its aristocracy.
1658 – Charles de Rochefort
The second edition of De Rochefort’s book, l’Histoire Naturelle et Morale des isles Antilles de l’Amérique, contained two chapters on what is now the State of Georgia. The first chapter describes Briggstock’s experiences in the Kingdom of Apalache. De Rochefort included the ethnic groups, history, religion, cultural traditions, architecture and geography of present day Georgia in detail. De Rochefort’s also provided information on how the Apalache elite and commoners constructed their buildings was not discovered by archaeologists until the late 20th century. These two chapters have to be based on actual eyewitness accounts.
The ancestors of the Apalache had come across the ocean from the south. They had first developed a distinct culture while living around a shallow lake formed by the Ocmulgee River. Over time, their capitals had been established further and further north. The Apalache Kingdom had originally stretched from southwestern Virginia to southwestern Georgia, but in 1653 was really more of a confederacy, in which the Paracusite or High King of Apalache functioned in a role similar to the Emperor of Japan.
The word, Paracusite, was quite odd. It had an Itza Maya suffix for people, te, but the rest of the word could not be translated by either a Creek or Itza Maya dictionary. This word, also seen in the memoirs of René de Laudonnière, was not mentioned when British colonists settled Savannah and made contact with the Creek Confederacy. It seemed to be the key to understanding, who the Apalache really were.
The elite and commoners lived in separate villages. This is also mentioned by the chroniclers of the De Soto Expedition, while they were traveling through Georgia. The architecture and clothing of the commoners was identical to that of the Creeks when Georgia was founded in 1733. The clothing of the elite was very similar to traditional Seminole and Miccosukee clothing, but virtually identical to that worn by the Panoan peoples of Eastern Peru to this day. A signature feature of the Panoan Peoples until very recently was a conical straw hat. The engravings in De Rochefort’s book showed the Apalache elite wearing the same style hat.
Note: Because no museum or anthropological book in the Southeastern United States ever portrayed a Native American wearing a conical straw hat, Marilyn Rae and I assumed that the engraver of De Rochefort’s book had unilaterally decided to portray them with these odd hats. However, closer examination of indigenous art within the interior of the Southeast portrayed several examples of Natives wearing conical straw hats, but they had been completely ignored by anthropologists and museum exhibit designers.
The elite architecture was quite different, however. The elite lived in large round houses on the tops and sides of hills and mountains. Their temples were on hill tops or the sides of mountains. Apparently, many of the temples were built of field stone and plastered with clay.
One detail of Apalache architecture has never been discerned by archaeologists. The Apalache coated the clay plaster of their important public buildings with gold colored mica. They considered mica to be a form of gold. The mica strengthened the clay plaster and protected it from the elements. It also made the buildings glisten like gold. This is the source of the “Seven Cities of Gold” legend.
Florida Apalachee: De Rochefort specifically stated that Apalache was not the real name of the people in northwest Florida that the Spanish called Apalache. The true Apalache established colonies on the Gulf Coast and constructed a road to interconnect the highest mountains (Great Smokies) and principal Apalache towns in the Lower Mountains with the colony. This road was called the Great White Path and is now US Highway 129.
The Apalache, living in the colony called themselves, Tula-Halwesi, which means “Descendants of Highland Towns.” This obviously is the origin of the word Tallahassee. Muskogee Creeks, entering Florida in the late 1700s, heard the word and thought it was Talwa-Hasi, which means “Town-old.” By that time, the ruins of Tula-Halwesi were indeed an Old Town.
De Rochefort stated that over time, the language of the colonists had blended with the language of another people living in the region . . . to the point that the Apalache and Tula-Halwesi could not understand each other’s language. However, the Highland Apalache and the Tula-Halwasi had remained friends and trading partners.
Apalache towns and cultural traditions: The elite of the Apalache lived in separate towns than the commoners. The elite spoke a different language that the commoners. In fact, the commoners spoke several languages and originally practice several religions. The Apalache state religion, based on the worship of a single, invisible sun goddess, Amana, who created all things, was what tied all the multiple ethnic groups in their kingdom together. Once a year a special festival honoring Amana would be held for several days. It marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Of course, this is the Green Corn Festival. The religion stressed love for all humans, unless they proved themselves to be killers, pagans and predators . . . like the despised Cofitachete (Descendants of Mixed Races – People).
There were no human or animal sacrifices. In fact, the intentional shedding of any blood within two miles of a temple or sacred site was a very serious crime. The only form of sacrifice was that the elite were expected to place one of their brightly colored garments and special foods on the stone altars of temples during certain holidays. These donations were then distributed by the priests to the commoners.
Note: It is well documented that even in the late 1700s, hunting was forbidden within two miles of a Creek temple or sacred site.
De Rochefort stated that the Apalache People had developed their cultural identity, while living in a cluster of villages along the shores of Lake Tama. Lake Tama has now shrunk to being the Little Ocmulgee River swamp in Middle Georgia. Since that time their capitals had been located steadily northward until they occupied the lower mountains. The Apalache had traditionally considered the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains to be unhealthy places to live. All of their original major towns were located on the shoals of rivers or next to waterfalls, where it was thought that the water was purer.
Note: Since 2014, I have been analyzing all known Native American town and village sites in the Creek Motherland for a private sector client. Consistently, all town sites from the Woodland and Early Mississippian Periods, considered ancestral to the Creek Indians, are located on shoals or next to waterfalls.
Apalachicola: De Rochefort stated that in recent years, some Apalache had migrated down into what we call the Chattahoochee River Basin of Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama, until their new towns were directly adjacent to the people, which the Spanish called Apalache. The original inhabitants of this region had either died off or abandoned it. As will be explained later in the linguistics section, Apalachicola merely means “Apalache People” in the language of the Apalache elite.
Melilot: A later French language edition of De Rochefort’s book included a letter from Edward Graeves, one of the directors of the European colony at Melilot. The long letter was dated January 6, 1660. It very accurately described the flora and fauna of North Georgia, which then included large herds of both bison and elk. The mentioning of bison being in Georgia was one of the reasons that New England academicians dissed De Rochefort’s book. Georgia’s bison suddenly disappeared around 1752, probably due to a European cattle disease and over-hunting.
1735 – Creek migration legends
Upon the settlement of Savannah in 1733, Thomas Christie, first Colonial Secretary of the Province of Georgia, took a sincere interest in the culture of the Creek People. The colonists quickly realized that they were monotheists and much more culturally advanced that Native peoples, encountered farther north by the British. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Wake, wanted to establish missions among the Creeks and publish a Bible in the Creek language. At this time, the British did not realize that there were several Creek languages.
Christie interviewed numerous Creek leaders and elders to assemble a description of the Creek’s history, migration legends and religious practices. It was then that he realized that they were an assimilation of several ethnic groups, who had originated in various parts of the Americas. He gave particular attention to the multiple migration legends. The Palachicola said that they came by water from the south and that their first town and capital was where Savannah now was situated. They even pointed out the burial mound of their first emperor. The Upper Creeks said that they came from the mountains of Mexico. The Itsate (Itza Maya ~ Hitchiti) Creeks said that they came by water from the south, but first settled in southern Florida, before settling in the mountains and Macon Area in Georgia. The Uchee said that they came to the coast of Georgia from across the Atlantic and that there was no one living in the Lower Southeast, when they arrived.
On June 7, 1735 the High King of the Creek Confederacy, Chikili, presented a bison velum on which was written in the Apalache writing system, the history of the Kashite branch of the Creek Confederacy. He then read the velum and his words were translated by Mary Musgrove. Afterward he gave a short speech which described some of the general history of other branches of the Creek Confederacy and offered permanent friendship with the Province of Georgia.
Supervising Trustee, James Edward Oglethorpe, immediately realized that the bison velum and accompanying English translation were items of extreme significance. Here was an indigenous people, descended from ancient American civilizations that had a complete writing system. He directed Christie to immediately dispatch the velum, English translation and other accumulated documents on the Creeks on the next ship, headed for England, in care of the Georgia Board of Trustees. They were to present the documents to King George II.
The Creek Migration Legends created quite a stir in London. Portions were published in newspapers. Then the location of the documents was lost for 285 years. I finally found the box, containing the documents, at Lambeth Palace in April 2015, with the extremely valuable help of Dr. Grahame Davies, Asst. Private Secretary for HRH Prince Charles.
In Part Six of this series, the People of One Fire will examine what Creek cultural history tells us about the Apalache and Apalachicola Peoples, plus summarize what the archaeologists of the River Basin Survey found in Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.
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