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European Colonization of the Georgia Mountains

16th & 17th century European Colonization in the Georgia Mountains

Several POOF members wrote this past weekend to ask if the Bohuran Tribe in northern Georgia was descended from the Sephardic gold miners that also became ancestors to some of the Cherokees in North Carolina that were discussed in the previous Brainfood1. The answer is that probably, at least some of them were descended from late 16th century or 17th century Sephardic gold miners in the Georgia Mountains. The existence of the Bohurans was completely overlooked by 20th century scholars. It is going to take a team with an independent source of income or a research grant to devote a great amount of time in the colonial archives to develop any more definitive information on this enigmatic people. It should be added that the Georgia Gold Belt and Blue Ridge Mountains extend southwestward into eastern Alabama. There could have also been Spanish gold prospectors in Alabama.

One thing is very clear already, however. The colonial history of the Southern Highlands was very different than what one reads in the history books.

The current status is that some POOF members have put together intriguing historical and physical evidence of European colonization in the Georgia Mountains. We are looking for a team of professional archaeologists and historians (with no symptoms of being brain dead) to carry out a long overdue study of this region. Brainfood has added 283 readers since the February 2013 introductory article on the Bohurans. We are providing everybody with an update on what is now known, four months later.

Background on the Bohurans

While doing paid research on the Native American history of Northeast Georgia in January of 2013, I stumbled across extensive references to an “Indian” tribe that Anglo-American settlers called the Bohuran, Bouran, Bouharon or Bouharen. French colonial maps in the 1700s call them the Bemarin. I can find absolutely no mention of them in major Georgia history reference books, but they definitely existed. Most of the initial information came from “The Early History of Jackson County, GA by G. J. N. Wilson (published 1818) or from brief French colonial sources.

The Bohuran Tribe was a group of Portuguese or Spanish-speaking mestizo people with European names, who occupied a province in northeastern Georgia until the American Revolution. At the time of contact with English settlers from South Carolina, the Bohurans lived in the Blue Ridge Foothills, immediately south of the Nacoochee Valley – between the headwaters of the Oconee River and the Chattahoochee River. Their province composed present day Banks, southern White and eastern/northern Hall Counties along the tributaries of the Oconee River.

The Bohuran territory was at the southern edge of the region where on earlier maps were shown the Apalache Indians. The Apalache were mentioned in the chronicles of the de Soto and de Laundonniére Expeditions and shown on all European maps until 1717. We will get back to the Bohurans and Mountain Apalache later in this article.

The Northeast Georgia survey also revealed the existence of several oval stone mounds, stone terrace complexes, stone cairn complexes, the ruins of very old rectangular buildings and at least one mountaintop stone circle in Habersham County (Aleck Mountain) that is identical in shape, size and layout to a stone circle in Randolph County, Alabama. The largest stone terrace complex is only six miles north of the University of Georgia, but has never been studied by its Anthropology Department.

The local resident, who tipped me off about these stone structures had first asked the UGA Anthropology Department to check out the Sandy Creek Complex, but was refused. The southern portion of the complex is on county-owned land. Private land owners are interested in having archaeologists study the ruins on their lands. However, the professors stated that they did not want to appear to be supporting the “Mayas in Georgia thing” by making a 10 minute drive to the site and looking at the walls.

Being a scientific Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, I cannot say who built the structures. The stone structures are obviously very old, but without geological analysis, infrared analysis, ground radar, radiocarbon dating and some test pits, it is absolutely impossible to say who built them and when. On a terrace where the ruins of rectangular stone walls survive, I did find several very old deposits of clinkers that were the waste of metal smelting. There was copper oxide and zinc oxide in the waste, but no iron oxide.

Native American artifacts are abundant along Sandy Creek in Jackson and Clarke Counties. Local property owners showed me their collections. A few of the shards appeared to be Woodstock Check Stamp or Napier Diamond Stamp, but most were Plain Redware and what appeared to be Mississippian styles. The collectors had also found oxidized iron tools in their plowed fields. The knives, axes and adzes were so badly corroded that their age was not immediately obvious.

I asked the collectors if they had found European pottery. All said yes, but they had thrown the shards away, thinking that they had no value. This is unfortunate because there are experts out there who can tell us specifically when a piece of European pottery was made and probably, where it was made.

The Bohurans could have been once been associated with at least part of the Sandy Creek structure complex. The site is at the southern end of the Lakoda Trail that connected the Georgia Gold Fields with the head of canoe navigation on the Oconee River. We just don’t know.

Back to the Bohurans

Bohuran is a Breton family name from northwestern France. The word means “drum.” The Bretons fled to Gaul from Britannia when it was invade by Anglo-Saxons. The Irish Gaelic and Welsh words for “drum” are very similar. It is known that some of the exploration parties had not returned to Fort Caroline, when it was massacred in September 1565. One possible explanation of the name, Bohuran, is that a Fort Caroline survivor by that name established a mining camp in northeast Georgia. Over time, the camp could attracted a mixed bag assortment of Europeans and mixed-blood Indians.

Captain René de Laundonniére dispatched several small exploration parties from Fort Caroline, who paddled up the Altamaha River to the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers then went to the Appalachian Mountains. The location that interested de Laundonniére the most was the head of canoe navigation on the Oconee. From there the Lakoda Trail provided a two day walk to the Gainesville-Dahlonega, GA area where gold was abundant.

De Laundonniére planned to establish the Capital of New France on the terrace above this location. It was known as the Oconee Heights two centuries later. That is where the new State of Georgia established Franklin College, which became the University of Georgia. Almost all the 800 colonists designated for this capital died in hurricane or were killed by the Spanish in September 1565. How different the history of North America would have been if a powerful French Huguenot colony had been established in northeast Georgia. For one thing, it would have been Florida Françoise.

Thumagoa is the name of the “Creek” town, which later became the county seat of Jackson County, Jefferson, was Thumugoa. René de Laundonniére, (French Huguenot colonist 1562-1565) wrote that the Thumugoa lived upstream a bit on the Altamaha River from Fort Caroline. The Thamugoa were arch-enemies of the Natives on the Georgia coast. They worshiped the South American sun god, Hoya, and their high king used the Coastal Peruvian title of Parakusa.

The Spanish word for the Thumugoa was Timucoa. The Spanish called all the Indians in northeast Florida and lower-southeast Georgia, Timucua. Jefferson, GA is 221 miles upstream from where the Thumagoa lived in 1565. Nere, Nara and Narulin were names of Thumagoa girls living in Jackson County.

The governor of La Florida established a trading post at the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in 1645. It was created to promote peaceful relations with the Natives living in the Apalache Mountains. There is no record of when the trading post was abandoned.

Along Nickajack Creek in Smyrna, GA (Cobb County) there are inscriptions on boulders which appear to be Spanish mine claims or a map to mines. The inscriptions consist of Christian symbols, symbols typically used by Spanish explorers in Mexico and Muskogean clan symbols, such as an alligator.

Around 1695 a British army exploration party on horseback reached the edge of the Nacoochee Valley in NE Georgia. They noticed many smoke plumes rising from the valley and what appeared to be wooden houses. Their Native American guides told them that the smoke was from the smelters of Spanish gold miners, who occupied the valley. In 1828 gold miners working for Senator John C. Calhoun found the ruins of a European settlement on Dukes Creek in the Nacoochee Valley. Many 16th or 17th century Spanish artifacts were found in association with the ruins of houses.

In mid-1700s, the Apalache were living on the Apalachee River in Gwinnett, Walton, Morgan and Putnam Counties – while the Bohuran were to their northeast. By this time, the Kiale Creeks (Keowee) had abandoned their mother town on the Oconee River, where Watkinsville now sits, and moved to the middle Chattahoochee River Basin. In Oklahoma they are now known as the Kialegee Tribal Town.

Talasee Creek villages moved from the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains to the Athens area in the early 1700s. Talasee is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek word Tula-se. Tulase means “offspring of Tula.” Tula was the original Itza Maya name of Etowah Mounds. It was probably also the real name of Teotihuacan. Of course, we don’t want any of you to get caught up in the “Mayas in Georgia thing” so please ignore those facts.

In 1770 a war was fought between the Bohuran and the Tallasee Creeks. The Talasee Creeks won and the Bohuran were absorbed into the Creek Confederacy.
Wilson called the Bohurans, “Cherokees,” but also said that they were long time allies of the Spanish, while the Talasee were long-time allies of the British. He said that the Cherokees and Creeks were fighting in proxy for their European masters.

Wilson’s description of the Bohuran’s ethnicity does not make sense. All history books state that both the Creeks and the Cherokees were allies of Great Britain in its wars with Spain. The area where the Bohurans lived was in the territory of the Creek Nation until 1818. The Spanish had already been evicted from Florida in 1763. Why would a tribe in the Blue Ridge Foothills continue to fight for Spain seven year later?

So why would early settlers in northeast Georgia call a Spanish speaking tribe, Cherokees? Did all of the “Cherokees” of the North Carolina Mountains also originally speak Spanish? The DNA results coming out of the Cherokee Reservation show that at least that population was primarily descended from colonists originating in the Middle East.

Wilson provided the names of several Bohuran leaders and their wives or daughters. Several of the names are clearly Portuguese, Spanish or Basque. The principal chief was Amercedes (Portuguese.) One sub-chief’s name was Juanico (Portuguese or Basque.) One woman’s name was Elena (Hispanic.) The other Buhoron names mentioned are not of any obvious ethnic origin, but may be Sephardic Basque or Breton. The other names include Nyxster, Radoarta, Arharra, Shulamuzaw, Lapsidali (woman,) Banna (woman,) Elancydine (woman,) and Eltrovadine (woman.) Another name is Trova, which is a Spanish word, but this may be coincidental.

The personal names that seemed to come closest to the words above are from the histories of the ancient Etruscans and Carthaginians. Could they have belonged to one of the obscure 15+ regional languages that modern Spanish replaced during the past 200 years?

Surely there are some intellectually curious historians and archaeologists out there, who want to tread where no man has tread before. This is a chance to re-write a major chapter in North American history.

America does have a secret history

  1. See: Mysterious Bohuron Tribe in Northeast Georgia 

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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.



    I live in Dublin GA. Oconee River runs through my town. We have mounds here in my county just off the river. Its locked down so I have never seen them. Think I will try this week. Maya in GA fascinates me!


      Actually the “Bohuran” people were Chickasaws. They were invited into the “No Man’s Land” between the Cherokees and the Creeks and stayed for some number of years. One of their villages was in Sautee valley and the Cherokees had a town at the eastern end of Nacoochee Valley at the same time. It turned out that the Chickasaws were able to establish peaceful relations with both the Cherokees and the Creeks. Yes, they emigrated back to the traditional Chickasaw homeland by 1770.
      I have on idea as to intermarriage between any native people and the Spanish gold miners.
      One further point: Your Spanish Fort in Nacoochee Valley could have been the fortified Cherokee town during the Cherokee-Creek Wars. The location is right.

      • Chickasaws . . . that’s interesting. The Chickasaws in Georgia were members of the Creek Confederacy . . . so that would explain while the people in Jackson County called them Creeks. Most Creeks in Georgia were not Muskogees.

      • It has bastions on it and is triangular. That’s not Cherokee. At the time it was built, the Chattahoochee River formed a horseshoe bend there. I can see with infrared imagery.


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