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Explorer of Carolina Upcountry in 1700 did not mention Cherokees

Explorer of Carolina Upcountry in 1700 did not mention Cherokees


Hey Richard

Do you have this book?      Did Lawson mention the Cherokees when exploring South Carolina?      Ric (Edwards)

*Ric Edwards was a co-founder of POOF and came up with the organization’s name.


John Lawson’s Exploration of South and North Carolina in 1700

Short Answer:  No, John Lawson explored much of the Blue Ridge Foothills of South Carolina and North Carolina, but he never encountered a Native American tribe that he called any word similar to Cherokee. In fact, he never mentioned the word Cherokee or Charokey in his book. Surprisingly, he did encounter a province of a Creek tribe, a branch of the Oconee, whose mother town was in present day Watkinsville, GA (immediately south of Athens).  At this time, they also occupied Kiawah Island, SC.  Earlier, they had occupied the site of Charleston, SC.  The site of the Kiawah Mother Town in Watkinsville is still visible and contains at least three large mounds. Their direct descendants in Oklahoma are members of the Kialegee Creek Tribal Town.

The Kiawah Creeks were described exactly as De Soto had described their ancestors on the Oconee River in March 1540.  They were extremely tall.  The men wore mustaches and turbans.  Both men and women wore brightly colored clothing.  By 1700, however, they had forgotten how to weave cloth and work metal.  They were completely dependent on the British for cloth and metal tools.

The neighbors of the Kiawah Creeks in the Blue Ridge Foothills of Southern Carolina were the Saponi.   The Saponi are not even mentioned as a South Carolina tribe, as they are commonly thought to only have lived in south-central Virginia and north-central North Carolina. 

This is a pattern, which Lawson observed throughout the interior of South Carolina.  He wrote that virtually every village he visited spoke a language different than its neighbors.  Most of the villages had formerly been large towns, but had suffered apocalyptic population losses from plagues after South Carolina was colonized by the British in the 1670s. 

Although this region is now labeled (Catawba-Siouan) by anthropologists, Lawson found the Muskogean (Creek) villages numerous and significantly more sophisticated than villages speaking other languages.  This confirms our discovery that the Catawba were one and the same as the Katapa Creeks on the Upper Chattahoochee River in Georgia.  The fact that the Catawba in South Carolina now speak a Siouan tongue is due to the fact that their Muskogean elite ceased to exist due to emigration, diseases, wars and slave raids.

Lawson’s Route

While in his early 20s John Lawson set off on an adventure in the Colony of Carolina.   There was no separate provinces of North or South Carolina at the time.  He sailed from London to Charleston then took passage to the mouth of the Santee River.  From there, with two or more guides, he paddled up the Santee River to its source in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  He then turned northeastward and followed the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains until eventually turning eastward into the North Carolina Piedmont.   In North Carolina,  Lawson mainly encountered Uchee and Siouan Villages.  

Below is the excerpt from his book, when he is staying with the Kiawah Creeks.


Next day, we had 15 Miles farther to the Keyauwees. The Land is more mountainous, but extremely pleasant, and an excellent Place for the breeding Sheep, Goats, and Horses; or Mules, if the English were once brought to the Experience of the Usefulness of those Creatures. The Valleys are here very rich. At Noon, we pass’d over such another stony River, as that eight Miles from Sapona. This is call’d Heighwaree, and affords as good blue Stone for Mill-Stones, as that from Cologn, good Rags, some Hones, and large Pebbles, in great abundance, besides Free-Stone of several Sorts, all very useful. I knew one of these Hones made use of by an Acquaintance of mine, and it prov’d rather better than any from Old Spain, or elsewhere. The Veins of Marble are very large and curious on this River, and the Banks thereof.

Five Miles from this River, to the N. W. stands the Keyauwees Town. They are fortify’d in, with wooden Puncheons, like Sapona, being a People much of the same Number. Nature hath so fortify’d this Town, with Mountains, that were it a Seat of War, it might easily be made impregnable; having large Corn-Fields joining to their Cabins, and a Savanna near the Town, at the Foot of these Mountains, that is capable of keeping some hundred Heads of Cattle. And all this environ’d round with very high Mountains, so that no hard Wind ever troubles these Inhabitants. Those high Clifts have no Grass growing on them, and very few Trees, which are very short, and stand at a great Distance one from another. The Earth is of a red Colour, and seems to me to be wholly design’d by Nature for the ‘Production of Minerals, being of too hot a Quality, to suffer any Verdure upon its Surface. These Indians make use of Lead-Ore, to paint their Faces withal, which they get in the neighbouring Mountains. As for the refining of Metals, the Indians are wholly ignorant of it, being content with the Realgar. But if it be my Chance, once more to visit these Hilly Parts, I shall make a longer Stay amongst them: For were a good Vein of Lead found out, and work’d by an ingenious Hand, it might be of no small Advantage to the Undertaker, there being great Convenience for smelting, either by Bellows or Reverberation; and the Working of these Mines might discover some that are much richer.

 At the Top of one of these Mountains, is a Cave that 100 Men may fit very conveniently to dine in; whether natural, or artificial, I could not learn. There is a fine Bole between this Place, and the Saps. These Valleys thus hemm’d in with Mountains, would (doubtless) prove a good place for propagating some sort of Fruits, that our Easterly Winds commonly blast. The Vine could not miss of thriving well here; but we of the Northern Climate are neither Artists, nor curious, in propagating that pleasant and Vegetable. Near the Town, is such another Current, as Heighwaree. We being fix in Company, divided ourselves into Two Parties; and it was my Lot to be at the House of Keyauwees Jack, who is King of that People. He is a Congeree-Indian, and ran away when he was a Boy. He got this Government by Marriage with the Queen; the Female Issue carrying the Heritage, for fear of Impostors; the Savages well knowing, how much Frailty possesses the Indian Women, betwixt the Garters and the Girdle.


The next day, having some occasion to write, the Indian King, who saw me, believ’d that he could write as well as I. Whereupon, I wrote a Word, and gave it him to copy, which he did with more Exactness, than any European could have done, that was illiterate. It was so well, that he who could read mine, might have done the same by his. Afterwards, he took great Delight in making Fish-hooks of his own Invention, which would have been a good Piece for an Antiquary to have puzzled his Brains withal, in tracing out the Characters of all the Oriental Tongues. He sent for several Indians to his Cabin, to look at his Handy-work, and both he and they thought, I could read his Writing as well as I could my own. I had a Manual in my Pocket, that had King David‘s Picture in it, in one of his private Retirements. The Indian ask’d me, Who that Figure represented? I told him, It was the Picture of a good King, that liv’d according to the Rules of Morality, doing to all as he would be done by, ordering all his Life to the Service of the Creator of all things; and being now above us all, in Heaven, with God Almighty, who had rewarded him with all the delightful Pleasures imaginable in the other World, for his Obedience to him in this; I concluded, with telling them, that we received nothing here below, as Food, Raiment, &c. but what came from that Omnipotent Being.

They listned to my Discourse with a profound Silence, assuring me, that they believ’d what I said to be true. No Man living will ever be able to make these Heathens sensible of the Happiness of a future State, except he now and then mentions some lively carnal Representation, which may quicken their Apprehensions, and make them thirst after such a gainful Exchange; for, were the best Lecture that ever was preach’d by Man, given to an ignorant sort of People, in a more learned Style, than their mean Capacities are able to understand, the Intent would prove ineffectual, and the Hearers would be left in a greater Labyrinth than their Teacher found them in. But dispense the Precepts of our Faith according to the Pupil’s Capacity, and there is nothing in our Religion, but what an indifferent Reason is, in some measure, able to comprehend; tho’ a New-England Minister blames the French Jesuits for this way of Proceeding, as being quite contrary to a true Christian Practice, and affirms it to be no ready, or true Method, to establish a lively Representation of our Christian Belief amongst these Infidels.

 All the Indians hereabouts carefully preserve the Bones of the Flesh they eat, and burn them, as being of Opinion, that if they omitted that Custom, the Game would leave their Country, and they should not be able to maintain themselves by their Hunting. Most of these Indians wear Mustachoes, or Whiskers, which is rare; by reason the Indians are a People  that commonly pull the Hair of their Faces, and other Parts, up by the Roots, and suffer none to grow. Here is plenty of Chesnuts, which are rarely found in Carolina, and never near the Sea, or Salt-Water; tho’ they are frequently in such Places in Virginia.

At the other House, where our Fellow-Travellers lay, they had provided a Dish, in great Fashion amongst the Indians, which was Two young Fawns, taken out of the Doe’s Bellies, and boil’d in the same slimy Bags Nature had plac’d them in, and one of the Country-Hares, stew’d with the Guts in her Belly, and her Skin with the Hair on.

This new-fashion’d Cookery wrought Abstinence in our Fellow-Travellers, which I somewhat wonder’d at, because one of them made nothing of eating Allegators, as heartily as if it had been Pork and Turneps. The Indians dress most things after the Wood-cock Fashion, never taking the Guts out. At the House we lay at, there was very good Entertainment of Venison, Turkies, and Bears; and which is customary amongst the Indians, the Queen had a Daughter by a former Husband, who was the beautifullest Indian I ever saw, and had an Air of Majesty with her, quite contrary to the general Carriage of the Indians. She was very kind to the English, during our Abode, as well as her Father and Mother.


In 1711, while surveying lands for the Moravian Colony in what is now Winston-Salem, NC,  John Lawson and his two assistants were captured by Tuscarora warriors.  Note that one of his assistants is African-American.  They were subsequently tortured to death.  These murders precipitated the bloody Tuscarora War.  The Moravians were 100% responsible for this tragedy.  They had been stealing Tusacarora lands without paying for them, plus sending out raiders to capture slaves from several neighboring tribes.  Note that the Tuscaroras are weather kilts, not breech cloths as Eastern Indians are commonly portrayed.


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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.



    Richard, the route that that man took didn’t go though the lands associated with the people mostly called Cherokees. The Cherokees lived more towards the West by the mountains and that’s why they were called “The Cave man people” which is the meaning of the word “Cherokee” that’s what I have read. Perhaps the “long haired band” of the Cherokee is a connection to the Duhare who were described as long haired men and women? The Chiska people became the “Bird” band is a possibility and the Armenians as miners who were brought by the Dutch Indian co in the 1500’s most clearly became Cherokee in some manner. The Cofitachi people of S.C could also have joined the melting pot of what would be called the Cherokee people.

    • Yes, but all official maps show the Cherokees occupying that area, when in fact as you read, he only encountered a branch of the Creeks and the Saponi in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.


        Thank You, Richard for your Articles. “Ani- Ki-tu-wah” is a term the Cherokee use for a mother city in N.C and for the whole Nation at times. Very close to the Creek people Ki-a-wah and the Cherokee people are noted as a Very tall people by 1775 when William Bartram visited. So perhaps when the Apalacha Kingdom dissolved in1715 with the Yamasee war some of the Kiawah people along with other tribes (Bands) around the mountains, formed the Cherokee Nation. They may have been called the Co-fa-che in 1540 by the Spanish who also had an old Chief that had a long beard. The Cherokee note they had 7 mother cities at one time,

        • Kitiwa is an Alabamu word, meaning “sacred fire” while kitani (the early priesthood of the Cherokees) is an Alabamu word meaning “sacred fire priest or sorcerer). That means that sometime in the past the Cherokees lived near the Alabamu and became under their domination. The Cherokees are taller than coastal tribes, but not nearly as tall as the Upper Creeks. It was quite common for proto-Creek kings to be seven feet tall. The Creeks in Georgia averaged a foot taller than Europeans, according to De Soto’s chroniclers.


            Yes Richard, the Muskogee creeks were noted as tall people as were the Cherokee by William Bartram. I have noticed there were a taller, grey eyed people that lived among the Nations of the South and perhaps wanted as High priest / medicine men by those peoples. The Cherokee noted that they killed off a different Band of people called “Ani-Kitani” when they continued to do Evil things to their women. This has been passed down in lore by the elders and it is my understanding the “Kitani” were most likely the “Nephilim” of the Torah with bigger brains and later called Giants. As stated they were a different type of man and possibly could not mate with our species but that lived among the Native peoples of this land? From the Mississippi to Georgia of the Native people were lore of these people and that the reason the Euro’s called the South “the land of the Giants”.

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