Important maps of the Southeast from the late 1600s
The maps produced by cartographers in France, Great Britain and Spain in the late 1600s tell a very different story than what our students read in their official state history books and on Wikipedia. Founding POOF member Michael Jacobs even found a letter written from the European colony of Melilot on January 6, 1660, but NO contemporary history text even acknowledges Melilot’s existence. Melilot is on European maps from 1570 until 1705. The first map to mention the Cherokees was hand drawn by John and Richard Beresford in 1715! In 1701, Royal French Cartographer Guillaume DeLisle labeled western North Carolina, “Pays du Chouenons” (Shawnee Country) but showed several Creek towns on the lower Little Tennessee River and the rugged mountains around Franklin, NC occupied by Cofitachete . . . an Itsate Creek word meaning “Mixed Race People” . . . probably referring to the offspring of Sephardic miners with Native American wives.
There is an enormous difference between the French and British maps. British maps typically had little detailed information west of the Blue Ridge Escarpment until after the end of the French and Indian War. French maps tended to be less accurate from the Blue Ridge Escarpment eastward. The French mapmakers typically added rivers that what there in the British colonies or left out rivers.
During the late 1600s, France dispatched exploration and survey parties throughout the interior of Southeastern North America. These teams usually included a military officer, marines, surveyors and experienced, multi-lingual traders. Thus, by 1700 France had fairly accurate maps of most of the Southeast’s rivers, west of the Appalachians and in the case of the Little Tennessee River, extending to its source.
The French paddled up the Little Tennessee River to its source in Northeast Georgia, but had no way of paddling north and east of present day Franklin, NC. The rest of the North Carolina Mountains, north and east of Franklin remained a Terra Incognita. The French named the mountains from Fort Mountain eastward the Cohuita (Coweta or Creek) Mountains. Later, British draftsmen changed the word to Cohutta Mountains.
The French Broad River in North Carolina is called the French Broad because it was in territory claimed by France. However, the French surveying party stopped at those Class 5 rapids near Hot Springs, NC and never knew where the French Broad flowed up stream from there.
The similar event happened in North Georgia. A surveying part paddled up the Coosa to the Coosawattee to the Cartacay River, then stopped at the Cartacay’s source on the west slope of Coosa Bald Mountain. The French therefore never knew what the interior of the Georgia Mountains looked like. If they couldn’t canoe there, they didn’t go there.
Even in Virginia, there were very few European settlers in Virginia, west of the Blue Ridge Mountains until the early 1750s. The two oldest buildings I worked on while practicing architecture in the Shenandoah Valley was a 1740 one room stone cottage built by Protestant monks from the Ephrata Cloister (a Seventh Day Dunker mystical cult) based in Ephrata, PA and a 1746 log cabin near Lebanon Furnace, an early iron smelting operation. My former farm was surveyed by George Washington in 1754, immediately prior to his mission to Fort Duquense.
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