Lies Your Teacher Told You About the Georgia Gold Rush and the Cherokee Trail of Tears
(Image Above) – 1833 Map of the Mining Districts of Georgia – Published at the suggestion of Vice President John C. Calhoun, this is the first geological map ever funded by the United States Congress. It became the model of many such documents by the US Geological Survey, after its creation in 1879. Would you believe that South Carolinian, John C. Calhoun, was the largest property owner in the Georgia Gold Fields at the same time he was the key national instigator, pushing for relocation of the Cherokees? By 1833, planters from South Carolina were developing the most fertile sections of the Cherokee Nation near Etowah Mounds even while the Cherokees were still around. Do we see another chapter on the fake history of the Southeast in the making?
Part Three of the People of One Fire Series on the incomplete and often false information on the history of the Southeastern United States, prior to the arrival of British settlers.
Read the official Georgia Studies Textbook or the articles in Wikipedia and the New Georgia Encyclopedia about the Georgia Gold Rush. The Wikipedia article on the Georgia Gold Rush was written by a California professor, who didn’t know diddlysquat about Georgia history or geography. You are told that gold was discovered in the Cherokee Nation in 1828 and soon thereafter, the State of Georgia began putting heavy pressure on President Andrew Jackson to remove the Cherokees to lands west of the Mississippi River. Georgia Eighth Graders are also told that the Cherokees were the last people to live at Etowah Mounds.
Pay a visit to Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark near Cartersville, GA. It is a spectacular site. However, walk into its museum’s auditorium and you will probably be shown, not a film about the ancient history of the Etowah River Valley, produced by one of the many international film studios operating in the Atlanta Area*, but a slick documentary film about the Cherokees, funded by casino money from the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation, and filmed in North Carolina. The talented Oklahoma Cherokee actor, Wes Studi, tells you that the Cherokees’ were forced at bayonet point from their ancient homeland in Northwest Georgia, shortly after gold was discovered in the Cherokee Nation. Visitors to the museum . . . including thousands of elementary and middle school students . . . walk away thinking that the Cherokees built Etowah Mounds. They were not told that some of the oldest agricultural villages in North America, directly ancestral to the Creek Indians, were located nearby.
*In any given month, Georgia is ranked the number 3 or 4 TV/film production location in the world . . . often surpassing California. Most of the studios are around Senoia, GA or in Central Atlanta.
Why is the Georgia Gold Rush so important to American history?
The Reed Gold Mine in North Carolina is labeled the first discovery of gold in the United States. John Reed began mining large nuggets of gold on his farm in 1799. Congress established mints in Charlotte, NC and Dahlonega, GA in 1835. However, neither the Reed Mine nor the “discovery of gold” in Dukes Creek, GA in 1828 mark the first time that gold was mined in North America . . . just the first time it was mined under the United States flag.
Georgia gold is considered the purest in the world. The Georgia Gold Belt is also one of the few locations where white gold, yellow gold, red gold, almost pure copper and a natural form of brass are found in close proximity. Recent studies by geologists, using the latest technology suggests that there is layer of almost pure gold, overlaying bedrock deep underground. Above that layer, however, are a deep bed of alluvial soil and strata of volcanic rocks, deposited over a period of many millions of years.
The primary importance of the Georgia Gold Rush in the 1820s and 1830s, however, was the development of commercial scale technology in the Georgia Mountains for the efficient extraction of gold deposits. These machines were applied to the gold deposits in later gold rushes in the western United States, Alaska and the Yukon Territory. In fact, former Georgia gold miners were some of the biggest “winners” in both the California and Colorado Gold Rushes. Most of the wannabe miners rushed into these regions without any real knowledge of commercial gold mining. A considerable number of mansions and plantation houses in the Southeast were financed with gold mined in either California or Colorado.
Georgia’s strange conundrum of state historical markers
The general public assumes that historical markers, erected by a state government are accurate. Georgia’s portrayal of its early history in the mountains are as bad as they come. Keep in mind that an historical marker, erected by the State of North Carolina near the Georgia State Line announces that the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation in 1760 was at Otto, NC. Depending on the location of the sign, travelers in North Georgia are told the false history that (1) The Cherokees have lived in Georgia for thousands of years. (2) The Cherokee were building large mounds and living large towns in the northeast part of the state as early as 1450 AD. (3) Cherokees greeted the de Soto Expedition from the Nacoochee Mound in 1540 AD. (4) The Cherokees won all of North Georgia in the Battle of Blood Mountain in the 1750s. (5) The Cherokees won all of North Georgia in the Battle of Taliwa on the Etowah River in 1755.
As can be seen below, the first official map of Georgia, published in 1785, shows almost all of North Georgia occupied by either the Upper Creeks or the Chickasaws. The Chickasaws owned the land north of the Coosawattee and Coosa Rivers in Northwest Georgia. There were also Chickasaw villages in present day White County, south of Mount Yonah, plus in Hall and Banks County. Of course, the official histories of all three counties proclaim themselves to be the home of the Cherokees for thousands of years. These Chickasaw villages, though, were members of the Creek Confederacy.
If there is any doubt about the veracity of the Georgia state map, read William Bartram’s account of his escape from the Cherokee Country in 1776, when he learned that hostile Cherokees were coming after him. He was staying with friendly Cherokees at a village near Franklin, NC. He stated that he had to flee southward 20 miles to the safety of the Creek Nation . . . that’s the Tallulah River. In 1776, only Rabun County and the eastern half of Towns County were inside the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries.
Major myths taught students . . . and television viewers . . . today
- No one knew that there was gold in Georgia until it was first discovered in 1828.
- Gold was first discovered on land, where the Cherokees had lived for thousands of years.
- The federal government removed the Cherokees because gold miners were over-running their farms.
- The Cherokees won all of North Georgia in 1755 at the Battle of Taliwa on the Etowah River.
- The Cherokees were the last occupants of Etowah Mounds.
Fact Checking the Folklore and Fraudulent History
(1) When was gold first mined in Georgia? First of all, Creek leader, General William McIntosh, was operating four gold mines in what is now Carroll County, GA soon after the end of the War of 1812! He learned about the presence of gold in the region from his grandfather, who was a Sephardic Jewish trader and ran a trading post in what is now Senoia, GA. These mines were located deep within the Creek Nation in West Georgia. The Georgia Gold Belt is over 200 miles long. There is a 50-mile long extension of this belt in Alabama. Thus, over half the total gold belt’s length was in the territory of the Creek Nation until 1827. This fact is never mentioned in either state history textbooks or nationally televised documentaries on the Indian Removal Period. Television producers and writers keep on regurgitating the myths.
However, the earliest gold mining activities in Georgia probably occurred about 3,500 years ago or even earlier. The Georgia Gold Belt is dotted with ancient petroglyphs that are identical to those in northwestern Europe during the Bronze Age. All but two of the hundreds of symbols on the famous Track Rock Petroglyphic Boulders can be found at the Nyköping, Sweden petroglyphs, which have been dated to 2000 BC. The Tugaloo Petroglyphic Stone portrays three Scandinavian Bronze Age boats, plus typical astronomical and navigation symbols from that era. Most petroglyphs in the Etowah and Chattahoochee River Basin are typical of the period from 1700 BC to 1200 BC in southern Sweden and western Ireland. However, there are two boulders with Early Bronze Age symbols.
In 1564, Lt. LaRoche Ferrière led a six-month long expedition up the Altamaha and Oconee Rivers from Fort Caroline to search for rumored gold and silver deposits. He found that the Apalache-Creeks in North Georgia were both extracting gold nuggets/flakes from river sands and mining for gold nuggets on hillsides. The gold was exported to other parts of North America as either gold foil or gold chains.
The Florida State History Text tells Florida students that in 1646, Governor Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla ordered construction of a road from St. Augustine to the Nacoochee Valley, where the Spanish built a fortified trading post. Its footprint is visible in the pasture of Chattahoochee Stables in Sautee, GA.
In 1693, Governor James Moore of Carolina led a party of mounted Redcoats to the edge of the Nacoochee Valley, where he observed the smoke plumes of Spanish gold smelters. This even was duly recorded in the Carolina and British Archives. Being a well-educated man, Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina would have been very much aware of this information.
John C. Calhoun purchased the land along Dukes Creek before the public was aware that gold had been “discovered” in the Nacoochee Valley. Almost immediately, his employees uncovered a Spanish gold mining village, complete with 16th or 17th European iron tools AND a cigar mold. This discovery was reported in Georgia newspapers and retold in Charles C. Jones, Jr’s landmark book, Antiquities of the Southern Indians.
In 1833, the “Geological Map of the Mining Districts of the State of Georgia” included a large drawing of a European bronze gold refining flask. The following year, miners found another Spanish mining village under 9 feet of sand and gravel. This discovery was reported in several Georgia newspapers.
The Georgia Studies textbook has absolutely no information of the presence of Spanish-speaking miners and colonists in North Georgia for almost two centuries prior to the area being given to the Cherokees.
(2) On whose land was gold officially discovered in 1828?
As will be explained below, the 1828 official discovery was obviously “fake news” to cover up the fact that wealthy men had already bought up the prime gold mining locations, but the official site of discovery was on Dukes Creek in the Nacoochee Valley. This location was at that time was privately owned 15 miles east of the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries. However, the nearest significant Cherokee population was about 50 miles west of that location.
In 1821, a group of North Carolina real estate speculators and gold miners from Burke County, NC, bought most of the Nacoochee Valley and Tesnatee Valley. Daniel Brown, one of those speculators, bought 2000 acres of land in the Nacoochee Valley area. He paid $200.00 for the entire acreage. Even today, Burke County is gold mining area. It contains at least 26 known gold mining areas, which are being worked by part time miners.
Brown apparently had no further involvement with the valley, but Benjamin Cleveland did become a major land speculator in the Upper Chattahoochee Valley. It is difficult to determine what land transactions occurred during that era, because many deeds were never registered. It is known that the Williams Family from Burke County, NC owned the land, where gold was “officially” discovered and also the Nacoochee Mound.
After the Civil War, several of the Williams descendants sold their land and moved to Jacksonville, FL to speculate in its growth. The mouth of the St. Johns River had just been dredged in 1860 to allow access by sea-going ships. Jack Williams, a grandson of the Nacoochee Valley Williams Family took his share of the gold land sales to Waycross, GA in 1914, where he used to it to purchase several thousand acres of swampy land, east of the town. The two real estate projects he created on that tract were Williams Heights and Cherokee Heights. The “Cherokee” comes from his family’s origins in the Georgia Mountains.
(3) The Cherokees were relocated to the Indian Territory after their lands were overrun by white gold miners: First of all, it should be mentioned that all of the stream names in the Georgia Gold Belt have either Creek Indian or English names. That includes Yahoola Creek in the Dahlonega Area. North Georgians typically assume that all Indian geographical names are Cherokee words, but the vast majority are not.
Secondly, the Cherokee Treaty of 1795 in Philadelphia was the first treaty to recognize formal occupation of Northwest Georgia, North Central Georgia and Northeast Alabama by the Cherokees. The 1785 Treaty of Augusta had secretly taken Northwest Georgia from the Upper Creeks and Chickasaw, plus Northeast Alabama from the Chickasaws to be used as hunting grounds by the Cherokees. The Creeks did not even know about this clause until 1790.
In conjunction, with their reluctant approval of the 1795 Cherokee Treaty, Georgia’s representatives agreed to cede its lands that are now Alabama and Mississippi . . . with the condition that all Cherokees would be relocated to the new Mississippi Territory by 1805. It is the primary reason that Cherokee Principal Chief Pathkiller moved to Turkeytown on the Coosa River in present day Alabama to establish his “capital.” The agreement with Georgia was signed by George Washington, but reneged on by President Thomas Jefferson. Thus, the primary legal grounds, used by Georgia’s officials to demand relocation of the Cherokees, was that they were squatters, who had essentially over-stayed their lease in Georgia. Georgia’s legal briefs to the Supreme Court specifically stated that the Cherokees were not indigenous to the state.
Curious about the ethnic identity of the people in gold mining region, I examined the 1828 Cherokee census taken by the State of Georgia as the first step of deportation. There were NO ethnic Cherokee names in the mountainous Gold Belt region. All listed persons had English, Creek, Spanish or Sephardic Jewish names . . . and the region was sparsely populated. These people had no political role within the Cherokee Nation, but were under the laws of the Cherokee tribal government, not Georgia. When the occupants of the Nacoochee and Tesnatee Valleys sold their lands to North Carolina families in the early 1820s, they moved to the northern and western edges of the Creek Nation in Alabama. I suspect that they were mixed Creek-Uchee-Jewish-Iberian families, who the Cherokees had allowed to remain, when the region was given to them in the Treaty of 1795.
All gold mining activities during the first phases of the Georgia Gold Rush occurred on lands ceded by the Creek and Cherokee Nations in the treaties of 1817, 1818, 1821, 1827 and 1828 . . . or were sold by individual families in the Nacoochee Valley area to white individuals. Although the Cherokee National Council had a law on the books, which mandated the death penalty for any individual Cherokee, who sold tribal lands without permission of the National Council, no action was taken against the Nacoochee Valley families. Apparently, the Council did not consider these people to be Cherokees and their land was not considered of any value to the tribe.
In 1828, Vice President John C. Calhoun acquired several thousand acres of land near the Chestatee River around the location of the Spanish mining colony of Nuevo Potosi. It was about three miles south of the present-day city of Dahlonega. Three years later, a Cherokee Council Member complained that Calhoun’s employees had crossed the river into Cherokee lands and begun gold mining activities. However, this land was unoccupied and too mountainous for farming, so it really does not match the myth of Cherokee farmsteads being overrun.
HOWEVER, in 1832 the State of Georgia began issuing property deeds in the Cherokee Nation to winners of the Cherokee Land Lottery. Almost immediately wealthy South Carolina planters began buying up deeds in the prime agricultural lands along the Lower Etowah and Coosawattee Rivers. Simultaneously, Georgia Guards (militia) forcibly evicted the Cherokee occupants of villages along these rivers, including the Capital of New Echota, which allowed the wealthy families to seize Cherokee homes and farms. The Cherokee-owned plantations were seized first, since by this time, the prime impetus for evicting the Cherokees was not gold, but to seize river bottomlands for the development of cotton plantations. The wealthier families hired gunmen to enforce their claim on properties won in the lottery.
(4) Nancy Ward and the Battle of Taliwa: The Battle of Taliwa is the most pervasive lie, spoon-fed to students in the states of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. It is a major scene in the Cherokee outdoor drama, “Unto These Hills” and is featured in a musical play, currently touring the nation about the fictional life of Nancy Ward. In the official story, after 16 year old Nancy Ward saw her husband, Kingfisher, fall in a battle at the important Creek town of Taliwa on the Etowah River near Ball Ground, GA, she picked up a musket and led a charge in which 800 Cherokees defeated 2000 Creek warriors . . . thus, winning all of North Georgia for the Cherokees.
There was no Battle of Taliwa, no Creek town ever named Taliwa and the Cherokees lost territory as a result of their catastrophic defeat by the Coweta Creeks in the fall of 1754 . . . thus ending the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War. The Cowetas executed 31 Cherokee chiefs in the fall of 1754. The Cherokees signed a surrender treaty in December of 1754, ceding back all lands that they had taken 40 years earlier, when the Creek-Cherokee War first began. Nancy Ward was 6 years old in 1755. Her husband, Kingfisher, was killed in the Battle of Etowah (Hightower) Cliffs on the Etowah River in 1793. It was a catastrophic defeat for the Cherokees, dealt by the Tennessee Militia, not Creek soldiers.
The myth of Nancy Ward the teenage war heroine and the Battle of Taliwa were created by a distant white cousin of Nancy’s about four years after her death. He wrote a dime novel about her shortly after a similar, fictional booklet was published in East Tennessee about Davie Crockett. Otherwise, there was no mention of the Battle of Taliwa anywhere, until 1891, when Smithsonian Institute ethnologist, James Mooney, published “Myths of the Cherokees.” The story was indeed, a myth.
Almost all the phony Cherokee history that one now sees on state historic markers and state history text books can be traced to Elias Boudinot, Editor of the Cherokee Phoenix. He represented the statements in a semi-fictional dime novel about Nancy Ward to be fictional history. He told the public that the “Sequoyah Syllabary” used in the Cherokee Phoenix was Sequoyah’s creation, when in fact, it was created by Boudinot and white missionary, Samuel Worcester. Sequoyah’s symbols were quite different. He told his white readers in New England that the Cherokees had lived in the South for thousands of years and for hundreds of years in Georgia. As the Cherokee situation became increasingly grim, Boudinot became increasingly delusional. In one of his last issues, he claimed that Creek chief, William McIntosh, had purchased the land for his plantation in West Georgia, near Carrollton, from the Cherokees!
(5) When did the Cherokees live at Etowah Mounds? The Cherokees never lived at Etowah Mounds. The British were largely ignorant of Northwest Georgia, but French maps show a cluster of Apalachicola-Creek villages along the Etowah River until 1763. Some Apalachicola villages moved with the French to Louisiana and Texas. Some moved to Florida at that time, while a few, such as Euharlee* (3 miles south of Etowah Mounds) remained on the Etowah River until 1832. Those that remained after 1794, were required to submit to Cherokee governmental authority, but they were ethnic Creeks. At the time of the Trail of Tears, there were over 3,000 Creeks living within the Cherokee Nation in Georgia. Bet you didn’t know that!
*Euharlee is the Anglicization of the Apalachicola word, Yohawle, which means “Wolf People or Clan.” The Euharlee Municipal website states: Euharlee is a Cherokee word that means, “She laughs as she runs.” Where did the white settlers on the Southern frontier get these far out and funky word meanings? While doing historic preservation work for this town, I showed its officials the town’s name in the Muskogee-Creek Dictionary, but they laughed as they ran away.
In 1818, Yale University scientist, Elias Cornelius, measured the mounds at Etowah and prepared a site plan of the town. While there, he spoke to some Cherokee men, who lived in a village about 1 ½ miles away, located where the Roselawn Mansion now sits. They told Cornelius that the first Cherokees arrived in that part of Georgia around 1795 and that no Cherokees would live near the mounds because they were haunted.
Cornelius studied the trees growing in and among the mounds. He estimated them to be from 50 to 100 years old. This is strong evidence that Apalachicola families were living at the site until the mid-1700s or slightly later.
And now you know . . .
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