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Mount Yonah was the Creek’s most sacred shrine

Mount Yonah was the Creek’s most sacred shrine



South face of Yonah Mountain

Five years of interpolating available Colonial Era archives, maps and engravings has finally made sense of a historical jigsaw puzzle.

During the 1500s and 1600s, the capital of the Apalache Kingdom was in the Nacoochee Valley!

In 2013,  Marilyn Rae, a direct descendant of Cherokee Principal Chief Pathkiller, found an intriguing book in the “Fantasy and Utopia” bin of the Carter Brown Library at Brown University.  It was entitled, Histoire naturelle et morale des iles Antilles de l’AmeriqueIt was published in 1658 by the Rev. Charles de Rochefort . . . a very famous ethnologist and historian in Europe, who is virtually unknown in the United States.

She immediately contacted me because she thought that the engravings within the book described the Track Rock Terrace Complex.  They did not.  Instead, the book contained two long chapters on the Native Americans of Georgia, eastern Alabama and western North Carolina.  These two chapters were based on the explorations in Georgia and western North Carolina of Barbados planter, Richard Briggstock, in 1653. There was some astonishing new information, erased from history,  and then some detailed descriptions of Apalache (Proto-Creek) architecture and town planning practices that were not discovered by Gringo archaeologists until the latter half of the 20th century.  It correctly states that the Florida Apalachee did not call themselves the Apalache, but were given that name by the Spanish, who confused them with the real Apalache in northern and central Georgia.

The book describes a colony of Europeans in Northeast Georgia near the source of the Oconee River called Mellilot.  It’s not in your high school American History book, but on European maps from 1570 to 1700.  You can see the stone foundations of their houses at the 300 acre Little Mulberry River Park near Auburn, GA.  The colony was founded by survivors of Fort Caroline, but became poly-ethnic with the arrival of English colonists in 1622.  In 2014,  Founding POOF member, Michael Jacobs, found a letter from Edward Graeves, a director of the colony, that was dated January 6, 1660.  The letter describes in detail the geography, flora and fauna of North Georgia.

West face of Yonah Mountain

De Rochefort stated that the most sacred site of the Apalache (Proto-Creek) people was a high mountain with rock faces that could be seen for many miles. At the starting point of the path leading up to the top of the mountain was a small, conical mountain on which sat a temple formerly dedicated to their invisible sun goddess, Amana, who was virtually identical in concept to the YHWH of the ancient Hebrews, except that she was female.  (See engraving below.) Each fall the people of the capital of Apalache would climb the road up the sacred mountain in order to give prayers to a flock of semi-domesticated Painted Buntings, which would then take the prayers to the Sun Goddess, who lived in Mexico.  The Painted Buntings spent their winters in southern Mexico.

The French Huguenot refugees from Fort Caroline eventually converted the Paracusti (High King) of Apalache to Protestant Christianity. At that point, the difference between the identity of the Amana and the Judeo-Christian God, was blurred.  Very few of the commoners became Christians.  Individual ethnic groups within the Apalache Kingdom returned to their traditional religions.

Charles de Rochefort assumed that the Capital of Apalache was next to Mellilot.  Richard Briggstock’s sketches were converted into a fanciful engraving by Rotterdam printer-artist Arnout Leers.  For five years I could not match the engraving and verbal descriptions of the capital with the terrain around Little Mulberry River Park.  That region contains some rolling hills, but not a mountain valley as you see below.  In the center of the engraving is a Spanish trading post and mission.  

The fanciful engraving of Apalache capital . . . but all elements of this art can be found in the Nacoochee Valley.

There is no record of a Spanish trading post in the region around the Mellilot site, but in 1646, Florida governor Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla ordered construction of a fortified trading post at the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River to open up trade relations with the Apalache-Creeks.  He also ordered construction of a pack mule road to connect trading post with St. Augustine. Edward Bland sailed from Spain to Virginia, then immediately traveled to the southern tip of the Appalachians to see about “a family investment.”

In 1653, Edward Bland’s cousin, Richard Brigstock,  showed up at the capital of Apalache and was treated with great hospitality. Both men were born in Briggstock, England. He was considering the feasibility of pro-Royalist planters in Barbados relocating to the Kingdom of Apalache.  Since the 1560s, the Apalache had been allowing Protestant and Jewish Europeans to settle in their land.  However, single adults had to marry an Apalache spouse.  Brigstock spent several months exploring the landscape. He even visited a Spanish gem mining operation about two days walk from the capital.  He finally decided to relocate to Virginia rather than the Apalache Kingdom, because the Apalache’s would not allow slaves to be brought into their land.

One can see how a crude sketch of this scene might be exaggerated by the engraver in the Netherlands.

This 1591 French map places Apalache at the headwaters of a river and in a valley in the most southern and lowest mountains.

Maps by English cartographer, Robert Morden, in the late 1600s showed the capital of Apalache on the Chattahoochee River where the Kenimer Mound and modern village of Sautee are located.  The Native town of Sautee was located upstream on Sautee Creek near the intersection of GA Highways 255 and 255A. 

Back then Sautee was called Itsate, which is the Itza Maya name for themselves, but also a major branch of the Creek People.  Near Apalache were the Latin words, Domus Regae, which mean “House of the King.”  Morden’s maps were the “clinchers.”  According to their own history as described by De Rochefort, the Apalache originated at Lake Tama near the confluence of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers. 

Over time, the capital moved northward, but at least during the Colonial Period, it is fairly obvious now that the Capital of Apalache was in the Nacoochee Valley and Yonah Mountain was the “High Holy” worship site of their nation.   When this past summer, I found ancient stone walls on a tall cone-shaped hill next to the Chattahoochee River, I became certain that the scene engraved by Arnout Leers was where Dukes Creek joins the Chattahoochee at the cone shaped hill.   Case closed. 

Until the 1830s or later, Yonah Mountain went by its Creek name, Nokose – the word for bear.


Why eyewitness history was ignored or concealed

In the 1800s,  New England scholars had scoffed at De Rochefort’s book because it described the most advanced indigenous civilization north of Mexico to be in the Deep South with its capital in the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Briggstock described massive pyramidal mounds, large planned towns and people dressed in brightly colored clothes (exactly as described by De Soto’s chroniclers.)  However, the details of Hernando de Soto’s journey had been forgoten. Meanwhile, it was known for a fact that White Southerners were less intelligent and culturally backward so it was logical to the  Ivy League professors that the Southern Indians, who preceded them were likewise.

The reason that the current generation of anthropologists ignore De Rochefort’s book and other eyewitness accounts in the 1600s is patently obvious.  Their professors, between the mid-1970s and around 2000 created a description of the Southeast’s past that was swelling with anthropological rhetoric, but actually poorly researched.   The scope defined by abstract anthropological concepts, generic conceptual models being applied to all Southeastern Indians, the journeys of famous Spanish explorers and the names of pottery styles.

In 1994, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate,  Dr. Charles Hudson and Brazilian translator/sociologist, Carmen Chaves Tesser, edited the book,  The Forgotten Centuries, which was presented as the ultimate authority of what was known about the 16th and 17th century within the interior of the Southeast. That is in strong contrast to what we always say at POOF . . . this is what we know today, but will probably know something more or different tomorrow.  The book is composed of 18 essays and professional papers by the leading anthropology professors of the Southeast in the mid-1990s. 

The basic premise of The Forgotten Centuries, as stated on pages 10-12, is that information of the indigenous peoples of the interior of the Southeast is sketchy in the 16th century and almost non-existent in the 17th century.  Well, yes, the information might seem sketchy if you are an anthropology professor, who is too lazy to learn the languages spoken by the peoples, whom he or she is supposedly an expert on.

What immediately strikes a Native American reader is the lack of humanity in the text of The Forgotten Centuries.  The indigenous peoples of the Americas are described with a degree of anonymity that sounds like the Evening Wall Street Report on PBS television.  I seriously doubt, if any of these professors ever had ever kissed a Native American or even had dinner with one.

The reader is told repeatedly that this august team of scholars has gathered together all available accounts of the Southeast’s interior during the 16th and 17th centuries.  That’s horse manure.  Either the student assistants of these professors didn’t do a thorough literature research or else they intentionally left out ALL Spanish, English, French and Dutch archives, which would have made a Cherokee presence in the Southern Appalachians impossible.   There no mention that . . .

  • Dutch traders began traveling down the Great Appalachian Valley around 1610 in order to sell goods to tribes in the interior of the Southeast . . . even though the information is in the New York State History textbook.
  • Beginning in the 1620s,  Jewish leaders in the Netherlands began talking about the on-going creation of New Jerusalem in Southeastern North America.  Supposedly the new Temple was already under construction at a latitude about the same as Jerusalem.  The best candidate for this new Temple is near Macon, GA on Brown’s Mount.  There are strange stone walls around the top of this mesa that look like 17th century European fortifications.   This information is in several books on the history of the Renaissance Jews.

Brown’s Mount Latitude = 32°46’11.5″N  ~ Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Latitude = 31°46’40.9″N

  • English historian, Richard Hakluyt, published a book in 1587, which included interviews with two former residents of the Spanish colony of Santa Elena. They described a brisk, but covert trade between Santa Elena and the Apalache in the vicinity of the Nacoochee Valley and present-day Dahlonega.  They also described a large town, built on the side of a high mountain, which the Spanish called Grand Copal, because the priests in the temples burned copal incense night and day.  Grand Copal’s description and geographical location on the Great White Path (US 129) north of Dahlonega matches perfectly the Track Rock Terrace Complex.
  • Mining timbers from ancient gold and silver mines in North Georgia and North Carolina have been radiocarbon-dated to dates running beteen 1585 and 1620.
  • A Ladino Spanish inscription on a boulder on a mountain overlooking the Little Tennessee River in Graham County, North Carolina announced a wedding on September 15, 1615.  The engraving was determined to be authentic by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Department of Anthropology.
  • From 1641 to 1646,  Edward Bland and his wife, Jane, lived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain and the Canary Island, where they managed his family’s wine trading business.   Edward’s father had been one of the investors in the Virginia Company.  In April 16, 1646, they left Spain and sailed to the Virginia Colony, where the family owned extensive acreage. Upon arriving in Jamestown, Bland went straight to Governor Berkeley’s mansion and held a secret meeting.  Immediately, afterward he traveled southward to the southern tip  of the Appalachians to attend to his family’s investments there . . . undoubtedly the new trading post in the Nacoochee Valley.  This information comes from the Virginia State History Textbook.  Georgia’s official history textbook does not mention the trading post or Bland’s journey.   North Carolina’s official history book changed the story to say that Bland traveled to meet with leaders of the Great Cherokee Nation.
  • John Lederer was told in 1670 by South Carolina Indians that there was a powerful province of bearded white men, two days travel to the west in the North Carolina Mountains.  Lederer’s account is in the official Virginia State history textbook.
  • Foster Sondley’s History of Asheville and Buncombe County (1930) cited numerous North Carolina archive accounts of Spanish iron tools and ceramics being found in the ground by the first English-speaking settlers to reach the region.  The Cherokees claimed to have no knowledge of who made these antique weapons.   He states that Spanish-speaking gem miners were numerous on the Toe River in the 1600s. He closed that section of the first chapter by stating, Thus, the Spanish lived and mined in western North Carolina for 125 years until 1690 or later.” 
  • Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla , the Governor of Florida built a fortified trading post at the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in 1646 and a pack mule road to connect the Nacoochee Valley with St. Augustine.  The footprint of a triangular fort appears on infrared imagery of the river’s flood plain next to the mouth of a creek. This information is in the official Florida State History Textbook. 
  • Charles de Rochefort’s wrote an extensive description of the proto-Creek peoples in Georgia during the mid-17th century.  The book seems to be completely unknown to Southeastern anthropology and history professors, even though the book is a standard reference in Europe for scholars studying American history. Several dissertations from France, the Netherlands and Germany, based on this book, can be found published on the internet.
  • In 1673,  Gabriel Arthur and James Needham encountered Spanish and Portuguese-speaking traders on the trails of southwestern Virginia and Tennessee, while journeying to open up trade with the Tamahiti (Tomahitan in Algonquian) People on the Tamahiti River.  Tamahiti is an Itza Maya and Itstate Creek word, which means “Merchant People.”  Its root is the Totonac word for merchant, Tamahi.  They were originally from SE Georgia, and returned there in the early 1700s after the Cherokee-Creek War began. There is not enough geographical information to identify this river, but it was probably the Holston.  At what appears to be the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, they visited a town built of brick, inhabited by Christians who stopped to pray three times a day, when a nine feet tall bell rang.  That is exactly the custom of the Armenian and Anatolian Orthodox Churches in eastern Anatolia.   The men also visited a town built of timber, occupied by Africans.  This expedition is described in the Virginia State history textbook and the original copy of their journey is held by the Commonwealth of Virginia Library.

In 1991, a UNC-Chapel Hill history professor produced a fraudulent version of the Gabriel-Needham Expedition, which changed Tomatitan to Cherokee and the Tomahitan River to the Little Tennessee River.   His version stated that the two men were on their way to meet with the Cherokee leaders in the great Cherokee town of Chota.   He also deleted the contacts that the two men had with Spanish and Portuguese travelers. There is no mention of the Cherokees, Little Tennessee River  or Chota in the real Gabriel-Needham Report.  A word like  “Cherokee” does not appear in the Virginia archives until the Yamasee War in 1715.  In fact, it does not appear on any map until that year.

Unfortunately, because the fraudulent version is the one that is on all “Cherokee History” websites, it has spread across he internet like a wad of wet toilet paper.  I have noticed several dissertations recently, where PhD candidates quoted the fraudulent version rather than going to the trouble to read the real story on the Commonwealth of Virginia State Library website.  Here is an example of the many history sites that have been corrupted by the fraudulent version.

  • In 1693, Colonel James Moore led a company of mounted Redcoats through what was then Carolina, but is now Northeast Georgia.  When the exploration party arrived at the edge of the Nacoochee Valley they saw numerous plumes of smoke rising into the sky.   Its Native guides told Moore that the smoke was from gold smelters, being operated by Spanish-speaking miners and their Creek laborers.  The Redcoats beat a hasty retreat, but the Spanish colony  soon disappeared from the maps. This true story is told in the South Carolina State History Text, but there is no mention in the Georgia State History textbook of Spanish mining villages in the mountains even though the ruins of two Spanish villages were discovered in the early days of the Georgia Gold Rush and publicized both in regional newspapers and later, in Charles C. Jones, Jr’s  History of Georgia.
  • There was a horrific smallpox plague in the Southern Appalachians in 1696, which is said to have killed 75% to 90% of the Native population in the region . . . thus making the region open to Cherokee settlement.  About 35 years later, the Cherokees began being struck by a series of smallpox epidemics that ultimately reduced their population by about 75%.  If the Cherokees, who first appear in the history books in 1715 were the remnants of the 1696 smallpox epidemic,  it is highly unlikely that they would have suffered such losses.  On the other hand, the Creeks WERE the remnants of that plague and were only slightly affected by the epidemics in the 1730s.  The Uchees near Savannah were affected severely by this latter epidemic.  As a result the survivors moved northward and westward to become more closely associated with the Creeks.   Nevertheless, many “old settler” families in Habersham and Stephens Counties, east of the Nacoochee Valley, thought they were Cherokee descendants, but when tested turned out to have little or no Native American DNA.  Instead they carry high levels of Portuguese, Basque and Semitic DNA markers.  This suggests that many of the miners did not leave the region, but just disappeared under the “British Redcoat Radar.”

The history of the Uchee, Chickasaw and Creek homeland continues to be defined by outsiders!

This is an example of the caca de toro, POOF constantly have to deal with.  The first part of the Wikipedia article on the Georgia Gold Rush was written by a history professor at a small college in Texas in 1981.  The professor specializes in books on the History of the Old West, but threw in this choice comment on Georgia history that now the whole world thinks is factual.  It is repeated over and over again in internet articles having to do with the Appalachian Mountains . . . even in the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Spanish Colonial History.  As I said, Fake History is like a wet wad of toilet paper being thrown around a dark room!   . . . “Some poorly documented accounts exist of Spanish or French mining gold in North Georgia between 1560 and 1690, but they are based on supposition and on rumors passed on by Indians.[1] In summing up known sources, Yeates observed: “Many of these accounts and traditions seem to be quite plausible. Nevertheless, it is hardly probable that the Spaniards would have abandoned mines which were afterwards found to be quite profitable, as those in North Georgia.”   Duane K. Hale,  Mining in the Spanish Borderlands (1981).

Now you know!


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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.



    R Howdy, Just a thought….question. On the map was the name Duare….does this correspond with Duhare?

    • Yes, that was a mistake by the mapmaker. Duhare means “Irish” in Early Medieval Gaelic.


    Richard, Another Good article from you. It’s hard to trace all that big money that was made by merchants from Europe in the 15th century. It’s easier to call people “savages” to make themselves think it was ok to make one false treaty after another with the Native peoples. That was the main reason for the one sided histories written by man.
    I don’t think the Spaniard “Colon” discovered America as it was known by the Irish monks back to at least 500 AD…later the Norse in the 9th century. When merchants began making contact with this land has been forgotten because of the massive plagues I would suspect. According to one web site the Cherokee band called ” Ani’-Gi-lâ’hĭ” meaning is unknown. It seems to have a “Achi” connection like the Cofit-achi-ke people of South Carolina but it could also be a connection to the Apalachi people as well?

    • The “che” in Anglicized Creek words is a misinterpretation of an internal Maya and Creek “s” sound, which was something like “jzhe”


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