People of One Fire to present an in-depth series on the Southern Shawnee and Hopewell Culture
Such a study is long overdue . . . and never has been done by anthropologists in academia!
I came to the side door of our newly restored Colonial stage coach inn-farmhouse in response to a door ring. A grinning National Park Service archaeologist was standing at the door with Indian pottery in his hands. When I opened it, he shouted, “Richard, we’ve found Adena and Hopewell villages on your farm. They are not supposed to be here!” I knew a lot about Mexico, but had no clue what he was talking about. A little more conversation and realized that he was referring to the mound-building cultures in Ohio. Actually, the Adena sites are scattered all along the upper Ohio River in several states, but we will get to that later. The team of NPS archaeologists and historians were studying the Toms Brook Civil War Battlefield on our farm in anticipation of declaring it a “key property” in the proposed Shenandoah Battlefields National Park. In the process, they discovered where a 100 wagon, wagon train had blown up during the American Revolution. They never expected our 55 acre farm to also have a legacy going back over two thousand years. One of the artillery redans erected by General Tom Rosser, CSA to defend against his former room-mate at West Point, George Armstrong Custer, Click the blue URL here and you can learn about the Thornton Farm and the Battle of Toms Brook.
What came next was a trip to the county library to check out books on the Adena and Hopewell Cultures, so I could at least talk intelligently with the NPS professionals from Harpers Ferry. A couple of weeks later, that was followed by a trip to the University of Virginia’s Department of Anthropology . . . where the professor laughed at me and accused me of illegally digging up the Hopewell pottery in Ohio. Oh well! A few years later, I discovered a large Hopewell village site on a bend in the Shenandoah River between Maurertown and Woodstock, while restoring another Colonial Era farm for a client. I brought in the famous archaeologist, Dr. William Gardner, whose Thunderbird Associates was the next door neighbor of my architecture office in Woodstock, to do the archaeological survey. Gardener confirmed that this was a large Hopewell site, but could get no interest from his colleagues or the Commonwealth of Virginia to carry out a thorough investigation.
How people can say that a plat drawn by George Washington in 1754 was used at the loan closing for your home? The boundaries of our 55 acre farm had remained unchanged since they were plotted out by a young militia colonel that year. Shortly thereafter, he was called to active duty and dispatched to a French fort, where Pittsburg is now located, to order the French to leave. On the way back home, his company attacked a group of French soldiers on a diplomatic mission also. After the melee, Washington’s Indian scouts killed and scalped the French commanding officer . . . thus starting the French and Indian War. My house was a hospital used by both sides during the Civil War. Up the Old Back Road a half mile was Baker’s Store . . . where Mosby’s men like to grab some crackers and cheese on the way to a raid.
It was the experience of living in a place with such rich heritage that launched my deep interest in American history. On weekends, Jay Monahan (Katie Couric’s late husband) and I would drive around the Shenandoah Valley in awe of the historical sites, everywhere one turned. Eventually, we were appointed to the commission, which set up the American Battlefields Protection Program.
The erasure of the Shawnee and Uchee
Winchester, VA . . . up the Valley Turnpike a bit from my farm . . . openly acknowledged that the Shawnee had lived there immediately before the arrival of white settlers. Although 18th century Virginians generally hated the Shawnee, there are many streets and subdivisions in the Winchester Area, which honor the Shawnee.
Such was not the case in Western North Carolina, where I lived prior to moving to Virginia. While I was the first director of the Downtown Asheville Revitalization Commission, we told people that until 1763 there had been a huge Shawnee town where Biltmore Village is now located. The name of the Swannanoa River meant “Shawnee River.” The 1701 map of North America by Guillaume De L’Isle labeled western North Carolina, “Pays du Chaouanons” – Land of the Shawnee. It showed the region only occupied by Creek, Shawnee and Uchee villages. The region around Hendersonville, Brevard and Sapphire Valley, NC had been Creek Territory until 1763. Old Fort, Lenoir and Morganton had been Uchee villages.
However, while I was Director of the Asheville-Buncombe Historic Resources Commission, a group of professors came through town to promote their version of the Hernando de Soto Expedition. That morning, two state archaeologists and I met with the professors to tell them that their route, described by masking tape on a state highway map, was highly flawed. There were no occupied Indian towns on the French Broad River during the mid-1500s. That afternoon, after picking up large checks from the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Biltmore Estate (reportedly $25,000) the professors gave a press conference in which they announced that a dinky 18 inch high, Woodland Period mound in a pasture on the Biltmore Estate was the site of the capital of the Cherokee Nation, Guasuli, where De Soto spent the night. The village around the mound had been abandoned for a thousand years, when De Soto’s conquistadors were rampaging through the Southeast. Guasuli was the Hispanic way was writing the name of a Proto-Creek people, the Wasaw-li, whose capital was on the Savannah River near present day Elberton, GA. It didn’t matter. North Carolina soon put up an historical marker on Biltmore Ave. announcing the professors’ delusion as fact. I had a front row seat when the era of Fabricated History dawned in the Southeast.
Shortly before I left Asheville City Hall to re-enter private practice, City Manager Ken Michelove forwarded to me a letter from North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt. It ordered all public officials to be in compliance with a law (or proclamation?) passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, which required all American Indian archaeological sites and artifacts in the mountain counties to be labeled “Cherokee.” Say what? Such nonsense merely enhanced my joy in getting out of government employment. Little did I realize that this idiotic command would soon affect the interpretation of history and archaeological sites in several states adjoining North Carolina.
A game changer
As stated in an earlier article, a new POOF subscriber has sent me extraordinary satellite images of either Hopewell or Amazonian geometrical earthworks in Haywood County, NC. Several years ago, I found a Hopewell style earthwork in the Andrews Valley, which actually is in sight of the new Cherokee gambling casino. Last night, I got to thinking. One of the first articles that I wrote in 2010 as architectural columnist for the National Examiner was on the Garden Creek village sites in Haywood County. At the time, I was living in a tent near those sites.
Although now labeled “a Cherokee Heritage Site,” the archaeologists specifically stated in 1976 that no Cherokee artifacts were found in the Garden Creek Archaeological Zone. The archaeologists described the houses at Garden Creek, but obviously did not perceive what I instantly recognized. The houses at Garden Creek were identical in every detail to Hopewell Culture houses in Ohio. They were unlike the Fort Ancient Culture houses in Ohio, which appeared at the time that Garden Creek was occupied. How could this be?
The architectural discoveries now being made in the Soque River Basin Study are far beyond the scale of what I ever anticipated. Just one of the mounds in Batesville is in almost perfect condition and covers five acres! It most closely resembles the architecture of the Maya city of Tonina in the Chiapas Highlands. The scale and sophistication of the ancient structures, we are discovering, mandate that I present my drawings and analyses in a more professional format than is possible with this particular website. Therefore, the Soque River Basin Study will be presented in the new Americas Revealed website, while the People of One Fire will be focused for the remainder of spring 2019 on the Shawnee, Hopewell Culture and western North Carolina.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- New Video: Exploration of the Soque River Basin - June 24, 2019
- Like most of the other sites, the Ladds Mountain Observatory became gravel! - June 22, 2019
- Celebrating the Creek New Year! - June 21, 2019
- US Senator Richard Burr accuses Cherokees of bribing state officials and bullying other Carolina tribes. - June 20, 2019
- Joy Harjo named first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States! - June 19, 2019