Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Satellite image showing possible Spanish fort in the Nacoochee Valley
Those of you have the book, The Apalache Chronicles, may recall that while Richard Briggstock was a guest of the King of Apalache in 1653, he visited the Nacoochee Valley, where a fortified Spanish trading post and mission had been established. He also traveled farther north into what was probably the Franklin, NC area and made friends with Spanish gem miners there. I think that I have found the footprint of the Spanish fort in the Nacoochee Valley.
First of all, I found confirmation of the trading post in the Spanish colonial archives. In 1646, Florida Governor Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla directed that a pack mule road be built from St. Augustine to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in order to construct a trading post to develop the deerskin industry there.
A few months later, I found a French map from 1684 by Jean Baptiste Franquelin that showed the road and noted that the original road had been extended over the mountains to the Little Tennessee River. That extension is now known as the Unicoi Trail. However, originally the Unicoi trail included most of the road. Unicoi is derived from the Creek words that mean “path following water.” Most of the Spanish road paralleled rivers.
Analysis of enhanced satellite image
Notice that there are really two architectural footprints, one triangular and the other rectangular. I don’t know if it means that a rectangular fort was added onto a triangular fort . . . or that they are two different forts, constructed at different times. At the top is a drawing a triangular Spanish fort looked like in that era.
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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.
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