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Spanish Speaking Jewish Colonists in the Nacoochee Valley . . . 1694

Spanish Speaking Jewish Colonists in the Nacoochee Valley . . . 1694

Factual history that you will only read in a South Carolina State History textbook

Well, actually, you will also read in The Forgotten History of North Georgia and The Nacoochee Valley . . . Ancient Crossroads of the Americas, but certainly not in Wikipedia.  Southeastern academicians seem determined to keep the presence of 16th and 17th century Sephardic colonists in the Appalachians a closely guarded secret.   There is a brief mention in Wikipedia, which states, “There are vague and unsubstantiated claims from unreliable sources that there were some Spanish-speaking colonists in the Southern Appalachians during the 1600s.  Archaeologists have not found any proof of their presence.”

Actually,  two 16th or 17th century mining villages, containing Spanish  artifacts, were found in the Nacoochee Valley by Anglo-American gold miners in the 1820s and 1830s.  They were reported in Georgia newspapers at the time and described by pioneer archaeologist,  Charles C. Jones, Jr. in his landmark book,  Antiquities of the Southern Indians (1873).

In his book,  Archaeological Survey of North Georgia,  archaeologist Robert Wauchope mentioned being shown an immense number of 16th and 17th century European weapons and tools by “old time” families of the Nacoochee Valley.   He interpreted them as being deposited by the Hernando de Soto Expedition.

In April 2010,  I found a boulder at 5,400 feet above sea level on Hoopers Bald, North Carolina, which memorialized a Sephardic marriage  on September 15, 1615 in Ladino Spanish.   The boulder is still there and has been verified by many people.

Also, in the late 20th century, geologists radiocarbon dated mining timbers at silver mine in the base of Fort Mountain, GA, plus gold mines near Murphy, NC and Mount Mitchell, NC.   They were found to date from around 1580 AD to 1600 AD.

During the first horrific stage of the Yamasee War,  a Jewish girl carved “Liube 1715” on a boulder at Track Rock Gap, GA.  Presumably,  Liube’s parents had been killed and she was either a captive of Indians or fleeing a war party and wanted to let any rescuers that she had come through the gap.

Straight from the South Carolina Colonial Archives

HOWEVER, the two descriptions below are straight from the official colonial archives of the State of South Carolina.  This information is taught to South Carolina school children, but not to North Carolina and Georgia school children.   Apparently,  they don’t want their children to know that their were Jewish colonists in the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains a century before Anglo-American settlers founded Charleston. 

1690:  European readers became aware of the Apalache Indians in North Georgia and the presence of gold in Northeast Georgia, when the memoirs of Captain René de Laudonnière. Commander of Fort Caroline, were published in English in 1587.  All this information was confirmed, plus with more geographical details, when a book by Charles De Rochefort was published in English during 1660. 

James Moore and Maurice Mathews attempted to prospect for gold in the Nacoochee Valley of Georgia, but were turned away by what they thought were hostile Native Americans (not Proto-Cherokee allies of Carolina).  They then took the Unicoi Trail northward into what is now Clay and Cherokee Counties, North Carolina. Here they observed white men mining, probably in the the Andrews Valley near Murphy, where there were silver deposits. All the men wore long beards.

It is interesting that in the early 1700s, Carolinians were aware of gold being in the Nacoochee Valley.  Moore was appointed Royal Governor in 1704.   At that time, he reported that Indian allies (Proto-Cherokes) had moved into the Hiwassee River Valley and killed all the Spanish-speaking miners.  That means that there were no Cherokees living there until around 1700. 

1694: An exploration party composed of British soldiers and their Native American guides from the Savannah Headwaters towns followed a trail to a vantage point overlooking the Nacoochee Valley.  The British observed many columns of smoke. They were told by their Native guides that the smoke was produced by the gold smelters, being operated by Spanish gold miners.  Obviously, being seriously outnumbered, the mounted British soldiers turned around and raced back to inform government officials in Charleston.  Apparently,  the colonists in the Nacoochee Valley were subsequently either killed or driven out by Proto-Cherokees at the request of Carolina officials.

Straight from the French Colonial Archives

1690-1700: French engineers, marines and traders explored and mapped the Southern Appalachians.  At that time, the predominant tribe in Western North Carolina were the Shawnee, while the Apalache dominated North Georgia.

 Apparently while within the future boundaries of Georgia, the explorers encountered a village that they said had to be seen to be believed. It was a town of log cabins. The occupants had European beards, hair color and eyes. They spoke a broken form of Elizabethan English. This may be the descendants of the survivors of the Roanoke Colony, who took refuge in the Nacoochee Valley or the colony settled by the Englishmen who decided in 1621 to settle in the Kingdom of Apalache rather than Virginia.

The olive complexion of these mountaineers and past experience with Mediterranean traders led the French explorers to conclude they had found a colony of “Moors” in the New World. Because of the English language being spoke, it is more likely that the skin color was from 70 years of intermarriage with Native women or nearby Sephardic Jewish miners.

No 20th or 21st century archaeologist has attempted to find any of these very early European colonies.  There are obviously some missing chapters from American History textbooks.

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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.

6 Comments

  1. LBRainwater@gmail.com'

    Are the Elizabethan-speaking people the ones identified by Brent Kennedy in his book entitled The Melungeons? He discovered his ties to this groups through his own health condition of sarcoidosis which was identified with people of Mediterranean descent. He found his own connection the Powhaten Indians in his research.

    Reply
  2. lbrainwater@gmail.com'

    Are you referring to the Melungeons identified by Brent Kennedy as the people who spoke broken Elizabethan English?

    Reply
    • No . . . six members of the Roanoke Colony were allowed to live by the King of Apalache in the Nacoochee Valley. Then in 1621 an entire shipload of English colonists bypassed Jamestown because of a smallpox epidemic and Indian wars. Their Dutch Jewish sea captain took them to the coast of Georgia. The King of Apalache let them settle in NE Georgia and even build a Protestant church. By this time there was already a European colony established in NE Georgia, called Melilot. It appeared on European maps from 1570 to 1607. No academicians ever were curious about what Melilot was.

      Reply
  3. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, a statement from one of De Soto’s men: “Monday, the twelfth of April, they departed from Ocute and arrived at Cofaqui, and principal Indians came with gifts. This cacique Cofaqui was an old man, full-bearded, and a nephew of his governed for him.” (April, 1540) Perhaps some of these “bearded miners” had already arrived by 1540 as the Jews and moors were forced out of Spain by 1492? The Dutch had a trade empire (600 ships) that spanned from East to West Indies so more likely the colony in Georgia was Dutch not English. The first colony might have been closer by the ocean for their ships to stop on their way to South America and also “many things of Spain” were found by De Soto’s men in South Carolina. Clearly “Melilot” (Apalacha capital) does not sound like a Native American word but is similar to the word “Camelot”. Where would you place the location of “Cofaqui”? That might be a river port that the Dutch were using.

    Reply
  4. lonmslack@gmail.com'

    Richard, do you ever give talks or conduct any tours in the Sautee Nacoochee area? Please put me on your list if you do. I always find your stories and theories interesting. I’m not sure why some people get bent out of shape over your ideas. I did want to tell you while taking Charles Hudson’s class at UGA in 1974 I showed him a photo I took of a historical marker in Highlands, NC saying that a group led by DeSoto had traveled nearby. He told that DeSoto had never been anywhere near there, so as late as 1974 that’s what he thought. Since Asheville really isn’t all that far from Highlands it is interesting and makes one wonder why in the 80’s he changed his mind. Lends credibility to some of your statements.

    Reply
    • Actually, I gave a slide lecture at the Sautee-Nacoochee Community Center last Sunday to a large crowd. We will do it again. Contact Dedi Vogt at the Sautee-Nacoochee Community Center and tell her that you would like them to sponsor a guided tour of the archaeological sites in the valley. There are families in the valley, who would sponsor it.

      That is really interesting about Charles Hudson changing the location of De Soto’s journey between 1974 and 1984. By the way, I am pretty sure that either De Soto or Pardo went thought Highlands. The Tokee were in Highlands and Pardo’s journal mentions passing through a high mountain valley where the Tokee lived.

      Thanks

      Reply

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