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The Melilot Colony in Georgia

The Melilot Colony in Georgia

There is a very large county park in Northeast Metro Atlanta that contains stone ruins unlike anything the British settlers, who founded the Colony of Georgia, every built.   Most are like the retaining walls and stone cairns built by Native Americans in North Georgia.  However,  other rectangular stone foundations seem to belong to the type of houses built in Northern Europe during the 1500s and 1600s.  How could this be?

The mixture of Native American and Late Medieval European features confounded archaeologists about 25 years ago.  It proved to be such a bitter controversy that the archaeologists refused to discuss the many stone ruins in Georgia anymore.   Then the People of One Fire came along.

The physical descriptions of the town of Melilot in a book by a French ethnologist, published in 1658,  exactly match the terrain of Little Mulberry River Park and its environs.   The book mentioned a Mount Morial near the town.   In fact, there is a small mountain to the northeast of the park that was named Mount Moriah by early Anglo-American settlers in the 1800s.  Could these enigmatic stone ruins be the location of Melilot?   It is a strong possibility.

A long-forgotten letter, discovered in early November of 2014 by regional planner and historian, Michael Jacobs, has provided very significant collaborating evidence that an English colony thrived in what is now northeast Metro Atlanta throughout the 17th century.  Jacobs is Senior Regional Planner at the South Georgia Regional Commission in Waycross, GA.  Michael was also one of the founding members of the People of One Fire.

The seven page letter was written on January 6, 1660 in perfect Renaissance French by Edward Graves (Graeves) a member of the board of directors of the colony, to the Rev. Charles de Rochefort, a French Protestant minister living in exile in Rotterdam, Holland. De Rochefort’s commentary on the letter said that Grave held a Doctor of Law and lived in Melilot within the Apalache Kingdom.

The ruins of Melilot are probably located at Little Mulberry River Park in Gwinnett County, GA. The letter starts out:

“Monsieur, Bienque nous vivions dans l’une plus recuilée colonies de l’Amerique Septentrionale & que nous soyons presque privez de tout commerce avec le reste de hommes . . .”

[Translation]  Sir, although we live in one of the most remote colonies of North America and we are deprived of almost all trade with the rest of men . . .

The letter goes on to heavily complement De Rochefort’s1658 book on the Apalache Kingdom in what is now northern Georgia, but tells him that the engravings by Arnout Leers that accompanied the book were not accurate.  Grave sent several pencil drawings of architecture and plants in Apalache for future editions of the book.

De Rochefort’s book stated that six survivors of the doomed French colony at Fort Caroline arrived in Apalache in 1566.  They converted King Mahdo to Protestant Christianity. Mahdo then began welcoming Protestant and Jewish refugees to his kingdom. A handful of survivors from the Roanoke Colony arrived in 1591.

In early 1621 a shipload of English colonists arrived, who permanently gave the colony an English character, complete with a Protestant church.  These colonists had planned to settle in Virginia, but re-embarked because of smallpox and hostile Indians. The Dutch sea captain told them about the Melilot colony.  The Englishmen found the climate, year-round, to be more pleasant than Virginia, plus their Native American hosts were civilized and friendly.

De Rochefort stated that although the Spanish called a province of Indians in Florida, the Apalache, these towns were actually colonies of the real Apalache in the Apalachien (Georgia) Mountains.  He said that the real name of Florida Indians was Tala-halwase, which means “offspring from highland towns.”  We know this word as Tallahassee.

The Apalache Kingdom appears on almost all European maps of North America from 1562 to 1715.  Melilot’s name appears from 1570 to 1705.  This fascinating lost civilization was completely ignored by American scholars until 2012, when the publicity about the Track Rock Terrace Complex in Georgia was announced to the world.  Officials in several Georgia counties immediately contacted me about ancient stone ruins in their counties and asked for help in obtaining professional archaeological investigations.  For decades, archaeologists at the University of Georgia had refused to even look at these ruins.  The Apalache Foundation was incorporated in the summer of 2014 to fund professional studies of these enigmatic archeological zones. Some, near Atlanta, stretch for over two miles.

The surprising South American Connection

The controversy stirred up by the US Forest Service and some Georgia archaeologists toward the Track Rock Terrace Complex in 2012 shouldn’t have ever happened.  Georgia’s Creek Indians have always known that they had some Maya ancestry and spoke many Maya words. Most also carry some Maya DNA trace markers. The Miccosukee Indians of Florida also exhibit these Maya heritage characteristics. The Muskogee Creeks of Alabama and Oklahoma show less Maya influence, but do speak some words derived from Itza Maya.

Even as the controversy flared over the Maya evidence, People of One Fire researchers knew that there was a problem.  There were several town names in Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee that were neither Muskogean nor Maya.  They pre-dated the arrival of ethnic Cherokees in the region.  Yuchi and Shawnee speakers were not able to translate these words either.

Card-carrying Cherokees, whose non-Cherokee ancestors lived near the Track Rock Archaeological Zone also often carry some Maya DNA.  To the east of Track Rock in Towns County, GA were an isolated band of families, who the federal called Cherokees, but whose Asiatic DNA consisted entirely of Peruvian, Maya and Muskogean DNA test markers.  Why would Peruvian DNA exist in the Georgia Mountains?

Then Cherokee researcher, Marilyn Rae, found a 355 year old book gathering dust in the “Fantasy and Utiopia” bin of the Carter Brown Library at Brown University.  It Charles de Rochefort’s “l’Histoire Naturelle et Morale des isles Antilles de l’Amérique”.   Rae was co-author of The Apalache Chronicles, which is an English translation of iits chapters on the Southeast, along with commentary which relates de Rochefort’s descriptions with physical locations known today.

De Rochefort’s book contained two chapters on the indigenous peoples of what is now Georgia, but then was called Florida Française.  New England history professors had condemned the book to ignominy many decades ago because it described cities of stone built on Georgia mountainsides.HurricaneShoals-email

De Rochefort described the Native peoples in the Highlands of Georgia as having many cultural traits typical of eastern Peru and the Upper Amazon Basin.  The drawings of the Apalache showed them wearing clothing exactly like the Native people of Satipo Province, Peru today. The Native American name for the Georgia Mountains was Paian. [See map above.] That happens also to be the name of a mountainous province in northern Peru.

The temples and houses of the Apalache elite were built out of stone on the sides of mountains.  The Apalache commoners built houses and towns in the river valleys, identical to those of the ancestors of the Creek Indians. The elite and commoners lived in separate towns.  Georgia archaeologists had refused to recognize the existence of the elite’s towns because they didn’t believe that Native Americans knew how to stack stones.

Months of analyzing the mysterious town names in Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee revealed that most could be translated by Shipibo, Tupi or Arawak dictionaries. In fact, many of the town names in Georgia and western North Carolina could also be found in eastern Peru. These are all South American languages.  It became obvious that the Muskogee Creeks had not arrived in the region much earlier than the Cherokees.  The early mound-building activities in the Lower Southeast were carried out by people similar to the Alabama Indians, who had mixed with South American, Itza Maya and Arawak immigrants in varying proportions.   Apparently, those of South American ancestry had been the elite in some provinces, while those of Itza Maya ancestry had been the elite in other provinces.

De Rochefort’s description of the early European colonization in the Southern Highlands was far more difficult to prove.  Seventeenth century English archives describe towns and hamlets built by immigrants from the Old World in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and northern Georgia.  However, with the exception of De Rochefort, these 17th century eyewitness account do not provide enough specific geographical information to pinpoint the locations. Not one American archaeologist has ever attempted to identify these town sites.

The seven pages of the letter by Edward Graves are full of details about the landscape, flora and fauna of the region northeast of Atlanta. There can be no doubts concerning the authenticity of this letter.  A new chapter will be added to American history books in the near future.

How about them thar apples?

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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.



    Thank you for this fascinating article! I’ve tried googling, but I can’t find anything about the letter online. Do you know where I might find the entire letter (in French) to read?


  2. Michael Jacobs is almost completed with the translation. He and I are going to publish a book in 2016, which contains many letters from early colonists in southeastern North America. I am translating the letters written in Spanish.


    So what happened to Lake May?

    • I strongly suspect that white men blew up the natural dam that created it. Also, the climate changed. The Georgia Mountains used to get so much snow that their Creek name was the Snowy Mountains. In 1776, according to explorer William Bartram, the Okefenokee Swamp would swell to cover most of SE Georgia when the snow pack melted in the mountains. It is now the Little Ocmulgee River Swamp.


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