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The secret history of Gone With the Wind

The secret history of Gone With the Wind

The people, who inspired Gone With The Wind’s characters, and how the plot of this novel was hatched at the former log home of a great Cherokee leader ~ A spectacular internet extravaganza by Mixed Heritage Trash Productions, Inc.

History is indeed stranger than fiction.  Had the Natchez not been catastrophically defeated by the French then taken refuge among the Creeks and Cherokees . . . Had the Chickamauga Cherokees not gotten their you know what’s whipped on a hill overlooking the future location of Downtown Rome, Georgia  . . .  the husband of the woman, who would become the first female to serve in the US Senate, not taken care of wounded Confederate soldiers on the side of the Western and Atlantic Railroad . . .  the beautiful daughter of a steamboat captain not started a school for Appalachian children . . .  a brilliant Methodist minister not been addicted to opium  . . . the pioneer of the modern automobile industry not had a secret livelong affair with a Southern Belle . . . and a “liberated” Irish-American newspaper reporter not tagged along with her bosses to wild weekend retreats . . .  there would never have been a Sequoyah Syllabary, a  movie named, “Gone With the Wind” or a ferry named the Dana Scarlett, daily sailing between Copenhagen, Denmark and Landskrona, Sweden. 

Join us as we embark on multi-part series that is a sweeping portrayal of the years between 1793 and 1939.  It is a secret history of America that has never been shown in the theater, but dramatizes the integral role that the Southeast’s indigenous peoples have played in creating the cultural richness that is the United States today.   The core members of the People of One Fire are very proud of our Southeastern Native American heritage, but we are all of mixed heritage . . . and so our interests spread far beyond our ancestral history.

Our principal characters include the citizens of a Native American town in the Pine Log Mountains 1500 years ago;  Cherokee Principal Chief Charles R. Hicks;  Acting Principal Chief William Hicks, Major Ridge, James Vann, Uwatie, Sequoyah, Dr. William Felton, Senator Rebecca Felton,  Martha Berry,  Henry Ford and Margaret Mitchell.  


The opening scene of the play begins only four years before it will end.  A brief newspaper article appears in the Atlanta Constitution, written by one of the most famous writers of her time, Corra Harris.  It was written by Corra in late 1934, shortly before her death on February 9, 1935.  The clipping was found among the author’s literary papers, which were given to the library of the University of Georgia by her heirs. Corra’s career as a journalist and novelist began, remarkably enough, as a blogger in a New York City newspaper.  *She  is referring here to the exploratory work of Archaeologist Warren K. Moorhead of Andover, Massachusetts, at the Etowah Mounds near Cartersville, GA.

A Sketch of the Pine Log Indian Cave

By Corra Mae Harris

Ten years ago Mr. Henson was rabbit hunting on a creek that runs through Mr. Tom McHugh’s land. The rabbit disappeared through a small hole, which evidently opened into a cave. The hole was large enough for the small hound to pass through, but barely. Mr. Henson realized that the hound was in a cave by the sound of his barking. The incident was entirely forgotten until three years ago. Then Mr. Monk Henson and Mr. John Quintin were passing that way, remembering the hole, examined the place.

They found that an opening to the cave had been sealed up with rocks, very cunningly and carefully laid. It was only by pulling at them that they found that this was the work of men. And they were able to pull all the rock out and leave a round hole. about four feet in diameter. The chamber within was about ten by eight feet, but it was practically filled with top soil. And Mr. Henson pulled a bone out of it which proved to be the thigh bone of a man.

This was the beginning of a mad rush to the cave, a search with picks and shovels for gold. Numerous skeletons were found, beads, copper earrings and copper breast plates, a four legged clay pot, and many other things were found. Much damage was done before thoughtful people in the community realized the possible cultural worth of the contents of the cave, which proved in fact to be two burial chambers.

The second chamber is practically intact and had a huge stone rolled before the entrance. This was not explored, except enough to find that it also contained Indian relics, because the air was bad. No one really knows what this second chamber holds.

It was at this time, in 1931, that a very accomplished archeologist from the North was ravaging the Indian mounds of Georgia. * He was known to be on his way to investigate this cave.  The day before he arrived Mr. Tom McHugh was persuaded to seal up, again, the original opening to the first chamber . . . this time with cement and rock.  The archeologist was not permitted to approach it. No one has entered the cave since it was sealed.

Emory University took an option for six months on the contents of the cave, but was unable to raise the money necessary to do the excavation and has long since given up the option. This option by Dr. Con’s acknowledgement has expired.

Three or four citizens of this community are anxious to obtain funds and an expert archeologist to explore this cave. No one here has either the money or the skill to do it. The only conditions they demand are: that whatever is found in the cave shall be placed in one collection and known as the Pine Log Indian Relics, or same similar name. One at least of these citizens, probably two, asked for a few duplicates of the things found there. They ask that the cave be guarded until it is thoroughly explored, especially the second chamber, which is practically untouched. They wished to hold this collection either in the State Capitol in Atlanta or somewhere in Bartow County, hereafter to be designated.


The mummy of a Juana is carried to his final resting place in a hand-dug tomb.

Act Two ~ Part One

The year is around 500 AD.  A crowd of mourners, consisting of the Juana’s  extended family follow the litter, carrying the mummy of the departed leader, down a sloping ramp from the hilltop ceremonial ground, where his house sits into the main village of the commoners.  There the funeral procession is joined by the people of the village.  They solemnly walk up to the royal tomb complex.  The mummy is carefully placed onto the floor of the cave beside the badly deteriorated remains of previous Juana’s.  An enormous rock is rolled back over the opening to the tomb.


The massacre of the French garrison at Fort Rosalie by the Natchez ~ November 29, 1729

Act Two ~ Part Two

Natchez refugees come to Georgia and North Carolina

The Natchez People could not stand any more land thefts by the French commander at Fort Rosalie.  After two months of feigning compliance with arrogant French demands, a band of Natchez leaders and warriors approached Fort Rosalie on Natchez Bluff in what is now Downtown Natchez, Mississippi.   They were carrying food, so the fort’s commander ordered the gates opened and welcomed them.  Already other Natchez war parties were killing Frenchmen at locations outside the walls of the fort.  Now they began to slaughter the ill-prepared garrison.  Only 20 French soldiers in the area survived.

By 1731 things were going catastrophically for the Natchez.  Almost all the warriors of the mighty Choctaw Nation had formed an alliance with the French in order to obtain the Natchez People’s lands.  Large numbers of French soldiers had also been rushed to the Province of La Louisianne.   Overwhelmed by the combined numbers, the majority of Natichez had been killed or sold into slavery to live short, miserable lives on Caribbean Island sugar plantations.  

Some of the Natchez had taken refuge among the Chickasaws, who had come to their head because their enemies, the Choctaws, were French allies.  However, the majority of surviving Natchez, numbering only few hundred men, women and children fled eastward into the territory of the Creek Confederacy in 1731.    The Upper Creeks agreed to take about half of the refugees, while the Cherokees agreed to take the remainder.

Each tribe placed the Natchez refugees at location on the frontier with the other.  The Creek-Natchez settled on what is now Pine Log Creek in Bartow County, GA.  The Cherokee-Natchez initially settled on Pine Log Creek in present day Cherokee County, NC.   Both streams received the name, Pine Log, because in the 1820s, Protestant missionaries supplied with faulty Cherokee dictionaries had mistranslated the Cherokee word for Natchez, Ani-Natsi, as meaning a pine tree trunk. 

Over time the Cherokee Natchez established a couple more villages and intermarried with both the Cherokees and the Creek Natchez.  The Creek Natchez became associated with the Elate Confederacy.  Elate means “Foothill People” in the Hitchiti langage.  It was a group of approximately 12 quasi-independent Hitchiti Creek and Uchee villages, located in the Georgia Mountains on Creek land, but neutral in regard to the continuing Creek-Cherokee War.

The Battle of Long Swamp Creek ~ Major Thomas Waters Tory Rangers against the SC and GA Mounted Rifles under Col. Andrew Pickens

Act Three ~ Part One

The Battle of Long Swamp Creek – October 22, 1783

It was the last battle of the American Revolution and in fact was fought after the Treaty of Paris had been signed.  However, this event would have catastrophic consequences on the Creek Confederacy.  It should be remembered that until 1787,  South Carolina claimed all land in what is now the northern half of Georgia.

In May 1777,  the majority of Cherokee leaders signed the Treaty of Dewitts Corner with South Carolina and Georgia.  Chief Okaseta (Sour Mush) refused to sign the treaty and wanted to continue the war with the United States.  He  and his band of about 50 followers were expelled from the Cherokee Nation.  The Upper Creeks allowed the South Mush Band to settle on Long Swamp Creek, about three miles upstream from the Etowah River.  Most of the renegade Cherokees settled near the Chickasaw town of Chickamauga.   At least two Upper Creek towns, Opelika and Tuskegee, plus a South Carolina Creek town, Sawati, also settled there.

Just before the British garrison at Augusta, GA surrendered to Patriot forces on June 6, 1781,  Major Thomas Waters led his Tory Rangers out of Augusta during the night and headed for the Georgia Mountains. Waters had married a Cherokee woman, who was related to Sour Mush.  The Tories established a base camp near Sour Mush’s village.  From their base at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Waters Rangers staged bloody raids on the Georgia Frontier, killing most adult white males they encountered. 

In September 1783,  Colonel Andrew Pickens and Major Elijah Clarke led a large detachment of South Carolina Militia, Georgia Militia and Creek Scouts from Northeast Georgia on a raid to destroy the Waters Rangers.   The Patriots first visited Tugaloo and Nocose, but found no Tories.  However, when they attacked Sour Mush’s village, they saw white men run off.  

Sour Mush quickly surrendered and then unilaterally offered a peace treaty between the Elate and South Carolina, giving away all lands belonging to the Creek Confederacy in Northeast Georgia.  Sour Mush had no authority to sign any form of treaty.   Pickens had no authority to sign any treaties that involved land cessions.  Under the Articles of Confederation, only representatives of Congress could do that.

A couple of days later, Pickens and Clarke met with the Principal Chief of the Elate at the village of Salicoa.  Basically, the same terms were agreed upon, but this time the treaty was signed by the principal chief of the Elate, plus their principal chief.   At the time, Pickens still had no authority from anyone to sign a treaty.  He went back to South Carolina and got that authority. 

The new State of Georgia was badly in arrears for payments due its militia and so immediately began surveying lots in the Creek territory granted by this treaty.  Congress rejected the treaty as being illegal, but Georgia ignored Congress.  Congress then appointed Benjamin Hawkins, Andrew Pickens, Joseph Martin, and Lachlan M’Intosh, Commissioners Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to jointly negotiate official treaties with the Cherokees, Elate and Creeks at the residence of Andrew Pickens, Hopewell Plantation in November 1786.   The Creek Confederacy was not represented at the conference as demanded by Congress. 

The Commissioners pulled a “fast one” and labeled the Elate as being Cherokees. The Cherokees had been thoroughly suppressed, while Georgia did not want to be surrounded on three sides by the still powerful Creek Confederacy . . . which by that time was considered the most militarily powerful Indian nation in North America.  One of the representatives was the chief of Pine Log, but it is not clear if this was the North Carolina Pine Log or the Georgia Pine Log.  However, it didn’t matter . . . the Elates would always be considered part of the Cherokee tribe after this treaty, even though most were not ethnic Cherokees.  The Elates had been living on Upper Creek land, but now their lands in north-central Georgia were labeled Cherokee. Thus, the Creek Natchez village of Pine Log instantly became a second Cherokee Natchez village of Pine Log. 

Congress rejected the land cession aspects of the Treaty of Hopewell because Creek land was seized without the approval of the Creeks.  The Commissioners were instructed to meet again in Augusta with all the Southeastern tribes.  Government agents met with Creek leaders at Shoulderbone Mounds.  The principal chief, Alexander McGillivray refused to sign the treaty, but after he left some lower chiefs did.  The treaty ceded all lands east of the Ogeechee.  However, a treaty later signed with the Cherokees gave them all Creek lands west of the Chattahoochee as hunting lands.  The Creeks did not learn about this deception until 1790 and in response declared war on the State of Georgia.

Act Three ~ Part Two

The Battle of Etowah Cliffs ~ October 17, 1793

Hundreds of women and children are screaming in horror or their last moments of pain as General John Sevier’s Tennessee volunteers massacre non-combatants at what had been a encampment of renegade Cherokees, Upper Creeks and Chickasaws . . . commonly known as the Chickamaugas.  When they realized that they were going to be outnumbered in Tennessee, the Chickamaugas split into two bands.  One headed to Kentucky, while the larger group headed south into Georgia.   They had established a village on top of a small mountain overlooking the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers, now called Myrtle Hill . . . thinking that even if their pursuers attempted to attack the two rivers and steep terrain would make their capture impossible.

The Tennessee mounted militia first attempted to cross the Etowah River about a mile south of Myrtle Hill, where the water was shallower.  This drew the Chickamaugas out of their fortified positions.  The Tennessee Men then galloped back to Myrtle Hill to cross the Etowah River there. The Cherokee rushed back to contest the crossing of the Etowah, but could not keep pace with the mounted Tennessee men.  The Tennesseans pounced upon the few Chickamauga warriors, guarding the non-combatants, then began to kill the women and children.   The enraged Chickamauga warriors charged into the enemy, but their battle plan had completely unraveled.

When an important Cherokee leader, named Kingfisher was killed, the remaining warriors fled in all directions.  General Sevier ordered the encampment burned.  Is this the same Kingfisher, who was supposedly killed at the non-existent Battle of Taliwa in 1755 . . . also on the Etowah River?  Whatever the case, the Chickamaugas were catastrophically defeated and their will to fight any further, broken.

A 22 year old member of the Cherokee National Council, know to his fellow Chickamaugas as Nunnehidihi (and to whites as The Ridge) saw a gap on the Etowah River side of the attacking Tennesseans.  Realizing that it was hopeless to try to fight back into the village to save the women and children,  he yelled to his friends to run down the steep banks of the hill to the Etowah River and then literally swim for their lives. Some didn’t make it as the Tennesseans fired at them from above.   His friends who did make it followed his lead as they frantically ran through the woods, fearing any moment that white men on horseback would appear out of the woods and surround them. 

Nunnehidhi was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, but ethnically, he was Natchez.   He was headed to the remote Natchez village, the whites called Pine Log, which until 1785 had been in the territory of the Creek Nation.  His sister had married a man there.   For several years Nunnehidhi,  Charles Hicks, William Hicks, Uwatie, James Vann and Sequoyah would live in Pine Lo.

In Episode Two . . .  (1) the three former Chickamauga hostiles,  Charles Hicks, The Ridge and James Vann, form a close bond while living near each other in Pine Log.  They would soon lead the remarkable renaissance of the Cherokee Nation. (2)  Charles Hicks builds a home on a flat topped hill that 1300 years earlier had been a Swift Creek Culture ceremonial enclosure. (3) William and Rebecca Felton endure the exact same ravages of war, which a fictional O’Hara Family would experience in a 20th century novel. (4)  Corra Mae White is born during Reconstruction to an impoverished plantation family in the Ruckers Bottom section of Elbert County, GA.

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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.

1 Comment


    Great story so far, can’t wait for the next installment.


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