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The two Battles of Echete Pass . . . forgotten, but dramatic events during the French and Indian War

The two Battles of Echete Pass . . .  forgotten, but dramatic events during the French and Indian War



Until the early 21st century, there was a North Carolina historical marker just north of the Georgia-North Carolina line on US Hwy. 441, which was entitled “Battle of Echete or Itsate Pass.”   Then Cherokee leaders realized that Echete (Hitchiti) and Itsate were Creek words and that Itsate Gap was in Georgia.  If there was a prominent geographical feature with a Creek name in the region, the Cherokees couldn’t have possibly lived there for 12,000 years.

North Carolina DOT crew removed the sign. Several North Carolina academicians received grants from the Eastern Band of Cherokees to re-write the history of the two battles in this gorge, which omitted the words Itsate and Echete, plus left out the statement that Itsate Pass was the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation.  Two historical markers were erected in downtown Franklin, NC, which described the location of the two battlefields in vague terms.  A third historical marker is Otto, NC, describes the battles occurring there . . . when in fact, previous descriptions of the battles said that they were five miles south of the Cherokee town of Etchoe in present day Otto. That would place them today in the State of Georgia.

View of the beautiful landscape of Rabun County, GA from a table at the Dillard House Restaurant

Stopping at a historical marker

It was the weekend of the Tet Offensive.  Our fraternity had chartered two buses to take us to Gatlinburg, TN.  My date was the daughter of Colonel Wylie B. Wisdom at Fort Benning, GA.   We were both freshmen and were excited about doing “grown up” things.  That euphoria ended abruptly while we were feasting at the Dillard House Restaurant in the gorgeous Dillard Valley.

An announcement came on the TV that President Johnson had lied yet once again.  Instead of a lull in fighting being an indication of that the war in Vietnam was almost won,  we learned that hundreds of young American soldiers had already died in a Communist offensive across the entire nation. We were shocked to see the entire Viet imperial capital of Hue, lying in smouldering ruins.  Barbara’s father had been in Hue on a previous trip to Vietnam.

Barbara had several friends from Butler High School in Columbus, who were in the I-Corps region, where the fighting was heaviest.  She tried to call her father from a payphone (there was no such thing as a cellular phone) and was told that he could not be contacted.  He periodically went to Vietnam on intelligence missions and so she feared that he was in the middle of the fighting or dead.  That put a chill on the whole weekend.  I never saw her again, after we dropped her off at Wesleyan College in Macon, Sunday evening.

Well . . . there was the “drunken band members knocking on the hotel room door at 3:00 AM” and “Oh my god, I am going to be on the front page of the newspapers tomorrow!” incidents . . . but we won’t talk about THAT.

At any rate, shortly after dining at the Dillard House, the other bus had to stop at the North Carolina line for an engine adjustment.  While were were waiting, I walked over to the “Battle of Echete Pass” historical marker.  It was a fascinating chapter in history that had never been mentioned in high school history books.  None of the Cherokee Wars were mentioned in either our American History or Georgia History textbooks.  The bloodshed in western Virginia during the French and Indian War was not mentioned either.  All that was mentioned in five years of high school was a brief chapter about battles in New York, Pennsylvania and Canada.

At the time, I wanted to return to the valley ASAP to explore its nature, history and Indian mounds.  That would not occur until 2005, when I began work on the design of changing an old Ford dealership in Downtown Clayton to the new Clayton Pharmacy.  When I returned to the valley two years later, the old Echete Pass historical marker was gone.

Hey Rich, where were you this past summer?

These were surrealistic times that many of our readers are too young to remember.  About two months later, after the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, was murdered,  riots broke out all over the nation.  Many major cities were aflame, including Washington, DC.  A large riot came north on Techwood Drive and almost made it to the Georgia Tech campus.  That night, fire bombs were thrown into my fraternity house, Lambda Chi Alpha.  Simultaneously, the Navy Armory, next to Grant Field was broken into.  Black Panthers were attempting to steal our 1,000+ rifles, pistols and machine guns, but were stopped by some very brave campus police officers. 

Our 800 member Navy ROTC battalion was called to active duty to defend the Georgia Tech campus.  The Army and Air Force ROTC units didn’t have working weapons.  While we were waiting for more ammunition, the Marine Corps flew in two companies of Marines from Camp Lejeune, NC, plus jeeps with mounted machine guns.  The Marines built machine gun nests with sand bags along Techwood and North Ave.  One protected the Sigma Chi and our fraternity house.  How do you spell RELIEVED?  I was just a freshman and had mainly been taking courses from the Navy in such things as Naval History and Design of Naval Bases 101.  LOL. Since only Marine and Independent Command midshipmen, such as myself, had any land-based combat training, we were expected to play the major role in said defense . . . which fortunately never happened. 

Bet this is another chapter of American history that your textbooks left out also!


Etymology Break

Echete and Hitchiti – Anglicization of the Itza Maya and Creek word, Itsate (pronounced Ĭt : jzhă : tē) which means Itza People in both languages.  It was the ethnic name of the majority of Creeks in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.  Since the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists knows for a fact that no Mayas came to North America, a mystery remains why most Creeks in would call themselves Itza People.

The town name of Echete appears at several locations in Barnwell’s 1721 map of South Carolina, but the one on the Little Tennessee River in Rabun County, disappeared after the Cherokee Tribe was formed in 1725.  Several other towns with “Etche” roots around Franklin, NC also disappeared.  Presumably, these towns elected to relocate to their kin, farther south in Georgia.

Echoe, originally Etchoe – Anglicization of the Cherokee-nization of the word Itza-e, which means “Itza Principal.”  The Maya prefix and suffix “e” or “i” was added to town names to indicate a provincial or district capital.

Waya and Wallalieu – Anglicization of the Cherokee-nization of the Coastal Creek word, Wahale, which means, “Southern People.”  The term was typically applied to immigrants from South America and the Caribbean Basin, but not peoples from Mesoamerica.

Nikasee , Niquasee or Nakosee – Anglicization of Cherokee-nization of Creek word for bear, nokose.  In some Creek dialects, nikose was the word for a bear cub.  The earliest spelling for this word on maps was Nakosee.   It was an important Cherokee town, located in present day Franklin, NC until burned by a Koweta Creek army in the autumn of 1754.  The village was partially rebuilt, but burned again in June 1761.  Few Cherokees lived in the town site afterward.

Tennessee – Anglicization of Muskogee ethnic name, Tenasi or Tanasi, and Itsate ethnic name Taenasi, which mean, “Descendants of the Taino (Arawaks).


Unraveling the “doctored” history of these battles

Over the past six years, a private client has been funding my systematic analysis of the Native American history of the original territory of the Creek and Seminole Peoples.  Very frankly, the works of historians and anthropologists in Alabama and South Carolina for the Pre-Columbian and Colonial Periods are far more reliable than those produced by academicians in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. 

North Carolina academicians think that it is their patriotic duty as Tar Heels to exaggerate and distort the history of the Cherokees to ludicrous levels.  By zealously preventing corrections to faulty Wikipedia articles, they have caused the fake history to be assumed by the general public to be actual history.

North Georgia academicians seem to be working under departmental rules not to contradict the new ludicrous history, produced by North Carolina academicians, for fear of not getting their ration of Cherokee casino money.  South Georgia academicians seem to think that the northern boundary of Georgia is at the Atlanta International Airport.

Florida academicians can be highly reliable for events before 1500 AD and after 1600 AD, but they are stuck with a fake location for Fort Caroline.  It was a scam sneaked through Congress in 1950 in return for the Florida congressional delegation’s support of Harry Truman’s Korean War policies.  Florida Native American history accounts put Georgia tribes in Florida, even though they always were shown to be in Georgia by Colonial Era maps.  All of these tribes either ended up on the Chattahoochee River in Southwest Georgia or in North Georgia.

In the case of these two battles, I found that the accounts by South Carolina historians were the only ones based fully on the actual eyewitness accounts . . .  with no hidden political agenda.   The First Battle of Itsate (Echete) Pass began five miles south of the Cherokee village of Echoee.  Itsate Pass is five miles south of the site of Echoee and in Georgia.  South Carolina historians state that this battle was in Georgia.   Contemporary accounts place the second battle two miles south of Itsate Pass at a mountain gap just south of Rabun Gap – Nacoochee School in Dillard, GA.  South Carolina historians state that as fact also.

About 15-20 years ago, some North Carolina historians or perhaps Eastern Band of Cherokee bureaucrats became aware that Echete and Itsate were Creek words and that the Creek town of Itsate (Echete) was in Dillard, GA.  There was even a map given out to tourists in Franklin, NC, which showed the battle at its real location, but the tourists were told that this site was in North Carolina.  That is why the original historical marker about the battle was removed from near the GA-NC state line.

North Carolina academicians were given grants by the Eastern Band of Cherokees to re-write the history of the battle.  The new version of the battle eliminated any known Creek words, which included the original name of the battle . . . not knowing that Echoee itself is an Anglicization of a Creek town name.  Obviously, if there were Creek town names in that part of the Appalachians, the Cherokees had not lived there for 12,000 years. 

The new North Carolina state historic markers are very vague as to the location of the two battles.  They merely state that the battles were near Otto, North Carolina.  Two of the markers are in Downtown Franklin, NC.  A third is near the site of the Cherokee village of Echoee in Otto, which itself was built on top of an ancient Creek town containing artifacts almost identical to those at Etowah Mounds.

Prelude to the First Anglo-Cherokee War

At the onset of the French and Indian War, Native allies of the the French began horrific raids on the western frontiers of British colonies from Virginia northward. The landscape of the Shenandoah Valley is dotted with historical markers that describe massacres committed by the Ohio River Valley Shawnee.  The heads of children were smashed against rocks.  Everyone else was tied to trees and burned alive.  The southern Shawnee were not involved with these massacres.  They were associated with the Creek Confederacy. 

In June of 1754, colonial officials in South Carolina and Georgia persuaded the Cherokees and Creeks to end their forty year long war.  All divisions of the Cherokees and provinces of the Creek Confederacy signed the peace treaty . . . except Koweta.  You see, this is where North Carolina and North Georgia academicians really get off base.   At this time, all but the northeastern tip of Georgia was in Creek territory, but the Koweta Creeks originated in that northeastern tip and in the region near Franklin, NC.  During the late 1950s and 1960s archaeologists Joseph Caldwell and Arthur Kelly had unearthed the Native American towns around the headwaters of the Savannah River.  They had found that all of these towns for a thousand years had been occupied by ancestors of the Creeks until around 1700-1710 AD when they all had been burned then later occupied by a more primitive tribe that built small round houses.

It is why there is a “Coweeta Mound” near Franklin.  The Koweta Creeks wanted their homeland back.   However, British authorities assumed that the peace treaty was a done deal because Koweta would not dare resume hostilities against the entire Cherokee Nation . . . or so they thought.

In September, Koweta dispatched an army without warning into the territory of the Valley Cherokees, destroying every Cherokee army and village in their path.  Within a few weeks, all Cherokee villages south of the Snowbird Mountains had been destroyed. The survivors hid out in the Nantahala Mountains, but six Cherokee chiefs were captured and taken back to the Chattahoochee River to be burned at the stake. A seventh had been killed in battle.

The Cherokees sent a delegation to Charleston to beg the British to send Redcoats to fight the Kowetas.  Georgia vetoed this idea because  many thousands of Creek warriors would overrun their young colony in response.  Koweta then dispatched a “SEAL team” of mixed blood Creeks in European clothing to Charleston.  Twenty-five Cherokee chiefs were murdered in the streets of Charleston.   This brought the total number of Cherokee chiefs killed to 32, the exact same number of Creek chiefs killed in their sleep in the Uchee village of Tugaloo in December 1715 . . . an event that sparked the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee war.  The leaders of Koweta demanded that the Cherokees surrender all land taken after 1715 and set the date of the signing of a peace treaty on the 40th anniversary of the murders at Tugaloo in December 1754.   The Cherokees signed that treaty. 

In 1755,  however, Creeks in Alabama, who were allied with France and had only loose ties with the Creek Confederacy,  attacked the Overhill Cherokees.  They recaptured all lands,  taken by the Cherokees in earlier years, up to the Hiwassee River.  They established fortified towns near Blairsville, GA and on the Hiwassee River in Tennessee, which were used as bases for attacking the heart of the Cherokee Country.  Meanwhile, the Shawnee were attacking the Overhill Cherokees from the north.   The Cherokees sent a delegation to Charleston to beg for British Redcoats to defend the key Overhill Cherokee towns on the Little Tennessee River before they were destroyed.

The Colony of South Carolina agreed to build a fort at the confluence of the Little Tennessee and Tellico Rivers, where the first Cherokee capital, Big Tellico had stood.   The British Crown supplied a garrison of Redcoats for this fort.  It was named Fort Loudon in honor of the Commanding General of British forces in North America.  The Commonwealth of Virginia built another fort on the Little Tennessee River in the midst of the Overhill towns, but it was not garrisoned.  With the British part of the bargain a reality, the Cherokees then dispatched war parties to help fight the Native allies of the French in Virginia, Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country.

The Cherokees and British become enemies

The First Anglo-Cherokee War began with some incompetent British army officers and the tragic assumption by some Virginia frontiersmen that a passing band of Cherokees were hostile Indians. In 1757, a Cherokee war party, led by Kanagatucko,  joined a British army which was being put together in Pennsylvania under British General John Forbes. The Fort Duquesne Expedition included British regular troops, Provincials from North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania, along with Catawba, Tuscarora, plus a few Georgia Creek and Chickasaw warriors recruited by Indian trader, James Adair.   In return for furnishing about 200 warriors to the expedition to capture France’s Fort Duquesne, the Cherokees were promised a substantial amount of trade goods, plus they were promised that they would be provided food for the return to the Cherokee Country.  After the capture of Fort Duquesne,  arrogant British officers conveniently forgot their promises.

Many of the Cherokee warriors had brought along their families.  By the time they were in the Western Virginia Mountains, they were literally starving.  Initially, the Cherokees, who spoke English, went to the designated frontier forts and villages, where they had been told that food and trade goods would be waiting for them.  They were rebuffed and treated like stray dogs. 

Small groups of Cherokees sneaked onto frontier farms to steal livestock and vegetables as the went long the trail southward.  Kanagatucko decided that they must get horses to replace those killed in the battles up in Pennsylvania.  The Cherokees began seizing horses they found grazing in pastures.

This was the “last straw” for the Virginia frontiersmen.   Shawnee raids and massacres in the Shenandoah Valley had reduced its population by 90%.  They assumed that now the Shawnees were targeting Southwest Virginia.  A militia was gathered up to track down the hostile Indian horse thieves.   It is unlikely that the frontiersmen knew that these Cherokees had been fighting hostile Indians in western Pennsylvania.  The Cherokees were assumed to be hostile allies of the French. 

The Virginia militamen attacked the Cherokee camp without warning.  At least 20 Cherokee men, women and children were killed and scalped.  The scalps were later given bounty payments by the Commonwealth of Virginia, since they were presented as “hostile Indian scalps.”

Although Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia profusely apologized to the Cherokees, not wanting to lose them as allies, outrage spread through the Cherokee tribe.  Overhill Cherokees, under the command of Moytoy (Amo-adawehi) of Satiqua (Citico),  retaliated for the murders of Cherokee warriors at the hands of the Virginia frontiersmen . . . but not those frontiersmen.  Moytoy’s war party attacked communities and farmsteads on the Yadkin River in North Carolina, which had nothing to do with the attack on the Cherokee band, coming home from Fort Duquesne.  Far more white settlers were killed than in the attack on the Cherokees in Virginia. The situation rapidly escalated into a tit for tat blood feud.

A peace delegation of Cherokees arrived at Fort Prince George on the Keowee River to end the bloodshed.  However, after they signed a peace treaty,  even more massacres occurred . . . this time in present day Stephens County, GA at the head of the Savannah River and in McCormick County, SC across the Savannah River from present day Elberton, GA.   The Cherokee delegates were seized as hostages until the Cherokees delivered those Cherokees responsible for the Yadkin and Savannah River massacres.  Eventually, the Cherokees attacked Fort Prince George and killed its commander.  Panicking, the outnumbered garrison opened the door of the building holding the hostages to release them, but instead the first soldiers were killed, so the garrison killed the rest of the hostages.  The entire Cherokee Tribe went on the warpath in outrage.

The blood feud did begin with some incompetence by British officers in Virginia, but a great deal of innocent blood was shed among Carolina frontier families by the Cherokees, before the British Lion roared then dispatched an army to do a “Sherman’s March to the Sea thing” on the Cherokees.  Most accounts of the period in histories aimed at the general public do not tell the readers this fact.

The truth was that the last thing British authorities wanted was a war with the Cherokees.  No one was trying to steal their lands.  The Cherokees were desperately needed to defend the frontier, not attack it.   The Creek Confederacy had refused to send soldiers to aid the British, since it was on good terms with France and the Shawnee People.  Georgia Creeks would only become involved, if French soldiers invaded their territory.  France was very careful not to do this. 

In Part Two, POOF will describe the two military campaigns launched against the Cherokees by Great Britain.   We will describe the terrain in a map supplement so that readers can go visit the battlefields.  The area is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Appalachian Mountains.  

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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.



    Richard, Very good information as always. I used to do trout fishing in the Little Tennessee river with my father in the early 1970’s. It was a beautiful river and then TVA dammed it up with Tellico Dam.You could see rocks stacked in the shoals that were fish traps made by the Cherokee or Creek.

    • That’s a good thing Thomas! Because POOF will be taking a virtual canoe ride down the Little Tennessee River for at least the next month! We will be looking at all the archaeological sites.


    The Little Tennessee river was beautiful and had great trout fishing until TVA had it made into Tellico Lake .


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