What you always wanted to know about the Appalachian Mountains, but were afraid to ask
I am currently working on a video about the history of the Appalachian Mountains’ name. It is a fascinating story, which reflects political and ethnic changes in the region. During the late 20th century, Florida academicians went to extreme measures to conceal the etymology of Appalachian in order to conceal the fact that Fort Caroline National Memorial is in a bogus location. For example . . . in his memoir, Captain René de Laudonnière, Commander of Fort Caroline, stated that the May River began as several small rivers in the foothills of the Apalachen Mountains, which joined together and then flowed southeastward to the Atlantic Coast. In the mid-1800s a Florida real estate speculator started the myth that the St. Johns River was the May River. This sentence was left out of the book, Three Voyages by Florida historian, Charles Bennett, who claimed that his book was a verbatim translation of the original French text. The Appalachian Mountain video will be a bit more sophisticated than the first efforts on YouTube.
- From 1525 until 1717, all of the mountains in southeastern North America were known collectively as the Apalachen, Apalache or Apalatcy Mountains. Apalachen is the plural of Apalache in the Apalache-Creek language. During the Early Colonial Period, the Apalache of Northeast Georgia dominated the Lower Southeast. The region as a whole was initially known as La Florida.
- After the French explored western North Carolina and northern Georgia in the late 1600s and first decade of the 1700s, the mountains in North Carolina were known initially as the Chaouinon (Shawnee) Mountains. The western part of the Georgia Mountains became permanently known as the Cohuita (Koweta/Creek) Mountains, while the eastern peaks were still called Les Apalachens.
- In 1725, British mapmaker, John Herbert, changed the name of the mountains north and east of the Hiwassee River to “the Cherokee Mountains,” while the Unaka Mountains and Georgia Mountains, south of the Hiwassee, were named the “Enemy Mountains”, because they were in the territory of the Creeks and Uchees.
- In 1737, British Royal Geographer, Emmanuel Bowen, labeled all mountains in western North Carolina, “the Cherokee Mountains” and all mountains in northern Georgia, “the Apalachian Mountains.” His labels would stick for a century, although by the tail end of the 1700s, all of the mountains in eastern North America as a whole were being labeled the Allegheny Mountains.
- In 1764, not knowing that Cohuita means Coweta . . . the French word for the Creek Indians . . . British mapmakers renamed this range the Cohutta Mountains. Great Britain had just acquired Northwest Georgia and Alabama from the French, as a result of the Seven Years War. Today, all regional references and tourist brochures ascribe a Cherokee origin for Cohutta.
- In 1839, the year after the Cherokees were deported to the Indian Territory, mapmakers changed the name of the eastern mountains in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The middle range continued to be called the Allegheny Mountains, while the western range was called the Cumberland Mountains.
- After the Civil War, the label “Appalachian Mountains” began appearing increasingly for that portion of the mountains of eastern North America that were in the former Confederacy.
- The label, “Appalachian Mountains,” was not consistently used on maps until the Franklin Roosevelt Administration in the 1930s, when the Appalachian Trail Commission was created. Originally, this project was geared primarily toward economic development. Planned communities were to be linked by a trail that ran from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to the northern tip of Maine.
- During the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration in the 1960s, the term “Appalachian Mountains” and “Appalachia” became legal definitions all of the mountains in the eastern United States from the southern edge of New York, southwestward to northern Mississippi. This was because of the creation in 1965 of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which offered generous federal assistance to communities in this region. By the way, the Appalachian Regional Commission still exists, but it only awards economic research grants to state and local governments these days.
- Beginning in the 1980s, TV programs and authors began calling all of the mountains in Eastern North America, the Appalachian Mountains. That is the definition most commonly seen today.
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