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Native Background of this Area

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

Three relatively "recent" Indian cultures preceded that of the present white people of European descent inhabiting the land which in 1819 was denominated McMinn County. At the down of history of the Tennessee country, the Creek (Muskogean), the Yuchi, and the Cherokee were here concurrently. The Creek people withdrew down the Tennessee River some time between 1700 and 1715, and in 1714 the Yuchi were ousted in a great battle with the Cherokee who destroyed the Yuchi's two remaining towns in this region.



A prehistoric period of from 9,000 to 15,000 years before the concurrent inhabitation's of McMinn by the Creeks, the Yuchi and the Cherokee is being "probed" by archaeologist. Facts brought to light tell some fascinating facts about those primitive Indians who hunted through forested hills and valleys and used waterways here for travel.


Sites of former Creek villages in Tennessee do not include any in McMinn County. A Yuchi village called Chestoee, or Chestoa, in Bradley County, which the Cherokee destroyed in 1714 "overflowed" across the Hiwassee River to the extent of a few houses on the McMinn side. Yuchi houses had sunken floors, readily identifying their former sites. (Rhea County had an important Yuchi village across the Tennessee River from Meigs County's present Euchee community. It, like Chestoee, fell before the fury of the Cherokee.) From McMinn County's creation in 1819 until a considerable piece was taken off for setting up Polk county in 1839, McMinn had three definitely Cherokee village sites- Chestoeh at the mouth of the creek of that name (Chestuee by Rand-McNally map's present day spelling); Great Hiwassee immediately below Highway 411's river bridge, and Conasauga on the lower part of a similarly named creek.


"Pumpkin Town", according to Kenneth Langley

Pumpkin Town was no traditional Cherokee name- rated by some as a predecessor of Athens, deserves no such recognition as Chestoeh, Great Hiwassee and Conasauga whose prehistoric origins and exclusive Cherokee control are conceded. "Pumpkin Town" was scarcely more than a camp for mixed-blood and "land adventurers".


Several creeks, by their Indian names, provide McMinn with mementos of the Cherokee. Canasauga, according to James Mooney, was Gansagi in the Cherokee tongue- "but the word cannot by analyzed." John P. Brown, in his Old Frontiers, translated the name Canasauga back into Cherokee: Guna-soquo. He wrote that it meant "one bullet or arrow." He thought the name may commemorate "an unusual feat of marksmanship." Chestua (Tsistu-yi in Cherokee) took its name from the ancient village at its mouth. (It was a characteristic of the Cherokee that they designated a creek or river by a village or some important natural feature by which the stream flowed.) Oostanaula (Rand-McNally spelling) was anglicized from uni'stana'la which Mooney says is a plural and means "a barrier or rocks across a stream." North Mouse Creek in McMinn County, like South Mouse Creek in Bradley County comes from the Cherokee Tsistetsi'yi (tsistetsi, mouse and yi locative", meaning "mouse place." Spring Creek's name in Indian language has eluded this writer's research. Rogers Creek is for the English name of a mixed-blood tutor- John Rogers. He was related to John Jolly, Sam Houston's friend and once the owner of Jolly's Island- now Hiwassee Island.


"Aynuhwa si", says Mooney, is "the proper form of the name commonly written Hiwassee." By the Cherokee rule, the name was doubly proper - the river flowed past Great Hiwassee in Tennessee and "New" Hiwassee in Towns County, Georgia.


January 1, 1820, the fully effective date of the 1819 treaty known as the Hiwassee Purchase, marked the end forever of Indian claims on land in McMinn County. After all, they had made little use of their land except for hunting on it, and they had done nothing to profit from the mineral rights. Some individuals had surveys made of land reservations, which most of them readily yielded to sharp speculators and lost by neglect of legal title requirements. The name of Principal Chief John Ross was once attached to a 640 acre reservation of the McMinn County side of the Hiwassee River, below Charleston, according to James Franklin Corn.


Progressive Cherokee leaders welcomed the opportunity for their children to obtain the rudiments of the white people's education when in 1826 the government of McMinn County established, as its first county school, Forest Hill Academy, at the great Ingleside Spring, with John A. Norment as principal. Children of the county's early white settlers, each morning of school days, greeted a flock of little Hiderbrands, Busheyheads, and others of varying degree of Cherokee parentage. The Rev. Charles P. Samuel took over as

the principal about the middle 30's. But as the fateful year of 1838 approached, all the little Cherokee-blooded pupils began ignoring the morning school bells calling from the hill above the great spring. Instead, an army bugle summoned them, for days and weeks and weeks, as they trudged over strange new trails westward- to a new Cherokee land beyond the Mississippi.

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