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Treaty Relations With The Colonies
Treaty and purchase of 1721.-The treaty
relations between the 'Cherokees and the whites began in 1721, when
jealousy of French territorial encroachments persuaded Governor
Nicholson of South Carolina to invite the Cherokees to a general
congress, with a view to the conclusion of a treaty of peace and
In this treaty they stipulated:
Jacob Brown's purchase. Jacob Brown, in 1772, for a horse load of goods leased from the Cherokees a tract on the Watauga and Nonachucky Rivers.
Three years later (March 25, 1775) for a further consideration of ten shillings he secured from them a deed in fee for the leased tract as well as an additional tract of considerable extent.
The boundary of the first of these bodies of land ran from, the mouth of Great Limestone Creek, thence up the same and its main fork to the ridge dividing the Wataugah and Nonachuchy Rivers; thence to the head of Indian Creek, where it joins the Great Iron Mountains, and along those mountains to the Nonachuchy River; across the Nonachuchy River, including its creeks, and down the side of Nonachuchy Mountain against the mouth of Great Limestone Creek and from thence to the place of beginning.
The second purchase comprised a tract lying on the Nonachuchy River below the mouth of Big Limestone on both sides of the river and adjoining the tract just described. Its boundaries were defined as beginning on the south side of the Nonachuchy River below the old fields that lie below the Limestone on the north side of Nonachuchy Mountain at a large rock; thence north 32° west to the mouth of Camp Creek on the south side of the river; thence across the river; thence pursuing a northwesterly course to the dividing ridge between Lick Creek and Watauga or Holston River, thence along the dividing ridge to the rest of Brown's lands ; thence down the main fork of Big Limestone to its mouth; thence crossing the Nonachuchy River and pursuing a straight course to the Nonachuchy Mountains and along such mountains to the beginning.14
Treaty and purchase of 1773.-On the 1st of June, 1773, a treaty was concluded jointly with the Creeks and Cherokees by the British superintendent whereby they ceded to Great Britain a tract beginning where the lower Creek path intersects the Ogeechee River, thence along the main channel of that river to the source of the southernmost branch thereof; thence along the ridge between the waters of Broad and Oconee Rivers up to the Buffalo Lick; thence in a straight line to the tree marked by the Cherokees near the head of the branch falling into the Oconee River [on the line between Clarke and Oglethorpe Counties, about 8 miles southeast of Athens] ; thence along the said ridge 20 miles above the line already run by the Cherokees, and from thence across to the Savannah River by a line parallel to that formerly marked by them.
Henderson's purchase by the treaty of 1775.-On the 17th of March, 1775, Richard Henderson and eight other private citizens concluded a treaty with the Cherokees at Sycamore Shoals, on Watauga River. By its terms they became the purchasers from the latter (in consideration of £10,000 worth of merchandise) of all the lands lying between Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers, under the name of the Colony of Transylvania in North America., This purchase was contained in two deeds, one of which was commonly known as the "Path Deed," and conveyed the following described tract: "Begin on the Holston River, where the course of Powell's Mountain strikes the same; thence up the river to the crossing of the Virginia line; thence westerly along the line run by Donelson to a point six (6) English miles east of Long Island in Holston River; thence a direct course towards the month of the Great Kanawha until it reaches the top of the ridge of Powell's Mountain; thence westerly along said ridge to the beginning."
This tract was located in Northeast Tennessee and the extreme south-western corner of Virginia15 The second deed covered a much larger area of territory and was generally known as the "Great Grant." It comprised the territory "beginning on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Kentucky, Cherokee, or what, by the English, is called Louisa River; thence up said river and the most northwardly fork of the same to the headspring thereof; thence a southeast course to the ridge of Powell's Mountain; thence westward along the ridge of said mountain to a point from which a northwest course will strike the headspring of the most southwardly branch of Cumberland River; thence down said river, including all its waters, to the Ohio River; thence up said river as it meanders to the beginning."16 This tract comprises nearly the whole of Central and Western Kentucky as well as part of Northern Central Tennessee. Although a literal reading of these boundaries would include all the territory watered by the Cumberland River and its branches, the general understanding seems to have been (and it is so specifically stated in the report of the treaty commissioners of 1785) that Henderson's purchase did not extend south of Cumberland River proper16 The entire purchase included in both these deeds is shown as one tract on the accompanying map of cessions and numbered 7.
In this connection it is proper to remark that all of these grants to private individuals were regarded as legally inoperative, though in some instances the beneficiaries were permitted to enjoy the benefits of their purchases in a modified degree. All such purchases had been inhibited by royal proclamation of King George III, under date of October 7,176317 wherein all provincial governors were forbidden to grant lands or issue land warrants locatable upon any territory west of the mountains or of the sources of streams flowing into the Atlantic. All private persons were enjoined from purchasing lands from the Indians. All purchases made of such lands should be for the Crown by the governor or commander-in-chief of the colony at some general council or assembly of the Indians convened for that purpose.
In the particular purchase made by Henderson and his coadjutors, the benefits thereof were afterwards claimed by the authorities of Virginia and North Carolina for those States, as the successors of the royal prerogative within their respective limits. In consideration,. however, of Henderson's valuable services on the frontier, and in compensation for his large expenditures of money in negotiating the purchase, the legislature of North Carolina in 1783 granted to him and those interested with him a tract of 200,000 acres,18 constituting a strip 4 miles in width from old Indian town on Powell's River to the mouth, and thence a strip clown the Clinch River for quantity 12 miles in width. The legislature of Virginia also granted them a tract of like extent upon the Ohio River, opposite Evansville, Indiana.19
Treaties and purchases of 1777 In consequence of continued hostilities between the Cherokees and the settlers, General Williamson in 1776 marched an army from South Carolina and destroyed the towns of the former on Keowee and Tugaloo Rivers. General Rutherford marched another force from North Carolina and Colonel Christian a third from Virginia, and destroyed most of their principal towns on the Tennessee.20
At the conclusion of hostilities with the Cherokees, following these expeditions, a treaty with them was concluded May 20, 1777, at De Witt's or Duett's Corners, South Carolina, by the States of South Carolina and Georgia. By the terms of this treaty the Indians ceded a considerable region of country upon the Savannah and Saluda Rivers,21 comprising all their lands in South Carolina to the eastward of the Unacaye Mountains.
Two months later (July 20) Commissioners Preston, Christian, and Shelby, on the part of Virginia, and Avery, Sharpe, Winston, and Lanier, for North Carolina, also concluded a treaty with the Cherokees, by which, in the establishment of a boundary between the contracting parties, some parts of "Brown's line," previously mentioned, were agreed upon as a portion of the boundary, and the Indians relinquished their lands as low down on Holston River as the mouth of Cloud's Creek. To this treaty the Chicamauga band of Cherokees refused to give their assent.22
The boundaries defined by this treaty are alluded to and described in an act of the North Carolina legislature passed in the following year, wherein it is stipulated that " no person shall enter or survey any lands within the Indian hunting grounds, or without the limits heretofore ceded by them, which limits westward are declared to be as follows : Begin at a point on the dividing line which hath been agreed upon between the Cherokees and the colony of Virginia, where the line between that Commonwealth and this State (hereafter to be extended) shall intersect the same; running thence a right line to the mouth of Cloud's Creek, being the second creek below the Warrior's Ford, at the mouth of Carter's Valley; thence a right line to the highest point of Chimney Top Mountain or High Rock ; thence a right line to the mouth of Camp or McNamee's Creek, on south bank of Nolichucky, about ten miles below the mouth of Big Limestone; from the month of Camp Creek a southeast course to the top of Great Iron Mountain, being the same which divides the hunting grounds of the Overhill Cherokees from the hunting grounds of the middle settlements ; and from the top of Iron Mountain a south course to the dividing ridge between the waters of French Broad, and Nolichucky Rivers; thence a southwesterly course along the ridge to the great ridge of the Appalachian Mountains, which divide the eastern and western waters; thence with said dividing ridge to the line that divides the State of South Carolina from this State."23
Emigration of Chickamauga band.-The Cherokees being very much curtailed in their hunting grounds by the loss of the territory wrested from them by the terms of these two treaties, began a movement further down the Tennessee River, and the most warlike and intractable portion of them, known as the Chicamaugas, settled and built towns on Chicamauga Creek, about one hundred miles below the mouth of the Holston River. Becoming persuaded, however, that this creek was infested with witches they abandoned it in 1782, and built lower down the Tennessee the towns usually called "The Five Lower Towns on the Tennessee." These towns were named respectively Running Water, Nickajack, Long Island Village, Crow Town, and Lookout Mountain Town. From thence marauding parties were wont to issue in their operations against the rapidly encroaching settlements.24
Although comparative peace and quiet for a time followed the heroic treatment administered to the Indians by the expeditions of Williamson, Rutherford, Christian, and others, reciprocal outrages between the whites and Indians were of frequent occurrence. The situation was aggravated in 1783 by the action of the assembly of North Carolina in passing an act (without consulting the Indians or making any effort to secure their concurrence) extending the western boundary of that State to the Mississippi River, reserving, however, for the use of the Cherokees as a hunting ground a tract comprised between the point where the Tennessee River first crosses the southern boundary of the State and the head waters of Big Pigeon River.25
Treaty and purchase of 1783.-On the 31st of May of this same year, by a treaty concluded at Augusta, Ga., the Cherokee delegates present (together with a few Creeks, who, on the 1st of November succeeding, agreed to the cession) assumed to cede to that State the respective claims of those two nations to the country lying on the west side of the Tugaloo River, extending to and including the Upper Oconee River region.26 With the provisions of this treaty no large or representative portion of either nation was satisfied, and in connection with the remarkable territorial assertions of the State of North Carolina, together with the constant encroachments of white settlers beyond the Indian boundary line, a spirit of restless discontent and fear was nourished among the Indians that resulted in many acts of ferocious hostility.
Treaties with the State of Franklin.-In 1784, in consequence of the cession by North Carolina to the United States of all her claims to lands west of the mountains (which cession was not, however, accepted by the United States within the two years prescribed by the act) the citizens within the limits of the present State of Tennessee elected delegates to a convention, which formed a State organization under the name of the State of Franklin and which maintained a somewhat precarious political existence for about four years. During this interval the authorities of the so-called State negotiated two treaties with the Cherokee Nation, the first one being entered into near the mouth of Dumplin Creek, on the north bank of French Broad River, May 31, 1785.27 This treaty established the ridge dividing the waters of Little River from those of the Tennessee as the dividing line between the possessions of the whites and Indians, the latter ceding all claim to lands south of the French Broad and Holston, lying east of that ridge. The second treaty or conference was held at Chotee Ford and Coytoy, July 31 to August 3, 1786. The Franklin Commissioners at this conference modestly remarked, "We only claim the island in Tennessee at the mouth of Holston and from the head of the island to the dividing ridge between the Holston River, Little River, and Tennessee to the Blue Ridge, and the lands North Carolina sold us on the north side of Tennessee." They urged this claim under threat of extirpating the Cherokees as the penalty of refusal.28
1 Martin's North Carolina, Vol. II,
pp. 3, 9, and 11.
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Bureau of Ethnology, Volume 5, Cherokee Nation of Indians, 1883-84
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