Monday, March 9, 2009

In the Hothouse with Cahookie

Geese on the Tuckasegee River

When I was a kid growing up near Charlotte I would often hear the name of a thoroughfare in the Queen City, Tuckaseegee Road. And even though I’ve been crossing the Tuckasegee River every day for the past thirty years, I never attempted to make the connection.

Until now.

The Tuckaseegee Trail was an ancient path between present-day Charlotte and Lincolnton. Where that trail crossed the Catawba River, the spot was known as the Tuckaseegee Ford. As early as 1794, the botanist Andre Michaux referred to that location by name. Today, the US National Whitewater Center is situated there.

By some accounts, the origin of the name “Tuckasegee” (Tsiksitsi) has been elusive. Hiram Wilburn did translate the name as "traveling terrapin," possibly referring to the slow movement of the river at the forks near the old village of Tuckasegee. And this figures into an interesting reference in an 1845 article from Southern and Western Magazine and Review, “Naming of Places in the Carolinas.”

It’s an amazing article, one of the two or three most exciting finds I’ve made in my research over the past few years. But due to a number of inconsistencies in the article, I wouldn’t vouch for any of the details it relates. Nevertheless, it is some mighty interesting stuff, including stories told by the 110-year-old Cherokee elder, Chiule.

The portion of the article, though, that relates to the Tuckasegee is attributed to a manuscript from an unnamed “old and worthy citizen of North-Carolina.” According to that manuscript, as quoted in the 1845 article:

In the winter of 1795, I was in company with Felix Walker, at an Indian hot house, on Tuckasidga river, and through Archy, an interpreter, I inquired of an old Indian woman, said to be upwards of one hundred years, called Cahookie, who informed me that the Tuckasidga ford, on the Catawba river, took its name from the Indians on that river, where we then were, crossing the Catawba at that place, to fight the Catawba Indians. She described the ford and Indian path correctly, according to my own knowledge of the places.

It was from this use of it that it was called Tucksidgee. I asked her the meaning of the word.—She said it was “Upland Terrapin"—that a Terrapin, because it closed itself up, and was "locked" as it were, was called from Tucasee,—to lock.—that Tuckasidga river was, in other words, Terrapin river. She informed me that the Cherokee ford on Broad river, also took its name from the use made of it by the Cherokees crossing to fight the Catawbas. She described truly the ford and the islands below, and said that the Cherokees formerly lived west of that river.

I will interject here that I’ve not been able to gather many helpful clues to identify the narrator of this tale. Felix Walker (1752-1828) did spend some time as a trader and land speculator in Haywood County, he was a friend of Daniel Boone and he served in the U. S. Congress. A young Will Thomas worked as an apprentice in Felix Walker’s store.

An Indian hot house is what we might call a sweat lodge, and according to Mooney was a place where old people would sleep, which might explain the odd assembly of characters in the winter of 1795.

The interpreter, “Archy” was likely Arthur Archibald 'Archy' Coody, Jr. (1760-1809) who served as interpreter during the negotiation of several peace treaties with the Cherokee. Regarding old Cahookie, I can find no other references.

However, the narrator went on to ask her about another place name in the area:

I inquired the meaning of Cataloochy. She said, that long ago, an Indian had got some whiskey, and was encamped there—that another Indian wanted to share his liquor, but the owner insisted that all was gone. The other, however, taking up the bottle, and shaking it, said "Cataloochy"—that is, "there is something in the bottle." Hence the stream is 'Cataloochy, or something in the bottle.'

She said that Occoneluptee means red or yellow hills or banks. This river falls into the Tuckasidga on the north side."

Great Blue Heron on the Tuckasegee River

The 1845 article commented on the preceding passage from the old manuscript:

Cahookie, was doubtless a Cherokee woman. None but a Cherokee would ever insist upon the fighting propensities of that people, which were greatly ridiculed among the other Indians—by the Catawbas in particular, who would never have dreamed of the former seeking them out for fighting. The latter, indeed, may have given the name of Tuckasidga, or Terrapin ford, to a route pursued by the others, signifying thus, the slowness and reluctance with which they advanced to war, and how closely they kept themselves housed and locked up at the approach of an enemy.

Mystery solved (maybe)! The aboriginal residents of the Tuckasegee Valley went east to fight the Catawbas and were memorialized in the name of the trail they followed to pursue their enemies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow ,what a blue heron pic