Friday, October 6, 2017

Follow This Link

This blog is moving to a WordPress platform - all prior posts and any future posts can be found at a new location:

https://ruminationsfromthedistanthills.wordpress.com/

Sunday, September 24, 2017

History Rewritten - 12



The ethnologist Cyrus Thomas (1825-1910) had a particular interest in mound building and discredited the prevailing theory of his time, that mounds were constructed by a race that prececded the Indians.  His Catalogue of Prehistoric Works East of the Rocky Mountains,  (1891) is a lengthy list of mounds, earthworks, petroglyphs, kjokkenmodding, and various aboriginal stone constructions.

After studying the Catalogue, I pared down the list, limiting the geographic coverage to North Georgia, Western North Carolina, Northwestern South Carolina and East Tennessee.   Further, I’ve removed listings for almost all the mounds within that territory.  My specific interest at the moment involves rock cairns, stone walls and similar stone structures.

A later post will discuss some of these, particularly the abundance of sites identified in Habersham County and the rest of North Georgia.  But for now, here’s an abridged list from Cyrus Thomas’ Catalogue:

Georgia

Bartow County

"Indian Fort," or inclosure on the summit of a rocky hill which overlooks the Etowah River towards Rome, 2 1/2 miles northwest of the great Etowah Mounds. Figure and description by Charles Whittlesey, Smithsonian Report, 1881, pp. 627,628. Described also in the Atlanta Constitution, April 13, 1886.

Two rock graves, 2 1/2 miles west of Cartersville, on land of Miles Dobbins. Reported by John P. Rogan. 

 A mound encircled by a stone wall, at Adairsville. Reported by James D. Middleton.

Vault on William Burgess’s farm, 2 miles from Stilesborough, on Raccoon Creek. Copper specimen and stone image found.  Reported by J. P. Rogan.

Rock mound, near where the railway from Cartersville to Cedarville crosses Petit's Creek. Briefly described by Charles Whittlesey, Sm. Rep., 1881, p. 628. Reported by John P. Rogan.

Two rock graves 6 miles west of Cartersville. 

De Kalb County

Remains of a rock wall about half way up Stone Mountain. Described by C. C. Jones, Antiquities of the Southern Indians., pp. 207-208.

Douglas County

Stone cairn on road from Campbellton to Marietta, on ridge between Anawaka and Sweetwater Creeks. Reported by James Mooney.

Ancient fortifications on the western bank of the Chattahoochee River opposite the village of Campbellton. Mentioned in White's Historical Collections of Georgia, p. 293.

Elbert County

Ancient tumuli on the Savannah River visited by William Bartram in 1776, situated on the west bank of the Savannah, about 4 miles north of the mouth of Broad River. Bartram's Travels (1791), pp. 324, 325. Description chiefly from Bartram and figure by C. C. Jones, Sm. Rep., 1877, pp. 283-286. Explored by John P. Rogan. Described and figured in Report.

Floyd County

Two concentric stone circles inclosing an area of about 2 acres with walls 2 feet high on branch of 

Silver Creek, about 7 miles south of Borne.

Stone cairn on a hill near the preceding.

Stone cairn with two concentric stone circles, formerly stood on north bank of Etowah River just below mouth of Dyke's Creek.

Stone inclosure with walls about 3 1/2 feet high, area one-fourth of an acre, formerly on west side of 
Silver Creek, 7 1/2miles south of Rome.  Reported by James Mooney.

Gilmer County

Old mining excavations at Whitepath.

Circular earthwork near east bank of Ellijay River on Dillingham farm 2 miles above Ellijay.

Stone cairn on Parks farm on west bank of Ellijay River, 3 miles below Ellijay.  Reported by James Mooney.

Greene County

Stone mound on the form of Robert M. Grimes, near the southeast line of the county; also an earth mound to the west of the stone mound. Mentioned by Benj. W. Kent. Sm. Rep., 1882, p. 771.

Habersham County

Stone structure, horseshoe shape, 2 to 4 feet high, at Soquee post-office.

Circular earthwork about 30 feet in diameter, just east of last.

Several stone cairns along the road, just south of Soquee post-office.

Stone cairn on Tray Mountain.

Stone circle formerly on the hill above Glade Creek, on the road from Clarkesville to Tallulah Falls, 5 miles from Clarkesville.

Stone cairn on a ridge between Rabun and Habersham Counties, 2 miles west of Tallulah Falls.

Stone cairns on Soapstone Mountain, 5 miles southeast of Ayersville.

Large mound on east side of Soquee River, 1 mile above Deep Creek.

Stone wall nearly obliterated, on the east bank of Soquee River, about 4 miles above Clarkesville.

Stone cairn on north side of Toccoa Creek, 4 miles above its month.

Mound on the east bank of Soquee River, one-half mile above Clarkesville on the Wilson farm.

Stone cairn on the Ryan farm, 1 mile northeast of Clarkesville.

Stone cairns on the road, 1 mile north of Soquee post-office.

Stone cairn on the west bank of Soquee River, 2 miles below Clarkesville.

Stone circle 85 feet in diameter, with walls originally 4 feet high, on Aleck Mountain, 7 miles northwest of Clarkesville.  Reported by James Mooney.

Hancock County

Stone mound on a ridge 3 miles from Sparta, in a direction opposite to the circular work mentioned in the next item.  Mentioned by C. C. Jones, Antiq. So. Inds., p. 148.

Circular earthwork on the headwaters of the Great Ogeechee River, 5 miles from Sparta.  Brief description by C. C. Jones, Antiq. So. lnds., p. 148.

Murray County

Large stone and earthen circular work, walls formerly 12 feet high and inclosing an area of 8 or 10 acres, on Fort Mountain.

Putnam County

Bird-shaped mound of white quartz rock, inclosed by a stone circle, about 1 1/2 miles from Lawrence's ferry on the Oconee River.

Rock mounds containing graves, near Eatonton. Bones and a pipe shaped like an eagle's head, found in them.  Described and figured by C. C. Jones, 8m. Rep., 1877, pp. 278-282. Mentioned also by Benj. W. Kent, Sm. Rep., 1882, p. 770.

Stone tumuli, near Little River, below Pierson's Mill on the opposite side of the stream.  Mentioned by Benj. W. Kent, 8m. Rep., 1882, p. 771.

Rabun County

Stone cairns in Rabun Gap.

Stone cairns on the north side of Tuckaleegee Creek, a small branch of War Woman Creek.

Wall of large, dressed, uncemented stones, at Smith's Gold Mine, on the north side of Dick's Creek, 1 1/2 miles west of Burton post-office.  Discovered by gold washers.

Stone cairn, known as the ''Indian Grave," near Glassy Mountain, on the head of Tiger Creek.

Stone cairn on the ridge east of Tiger Creek and southeast of Glassy Mountain.  Reported by James Mooney.

A talc mine and stone implements on Piney Mountain. Mentioned in Science, vol. 9 (1887), p. 10.
Union County

Pictographs on large boulders in Track Rock Gap, 4 miles east of Blairsville. Reported by J. M. Spainhour.

Stone cairns at same gap.  Reported by J. M. Spainhour.

Stone cairns on east bank of Nottely River, midway between Arkuqua and Town Creeks. Largest, originally 15 feet high.

Stone cairn 1 mile west of Blairsville in “Wimpey Field."

White County

Stone cairns on ridge, 1 mile west of Tray Mountain.

Mound on east side of Sautee Creek, 1 mile above Chickamauga Creek.  Reported by James Mooney.

Subterranean or buried village "on Duke's Creek, 4 miles from Nacoochee Valley.  Described in 
White's Hist. Coll. Ga., pp. 487, 488; and Jones' Ant. So. Inds., p. 48.

“Rock walls on Mount Yonah."  Noticed by Jones, Ant. So. Inds., p. 208. (** Probably the large stone circle on Aleck Mountain in Habersham County, a few miles to the east.'' James Mooney.)

Wilkes County

Ancient remains consisting of inclosures, mounds, and excavations, some miles above Wrightsborough, on the north side of Little River.  Mentioned by Bartram, Travels, pp. 37,38; C. C. Jones, Antiq. So. Inds., p. 123.

North Carolina

Caldwell County

Cairn at Indian Grave Gap on Green Mountain, 4 1/2 miles due north of Lenoir, in the trail. No burial.

Cairn on Brushy Mountain, near a probable Indian trail, 1 1/2 miles north of Cedar Valley. No burial.

Cairn 6 1/2 miles southwest of Lenoir, between Lenoir and Icard Station (on Richmond and Danville road, above Hickory). No burial.

Cairn on Brushy Mountain, about three-fourths of a mile east of the one noted above. No burial.

Group of small cairns on the ridge west of John's River, extending for about a mile along the ridge, from 5 to 6 miles northwest of Collettsville. Unexplored.  Reported by J. M. Spainhour.

Catawba County

A rock shelter 7 miles from Catawba.  Reported by J. P. Rogan.

Cherokee County

Stone cairns on Whittaker farm, near mound at Valley River bridge.

Numerous stone cairns along trail from Tatham Bay south to Valley River, between Valley Town and Robbinsville.

Clay County

Cairns on the ridge north of Shooting Creek, near its head. Cairns on ridge about 1 mile south of Shooting Creek and 3 miles east of Hiwassee River. Two mounds, one of stone, adjacent to last.  Reported by J. W. Emmert.

Graham County

Numerous stone cairns along trail down south side of Chilhowee and Tennessee Rivers, extending about 6 miles from Santeetleh Creek into Tennessee.

Stone cairn on north bank of Chilhowee River, about 1 mile below Yellow Creek.  Reported by James Mooney.

Stone graves 3 miles below Robbinsville on a ridge near Chilhowee River.  Reported by J. W. Emmert.

Haywood County

Stone cairns 1 mile east of Waynesville.

Stone cairns (" mounds ") on Rathbone's land, on south side of Hurricane Creek. Unexplored. Reported by J. W. Emmert.

Stone cairns on east fork of Pigeon River. Location not definitely given.  Reported by James Mooney.
Macon County

Stone cairns (six) on southwest side of Cullasaja Creek nearly opposite mouth of Ellijay Creek.

Stone cairns on Howard farm on west bank of Tennessee River, 2 miles above Tesenta Creek.

Mound on west bank of Nantahela River, 2 miles below Jarretts.

Mound on east bank of Nantahela River opposite mouth of Cowe Creek.

Stone cairns on Cartooyaja Creek near mouth of Wayah Creek, about 7 miles west of Franklin.

Madison County

Cairn at Indian Grave Gap, in Walnut Mountain, at head of Brush and Walnut Creeks, on south side of road from Marshall to Burnsville. Reported by James Mooney.

Swain County

Stone cairn on ridge between Indian Creek and Cooper's Creek, about 3 miles northeast of Bryson City.

Stone cairns about 3 miles southeast of Bryson City, on trail crossing ridge between Tuckasegee River and Alarka Creek.

Wilkes County

Cairn at Boone's Gap on Boone's Fork of Warrior's Creek. Unexplored.  Reported by Dr.  J. M. Spainhour.

Cairn formerly 1 ½ miles north of cemetery mentioned above. Not a burial pile.
Explored by J. M. Spainhour.

South Carolina

Oconee County

Circular earthwork about 10 feet high on natural hill at Fort Hill, on east bank of Keowee River, about 4 miles below Twelve Mile Creek.  Reported by James Mooney.

Spartanburg County

Stone cairns formerly existed on the top of Gilkey’s Knob, near Limestone Springs.  Mentioned by 
Logan, Hist. S. C. (1859), p. 217.

Tennessee

Blount County.

Cemetery on the southeast bank of Ellejoy Creek, just below old Fort McTeer and about 7 miles east of Maryville. Reported by J. W. Enmert.

Three stone graves 3 miles from Chilhowee post-office, on the top of Chilhowee Mountain.
Reported by J. W. Emmert.  Identical with the "several rock graves or tombs near" two mounds (below) in Chilhowee Valley, mentioned by Dunnirig, Sm. Rep., 1870, pp. 376-380, and description partly quoted by Prof. Cyrus Thomas, Burial Mounds of the Northern Section (1888), pp. 78, 79.

Two cairns at the lower end of Chilhowee Mountain, about 2 miles northeast of Chilhowee post-office, and on the west side of the road in Montvale Springs.  Reported by J. W. Emmert.

Two cairns at Indian Grave Gap, near the north bank of Little Tennessee River, on the road from Chilhowee to North Carolina, above Chilhowee Valley. E. O. Dunning, Sm. Rep. (1870), pp. 376-380, and quoted in part by Cyrus Thomas, in Burial Mounds of the Northern Section (1888), pp. 78, 79.

Twenty-five cairns 4 miles southeast of Indian Grave Gap, mentioned above, on the west side of the same road.  Described by Dunning and quoted by Cyrus Thomas as above.

Cairns on both sides of the trail from Wear's Cove (on Cove Creek in Sevier County) to Tuckaleechee Cove (at Bricky Branch in Blonnt County) on the county line and extending into Sevier County.  Reported by James Mooney.

Carter County

Several cairns at Indian Grave Gap, where the road crosses north of Watauga River and about 1 mile north of Elizabethton.

Knox County

"Chimneys," ten or fifteen in number, like stone chimneys open at the top, washed out about 1882 in bottom on west bank of Tennessee (Holston) River just below the mouth of the French Broad.  Reported by James Mooney.

Monroe County

Cairns in the gap on the State line at the Slick Rock trail on the south side of the Little Tennessee River.

Stone graves (cists) about one hundred in number on Slick Rock Creek on the south side of Little Tennessee River.

Several stone graves on the east side of Citico Creek 5 miles from Little Tennessee River at Good Fields.

Sullivan County

Three stone graves on a bluff on the north bank of Holston River 4 miles southeast of Kingsport.

Three stone graves similar to the above on the north bank of the Holston 2 miles higher up. Explored and described by J. W. Emmert in Report.

Mound containing stone graves about 2 miles directly nortb of Kingsport and not far from the North Fork of Holston.  Reported by Cyrus Thomas. Described and illustrated in Burial Mounds of the Northern Section, pp. 75-77.

Cairns on the south side of the South Fork of Holston River 1/4 of a mile above Sharp's Creek, near Minnick's Ford.

Two stone graves on a bluff on the north side of the South Port of Holston River at Minnick's Ford. Reported by J. W. Emmert.

Sumner County

Group of mounds, with cemetery of stone graves and earthworks at Castalian (sulphur) Springs; on Bledsoe's Lick, and 8 miles northeast of Gallatin and 2 miles from Cragfont.  Described by Haywood, Nat. and Ab. Hist. Tenn. (1823), 121-1-26; noticed by Jones, Antiq. Tenn., p. 104.

Unicoi County

Grave cairns at Indian Grave Gap on the top of the Unaka Mountains on the State line about 4 miles southeast of Erwin. 

Washington County

Cairns on the south side of Watauga River, 1 mile above Roan's Creek.  Reported by James Mooney.

White County

Cemetery and earthworks on Caney Fork, about 4 miles southwest of Sparta.  Described by Haywood, Nat. and Ab. Hist. Tenn. (1823), p. 173.

Cemetery near Sparta. Explored.  Described by Haywood, Nat. and Ab. Hist. Tenn. (1823), pp. 200-209; mentioned by Jones, Antiq. Tenn., p. 8; brief notice by H. C. Williams, Sm. Rep. (1870), p. 368. He refers to the Sparta Review (newspaper) as containing a descriptive notice. Featherstonaugh describes the small stone graves of this locality in Excursion through Slave States, pp. 48-49.

Conical mound about 10 miles from Sparta.   Haywood, Nat. and Ab. Hist. Tenn., pp. 193-197.

Cemetery of stone coffins on Calf Killer Creek, 4 miles above Sparta.   Reported by James D. Middleton. One of them noted by Haywood Nat. and Ab. Hist. Tenn. (1823), p. 194.


"Old fortification," 5 or 6 miles from Sparta. Described by Haywood, Nat. and Ab. Hist. Tenn. (1823), p. 209.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Things That Go "Bump" in the Mountains

A worldwide phenomenon, “The Hum,” remains a mystery.  Generally described as a low-frequency droning or pulsing sound, it is often compared to the sound of a distant diesel engine.  

Visualization of "Hum" frequencies

For the small percentage of people who can hear the noise at any given location, it can become quite disturbing, sometimes leading to suicide. 

If I possessed marketing savvy, I would embellish this story (and most of the posts in this blog) with conspiratorial claims, “rock-solid evidence” of alien visitors, or secret lore channeled through my Cherokee shaman grandfather.  But I prefer being true to the stories, even if most people are drawn to gimmicks. 

And, fortunately, there is a “Hum” researcher who tries to play it straight, as well.  Dr. Glen MacPherson has compiled a map showing thousands of reports of the odd, droning sound.  And he has invited discussions on evidence-based theories about “The Hum.”

Among the possible explanations: tinnitus or other disturbances of the auditory system, the mating call of the midshipman fish, mechanical devices, industrial processes, meteorological sources, and geological anomalies.

Rumbling Bald Mountain

Back in the 1800s, reports emerged from various spots in the mountains regarding unusual sounds: drones, bangs, booms and rumbles.  Bald Mountain, in the Hickory Nut Gorge near Chimney Rock, acquired the name “Rumbling” Bald Mountain after earthquakes in 1874.  



I’ve written about this in the past and will be revisiting this incident in a future post.  But, in short, the State Geologist, W. C. Kerr described the origin of the rumblings:

The basal rock, which occupies the bottom of the gorge, and forms the principal material of the escarpment beneath the vertical cliffs, is a soft, friable, horizontal, thin-bedded gneiss, which easily weathers and crumbles down, and is swept away by the stream. The jutting, solid masses above being unsupported, break off in huge sheets and massive blocks, and either slide down the face of the cliff with a grinding movement or topple over and go thundering down the steep slopes often for half a mile or more, with much jarring and commotion, frequently shaking the earth for miles around.

Rabun Bald

Several years later, other strange, loud noises were reported in the vicinity of Rabun Bald, Georgia near the North Carolina border.  



Macon County, NC resident Barry C. Hawkins submitted this story for the Monthly Weather Report on October 8, 1897:

There are several instances of sounds in nature, for which no reasonable or proved explanation can be found and, probably, the most remarkable of these is the phenomenon known as the “barisal guns.” The facts relating to these seem to be as follows: At a certain point near the seacoast in India, sounds are heard resembling distant cannon firing. These sounds have been extensively studied, but no reasonable hypothesis has been advanced which accounts for the “guns.” [The unexplained explosive sounds were heard on the delta of the Ganges River.]  Mention has been made in the MONTHLY WEATHER REVIEW of certain sounds heard on Black Mountain, N. C., in 1876, and obviously caused by the slow falling or sliding and crushing of rocks.

But I am going to describe a phenomenon which seems to be very similar to the famed “barisal guns,” and located right in the United States. No account of these sounds has ever been published, and no scientist has ever taken the slightest interest in them, or paid any attention to them, so far as the writer knows.

In northern Georgia, in the extreme north of Rabun County, close to the North Carolina State line and thirty-fifth parallel of latitude, is Rabun Bald Mountain, forming one of the highest peaks on the very crest of the Blue Ridge. This mountain has the same bulky shape and long rambling ridges running for miles in all directions as are spoken of by Hugh Miller as characterising the gneissic mountains of Scotland.

On the east side there is a small cliff over which a small stream falls in wet weather, and from the ranges to the east the peak appears in form exactly like a brace.  The entire mountain is of gneiss. Now, on this mountain are heard mysterious sounds resembling distant cannon firing, and these sounds have been heard for many years, probably at least fifty; they have been heard in all kinds of weather and at various points on the mountain.

Numerous observers have noted the sounds, and two reliable gentlemen once spent a night on the summit. About 10 o'clock p. m., sounds were heard which were supposed to be cannon firing in Walhalla, S. C., in celebration of the presidential election, this being in November, 1884; but soon the sounds were found to issue from the ground and from a ridge to the southwest of the mountain. The explosive sounds continued till late in the night. At times they seemed to proceed from the ground immediately under the observers.

In early days when bears were plentiful the pioneers said the sounds were caused by these animals rolling small boulders off the mountain sides in search of worms, snails, etc., but the bears have passed and the sounds still continue. Later the sounds were ascribed to “harnts” (haunts or ghosts); two men were murdered in “the sixties" and buried at some unknown point on the “Bald.” Some have heard these sounds so near them in the woods that the sound was like that of a falling tree. But ordinarily the sound is like distant firing, as noted above. They are not heard at all times, people having spent the night on the peak and heard nothing. The writer can verify all the statements made above. They are strictly true, and it is with the hope of calling the attention of scientific men to the subject that I present this brief account of the mystery of a mountain.


Roan Mountain

In the 1870s, sounds wafting around Roan Mountain, on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, more closely resembled “The Hum.”  



Henry Colton had travelled extensively around the Southern Appalachians, but the “mountain music” he heard on Roan was one of the most inexplicable phenomena he ever experienced:

In the month of July, 1878, I spent several weeks at the Cloudland Hotel on Roan Mountain, in Western North Carolina, which is 6387 feet above the sea-level. On the eastern side of the Roan Mountain range is a kind of rough table-land about 2000 feet lower than the summit of that mountain. On the west the mountain descends into the East Tennessee Valley, which may be said to be about 4000 feet lower than the same point. The land on the top of the Roan is singularly free from tree growth, the Canada balsam coming to a certain elevation and there ceasing. The somewhat level top is covered with a luxuriant growth of grass. I give this description as preliminary to what I intend to relate. The hotel is on a plateau near a glen, between two peaks somewhat higher than the general top of the mountain.

Several of the cattle-tenders on the mountain and also General Wilder had spoken to us about what they called “mountain music.” One evening they said it was sounding loud, and Dr. J. T. Boynton, of Knoxville, Hon. M. Thornburgh, and myself, accompanied General Wilder to the glen to hear it. The sound was very plain to the ear, and was not at all, as described, like the humming of thousands of bees, but like the incessant, continuous, and combined snap of two Leyden jars positively and negatively charged. I tried to account for it on the theory of bees or flies, but the mountain people said it frequently occurred after the bees and flies had gone to their winter homes, or before they came out.

It was always loudest and most prolonged just before there would be a thunder-storm in either valley, or one passing over the mountain. I used every argument I could to persuade myself that it was simply the result of some common cause, and to shake the faith of the country people in its mysterious origin; but I only convinced myself that it was the result from two currents of air meeting each other in the suck between the two peaks, where there were no obstruction of trees, one containing a greater, the other a less amount of electricity, or that the two currents coming together in the open plateau on the high elevation, by their friction, and being of different temperatures, generated electricity. The "mountain music" was simply the snapping caused by this friction and this generation of electricity. Many have noted the peculiar snapping hum to be observed in great auroral displays, particularly those of September 1859 and February 1872.

As the amount of electricity in the air-currents became equalized or surcharged, they, descending to either side, caused the thunderstorms usual every day in the valleys near the mountain, and sometimes immediately on the edge of the timber surrounding the great bald top. The air-currents of the Western North Carolina mountains and the East Tennessee Valley form an aerial tide, ebbing and flowing. The heated air of the valley rises from nine in the morning until three or four in the afternoon, making a slight easterly wind up and over the Roan Mountain. As night comes on the current turns back to the valley, almost invariably producing a very brisk gale by three or four o'clock in the morning, which, in its turn, dies down to a calm by seven, and commences to reverse by nine o'clock. This continual change of the currents of air makes it an impossibility for any great malarial scourge to exist in the East Tennessee Valley, especially its north-eastern end.


The Roan Mountain is one of the curiosities of nature. It is a part of the great range formed of metamorphic rocks which border on the true silurian formation from the Canadas to Alabama; though not so high as the Black Mountains, in the same county, it and many others of the same range present a peculiarity not known to those higher peaks of the eastern range. This peculiarity is the vast tracts of land entirely devoid of trees and mostly covered with a luxuriant grass, much loved by cattle. The highest range of the thermometer, an accurate government instrument at the hotel, during the past summer, was 74°.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

World Without Mind

Back around the year 2000, Wendell Berry observed:


It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.




Just a couple of years ago, I composed a bit of doggerel on a similar theme:

Cyborg Blues

I've heard it from the Madman, I've heard it from the Sage:
The years in which we're living are the dwindling of an Age.


Machines will liberate us from the limits we have known,
Polymer and alloy will replace our skin and bone.


Our current form of life will gradually dissolve
As the species, Homo sapiens, continues to evolve.


We are entering an Era called "Posthumanist,"
Becoming dots on a screen small and luminous.


Will we recognize it, the day the threshold's crossed?
When what it was we used to be becomes completely lost?


We could test the waters cautiously, as human frailties we expunge.
More likely we won't know our fate 'til the end of a headlong plunge.

And now, in his new book,  World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, Franklin Foer writes:

Until recently, it was easy to define our most widely known corporations. Any third-grader could describe their essence. Exxon sells gas; McDonald’s makes hamburgers; Walmart is a place to buy stuff. This is no longer so. Today’s ascendant monopolies aspire to encompass all of existence. Google derives from googol, a number (1 followed by 100 zeros) that mathematicians use as shorthand for unimaginably large quantities. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of organizing all knowledge, but that proved too narrow. They now aim to build driverless cars, manufacture phones and conquer death. Amazon, which once called itself “the everything store,” now produces television shows, owns Whole Foods and powers the cloud. The architect of this firm, Jeff Bezos, even owns [the Washington Post.] 

Along with Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, these companies are in a race to become our “personal assistant.” They want to wake us in the morning, have their artificial intelligence software guide us through our days and never quite leave our sides. They aspire to become the repository for precious and private items, our calendars and contacts, our photos and documents. They intend for us to turn unthinkingly to them for information and entertainment while they catalogue our intentions and aversions. Google Glass and the Apple Watch prefigure the day when these companies implant their artificial intelligence in our bodies. Brin has mused, “Perhaps in the future, we can attach a little version of Google that you just plug into your brain.”

More than any previous coterie of corporations, the tech monopolies aspire to mold humanity into their desired image of it. They think they have the opportunity to complete the long merger between man and machine — to redirect the trajectory of human evolution. How do I know this? In annual addresses and town hall meetings, the founding fathers of these companies often make big, bold pronouncements about human nature — a view that they intend for the rest of us to adhere to. Page thinks the human body amounts to a basic piece of code: “Your program algorithms aren’t that complicated,” he says. And if humans function like computers, why not hasten the day we become fully cyborg?

To take another grand theory, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has exclaimed his desire to liberate humanity from phoniness, to end the dishonesty of secrets. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” he has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” Of course, that’s both an expression of idealism and an elaborate justification for Facebook’s business model.

There’s an oft-used shorthand for the technologist’s view of the world. It is assumed that libertarianism dominates Silicon Valley, and that isn’t wholly wrong. High-profile devotees of Ayn Rand can be found there. But if you listen hard to the titans of tech, it’s clear that their worldview is something much closer to the opposite of a libertarian’s veneration of the heroic, solitary individual. The big tech companies think we’re fundamentally social beings, born to collective existence. They invest their faith in the network, the wisdom of crowds, collaboration. They harbor a deep desire for the atomistic world to be made whole. (“Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community,” Zuckerberg wrote in one of his many manifestos.) By stitching the world together, they can cure its ills.

 Rhetorically, the tech companies gesture toward individuality — to the empowerment of the “user” — but their worldview rolls over it. Even the ubiquitous invocation of users is telling: a passive, bureaucratic description of us. The big tech companies (the Europeans have lumped them together as GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are shredding the principles that protect individuality. Their devices and sites have collapsed privacy; they disrespect the value of authorship, with their hostility toward intellectual property. In the realm of economics, they justify monopoly by suggesting that competition merely distracts from the important problems like erasing language barriers and building artificial brains. Companies should “transcend the daily brute struggle for survival,” as Facebook investor Peter Thiel has put it.

When it comes to the most central tenet of individualism — free will — the tech companies have a different way. They hope to automate the choices, both large and small, we make as we float through the day. It’s their algorithms that suggest the news we read, the goods we buy, the paths we travel, the friends we invite into our circles.

It’s hard not to marvel at these companies and their inventions, which often make life infinitely easier. But we’ve spent too long marveling. The time has arrived to consider the consequences of these monopolies, to reassert our role in determining the human path. Once we cross certain thresholds — once we remake institutions such as media and publishing, once we abandon privacy — there’s no turning back, no restoring our lost individuality….

During this century, we largely have treated Silicon Valley as a force beyond our control. A broad consensus held that lead-footed government could never keep pace with the dynamism of technology. By the time government acted against a tech monopoly, a kid in a garage would have already concocted some innovation to upend the market. Or, as Google’s Eric Schmidt, put it, “Competition is one click away.” A nostrum that suggested that the very structure of the Internet defied our historic concern for monopoly.


As individuals, we have similarly accepted the omnipresence of the big tech companies as a fait accompli. We’ve enjoyed their free products and next-day delivery with only a nagging sense that we may be surrendering something important. Such blitheness can no longer be sustained. Privacy won’t survive the present trajectory of technology — and with the sense of being perpetually watched, humans will behave more cautiously, less subversively. 

Our ideas about the competitive marketplace are at risk. With a decreasing prospect of toppling the giants, entrepreneurs won’t bother to risk starting new firms, a primary source of jobs and innovation. And the proliferation of falsehoods and conspiracies through social media, the dissipation of our common basis for fact, is creating conditions ripe for authoritarianism. Over time, the long merger of man and machine has worked out pretty well for man. But we’re drifting into a new era, when that merger threatens the individual. We’re drifting toward monopoly, conformism, their machines. Perhaps it’s time we steer our course.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Stories from Sandtown

One of my favorite cemeteries is behind a little church, off the beaten path, in the Cartoogechaye section of Macon County, NC.  The church itself has an interesting history, and if not for Rufus Morgan, that church would have been long gone.  Rufus Morgan could be the subject of MANY posts on this blog.  I had no idea a song had been written about him, but here it is from Chelle Rose:



One monument in the cemetery is the most memorable of all, marking the graves of Chief Chuttasotee and his wife, Cunstagih. 

I’ve known just a little about Chuttasotee and the Sandtown Cherokees for years, but learned a lot more with the discovery just now of an article that appeared in The Franklin Press, March 1, 1934. I’m posting the newspaper article here in its entirety. 

CHEROKEE LORE, by Margaret R. Siler, Article III, THE INDIAN LOVE CALL

BETWEEN Muskrat Gap and-the Winding Stair nestles a small valley, protected on the East, North and West by sheltering mountains, and open only to the warm winds from the South. Rushing down from the mountain to the North, Muskrat brook curves around one side of the valley.

On the other side ripple the. clear waters of Cartoogechaye creek. Situated in this ideal spot was a Cherokee settlement, the last in Macon county, known to the white people as Sandtown, because, it is thought, the clay soil in that vicinity contained a portion of sand. This sheltered little valley must have been the home of old Chief Santeetla, whose threats failed to deter those young bloods, Siler and Britton, from settling on the banks of Cartoogechaye creek a few miles East.

The brave pioneer, Jacob Siler, remained to make fast friendship with the Cherokee tribes that peopled the region. Returning later to his home near what is now Asheville, he persuaded his brothers, William, Jesse and John, to come over the mountains with him and settle in this virgin country lavishly endowed by nature with beauty, food and noble trees from which to build homes. 

The brothers erected dwellings within a mile or so of each other, William Siler choosing for his site a sheltered nook near the point where Wayah creek joins Cartoogechaye creek. For many, years he was the closest white neighbor of the Sandtown Indians It was here that Albert Siler, my father-in-law, grew up.

The first conversation I had with Albert Siler about his old neighbors made me realize how deeply he was attached to them. He said they were like trustful children and were always loyal to their friends. 

The Cherokees, "Father" Siler told me, were easily moved, although they did not always show it. He related how as a young man he would visit Sandtown on Sunday afternoons and read lhe Bible to the Indians. Frequently, he said, when he raised his eyes he saw that the faces of his listeners were streaming with tears, although some of them could not understand a word he was reading to them. 

Especially was this true in the cabin of Jim and Sallee Peckerwood, as they were known to their white friends. Their Cherokee names were Cha-cha Chuta-sotee and Cun-stay-gee Chuta-sottee. When the federal government rounded up the Cherokee and was marching them to the far West the Indians were beset with a scourge in Tennessee.

One night Cha-cha and Cun-stay-gee and some of the other Sandtown Indians escaped and fled back to their old homes. From time to time they were joined by others of their tribe, ragged, hungry and footsore after their escape from the caravan being prodded Westward across the Mississippi. William Siler was so moved by the plight of his old neighbors that he deeded back to them some of the land which they had been forced to leave under heart-breaking circumstances, that they might continue to live in the mountains they loved so well. The Indians were deeply grateful.

Chief Chuta-sottee loved William Siler with the devotion of an ardent Indian nature. When the latter died the bereaved Cherokee was his self-appointed chief mourner, following directly behind the hack which carried the body from the home on Cartoogechaye to the cemetery in Franklin. This was; a journey of eight miles and Chuta-sottee plodded through the mud, step by step, with his head solemnly bowed.

I was surprised when "Father" Siler told me there were class distinctions among the Indians. He said Cha-cha Chuta-sottee was an aristocrat and his wife, Sallee, or Cun-stay-gee, was a plebeian. Despite this difference in rank, however, they were a devoted couple. Sallee had strength for the long, weary trek back from Tennessee. Perhaps the hardships of that fearful journey helped to knit their hearts together more strongly. Who knows?

We can but conjecture concerning the courtship of the brave young couple, but their beautiful life was a thing of positive knowledge to many. After the dignified and courageous young Chuta-sottee led his straggling band back home they made him their chief. But although they were now living on their own land, deeded to them by William Siler, the threat of ejectment was not yet over.

In 1843 Major James Robinson (father of the James Robinson who became Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina) was appointed by the authorities in Washington to persuade the Cherokees still remaining East of the Mississippi to join their fellow-tribesmen in the West. On the day appointed Chief Chuta-sottee gathered his band together.

They listened respectfully while Major Robinson painted in glowing colors a picture of the Happy Hunting Grounds to which he wanted to take them. He made a forceful argument for emigration of the Cherokees; but when he had finished speaking Chief Chuta-sottee rose with the dignity of a king and, lifting his right hand majestically, replied with simple but convincing solemnity: "In sight of that mountain I have lived. In sight, of it I expect to die. My talk is ended."

Major Robinson knew well enough that the old Cherokee chief’s decision was absolutely final. No one ever again suggested that this loyal Cherokee leave his native home. His wish was granted that he might die in sight of the sloping, almost level-topped mountain between Muskrat Gap and the Winding Stair. His door, facing the West, caught the last rays of the golden sun as it slipped behind the mountain.

Here he lived his remaining days. “Father” Siler visited Chuta-sottee often during his last sickness and one day after reading him the Bible, the old chief said gently as he watched the last rays of the August sun light his doorway: "Al'ert, Jim going soon. Bury Jim like white man." Mr. Siler at once promised to bury him in the Siler family cemetery in the yard of little St. John's Episcopal chapel; at the foot of the same mountain where the chief lived.



The late Rev. J. A. Deal, who lived in Franklin forty-odd years, was the rector of St. John's and often made pastoral visits to Jim and Sallee Peckerwood. Jim told Mr. Deal of the request he had made of "Al'ert" Siler and Mr. Deal assured him the service would be all he could desire. A few days after this "Father" Siler again called on Jim, late one, afternoon.

As the sun sank behind the mountain the old chief, who was about 80 and who had witnessed so many heart-rending changes wrought by the white man in his paradise, said in a quiet voice: "That the last time Jim see the sun set over his mountain, Al'ert."

Early next morning one of Jim Peckerwood's sons, named Will Siler after my father-in-law's father, came and called "Al'ert" from his bed. Jim Peckerwood had died in the night (about 4 a.m. August 15, 1879.) He was buried the next morning in the little church yard of St. John's chapel with all the care and reverence that could be given the best citizen in the community, for Jim Peckerwood was held in high esteem by both white people and Cherokees for miles around. The little church yard was filled with his friends of both colors.

"Father" Siler said Jim and Sallee had lived together for more than 50 years and he felt so sorry for the Indian woman in her bereavement that he visited her late in the afternoon after the funeral. She was seated in the doorway, her head resting against the side and her face turned to the west. Her sad eyes, "Father" Siler said, seemed to pierce the setting sun and see beyond. He sat down beside her and said all the comforting things he could think of, but she only looked into the sun, seeming not to hear him.

Finally, she came out of her reverie and said gently: "Jim calling Sallee, Al'ert. Sallee go to Jim before another sun set." Very early the next morning Will Siler Peckerwood went to Albert Siler and told him, "Sallee gone to Jim." So, two days after Jim was laid away the same friends laid Sallee beside him and she, too, was buried with the Christian ritual of the white man.

“Father" Siler's daughter, Nettie, had the marble top of a dresser broken in two and placed at the heads of the graves of the faithful couple in the shadow of their loved mountains. But today a nobler monument rises above the graves of the last chief of the Sandtown Indians and his wife. There were four little girls at the funerals of these devoted old lovers who are living today. Now they are Mrs. Maggie Gillespie Slagle, Mrs. Laura Siler Slagle, Mrs. Maggie Stalcup Cunningham and Mrs. Andy Setser.

In 1932 this group of ladies, with the aid of The Franklin Press and Highlands Maconian, revived interest in the love story of Chah-chah and Cun-stay-gee and started a movement for the erection of a permanent marker above their graves. On July 30, 1932, a beautiful monument, hewn from the strong, gray-blue granite of Macon county, was unveiled with appropriate exercises.

Among those taking part in the exercises was Chief Bly from the Cherokee reservation in Swain county. After he had heard other speakers tell of Chief Chuta-sottee, he remarked with typical Indian brevity: "They say all good Indians are dead. This must have been a good Indian.”

Sandtown Protest 

James Peckerwood of Sandtown has a place in the history books that deserves mention at this point.  In July 1868 a treaty was ratified between the United States and the Cherokees residing west of the Mississippi River.  The Congressional Record for January 1869 includes a “Memorial of Headmen and People of the North Carolina or Eastern Cherokees” protesting against the ratification of that treaty.  

Essentially, those “Eastern” Cherokees objected to the treaty because they would not receive any payments from the government as had the members of the Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma).  The signers of that petition were from various communities in Western North Carolina.  

While many of them were from “Qualla,” others (like Jim Peckerwood) were from Sand Town.  Others communities where small remnants of Cherokees remained in the late 1860s, were identified as Buffalo Town, Hewassee Town, Cheoah Town and Hangdog Town:

JOHN WAYNENA, chief, Buffalo Town
LONG BEAR, Sand Town
ALLEN BUTTER, Sand Town.
TRAMPER, Bufi'alo Town.
 WM. MCLEMORE, Hewassee Town.
 JOHN AXE, Hangdog Town.
 SOWANOOKAH, Buffalo Town.
 JAMES BLYTHE, Buffalo Town.
 SKEEGEE, Bufi'alo Town.
 JOHN ELIJAH, Qulla Town.
 WILLSON AXE, Sand Town.
 MINK, Bufi’alo Town.
KURSKEELESKEE, Qulla Town.
TAHQUAHTEEHEE, of Uheou Town.
LITTLE JOHN, Qulla Town.
ISAAC DAVIS Qulla Town.
JACKSON BLYTHE, Qulla Town.
BEN NEWTOWEE, Qulla Town.
JAMES PECKERWOOD, Sand Town.
OO-SOWEH, Qulla Town.
JOHNSON KATEGUH, Sand Town.

Lanman Meets Hog-Bite

Charles Lanman met many a hermit on his travels through America in the 19th century.  When Lanman visited Macon County in May 1848, he crossed paths with a Sandtown Cherokee named Hog-Bite:


The most interesting character whom I have seen about Franklin is an old Cherokee Indian, His name is Sa-taw-ha, or Hog-Bite, and he is upwards of one hundred years of age. He lives in a small log hut among the mountains, the door of which is so very low that you have to crawl into it upon your hands and knees. 

At the time the greater part of his nation were removed to the Far West, the "officers of justice" called to obtain his company. He saw them as they approached, and, taking his loaded rifle in hand, he warned them not to attempt to lay their hands upon him, for he would certainly kill them. He was found to be so resolute and so very old, that it was finally concluded by those in power that the old man should be left alone. 

He lives the life of a hermit, and is chiefly supported by the charity of one or two Indian neighbors, though it is said he even now occasionally manages to kill a deer or turkey. His history is entirely unknown, and he says he can remember the time when the Cherokee nation lived upon the shores of a great ocean (the Atlantic) and the color of a white man's face was unknown.