Saturday, September 2, 2017

Stone Mountain – Sacred to the Apalaches?

The Appalachian Mountains were named for an Indian tribe…and it wasn’t the Cherokee.

How could that be?

Exploring how the Appalachians got their name has led me down some obscure trails.  In the process, I rediscovered the lost history of Stone Mountain in Georgia.  It is a wild story spanning many centuries, many countries, many disciplines, and many documents.

Who Put the BAM! in the Bamiyan?

It is bittersweet to consider the past and future of Stone Mountain.

As America’s Cultural Revolution hits its stride, the crosshairs are settling on the mountain’s bas-relief horsemen.  How long before the carvings get blasted away in the same idiotic manner as the Taliban erasure of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan?

And they thought that such diabolical destruction would make the world a better place...

Appalachia Gets on the Map

Spelled in various ways, “Appalachian” was one of the first place names created by European explorers in North America.  After landing near Tampa Bay, Hernando De Soto and his band of conquistadors met the Apalachee Indians in the Florida panhandle near the Gulf Coast.  The Spaniards spent the winter of 1539-1540 at the main village of the Apalachees in present-day Tallahassee.

The De Soto party was neither the first nor the last group of European adventurers to cross paths with the Apalachees. In 1562, Diego Gutierrez (associated with another Spanish enterprise in La Florida) published an unprecedented map of the Southeast, which featured an inland range of mountains labelled “Apalchen.”  This was the first map known to depict a variation of “Appalachian.”

Gutierrez Map of 1562 showing Apalchen [sic] Mountains

In 1564, Rene Goulaine de Laudonnière landed on the Atlantic Coast near today’s Florida-Georgia border.  His aimed to establish a French Huguenot colony and oversaw the construction of Fort Caroline on the St. John’s River (or possibly the Altamaha).  Jacques Le Moyne, the first European artist known to visit North America accompanied Laudonnière.  Le Moyne created a map of the Southeast and it includes “Apalatci” in roughly the same location as “Apalachen” on the Gutierrez map. 

Le Moyne Map and Detail

This raises an obvious question.  If the Apalachees lived in the Florida panhandle, why was a mountain range hundreds of miles to the north named for them? 

To understand the native groups of the Southeast, it helps to be knowledgeable of the river systems they occupied.  The Apalachicola was the main river flowing through Apalachee territory on its way to the Gulf.  Two rivers, the Flint and the Chattahoochee, joined to form the Apalachicola.   It is entirely conceivable that Apalachee Indians could have followed their nearby river upstream, and eventually, all the way to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee, which originated in the rugged mountains of north Georgia.

Treasure from the Mountains

It becomes clear HOW they could have done so. But was there any reason WHY they would have done so?  

Here’s one possibility:

Jacques Le Moyne painted a scene of natives obtaining gold from streams that flowed out of the “Apalatcy Mountains.”

The Theodore De Bry engraving based on the Le Moyne painting bears this caption:

"A great way from the place where our fort was built, are great mountains, called in the Indian language Apalatcy; in which, as the map shows, arise three great rivers, in the sands of which are found much gold, silver, and brass, mixed together. Accordingly, the natives dig ditches in these streams, into which the sand brought down by the current falls by gravity. Then they collect it out, and carry it away to a place by itself, and after a time collect again what continues to fall in. Then they convey it in canoes [downriver] … The Spaniards have been able to use for their advantage the wealth thus obtained."

If Le Moyne’s narrative is to be believed, then the Appalachian/Apalachen/Apalatcy Mountains had a lot more to offer than just pretty scenery:

M. de Laudonniere had been sending out men to explore the remoter parts of the country, more particularly those in the vicinity of the great King Outina, the enemy of our own neighbor, and from whom, by the channel of some of our Frenchmen who had got into relations with him, a good deal of gold and silver had been sent to the fort, as well as pearls, and other valuable articles….

La Roche Ferriere…returned to the fort reporting that he had certain information that all the gold and silver which had been sent to it came from the Apalatcy Mountains, and that the Indians from whom he obtained it knew of no other place to get it, since they had got all they had had so far in warring with three chiefs, named Potanou, Onatheaqua, and Oustaca, who had been preventing the great chief Outina from taking possession of these mountains. Moreover, La Roche Ferriere brought with him a piece of rock mined in those mountains, containing a sufficiently good display of gold and brass. He therefore requested permission of M. de Laudonniere to undertake the long journey by which he hoped he could reach these three chiefs, and examine the state of things about them.

La Roche Ferriere, who, having reached the mountains, succeeded by prudence and assiduity in placing himself on a friendly footing with the three chiefs before mentioned, the most bitter enemies of King Outina. He was astonished at their civilization and opulence, and sent to M. de Laudonniere at the fort many gifts which they bestowed upon him. Among these were circular plates of gold and silver as large as a moderate-sized platter, such as they are accustomed to wear to protect the back and breast in war; much gold alloyed with brass, and silver not thoroughly smelted. He sent also some quivers covered with very choice skins, with golden heads to all the arrows; and many pieces of a stuff made of feathers, and most skilfully ornamented with rushes of different colors; also green and blue stones, which some thought to be emeralds and sapphires, in the form of wedges, and which they used instead of axes, for cutting wood. M. de Laudonniere sent in return such commodities as he had, such as some thick rough cloths, a few axes and saws, and other cheap Parisian goods, with which they were perfectly satisfied.

Before the French could fully exploit the wealth of the mountains, Spaniards came north from Saint Augustine and crushed the French colony.

French Pastor Comes to America

One hundred years after Laudonniere’s failed Huguenot project, another Frenchman came to the Southeast.   Charles de Rochefort (1605-1683) was a Protestant pastor sent to minister to French-speaking Protestants in the Caribbean.  

After his visit to the New World, he published Histoire naturelle et morale des iles Antilles de l'Amerique (Natural and moral history of the Antilles) (1658).  The first part of the book focused on the Caribbean islands, but a later chapter was devoted to the Apalachee Indians.

The Apalachites are a powerful and generous Nation, which continues to this present planted in the same Country of Florida: They are the Inhabitants of a gallant and spacious Country called Apalacha, from which they have received their name…

This people have a communication with the Sea of the great Gulf of Mexico or New Spain, by the means of a River, which taking its source out of the Apalachian Mountains, at the foot whereof they inhabit, after it hath wandered through many rich Campagnes, disembarks itself at last into the Sea near the islands of Tacobago: The Spaniards have called this River Rio del Spirito Santo but the Apalachites call it still by its ancient name of Hitanachi, which in their Language signifies fair and pleasant. On the East-side they are divided from all other Nations by high and far-spreading Mountains, whole tops are cover’d with snow most part of the year, and which separate them from Virginia: on the other sides they adjoin to several inconsiderable Nations, which are all their friends and confederates.

Indeed, “Hitanachi” and “Rio del Spirito Santo” were names applied to the Apalachicola River.

Cofitachequi = Cofachite?

Rochefort described the long history of a struggle for control of the mountains waged by the “Apalachites” and the “Cofachites.”  If the Apalachites in Rochefort’s book were actually Apalachees, then who were the Cofachites?  Here’s the most likely explanation:

After Hernando De Soto left the Apalachees in 1540 and meandered north, on his way toward the mountains, he reached the Cofitachequi chiefdom in the vicinity of Columbia, South Carolina.  The Cofitachequi society reflected the vestiges of Mississippian culture, but was in decline when De Soto reached them.   In one of the most picturesque and memorable scenes recorded by his chroniclers, De Soto encountered the “queen” of that realm:

Some Indians brought (the Lady of) Cofitachequi on a litter with much prestige. And she sent a message to us that she was delighted that we had come to her land, and that she would give us whatever she could, and she sent a string of pearls of five or six strands to the Governor. She gave us canoes in which we crossed that river and divided with us half of the town…

She was young and of fine appearance, and she removed a string of pearls that she wore about her neck and put it on the governor's neck, in order to ingratiate herself and win his good will... And the Indians walked covered down to the feet with very excellent hides, very well tanned, and blankets of sable and mountain lions which smelled; and the people are very clean and very polite and naturally well developed.

Over the centuries, the Apalachites and Cofachites competed for control of the mountain region.  Periods of violent warfare alternated with interludes of truce:

Both parties laid down their arms, and the Cofachites went to fetch their Wives, Children, cattle, Baggage, and the Souldiers they had left near the great Lake of Theomi… From that time the Apalachites gave the name of Caribbians, or as the French would have it, Caraibes, to those new comers...this word Caraibes signifies, in their language, a sort of people added, or suddenly and unexpectedly coming in strangers…

Worship at Olaimi

Relations between the two groups remained tense.  According to Rochefort, one source of contention was a difference in religious beliefs and practices. The Apalachites saw a need to convert the Caribbians.  With the success of their evangelizing, the Apalachites convinced some of the Cofachites/Caribbians to worship with them on the Mountain of Olaimi:

Many left the Province of Amana wherein they had their habitations, and went into that of Bemarin, the principal Province of the Apalachites, whence they ascended into the Mountain of Olaimi, upon which the Apalachites made their solemn Offerings; and upon their invitation the Caribbians had participated of those Ceremonies and that Service: these priests, whom the Apalachites call Jaouas, which is as much as to say, Men of God, knew that the seeds of Religion are not so easily smother’d in the hearts of men; and that, though the long Wars they had had With the Caribbians had hindered the exercise thereof, yet would it be no hard matter for them to blow up, as we may say, those sparks in them which lay hid under the ashes.

Where, exactly, was this Mountain of Olaimi, the holy mount of the Apalaches?  Several sites have been suggested, including Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and Stone Mountain, Georgia.  Between the two, my vote would go to Stone Mountain, northeast of Atlanta, simply because it rises within a few miles of the Chattahoochee River.

Holy Mountain Near Track Rock Gap?

Josiah Priest in American Antiquities (1832) provided another possible location, in the vicinity of Track Rock Gap near Blairsville, Georgia.  Priest had definite ideas about what might have caused the tracks in the rock:


Among the subjects of antiquity, which are abundant on the American continent, we give the following, from Morse's Universal Geography, which in point of mysteriousness is not surpassed, perhaps, on the globe. In the State of Tennessee, on a certain mountain, called the enchanted mountain, situated a few miles south of Braystown, which is at the head waters of the Tennessee river, are found impressed in the surface of the solid rock, a great number of tracks, as turkies, bears, horses, and human beings, as perfect as they could be made on snow or sand. The human tracks are remarkable for having uniformly six toes each, like the anakims of Scripture; one only excepted, which appears to be the print of a negro's foot….  

Not far from this very spot, are vast heaps of stones, which are the supposed tombs of warriors, slain, perhaps in the very battle this big footed warrior was engaged in, at a period when these mountains, which give rise to some branches of the Tugulo, Apalachicola, and Hiwassa rivers, were in a state of soft and clayey texture. On this range, according to Mexican tradition, was the holy mountain; temple and cave of Olaimi, where was also a city and the seat of their empire, more ancient than that of Mexico. To reduce that city, perhaps, was the object of the great warrior, whose track with that of his horse and company, still appear.

We are of the opinion, that these tracks, found sunk in the surface of the rocks of this mountain, is indubitable evidence of their antiquity, going back to the time when men dispersed over the earth, immediately after the flood.

A Mexican Connection

An 1833 article by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque discussed the Zapotecas and Miztecas of Mexico, and identified a possible link with Mount Olaimi, and even Mount Olympus:

The Theogony, Cosmogony and religion of the Miztecas and Zapotecas was also very different from the Mexicans, although they had latterly adopted their bloody rites of the god of evil. The Miztecas of Cuilapo according to a book written by a parish monk in the Mizteca language and figures, ascribe their origin to a god and goddess named Lion snake and Tyger Snake dwelling in Apoala or heavenly seat of Snakes before the flood. They had two Sons (or nations) an eagle called Wind of 9 Caves, and a Dragon or Winged Snake called Wind of 9 Snakes. They were driven from Apoala for their wickedness and perished in a great flood.

In Apoala we find the Tlapala or ancient seat of the Mexicans: which is perhaps the Apalachi mountains of North America, where was once the holy mountain, temple and cave of Olaimi (see Brigstock) which name recalls to mind the Olmeras! and all these names answer in import and sound to the Olympus of the Greeks.

See the end note below for a letter that Rafinesque sent to the editors of The Cherokee Phoenix in 1818 seeking information on related subjects.

The Deluge, Effigy Boulders, and Human Sacrifice

In The Doctrine of the Deluge; Vindicating the Scriptural Account from the Doubts Cast Upon it, Volume 2 (1838), the Rev. Leveson Venables V. Harcourt referred to Olaimi in the context of the Ark of the Covenant:

It is the opinion of many interpreters, that the word which in Hebrew precedes Luz, is, in fact, an additional cognomen prefixed, and they read it Oulam Luz; and since the house of God, whether at Luz or at Jerusalem, was certainly on a mount, it is a very curious coincidence, that we find the same sort of religious memorial on a mountain of the same name in America.

The Apalachites in Florida were accustomed every year to offer sacrifices upon the mountain of Olaimi in a cavern, which was the temple of the sun; and the Abbe Banier observes, that their veneration of idols, which are nothing but shapeless stones, or have sometimes a conical figure, proves that their idolatry resembled that of the ancients in the Old World. The meaning of Oulam is supposed to be "formerly," though there is another word in the sentence, which bears the same meaning. But there are several Arabic and Chaldee derivatives from the same root, which signify not only a beginning but a mountain, and anything like the pole of a tent, which sustains something else. No better term therefore could be applied to any eminence, which represented that primitive mountain, which sustained the Ark….

This entry really caught my attention thanks to the passage about the shapeless stone idols. School teacher Greg Seals published a book The Effigy Boulders of Stone Mountain (2015), in which he proposes that Native peoples of Stone Mountain produced monumental sculpture as far back as 3,500 years ago.

Rev. Harcourt also referred to Abbe Antoine Banier (1673-1741), a French clergyman who wrote a three-volume work translated into English as The Mythology and Fables of the Ancients, Explain'd from History (1739), which sought to explain the origins of myths and fables based on historic events. Abbe Banier had been reading his Le Moyne and Rochefort:

The Idols, often monstrous, as in our own Continent, either charg'd with Symbols like those we call Pantheos, or sometimes even resembling those of Priapus, prove, that the People I am speaking of were nothing short of the old Inhabitants of our Country, in the extravagance of their Idolatry and Fables.. Would it have been consistent with the Corruption of the human Heart, not to place upon the Altars every thing that sooth’d Vice and Irregularity of Manners?

The Custom of sacrificing upon high Places, a Custom so ancient, and whereof the Prophets so often accuse the idolatrous Nations, was likewise known among the Americans. To be convinc'd of this, we need only read the Relation of the Sieur Rocbefort, in the place where he speaks of the Mountain Olaimi, upon which the Apalachites, a People of Florida, offer Sacrifices yearly to the Sun, in a Cavern which serves for a Temple to this Divinity.

Their veneration for Idols, which are nothing but either mis-shapen Stories, or sometimes of a conical figure, is a farther proof, that their Idolatry resembled that of the Ancients, who, before the Art of Sculpture, paid Honours to such like Stones, or simple Pillars, as we shall see elsewhere.

The Sacrifices of these Savages were at first very simple, as they were among the primitive Idolaters of our World; and this Simplicity still remains among some of their Nations, where they content themselves with offering up to the Gods the Fruits of the Earth, or with making Libations to them of Water; others hang up on Trees or Pillars, the Skins of the Beasts they have slain in Hunting: There are of them who throw into the Fire some Leaves of Tobacco in honour to the Sun, and into the Rivers and Streams to appease the Genii that preside over them. Those of the Caribbee Islands offer up the Caffave and the Ouicou, that is, their Bread and their Drink, to the Gods who are the Guardians of these Plants, as the Greeks and the other Nations offered their Sacrifices to Bacchus and Ceres. What tho' the Names of those Gods are not the same in either Continent, the Ideas are still the same, and it is precisely the same kind of Idolatry.

But in America, as amongst ourselves, these ancient Manners not having always subsisted in that primitive Simplicity, which is the Characteristick of the first Ages in every Nation of the World; they whom we are speaking of, like the Pagans in our own Continent, carry'd Superstition to their Gods to the length of sacrificing to them human Victims. The Sacrifices of this sort were in use especially in Mexico, and tho’ they were less known among the other Savages, yet there were of 'em however, who, at a certain Season of the Year, offer'd their Children to the Gods who watch'd over the Fruits of the Earth. The Relation of the Sieur le Moyne informs us, that in that part of Florida, which is nigh to Virginia, the People of that Country, who look upon the Sun as the Father of their Chiefs, offer up to that Luminary, their great Divinity, their Children in Sacrifice, as the Canaanites sacrificed them to their Moloch, who was likewise the Sun, only with this difference, that the latter burn'd them in a Furnace which was contrived within their Idol, as I shall shew in speaking of that God, whereas the former knock'd them on the head in the midst of an Assembly of the People, and in presence of the Chief, who himself represented the God who was believ'd to be his Father.

Pilgrimage to Olaimi

Abbé Orsini (Mathieu) mentioned Olaimi in Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God: With the History of the Devotion to Her; Completed by the Traditions of the East, the Writings of the Holy Fathers, and the Private History of the Jews (1856):  

All nations have had consecrated places whither they made it a duty to repair, at certain commemorative periods, to obtain favours more easily from the divinity, by visiting the sites which they believed sanctified by his presence or by his miracles.

Pilgrimages are as ancient as society itself; those of the East are, nearly all, connected with diluvian memories; indeed, those pilgrimages, whose institution is lost in the obscurity of time, have generally, for their object, the lofty mountains whereon was formed the kernel of the great nations of Asia, who choose to descend, like their rivers, from the rocky bosom of their mountains….  

The Apalachites, or Floridian savages, repair, on the return of every season, to sacrifice on Mount Olaimi, in thanksgiving to the sun who, they say, saved their fathers from a deluge....These pilgrimages are founded on traditions corrupted by time, but undoubtedly historical; in them are perceived the traces and the effects of the terror which prompted the building of the famous tower of Babel.

One Artist's Vision of Olaimi

Aerial View of Stone Mountain

Notes on the Floridian Peninsula

An 1859 book by Daniel Brinton, Notes on the Floridian Peninsula, discussed the Apalaches, their presence in Florida and in the mountains.  Brinton acknowledged lingering doubts about Rochefort’s veracity, but reeled off a long list of travelers before and after Rochefort who confirmed many of the details about the Apalaches.  This is one of the more detailed retellings of the Rochefort story:

We find a very minute and extraordinary account of a nation called Apalachites, indebted for its preservation principally to the work of the Abbe Rochefort. It has been usually supposed a creation of his own fertile brain, but a careful study of the subject has given me a different opinion. The original sources of his information may be entirely lost, but that they actually existed can be proved beyond reasonable doubt. They were a series of ephemeral publications by an “English gentleman” about 1656, whose name is variously spelled Bristol, Bristok, Brigstock, and Bristock, the latter being probably the correct orthography. He had spent many years in the West Indies and North America, was conversant with several native tongues, and had visited Apalacha in 1653. Besides the above-mentioned fragmentary notes, he promised a complete narrative of his residence and journeys in the New World, but apparently never fulfilled his intention.

Versions of his account are found in various writers of the age. The earliest is given by Rochefort, and was translated with the rest of the work of that author by Davies, who must have consulted the original tract of Bristock as he adds particulars not found in the Abbe’s history.  

Brinton restated Rochefort’s account of the religious differences between the Apalachees and Cofachites/Carribes, and an eventually schism within the Caribbian society:

Finding themselves too weak to cope openly with such a powerful foe, the Apalachites had recourse to stratagem. Taking advantage of a temporary peace, their priests used the utmost exertions to spread abroad among their antagonists a religious veneration of the sun and a belief in the necessity of an annual pilgrimage to his sacred mountain Olaimi in Apalacha. So well did their plan succeed, that when at the resumption of hostilities, the Apalachites forbade the ingress of all pilgrims but those who would do homage to their king, a schism, bitter and irreconcileable, was brought about among the Cofachites.  Finally peace was restored by a migration of those to whom liberty was dearer than religion, and a submission of the rest to the Apalachites, with whom they became amalgamated and lost their identity. Their more valiant companions, after long wanderings through unknown lands in search of a home, finally locate themselves on the southern shore of Florida.

From there, the Cofachites/Caribbes migrated to the island which still bear their name.

What of this “sacred mountain” of the Apalachees called “Olaimi”?  Brinton nominated two specific locations that might have been Olaimi:

Strange as a fairy tale is Bristock’s description of their chief temple and the rites of their religion—of the holy mountain Olaimi lifting its barren, round summit far above the capital city Melilot at its base—of the two sacred caverns within this mount, the innermost two hundred feet square and one hundred in height, wherein were the emblematic vase ever filled with crystal water that trickled from the rock, and the “grand altar” of one round stone, on which incense, spices, and aromatic shrubs were the only offerings'-of the platform, sculptured from the solid rock, where the priests offered their morning orisons to the glorious orb of their divinity at his daily birth - of their four great annual feasts- all reminding us rather of the pompous rites of Persian or Peruvian heliolatry than the simple sun worship of the Vesperic tribes.

Melilot on Map from 1570 (above) and 1620 (below)

Yet in essentials, in stated yearly feasts, in sun and fire worship, in daily prayers at rising and setting sun, in frequent ablution, we recognize through all this exaggeration and coloring, the religious habits that actually prevailed in those regions. Indeed, the speculative antiquarian may ask concerning Mount Olaimi itself, whether it may not be identical with the enormous mass of granite known as “The Stone Mountain” in De Kalb county, Georgia, whose summit presents an oval, flat, and naked surface two or three hundred yards in width, by about twice that in length, encircled by the remains of a mural construction of unknown antiquity, and whose sides are pierced by the mouths of vast caverns; or with Lookout mountain between the Coosa and Tennessee rivers, where Mr. Ferguson found a stone wall… skirting the brink of a precipice at whose base were five rooms artificially constructed in the solid rock.

A Skeptic Dissents

The year after Brinton published his book, an article appeared in The Historical Magazine (1860). In “Fictitious Discoveries in America,” the writer declared Rochefort a fraud:

As long as there was some truth at the bottom, we might pardon the exuberance of fancy, the vivacity of the imagination, or the exigency of public taste, for the adventitious circumstances under which poor naked truth was buried....

Now, we intend to take up a few of these…men who have misled historians, bothered students, wasted their precious time, led them to unparalleled outlay in books, merely to enable them arrive at the fact of a writer's dishonesty.

We have placed in our heading, as the first offender, Rochefort….

Apalachites were…at war with the Cofichites, a tribe north of them. Their territory embraced six provinces: Bemarin, Amani or Amana, Matique, Schama, Meraco, and Achalaques….

Their capital was Melilot, a city of two thousand houses. Their wonderful temple stood on the equally wonderful mountain of Olaimi, near farfamed Melilot.

These Apalachites had…mainly renounced paganism and embraced Christianity, partly through the teaching of the French, who attempted to settle Florida, but more especially through some English people, who, seeking to escape from the Indian-war-vexed Virginia in 1621 to New England, were cast on the coast of Florida, and, attracting a considerable number of ecclesiastics and people of quality, laid the foundations of a colony.

Turning their attention to the benighted state of the people, these zealous English converted, in ten or twelve years, most of the officers and heads of families in Bemarin and Amana, so that, says he, they have at present among them a bishop, and several learned and zealous priests....

Some names may be borrowed from the maps of the day; others appear to be those of mere fancy. Our knowledge of the geography and physical character of the country renders the story often improbable and sometimes absurd….

Add to this is the easily verifiable fact that Rochefort plagiarized extensive passages for his book.
On the one hand, Rochefort very clearly DID plagiarize extensive passages from earlier authors.  On the other hand, that alone didn’t automatically make the information false.

An Egyptologist Weighs In

In 1883, Gerald Massey published The Natural Genesis.

Gerald Massey (1828-1907)


The Apalaches of Florida said the sun had built his own conical mountain of Olaimi, which had a spiral path winding round it, and leading to his cave-temple on the eastern side, in which four solar festivals were celebrated every year. In this instance the natural mount occupies the place of the pyramid mound erected elsewhere.

Sun Worshipers and Solar Fests

From Edward Burnett Tylor’s Primitive Culture: Researches Into the Development of Mythology (1891):

…Another nation of sun-worshippers were the Apalaches of Florida, whose daily service was to salute the Sun at their doors as he rose and set. The Sun, they said, had built his own conical mountain of Olaimi, with its spiral path leading to the cave-temple, in the east side. Here, at the four solar festivals, the worshippers saluted the rising sun with chants and incense as his rays entered the sanctuary, and again when at midday the sunlight poured down upon the altar through the hole or shaft pierced for this purpose in the rocky vault of the cave; through this passage the sun-birds, the tonatzuli, were let fly up sunward as messengers, and the ceremony was over.

Stone Mountain It Is

An 1893 geography book by Elisée Reclus, The Earth and Its Inhabitants, North America: The United States, included this information in a section on Atlanta:

About 12 miles north-east of Atlanta stands the so-called Stone Mountain, a huge granite mass supposed to be the Mount Olaimi of the Creek Indians.  The upper plateau, about 900 yards in circumference, is enclosed by a wall, probably the remains of an ancient fortress.


I’m not sure the mountain kingdom of the Apalaches ever existed, though there is plenty of evidence to ponder.  But if Apalachites did ascend a rocky promontory to salute the rising sun, my money is on Stone Mountain.

End Note

Professor Rafinesque, cited above, had inquired on these subjects in 1828:

PHILADELPHIA, April 5, 1828,
DEAR SIR:- I have seen by chance the first number of the Cherokee Phoenix, in the hands of Mr. Duponceau President of the American Philosophical Society, who is going to send it to a learned society in France as a great curiosity!
I am a great friend of the native Tribes of America, whose history I have investigated more deeply than anyone else, and particularly of the Tsa-la-gi or Cherokees, the remains of a very ancient and powerful nation, now coming to glory again. I am writing a general history of the American Nations, and my history of the Tsa-la-gi Nation will be very interesting; it might be still more so if I could procure from you some fragments of the ancient traditions preserved in the nation. As some new facts may be evolved in the pages of the Cherokee Phoenix, I wish to procure that journal from the beginning. If you could send me two copies of the Cherokee Phoenix, I would send one to Europe, where it will be preserved as a rarity. I understand that a Library and Museum is forming by the Cherokee Nation; I wish to offer them 25 volumes as a present, and also some articles of natural history, when you will inform me how they may be sent safely.
I send you this letter and also the Prospectus of my History of America, through Mr. Ross Post-Master of Rossville, to insure its reception, as I do not know if you have a Post office at New Echota. I send you also here annexed two series of questions on the language and history of the Cherokees, which I beg you will insert in your journal, in order that they may be answered by the best informed Cherokees. You may probably answer yourself those on the language. I wish to study the Cherokee Alphabet and am perplexed by the difficulties that I state. I understand the French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese languages, and a little the Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit and twenty others. I wish to compare the Tsalagi with all these; I have a small vocabulary already and I think that I can trace some of its affinities to the Sanskrit, Etruscan and Atalantes.- And in America with the Tala (or Tarasca) of West Mexico, Otolum, Muhiscas 'c., This will be confirmed or disproved by your answers.- The main point to be ascertained is, whether all our 85 syllables have each a meaning in the Tsalagi language; if they have, it will be an important philological fact.
Respecting your ancient history as a Nation, let me suggest the propriety to rescue it from oblivion. Now is the time, since education enables you to write your ancient traditions before they become totally lost. An example has just been given by David Cusick a Tuscarora chief, who has lately published in English the ancient history or traditions of the six nations, going 2500 years back.
I wish with all my heart, success to your attempt to become a permanent nation. Act with firmness and propriety and you may overcome all opposition; right and justice, law and treaties, with all good men are on your side. But you must not shut the eyes to your situation, you will not be allowed to remain independent! the stronger you become the greater the danger in case of war will be said by the southern states, and your toleration of slavery lessens the sympathies of the northern states. You will be removed at last by force to some equivalent place, far off now, and again from thence within 50 years. There is only one way to avert this fate; it is by respectfully, but repeatedly asking to form a kind of Territorial government, annexed to the Federal Union, so as to become an independent acknowledged Federal Territory, with a delegate in Congress, and the privilege to become a state when your population will allow it. This is the kind advice of a true friend of your nation.
C. S. Rafinesque.
Professor of History and botany, in Philadelphia.
P. S. Pray are there any Botanists in your Nation, or anyone able to preserve and press plants in herbals? I should with much to procure the plants of your country and mountains, particularly the medical ones. I have published a first volume of the Medical Flora of the United States, and am now writing the second volume. What is the Tsalagi name of Guess, inventer of the alphabet? It is a pity so many letters are so near alike.
By Professor Rafinesque.
1. Why is there such a difference between the alphabet published by the United States in Indian treaties, and that given in no 1. of your journal of Guess and W. alphabets? I do not mean in the order or pronunciation, but in the forms, terms, and notations?
2. What means the 3 letters all 3 pro. un (French) [Cherokee symbols] of Guess, ' what is become of them? what is become also of Claugh (Cherokee symbol) Cleegh
(Cherokee symbol) Clah, (Cherokee symbol), Clegh (Cherokee symbol) Cloh (Cherokee Symbol) and the nasal Gnaugh (Cherokee symbol)? 3. Why is the name of the nation (Cherokee Symbols) pronounced by Guess Tsah-lah-keeh and by W. Tsa-la-gi? Are the sounds G and K interchangeable and also Cl and Ti?
4. Is really the Tsalagi Language totally deficient of the sounds B, D, F, J. P, R, V, X, Z, Th, ' all nasal sounds An, En, In, On Un? and how are those sounds changed in writing foreign words? how would our write my name Rafinesque, for instance, perhaps Lahineska? how Washington, Jefferson, Europe, Phoenix, Boston? 'c.
5. Has not every syllable of the Tsalagi a proper meaning or import in the language when standing alone? if they have, give the meaning of each, this is very important!
6. Art there not several dialects of the language yet spoken or is the uniformity complete? what is become of the Ayrati dialect which changed L into R, and called the Mountain Cherokis Otari instead of Otali, and the whole Nation Chiroki whence your English name of Cherokees. Are they all gone to Arkansas?
7. What is the meaning of the following historical names and words in Tsalagi, translated into English
Otali, Cherokee symbols Tsalagi,
Alate, Cherokee symbols Teomi
Olata, Cherokee symbols Melilo
Teliquo, Tanassi Amana,
Talasi Cusa Matika
Alega Satula Olaimi
Atsala Talomeco Utina
Awalatsi Timuaca Mayla
Hitanatsi Yamasi Atsora
Quowatsi Aquowaka Hemalini
8. Try to give literal translations of the Lord's Prayer and some other fragments,
word for word in opposition to each other, so far as to offer at once a view of words and syntax; but the words must each be separated and distinguished either in two perpendicular lines or double lines, one word Tsalagi and one word English annexed to each other and separated from all others!
9. What numerals are used by the Tsalagi, give the names of numbers to 10, in letters, and the ciphers? Do they count decimally or how?
10. I send you a short vocabulary of the language spoken by Apalachi, Timuaca or Yamasi in 1640 please to compare the words with the Tsalagi, and point out those which have a resemblance, or give the corresponding Tsalagi words.
Man Viro, cara, hua
Woman Nia
Father Iti
Mother Isa
Child Chirico, kie, ule,
Brother Niha, hiasa
Sister Yachamiso
Do Amita
Do. Yachacamina
River Achi
King Cusi, Cuhe
Queen Qui,
Emperor Paracusi
Earth Gua, Aga
Great Ma, mi
Holy Hari
Priest Iaohua
Fine Hitana
Valiant hiba
1 one minecota
2 two naincha
3 three nahapu
Fish Baza, Wasa
yes haha
maize hazez naarimi
Mountain aimi
house maste, bohio
God Yao, Que, Tec, Io
Spirits Inama, Teka
City Meli
Council Ilo
Sun Ol, huga, tona
Bird Tsuli
Lake Tseo
Gold Sierapira, Silahila
my na
thine ye
his, her mima
our mile
your yaya
theirs lama C.S. R.
By Professor Rafinesque, author of the General History of America, Philadelphia, April 1828.
1. I have formed the following table of all the great rulers of the Tsalagi mentioned in history and fragments printed. I wish to know whether anything to the contrary is known by tradition or otherwise, and whether the names mentioned have a meaning in Tsalagi?
Towards 2200 years before Columbus, the Emperor of Gold City of Melilo(Cherokee symbols) ruled over all the nation from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The nations were called Talegahi (Cherokee symbols), and divided into 2 tribes of the mountains and plains, Otali (Cherokee symbols), and Olata(Cherokee symbols)- (Cusick, Bridstock, 'c., 'c.)
Towards the year 400 of Christ or 1100 before Columbus the Otali sent a large colony to Mexico where they are called Tlatuytsi (Cherokee symbols) (Bridstock).
Towards 500, The Dynasty of the Teltlahim (perhaps Telatlahimi (Cherokee symbols))ruled over the empire of Apalacha (perhaps Awalatsa (Cherokee symbols)) extending from latitude 33 to 37, this dynasty still ruling in 1640- (Br.)
In 1540 at the invasion of Soto, Queen Cofaciqui or Qouwatsiqui (Cherokee symbols) ruled over the Tsilaki.
In 1565 the Emperor was Olatautina (Cherokee symbols)
In 1643, the king of Atsalaka was yet dependant on the Empire of Apalacha.
In 1700, Litsi was king of the Tsalagi, but a revolution takes place, he is driven south in 1716.
In 1717 Chamascula or Tsamasgula is king of Tsalagi.
In 1736 Moytoy was Emperor of Teliquo and Tsalagi.
In 1751 Ostenaco was king of Echota and Tsalagi.
In 1770 Oconestota was king and Atagula great General.
In 1785 Koatohi king of Toquo, makes peace with United States.
In 1791 Tsilioha was great chief of Tsalagi.
In 1798 Tskagua was the great chief at the first treaty of Teliquo.
In 1804 Molutuski was great chief at the second Do.
In 1805 Enoli was great chief at the third treaty of Teliquo.
In 1816 Nenohutuhe or Pathkiller is the great chief.
2d. Question- Give the names of all the great supreme chiefs of the nation, as far back as memory or traditions go, and try to fix their successive order and time?
3d. Question-What is the substance of the oldest traditions as yet preserved? how far back do they go? do they not point to a connection with the Nations Apalacha, Timuacas, Amana, Matica, Sehama, Meraco, 'c. all parts of the ancient Empire of Talegawy? which must be Tsalagi.
4th Quest. What have been the ancient wars of the Tsalagi? what nations did they deem foes? and which friends and allies? what nations have been incorporated or adopted?
5th Quest. What were the causes of the separation of the Tsalagi from the Apalacha towards 1716, or 112 years ago? was it not their alliance with the Spaniards, while the Tsalagi became allies of the English of Carolina?
6th Quest. Where about were the holy mountains of Olaimi the capital Melilo,and the Lake Tseomi mentioned in 1643 as yet seen by Bridgstock? Where was Talomeco capital and temple seen in 1540 by Soto? Was it Teliquo?
7th Quest.- What traditions or fables exist concerning the origin of the nation, the monuments they have built anciently, 'c.? Are no migrations and changes of places remembered? In 1540 the Tsalagi extended all over Carolina part of Georgia and as far as the Ohio; but where did the dwell before? have they no memory of having crossed the sea? to have come from the south? what places were deemed most holy, as first seats of ancestors?
8th Quest.- Have no traditions been preserved of other migrations or colonies besides those of the Tlahuitsi, Matica, and the last to Arkansas? sent off by Tsalagi?
C. S. Rafinesque, Pr.
P. S. What names do the Tsalagi give to the United States and to each State known to them? also to each Indian Nation known to them? and to the largest river in the United States? and to their own mountains?

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