Sunday, November 12, 2017

History Rewritten - 15

“They have prostituted their culture.  I went to Cherokee this summer.  I could only stay two days.” -Vernon Bellecourt, American Indian Movement leader

I  remember a book reviewer who criticized a memoir for being “too self-absorbed.” Well!  Isn’t that the point?  What part of AUTO-biography don’t you understand?

I don’t want to fall into a similar trap by criticizing a Cherokee legend for “being made up.” Yes, you could say that for any legend.  Somebody made it up. But this particular instance is too egregious to overlook. Western Carolina University and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have a long history of  enabling each other, with questionable results.  (Whatever happened to the much-hyped Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts?) 

The latest news on this front concerns the decision to rename a building on the campus in Cullowhee for the legendary Cherokee creature “Judaculla.”  From the news release: Judaculla refers to a great giant who, according to Cherokee legend, resided in the Cullowhee Valley along the Tuckaseigee River. Judaculla Rock, located south of campus, is a large soapstone boulder linked to the Judaculla legend that contains some of the most significant petroglyphs east of the Mississippi River.

[EBCI Principal Chief Richard] Sneed described Judaculla as a “great teacher who taught humans how to live in this place” by teaching them the languages of the birds, forest animals and fish so they could educate people after he left. “Western Carolina University is built in ‘joolth-cullah-wee’ – or Judaculla’s place, which we’ve shortened to Cullowhee – a seat of higher education in the place of a great teacher,” he said. I wonder how you say “unmitigated gall” in Cherokee? For purposes of this discussion, let’s agree that there are “authentic” legends and then there are “fake” legends.  The “real” story of Judaculla and Cullowhee certainly contrasts with the horse hockey shoveled by Chief Sneed.

Judaculla, ca. 1823

The name “Judaculla” has been rendered in various spellings over the years, including: Jutaculla, Juthaculla, Tsu ‘kalu, among others.  As far as we know, the first published account of Judaculla came in John Haywood’s 1823 book, The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee: Up to the First Settlements Therein by the White People, in the Year 1768: The [Cherokee] have a fabulous tradition respecting the mounds, which proves that they are beyond the events of their history. The mounds, they say, were caused by the quaking of the earth, and great noise with it. A ceremony used for the adoption of their people into the family of Tuli-cula, who was an invisible person, and had taken a wife of one of their town's people. And at the time when his first son was born, this quaking of the earth and noise had commenced; but had ceased at the alarm whoop, which had been raised by two imprudent young men of the town. In consequence of which, the mounds had been raised by the quaking noise. Whereupon the father took the child and mother, and removed to near Brass-town, and had made the tracks in the rocks which are to be seen there. That last sentence is a reference to the Track Rock petroglyphs near Blairsville, Georgia.  Of course, Judaculla came to be more closely associated with a somewhat similar collection of petroglyphs near Cullowhee, NC, known as Judaculla Rock.

Judaculla, ca. 1883

Subsequent references to Tuli-cula/Judaculla were scarce in the 19th century.  Though not mentioned by name, Wilbur G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup related the local legends about the environs inhabited by Judaculla in their 1883 book, The Heart of the Alleghanies: Old Field mountain, in the Balsam range, derives its name from the tradition that it was Satan's bed-chamber. The Cherokees of a recent generation affirm that his royal majesty was often seen by their forefathers, and even some of the first white settlers had knowledge of his presence. On the top of the mountain there is a prairie-like tract, almost level, reached by steep slopes covered with thickets of balsam and rhododendron, which seem to garrison the reputed sacred domain. It was understood among the Indians to be forbidden territory, but a party one day permitted their curiosity to tempt them. They forced a way through the entangled thickets, and with merriment entered the open ground. Aroused from sleep and enraged by their audacious intrusion, the devil, taking the form of an immense snake, assaulted the party and swallowed of them before the thicket could be regained. Among the first whites who settled among the Indians and traded with them, was a party of hunters who used this superstition to escape punishment for their reprehensible conduct. They reported that they were in league with the great spirit of evil, and to prove that they were, frequented this "old field.” They described his bed, under a large overhanging rock, as a model of neatness. They had frequently thrown into it stones and brushwood during the day, while the master was out, but the place was invariably as clean the next morning "as if it had been brushed with a bunch of feathers. " But there is another legend of the Balsams more significant than any of these. It is the Paradise Gained of Cherokee mythology, and bears some distant resemblance to the Christian doctrine of mediation. The Indians believed that they were originally mortal in spirit as well as body, but above the blue vault of heaven there was, inhabited by a celestial race, a forest into which the highest mountains lifted their dark summits. It is a fact worth noticing that, while the priests of the orient described heaven as a great city with streets of gold and gates of pearl and fine gems, the tribes of the western continent aspired to nothing beyond the perpetual enjoyment of wild nature. The mediator, by whom eternal life was secured for the Indian mountaineers, was a maiden of their own tribe. Allured by the haunting sound and diamond sparkle of a mountain stream, she wandered far up into a solitary glen, where the azalea, the kalmia, and the rhododendron brilliantly embellished the deep, shaded slopes, and filled the air with their delicate perfume. The crystal stream wound its crooked way between moss covered rocks over which tall ferns bowed their graceful stems.  Enchanted by the scene she seated herself upon the soft moss and overcome by fatigue was soon asleep. The dream picture of a fairyland was presently broken by the soft touch of a strange hand. The spirit of her dream occupied a place at her side, and wooing, won her for his bride. Her supposed abduction caused great excitement among her people, who made diligent search for her recovery in their own villages. Being unsuccessful, they made war upon the neighboring tribes in the hope of finding the place of her concealment. Grieved because of so much bloodshed and sorrow, she besought the great chief of the eternal hunting grounds to make retribution. She was accordingly appointed to call a council of her people at the forks of the Wayeh (Pigeon) river.  She appeared unto the chiefs in a dream, and charged them to meet the spirits of the hunting ground with fear and reverence. At the hour appointed the head men of the Cherokees assembled. The high Balsam peaks were shaken by thunder and aglare with lightning. The cloud, as black as midnight, settled over the valley; then lifted, leaving upon a large rock a cluster of strange men, armed and painted as for war. An enraged brother of the abducted maiden swung his tomahawk, and raised the war whoop; but a swift thunderbolt dispatched him before the echo had died in the hills. The chiefs, terror-stricken, fled to their towns. The bride, grieved by the death of her brother and the failure of the council, prepared to abandon her new home and return to her kindred in the valleys. To reconcile her the promise was granted that all brave warriors and their faithful women should have an eternal home in the happy hunting ground above, after death. The great chief of the forest beyond the clouds became the guardian spirit of the Cherokees. All deaths, either from wounds in battle or disease, were attributed to his desire to make additions to the celestial hunting ground, or on the other hand, to his wrath which might cause their unfortunate spirits to be turned over to the disposition of the evil genius of the mountain tops. Plagues and epidemics were sometimes supposed to be the work of sorcerers, witches and monsters, human and superhuman. The “old fields” mentioned in this account are now bisected by the Blue Ridge Parkway as it follows the Balsam Mountain Range along the border of Jackson and Haywood Counties.

Judaculla, ca. 1900

In his 1900 volume, Myths of the Cherokee, ethnologist James Mooney expanded upon the stories related by Zeigler and Grosscup: JUTACULLA OLD FIELDS: A bald spot of perhaps a hundred acres on the slope of Tennessee bald (Tsul`kälû' Tsunegûñ'yï), at the extreme bead of Tuckasegee river, in Jackson county, on the ridge from which the lines of Haywood, Jackson, and Transylvania counties diverge. The giant Tsul`kälû', or Jutaculla, as the name is corrupted by the whites, had his residence in the mountain (see story), and according to local legend among the whites, said to be derived from the Indians, this bald spot was a clearing which he made for a farm. Some distance farther to the west, on the north bank of Cany fork, about 1 mile above Moses creek and perhaps 10 miles above Webster, in the same county, is the Jutaculla rock, a large soapstone slab covered with rude carvings, which, according to the same tradition, are scratches made by the giant in jumping from his farm on the mountain to the creek below. From his Cherokee informants, Mooney collected the narrative of the Judaculla legend:
Tsul'kälû, The Slant-eyed Giant
A long time ago a widow lived with her one daughter at the old town of Känuga on Pigeon river. The girl was of age to marry, and her mother used to talk with her a good deal, and tell her she must be sure to take no one but a good hunter for a husband, so that they would have someone to take care of them and would always have plenty of meat in the house. The girl said such a man was hard to find, but her mother advised her not to be in a hurry, and to wait until the right one came. Now the mother slept in the house while the girl slept outside in the âsï. One dark night a stranger came to the âsï wanting to court the girl, but she told him her mother would let her marry no one but a good hunter. "Well," said the stranger, "I am a great hunter," so she let him come in, and he stayed all night. Just before day he said he must go back now to his own place, but that he had brought some meat for her mother, and she would find it outside. Then he went away and the girl had not seen him. When day came she went out and found there a deer, which she brought into the house to her mother, and told her it was a present from her new sweetheart. Her mother was pleased, and they had deersteaks for breakfast. He came again the next night, but again went away before daylight, and this time he left two deer outside. The mother was more pleased this time, but said to her daughter, "I wish your sweetheart would bring us some wood." Now wherever he might be, the stranger knew their thoughts, so when he came the next time he said to the girl, "Tell your mother I have brought the wood"; and when she looked out in the morning there were several great trees lying in front of the door, roots and branches and all. The old woman was angry, and said, "He might have brought us some wood that we could use instead of whole trees that we can't split, to litter up the road with brush." The hunter knew what she said, and the next time he came he brought nothing, and when they looked out in the morning the trees were gone and there was no wood at all, so the old woman had to go after some herself. Almost every night he came to see the girl, and each time he brought a deer or some other game, but still he always left before daylight. At last her mother said to her, "Your husband always leaves before daylight. Why don't he wait? I want to see what kind of a son-in-law I have." When the girl told this to her husband he said he could not let the old woman see him, because the sight would frighten her. "She wants to see you, anyhow," said the girl, and began to cry, until at last he had to consent, but warned her that her mother must not say that he looked frightful (usga'së`ti'yu). The next morning he did not leave so early, but stayed in the âsï, and when it was daylight the girl went out and told her mother. The old woman came and looked in, and there she saw a great giant, with long slanting eyes (tsul`kälû'), lying doubled up on the floor, with his head against the rafters in the left-hand corner at the back, and his toes scraping the roof in the right-hand corner by the door. She gave only one look and ran back to the house, crying, Usga'së`ti'yu! Usga'së`ti'yu! Tsul`kälû' was terribly angry. He untwisted himself and came out of the âsï, and said good-bye to the girl, telling her that he would never let her mother see him again, but would go back to his own country. Then he went off in the direction of Tsunegûñ'yï. Soon after he left the girl had her monthly period. There was a very great flow of blood, and the mother threw it all into the river. One night after the girl had gone to bed in the âsï her husband came again to the door and said to her, "It seems you are alone," and asked where was the child. She said there had been none. Then he asked where was the blood, and she said that her mother had thrown it into the river. She told just where the place was, and he went there and found a small worm in the water. He took it up and carried it back to the âsï, and as he walked it took form and began to grow, until, when he reached the âsï, it was a baby girl that he was carrying. He gave it to his wife and said, "Your mother does not like me and abuses our child, so come and let us go to my home." The girl wanted to be with her husband, so, after telling her mother good-bye, she took up the child and they went off together to Tsunegûñ'yï. Now, the girl had an older brother, who lived with his own wife in another settlement, and when he heard that his sister was married he came to pay a visit to her and her new husband, but when he arrived at Känuga his mother told him his sister had taken her child and gone away with her husband, nobody knew where. He was sorry to see his mother so lonely, so he said he would go after his sister and try to find her and bring her back. It was easy to follow the footprints of the giant, and the young man went along the trail until he came to a place where they had rested, and there were tracks on the ground where a child had been lying and other marks as if a baby had been born there. He went on along the trail and came to another place where they had rested, and there were tracks of a baby crawling about and another lying on the ground. He went on and came to where they had rested again, and there were tracks of a child walking and another crawling about. He went on until he came where they had rested again, and there were tracks of one child running and another walking. Still he followed the trail along the stream into the mountains, and came to the place where they had rested again, and this time there were footprints of two children running all about, and the footprints can still be seen in the rock at that place. Twice again he found where they had rested. and then the trail led up the slope of Tsunegûñ'yï, and he heard the sound of a drum and voices, as if people were dancing inside the mountain. Soon he came to n eave like a doorway in the side of the mountain, but the rock was so steep and smooth that he could not climb tip to it, but could only just look over the edge and see the heads and shoulders of a great many people dancing inside. He saw his sister dancing among them and called to her to come out. She turned when she heard his voice, and as soon as the drumming stopped for a while she came out to him, finding no trouble to climb down the rock, and leading her two little children by the hand. She was very glad to meet her brother and talked with him a long time, but did not ask him to come inside, and at last he went away without having seen her husband. Several other times her brother came to the mountain, but always his sister met him outside, and he could never see her husband. After four years had passed she came one day to her mother's house and said her husband had been hunting in the woods nearby, and they were getting ready to start home to-morrow, and if her mother and brother would come early in the morning they could see her husband. If they came too late for that, she said, they would find plenty of meat to take home. She went back into the woods, and the mother ran to tell her son. They came to the place early the next morning, but Tsul`kälû' and his family were already gone. On the drying poles they found the bodies of freshly killed deer hanging, as the girl had promised, and there were so many that they went back and told all their friends to come for them, and there were enough for the whole settlement. Still the brother wanted to see his sister and her husband, so he went again to the mountain, and she came out to meet him. He asked to see her husband, and this time she told him to come inside with her. They went in as through a doorway, and inside he found it like a great townhouse. They seemed to be alone, but his sister called aloud, "He wants to see you," and from the air came a voice, "You cannot see me until you put on a new dress, and then you can see me." "I am willing," said the young man, speaking to the unseen spirit, and from the air came the voice again, "Go back, then, and tell your people that to see me they must go into the townhouse and fast seven days, and in all that time they must not come out from the townhouse or raise the war whoop, and on the seventh day I shall come with new dresses for you to put on so that you can all see me." The young man went back to Känuga and told the people. They all wanted to see Tsul`kälû', who owned all the game in the mountains, so they went into the townhouse and began the fast. They fasted the first day and the second and every day until the seventh-all but one man from another settlement, who slipped out every night when it was dark to get something to eat and slipped in again when no one was watching. On the morning of the seventh day the sun was just coming up in the east when they beard a great noise like the thunder of rocks rolling down the side of Tsunegûñ'yï. They were frightened and drew near together in the townhouse, and no one whispered. Nearer and louder came the sound until it grew into an awful roar, and every one trembled and held his breath-all but one man, the stranger from the other settlement, who lost his senses from fear and ran out of the townhouse and shouted the war cry. At once the roar stopped and for some time there was silence. Then they heard it again, but as if it where going farther away, and then farther and farther, until at last it died away in the direction of Tsunegûñ'yï, and then all was still again. The people came out from the townhouse, but there was silence, and they could see nothing but what had been seven days before. Still the brother was not disheartened, but came again to see his sister, and she brought him into the mountain. He asked why Tsul`kälû' had not brought the new dresses, as he had promised, and the voice from the air said, "I came with them, but you did not obey my word, but broke the fast and raised the war cry." The young man answered, "It was not done by our people, but by a stranger. If you will come again, we will surely do as you say." But the voice answered, "Now you can never see me." Then the young man could not say any more, and he went back to Känuga.

Judaculla ca. 1974

So far, we have found no basis for Chief Sneed’s assertion that Judaculla was a “great teacher.”  In 1974, the Eastern Band published an environmental reconnaissance report and did mention Judaculla: Tsui kalu' - "Slanting-eyes", literally "he has them slanting" (or leaning up against something" ; the prefix ts makes it a plural form, and the name is understood to refer to the eyes, although the word eye (akta' , plural dikta' ) is not a part of it. Cf. Ata'-Gulkalu' . A mythic giant and ruler of the game. The name has been corrupted to Jutaculla and Tuli-cula. Jutaculla rock and Jutaculla old fields about the head of Tuckasegee river, in Jackson, N.C, take their name from him. One more bit of trivia, though I have not been able to confirm it:  supposedly, the Cherokee version of the Holy Bible translates “Goliath” as “Judaculla.” It is safe to say that Judaculla’s promotion to a “Professor” educating his people in “the languages of the birds, forest animals and fish” did not occur until 2017.  Funny that we see such an uproar on the WCU campus when BB&T is perceived as propagandizing the curriculum, but when the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians takes similar measures to enlist the university in legitimizing a false history of the native people of the Southern Appalachians, there is nary a peep of protest.  What a crock!

"Cullowhee" No Longer the "Valley of Lilies?"

Let’s move on to the Chief’s other fanciful claim, concerning the name “Cullowhee:” “Western Carolina University is built in ‘joolth-cullah-wee’ – or Judaculla’s place, which we’ve shortened to Cullowhee – a seat of higher education in the place of a great teacher.” No, it’s not.  Another fabrication.  Who cooked up that one? As with so much native toponymy, the origins of “Cullowhee” aren’t entirely clear.  We’ve often heard that it means “Valley of the Lilies.”  And Western Carolina University was quick to jump on that bandwagon a couple of years ago, raising funds through the sale of the legendary “Cullowhee lily.”

"Cullowhee" Derived from "Gulahiyi"

Let’s go back to that 1974 report, published by the Cherokees themselves, which explained the origin of the name “Cullowhee”: Gulahi 'yi (abbreviated Gulahi', or Gurahl', in the Lower dialect) - "Gula'hi place", so-called from the unidentified spring plant eaten as a salad by the Cherokee. The name of two or more places in the old Cherokee country; one about Currahee mountain, in Habersham Co., Ga., the other on Cullowhee river, an upper branch of Tuckasegee, in Jackson Co., N. C. Currahee Dick was a noted chief about the year 1820. Gulahiyi, eh? Google that name and see what you get.  A difference between two dialects of the Cherokee language is that the “l” sound in one dialect (i.e. Culla-) becomes an “r” sound in the other dialect (i.e. Curra-).  Hence, when the name of the plant known as Gulohi/Gulahiyi/Gulahi evolved, it turned into Cullowhee in one dialect and Currahee in the other. I suppose if the Chief had taken part in the grand opening of the Currahee Brewery in Franklin, NC, he would have explained that “Currahee” is Cherokee for “refreshing beverage place.”

Follow the Money

Now, more than ever, it is mutually convenient for WCU and EBCI to “collaborate.”  In this series, I’ve documented many instances of the Eastern Band’s fraudulent accounts of history.  And the WCU faculty is a useful accomplice in such cultural "crimes" by validating the myth that Cherokees have occupied the Southern Appalachians since "time immemorial." On the other side of the coin, WCU is eager to reach out to prospective students from Cherokee.  By the time they reach the age of 18, they are (or soon will be) cash cows, with more money than they know what to do with.  People selling big trucks, people selling double-wides, people selling drugs…they’ve lined up to get some of the cash these young people have at their disposal.  Why wouldn’t the university want to get a place in that line and rake in a healthy share of money from the cash-laden young Cherokees?  If it helps to take liberties with Cherokee history to close the deal, then why not?  Plaster the campus with Sequoyah's syllabary.  Translate Ayn Rand into Cherokee if the money’s there!

A Judaculla Legend from the Catawbas

In the course of researching this story, I stumbled upon another version of the Judaculla legend from the mid-19th century.  The Catawba Indians related the story of a Cherokee hunter, Tsudu ‘kula. As the Catawbas told it, Tsudu ‘kula was the first Cherokee to carry a rifle for hunting.  As he roamed the mountains he took all the game he wanted, large and small, bear and deer, squirrel and quail: Tsudu ‘kula was a skilled marksman and ate well.  Other Cherokee hunters, with their bows and arrows, could barely secure enough meat for the table.  But Tsudu ‘kula retired deep into the woods, camping by himself, and waiting for the animals to come within range of his rifle. He became lazy and complacent.  Often, while sitting next to a tree, watching and waiting for a deer or elk to show up, he would doze off. One night, while he was sleeping, strange sounds and lights approached from the distance.  It was the sound of many bells ringing and lights of all colors, glowing and flashing.  Tsudu ‘kula awoke from his slumber to observe the oncoming apparition and in the midst of it a lovely maiden clad in shimmering gowns. Standing before Tsudu ‘kula, she spoke: “Fear not. I am Hara, Queen of Good Fortune.  I have travelled a great distance from the west.” Tsudu ‘kula was bewildered, “Why have you come here, to this place?“ “I grew weary of the arid desert and wished to live upon the cool rushing streams and blue mountains of your homeland.” Tsudu ‘kula set aside his gun and stood before Hara.  His time in the woods had almost erased his awareness of what it was to be lonely, but with the beautiful Queen Hara in his presence, he suddenly longed for female companionship.  The jewel-like colors reflecting from Hara’s eyes and lips shone especially bright, revealing her own attraction to Tsudu ‘kula. “Queen Hara, come with me, and I will show you the sunrise over the Smoky Mountains.” They watched the light of dawn, and spent the whole day walking together, speaking of the times that had been and the times that were to come.  Hara’s splendor cast a spell upon the solitary Cherokee hunter that some people had called “simple-minded.”  He had always been content with his independent life in the woods, but this woman stirred his strongest desires. She spoke to Tsudu ‘kula, “In my right hand I carry good luck and ceaseless pleasure.  Pledge your loyalty to me.  Carry out my bidding and we shall possess great treasure, sleek horses, and a palace of a home overlooking the valley of Oconaluftee.” “To partake of all that, I will gladly do anything that you ask of me.” Hara smiled at Tsudu ‘kula and replied, “Know that I am a jealous queen.  For me to remain here with you, bestowing good luck and plenty, then the gods that your people venerate – Kanati and Selu – must be expelled.” Tsudu ‘kula was taken aback.  “But Kanati is the god of game, and Selu the goddess of corn.  How could we survive without them?” “Be not afraid.  With the gifts I bring, your people will have no need of Kanati and Selu.  Combing the mountains for meat, or tilling the soil to raise crops – these things will no longer be required to live in comfort.” “But what if the people prefer to live as they always have, hunting and farming?” “You were content with the way you had lived until you obtained your gun.  Only then did you discover how it made your life easier, how much of a struggle it had been to hunt with a bow and arrows.  It is not your place to seek the will of your people.  They know not what they are missing, and what I bring them.  You and your people shall attain joys that are beyond imagination.  Carry out my will in this matter, as you have promised.” “And what is it that you command me to do?” Queen Hara looked squarely at Tsudu ‘kula. “Kanati and Selu must go. I came to you because you are the one man skilled in the use of a gun.  You must go this very day to the home of Kanati and Selu and slay them on the spot…without hesitation.” “Is there no other way?” “I have commanded that which I have commanded.  Fulfill your promise.  And then, no more shall you or your people speak of Kanati and Selu. My right hand carries good fortune and satisfaction, but my left hand wields misfortune and disappointment.” Tsudu ‘kula faithfully completed the grim task assigned to him by Hara.  He shot them both and carried their bodies to a mountain peak where the vultures carried them away, piece by piece. Queen Hara took Tsudu ‘kula as her husband.  As she had promised, great wealth and luxury came to the Cherokee people.  Such was the magic of the rewards bestowed upon them by Hara.  They adorned their bodies with fine jewels and precious metals.  They had tables laden with the richest of food and drink.  They rode beautiful horses.  They were satisfied to think no more of Kanati and Selu.  They were glad to forget the hard labor of their lives before Hara appeared. Unfortunately, the happy times did not last for long.  A malaise set in among the children of Queen Hara and Tsudu ‘kula.  Though drowning in abundance, they knew no contentment, but grew jealous of one another’s horses and mates and jewelry.  They ate without restraint of fat meat and sweet cakes, becoming weak and ill.  As the riches flowed from the right hand of Hara, their ennui deepened.  They spent their days rolling dice and playing other games of chance, dulling their pain and boredom in clouds of intoxication and confusion.  Tsudu ‘kula grew old and reflected on his days of contentment long past, hunting game in the woods.  He died broken-hearted at what had happened to his people.  Queen Hara grew old as well, and all the glamour and splendor of her youth faded.  She suffered a stroke, losing the use of the right side of her body.  The only thing she had left to dispense was misfortune and disappointment.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Buried Alive in WNC

This evening, I was watching a documentary on Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) when something caught my attention.  The narrator mentioned Poe’s 1844 story “The Premature Burial,” which was based on a phenomenon often reported in the nineteenth century – the burial of those who were not yet dead.


 Flashing across the screen was the image of an old newspaper article, dateline “Asheville, NC.”  Thank goodness for DVR! 

After collecting a few details, I found the article, published February 21, 1885 in the New York Times under the headline “What His Friends Discovered When the Coffin Was Opened”

ASHEVILLE, N.C., Feb. 20 –A gentleman from Flat Creek Township in this (Buncombe) County, furnishes the information that about the 20th of last month a young man by the name of Jenkins, who had been sick with fever for several weeks, was thought to have died. He became speechless, his flesh was cold and clammy, and he could not be aroused, and there appeared to be no action of the pulse and heart. He was thought to be dead and was prepared for burial, and was noticed at the time that there was no stiffness in any of the limbs. He was buried after his supposed death, and when put in the coffin it was remarked that he was as limber as a live man. There was much talk in the neighborhood about the case and the opinion was frequently expressed that Jenkins had been buried alive. Nothing was done about the matter until the 10th inst., when the coffin was taken up for the purpose of removal and internment in the family burying ground in Henderson County. The coffin being wood, it was suggested that it be opened in order to see if the body was in such condition that it could be hauled 20 miles without being put in a metallic casket. The coffin was opened, and to the great astonishment and horror of his relatives the body was lying face downward, and the hair had been pulled from the head in great quantities, and there were scratches of the finger nails on the inside of the lid and sides of the coffin. These facts caused great excitement and all acquainted personally with the facts believe Jenkins was in a trance, or that animation was apparently suspended, and that he was not really dead when buried and that he returned to consciousness only to find himself buried and beyond help. The body was then taken to Henderson County and reinterred. The relatives are distressed beyond measure at what they term criminal carelessness in not being absolutely sure Jenkins was dead before he was buried.