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Before The White Man
The Forming of Johnson County
Johnson County and the Civil War
The Twentieth Century
The Story Behind the Name
The Town of Butler
Nick the Hermit
Johnson County Trails Association
NorthEast Tennessee Tourism Association
Sunny Side Trail
TN 3 Star Community
TN Trails and Byways
The Appalachian Trail
In the time that the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Shawnee tribes were established in the Tennessee area the Natchez Indians lived in the lower Mississippi Valley, and the Yuchi Indians settled the areas that are now South Carolina and Georgia. The Creek tribes lived in the areas that are now Georgia, Alabama, and northern Florida. A few Creek settlements reached as far north as the Tennessee area. In the early 1700’s the powerful Cherokee Indians pushed the Creek tribes out of the Tennessee region. The Natchez Indians were driven from their lower Mississippi home by the French in the early eighteenth century. They retreated into the Tennessee area at this time. Being scattered they were absorbed into various other tribes. In the eighteenth century the British forced the Yuchi Indians out of South Carolina and Georgia. The Yuchi went to live with the Creek Indians. Some Yuchi moved into the Tennessee area at this time. Some experts think the Yuchi lived in Tennessee before this, but the records are confused. The Cherokee Indians were the most powerful of all these groups. Historians record some fifty to eighty Cherokee towns in the southern Appalachian Mountains with a population of perhaps as much as 22,000. This powerful group forced all the other tribes out of the East Tennessee area in the eighteenth century and lived in this area until they themselves were forced out in the nineteenth century by the United States Army, i. e. “The Trail of Tears”. Although any of the tribes mentioned earlier may have lived in the area that is now Johnson County the tribes that were most likely to have settled before being forced out by the Cherokee were the Creek, Yuchi, and Shawnee. As the Cherokee Nation became powerful in the eighteenth century they forced the other tribes to leave the area. The Cherokee were the Indian tribe that white men encountered when they explored this region. The Cherokee signed treaties establishing land boundaries between the white men and Indians. The Cherokee used the region that is now Johnson County mainly for hunting grounds although evidence exists that the area was also used as burial grounds. In 1954 a cave was discovered while workmen were blasting at the Maymead Quarry. Fifty skeletons as well as beads and ornaments were found. Artifacts found here dated back approximately 1000 years. Another burial site was found in 1990 in the Cherokee National Forest near Watauga Lake. The skeleton remains dated as far back as 800 to 900 AD and were from a pre Cherokee people. This burial site was named the Lake Hole Mortuary Cave. The cave also contained 6,029 bead and pottery fragments. Arrowheads, pottery, ax heads, and skeleton remains have been discovered throughout the county, but mostly in Shady Valley and near the Roan Creek areas.
The Cherokee lived in the mountains and valleys of the southern Appalachian Mountains. They moved into the area which is now present day North and South Carolina, Tennessee, northern Georgia, and Alabama.
The Cherokee lived in villages along the riverbanks. Each village had a council house. A council house was a large, circular, windowless building often built on a mound. The walls were made of saplings woven together then plastered with mud. The Cherokee lived in a large, rectangular wood house in the summer. In the winter the family moved to a smaller round, windowless house. They made benches for their homes.
The women made clothing from deerskins and plants that were woven into material. The women wore short skirts. The men wore breechcloths, leggings, and moccasins. The men liked to paint and tattoo their bodies. During the winter the Indians wore capes for warmth. These were made from rabbit fur or turkey feathers. The capes were tied over the left shoulder. The clothing was decorated with dyed porcupine quills. The Cherokee also wore jewelry made of bones and teeth.
The Cherokee had one large garden in which they grew beans, corn, squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers. They also had small individual gardens. The women tended the gardens after the men cleared the fields and helped plant the crops. The men provided the meat for their families. They used traps, bows and arrows, blowguns, and darts to help kill game. Deer was the most important animal the men hunted. They also hunted for bear.
The Cherokee people had a great respect for nature. They asked the spirits of the sun, moon, starts, plants, animals, and elements to help them. Several festivals were held each year to celebrate planting and harvesting corn. During these festivals the people painted their faces white to represent happiness.
Lacrosse was a sport played by the Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Creek tribes. The game was played in two teams with 60 players on each team. Two sticks were held by each player to catch and throw a ball. Each stick had a small thong basket at one end. No player was allowed to touch the thong leather lacrosse ball, except with the stick or basket. The object of the game was to score points by scooping up the ball in the basket and sending it through a pair of goal posts. The first team to score twenty goals was the winner.
The Cherokee women wove mats and baskets. The women also planted, tended, and harvested the crops. They cooked, made clothing and pottery, and gathered nuts. The men made tools and weapons. The also built canoes.
The men made tools and weapons. Weapons included tomahawks and blowguns. The hunters used blowguns for small game and birds. They built canoes and house frames and roofs.