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Some History of the French Broad River

french_broad_bridgeThe French Broad River

Headwaters Outfitters proudly acknowledges the birth of the French Broad River right at our property, dubbed by the locals as “The Forks of the River.” This is where its North and West Forks merge, beginning its long and north-easterly journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The French Broad is the third oldest river in the world, older than the mountains from which it flows. Only the Nile and the New River, which is also located in North Carolina, pre-date it. Flowing 210 miles through the mountains of Western North Carolina makes it the longest river in North Carolina. After dropping out of the mountains into Tennessee, it soon joins the Holston River to create the Tennessee River.

The portion of this great waterway on which we operate contains wide shorelines and slow-moving currents, ideal for families or the first time canoeist. The banks are lined with mossy sycamores, flowering dogwood, elderberry, blackberries, tulip poplars, dozens of songbirds, and an endless array of wildflowers and wildlife to view.

This river inspired Wilma Dykeman to write in her book :

The French Broad:
“Which is the time to know the river? April along the French Broad is a swirl of sudden water beneath the bending buds of spicewood bushes, a burst of spring and a breath of sweetness between the snows of winter and the summer sun. August is a film of dust on purple asters along the country roads of the lower river, and green stillness of heavy shade splattered with sunlight beside the upper river. October is to flame, A Renaissance richness of red and amber, Septembers end and Novembers beginning.”


cherokeecouncilmen1891The Walton War

The State of Georgia ceded disputed land in the Yazoo Land Fraud along with the associated problems to the United States on 26 April 1802 for $1,250,000 and removal of the Cherokees from Georgia at Federal expense.

Article II of the 1802 Act of Cession contained a thorn. When stripped of the legalese, Article II required Georgia to take responsibility for an outlaw and desperado infested patch of land known as the Orphan Strip. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia had all previously refused this honor. Article II led to war between Georgia and North Carolina in 1811. The Walton War, as it’s known, was a little one-sided but a war it was nevertheless. The Orphan Strip included the upper French Broad River valley of what is now Transylvania County North Carolina. Georgia established the first Walton County in the Orphan Strip in 1803 and appointed Sheriffs, Judges and the usual lot of Bureaucratic Parasites. Elections were held and John Nicholson and John Aiken served as representatives of Walton County in the Georgia Legislature at Milledgeville.

Walton County was a Georgia county until some time in 1811. As Georgia cleaned up the Orphan Strip it began to look more attractive to North Carolina who began advancing a claim to the Strip. Georgia protested North Carolina’s actions to the United States without success. Some time in late December 1810 a North Carolina Militia Unit was posted to the upper French Broad River with orders to remove the Walton County Government. Georgia’s first Walton County died in a hail of North Carolina musket fire in January of 1811. The major engagement was fought at McGaha Branch about one mile south of present day Brevard near the Wilson Bridge on U.S. Highway 276. The North Carolina Militia killed an unknown number of the Georgians and took about twenty-five prisoners. A second stand was made by the survivors of McGaha Branch at Selica Hill some three miles southwest of Brevard. The Georgians were either shot or taken prisoner. The fate of the prisoners is still uncertain. Sporadic snipping continued for some weeks but the main engagements were over. The Georgia Legislature was still prioritizing its options in the matter in 1971.

Excerpt from a letter to the Athens, Ga. Banner Herald written by Richard E. Irby, Jr. Used with permission of the author.


draggingcanoeDragging Canoe

“Dragging Canoe” (Tsi’yu-gunsini), the son of Attakullakulla (The Little Carpenter, so named for his skill at crafting treaty language acceptable to all) and cousin of Nancy Ward occupies much of my current research time. He was a fierce warrior, pockmarked by smallpox when a young child, tall and stately in appearance, and the primary leading force in the Cherokee’s resistance to white settlement on Cherokee lands. He strongly resisted the sale of Cherokee lands to whites and spoke at treaty negotiations vehemently objecting to the continued sale of Cherokee land.

At the conclusion of the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals of 1775, Dragging Canoe spoke against the sale of Cherokee land. He rose and said “Whole Indian nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man’s advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delawares? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Cherokee land. They wish to have that action sanctioned by treaty. When that is gained, the same encroaching spirit will lead them upon other land of the Cherokees. New cessions will be asked. Finally the whole country, which the Cherokees and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of Ani-Yunwiya, THE REAL PEOPLE, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Cherokees, the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than submit to further loss of our country? Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will have our lands. A-WANINSKI, I have spoken.”

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