The preacher threw the dirt out of Unatsi’s grave and robbed it

Posted by | August 17, 2017



Hogbite [‘hogbite’]
His wife Zetella [‘crane’].
Their daughter, Unatsi [‘snow’].
Their baby boy, name unknown.

In 1835 the blacksmith Hogbite and his wife, Zetella, with their daughter Unatsi, fourteen, and their baby boy, six months old, crossed the Nantahala mountains to Franklin.

cherokee blacksmith shop

A Cherokee blacksmith shop.

On their return in the evening, when they got back to the top of the mountains, Hogbite told Zetella and Unatsi to go down on Pendergrass Creek, build a fire by a certain rock, and camp there for the night. He would hunt through the woods and try to kill a deer or wild turkey and come to them, or go home, according to where the pursuit of game had taken him at night.

After the three of them had laid down, they heard a loud holler and thought it was Hogbite who had hollered to fill their hearts with joy at his approach; but it was a panther which slipped up on the rock and leaped down on Zetella.

Unatsi snatched the baby and ran with all possible speed, but the panther, after killing her mother, followed and overtook her, took the baby off her back and killed it. Unatsi ran home, about four miles, and fell on the floor with exhaustion.

Hogbite went back to the camp to find that the panther had not preyed on the baby, but had returned to Zetella, eaten her breast out and left.

Hogbite, aided by some of his white neighbors, wrapped his wife and baby in some deer skins and buried them, coffinless, by that rock.

Unatsi as she grew older became a great huntress, using a small fire-lock, muzzle-loading rifle which was individually hers.

One cold day some dogs ran a deer into the Nantahala near her father’s house. Unatsi waded the stream to a position where she was able to get a clear shot at the deer, which was on the other side.

From this she took pneumonia, died and was buried on a sunny hill, a short distance north of her home. The things in her father’s cabin that were personally hers, were put in the grave, that Unatsi might take them with her to the Happy Hunting ground where there would be no more cold rivers to wade and no more fevers to burn her fair brow.

When the Cherokee Indians were moved to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1838, they were assembled by soldiers. Hogbite heard they were coming after him and sank his blacksmith tools in a deep pool in an elbow of the Nantahala, not far from his cabin. He hid out and threatened to shoot the soldiers.

But they watched his cabin till they caught him, and he went away weeping, nevermore to see the graves of his wife and baby, nor that of his dear Unatsi, who had witnessed the death of her mother and little brother by that cruel beast.

Some years prior to 1910, when I got this story, a preacher by the name of Kaler come from Tennessee, threw the dirt out of Unatsi’s grave and robbed it. Her cups and saucers were fitted to her ears and the dish pan placed over all. The breech of the little rifle bad been placed against her right shoulder with the muzzle extending down almost or quite to her feet, and her several strands of beautiful beads were in placed on her neck and bosom.

Rev. Kaler took all these, put the dirt back and left—on his way to Heaven?

“The Most Unkindest Cut Of All.”

Also prior to 1910 a corps of Government surveyors, with headquarters near the mouth of Hogbite Creek, went to the head spring of that creek, camped there, drank out their wines, broke the bottles over rocks at the spring, and re-named the stream Wine Spring Creek, to perpetuate the recollection of their drunkenness. And it is so recorded in the Government maps.

Think of a group of thoughtless, ignorant, dissipated men, in the employment of the United States, robbing a worthy unfortunate Indian of the name of a creek that he and his family so justly merited, and giving it another that would commemorate their own nefarious conduct.

They had the same chance that I had to know the name of the creek and its origin. Of course they did know it, and to say the least they were almost as void of principle as cannibals, and unworthy to be in the employment of the United States.

Shepherd Monroe Dugger

Shepherd Monroe Dugger

In 1910, an old gentleman by the name of Rollin and an old lady whose name was Moore gave this story to me, as it was told to them by their fathers, who lived near neighbors to Hogbite till after all these things occurred, except the robbery of Unatsi’s grave. Hogbite was the blacksmith of the neighborhood and two apple trees of his family orchard were still alive in 1910.

from Romance of the Siamese Twins and Other Sketches, by Shepherd M. Dugger (1936)

Shepherd Monroe Dugger’s most notable books are The Balsam Groves of the Grandfather Mountain (1892) and The War Trails of the Blue Ridge (1932). Phillips Russell wrote of him, “No man knew the Blue Ridge people, lore, habits, and tastes better than Shepherd Dugger (1854-1938). In his day he was the foremost historian of the region and recorder of its traditions.”

Lightly edited; original online at Digital Library of Appalachia

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