Jocassée. A Cherokee Legend from Upcountry South Carolina

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 9, 2016

Special thanks to Sonja Crone Eddleman of Williamston, SC,  for steering me back to the wonderful old 19th century tales of the South from William Gilmore Simms:


The Occonies and the Little Estatoees, or, rather, the Brown Vipers and the Green Birds, were both minor tribes of the Cherokee nation, between whom, as was not unfrequently the case, there sprung up a deadly enmity.

Carolina Parakeet , Conuropsis carolinensis, hand-colored engraving from 1825 painting by John Jay Audubon / Wikipedia

Carolina Parakeet , Conuropsis carolinensis, hand-colored engraving from 1825 painting by John Jay Audubon / Wikipedia

The Estatoees had their town on each side of the two creeks, which, to this day, keep their name, and on the eastern side of the Keowee river. The Occonies occupied a much larger extent of territory, but it lay on the opposite, or west side of the same stream.

Their differences were supposed to have arisen from the defeat of Chatuga, a favourite leader of the Occonies, who aimed to be made a chief of the nation at large. The Estatoee warrior, Toxaway, was successful; and as the influence of Chatuga was considerable with his tribe, he laboured successfully to engender in their bosoms a bitter dislike of the Estatoees. This feeling was made to exhibit itself on every possible occasion. The Occonies had no word too foul by which to describe the Estatoees. They likened them, in familiar speech, to every thing which, in the Indian imagination, is accounted low and contemptible.

Brown viper with Colocasia, Plate #45 from Mark Catesby’s “Natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands,” 1754

Brown viper with Colocasia, Plate #45 from Mark Catesby’s “Natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands,” 1754

In reference to war, they were reputed women,–in all other respects, they were compared to dogs and vermin; and, with something of a Christian taste and temper, they did not scruple, now and then, to invoke the devil of their more barbarous creed, for the eternal disquiet of their successful neighbours, the Little Estatoees, and their great chief, Toxaway.

In this condition of things there could not be much harmony; and, accordingly, as if by mutual consent, there was but little intercourse between the two people. When they met, it was either to regard one another with a cold, repulsive distance, or else, as enemies, actively to foment quarrel and engage in strife.

But seldom, save on national concerns, did the Estatoees cross the Keowee to the side held by the Occonies; and the latter, more numerous, and therefore less reluctant for strife than their rivals, were yet not often found on the opposite bank of the same river. Sometimes, however, small parties of hunters from both tribes, rambling in one direction or another, would pass into the enemy’s territory; but this was not frequent, and when they met, quarrel and bloodshed were sure to mark the adventure.

But there was one young warrior of the Estatoees, who did not give much heed to this condition of parties, and who, moved by an errant spirit, and wholly insensible to fear, would not hesitate, when the humour seized him, to cross the river, making quite as free, when he did so, with the hunting-grounds of the Occonies as they did themselves. This sort of conduct did not please the latter very greatly, but Nagoochie was always so gentle, and at the same time so brave, that the young warriors of Occony either liked or feared him too much to throw themselves often in his path, or labour, at any time, to arrest his progress.

In one of these excursions, Nagoochie made the acquaintance of Jocassée, one of the sweetest of the dusky daughters of Occony. He was rambling, with bow and quiver, in pursuit of game, as was his custom, along that beautiful enclosure which the whites have named after her, the Jocassée valley.

The circumstances under which they met were all strange and exciting, and well calculated to give her a power over the young hunter, to which the pride of the Indian does not often suffer him to submit.

It was towards evening when Nagoochie sprung a fine buck from a hollow of the wood beside him, and just before you reach the ridge of rocks which hem in and form this beautiful valley.

With the first glimpse of his prey flew the keen shaft of Nagoochie; but, strange to say, though renowned as a hunter, not less than as a warrior, the arrow failed entirely and flew wide of the victim. Off he bounded headlong after the fortunate buck; but though, every now and then getting him within range,–for the buck took the pursuit coolly,–the hunter still most unaccountably failed to strike him.

Shaft after shaft had fallen seemingly hurtless from his sides; and though, at frequent intervals, suffered to approach so nigh to the animal that he could not but hope still for better fortune, to his great surprise, the wary buck would dash off when he least expected it, bounding away in some new direction, with as much life and vigour as ever.

What to think of this, the hunter knew not; but such repeated disappointments at length impressed it strongly upon his mind, that the object he pursued was neither more nor less than an Occony wizard, seeking to entrap him; so, with a due feeling of superstition, and a small touch of sectional venom aroused into action within his heart, Nagoochie, after the manner of his people, promised a green bird–the emblem of his tribe–in sacrifice to the tutelar divinity of Estato, if he could only be permitted to overcome the potent enchanter, who had thus dazzled his aim and blunted his arrows.

He had hardly uttered this vow, when he beheld the insolent deer mincingly grazing upon a beautiful tuft of long grass in the valley, just below the ledge of rock upon which he stood. Without more ado, he pressed onward to bring him within fair range of his arrows, little doubting at the moment that the Good Spirit had heard his prayer, and had granted his desire.

But, in his hurry, leaping too hastily forward, and with eyes fixed only upon his proposed victim, his foot was caught by the smallest stump in the world, and the very next moment found him precipitated directly over the rock and into the valley, within a few paces of the deer, who made off with the utmost composure, gazing back, as he did so, in the eyes of the wounded hunter, for all the world, as if he enjoyed the sport mightily.

Nagoochie, as he saw this, gravely concluded that he had fallen a victim to the wiles of the Occony wizard, and looked confidently to see half a score of Occonies upon him, taking him at a vantage. Like a brave warrior, however, he did not despond, but determining to gather up his loins for battle and the torture, he sought to rise and put himself in a state of preparation. What, however, was his horror, to find himself utterly unable to move;–his leg had been broken in the fall, and he was covered with bruises from head to foot.

Nagoochie gave himself up for lost; but he had scarcely done so, when he heard a voice,–the sweetest, he thought, he had ever heard in his life,–singing a wild, pleasant song, such as the Occonies love, which, ingeniously enough, summed up the sundry reasons why the mouth, and not the eyes, had been endowed with the faculty of eating. These reasons were many, but the last is quite enough for us. According to the song, had the eyes, and not the mouth, been employed for this purpose, there would soon be a famine in the land, for of all gluttons, the eyes are the greatest.

Nagoochie groaned aloud as he heard the song, the latter portion of which completely indicated the cause of his present misfortune. It was, indeed, the gluttony of the eyes which had broken his leg. This sort of allegory the Indians are fond of, and Jocassée knew all their legends.

Certainly, thought Nagoochie, though his leg pained him woefully at the time, ‘certainly I never heard such sweet music, and such a voice.’

The singer advanced as she sung, and almost stumbled over him.

‘Who are you?’ she asked timidly, neither retreating nor advancing; and, as the wounded man looked into her face, he blessed the Occony wizard, by whose management he deemed his leg to have been broken.

‘Look!’ was the reply of the young warrior, throwing aside the bearskin which covered his bosom,–‘look, girl of Occony! ’tis the totem of a chief;’ and the green bird stamped upon his left breast, as the badge of his tribe, showed him a warrior of Estato, and something of an enemy.

But his eyes had no enmity, and then the broken leg! Jocassée was a gentle maiden, and her heart melted with the condition of the warrior. She made him a sweet promise, in very pretty language, and with the very same voice the music of which was so delicious; and then, with the fleetness of a young doe, she went off to bring him succour.


“Jocassee. A Cherokee Legend,” from The Wigwam and the Cabin, by William Gilmore Simms, New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845 / collection University Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

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I’ve prayed for straight hair—or hair of a different color.

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 8, 2016

If you’ve never been to Plum Grove then you wouldn’t know about that road. It’s an awful road, with big ruts and mudholes where the coal wagons with them nar-rimmed wheels cut down. There is a lot of haw bushes along this road. It goes up and down two yaller banks. From Lima Whitehall’s house in the gap it’s every bit of a mile and a half to Plum Grove. We live just across the hill from Lima’s house. I used to go up to her house and get with her folks and we would walk over to Plum Grove to church.

Head of one of the Dioscuri (# Y1988-10) in the Princeton University Art Museum

Head of one of the Dioscuri (# Y1988-10) in the Princeton University Art Museum

Lima Whitehall just went with one boy. I tried to court her a little, but she wouldn’t look at me. One night I goes up to her and I takes off my hat and says: “Lima, how about seeing you home?” And Lima says: “Not long as Rister is livin.’” Lord, but she loved Rister James. You ought to see Rister James—tall with a warty face and ferret eyes, but he had the prettiest head of black curly hair you ever saw on a boy’s head.

I’ve heard the girls say: “Wish I had Rister’s hair. Shame such an ugly boy has to have that pretty head of hair and a girl ain’t got it. Have to curl my hair with a hot poker. Burnt it up about, already. Shame a girl don’t have that head of hair.”

Well, they don’t say that about my hair. My hair is just so curly I don’t know which end of it grows in my head until I comb it. I’ve prayed for straight hair—or hair of a different color. But it don’t do no good to pray. My hair ain’t that pretty gold hair, or light gold hair. It’s just about the color of a weaned jersey calf’s hair. I’ll swear it is. People even call me Jersey.

There was a widder down in the Hollow and she loved Rister. Was a time, thought, when she wouldn’t look at him. She was from one of those proud families. You’ve seen them. Think they’re better’n everybody else in the whole wide world—have to watch about getting rain in their noses. That’s the kind of people they were in that family. And when a poor boy marries one of them girls he’s got to step.

So Rister James went with the woman I loved, Lima Whitehall, when he could have gone with Widder Ollie Spriggs. Widder Ollie wasn’t but seventeen years old and just had one baby. Rister was nineteen and I was eighteen. Lima was seventeen. If Rister would have gone with Widder Ollie it would have made things come out right for me. God knows I didn’t want Widder Ollie and she didn’t want me. I wanted Lima. I told her I did. She wanted Rister. She told me she did.

Intro to ‘Hair,’ from Jesse Stuart short story collection “Men of the Mountains”

Jesse Hilton Stuart was born on August 8, 1906, in northeastern Kentucky’s Greenup County, where his parents, Mitchell and Martha (Hilton) Stuart, were tenant farmers.

Mitchell Stuart could neither read nor write, and Martha had only a second-grade education, but they taught their two sons and three daughters to value education.

Jesse graduated from Greenup High School in 1926 and from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in 1929. He then returned to Greenup County to teach. By the end of the 1930s, Stuart had served as a teacher in Greenup County’s one-room schools and as high school principal and county school superintendent. These experiences served as the basis for his autobiographical book, The Thread That Runs So True (1949).

Stuart began writing stories and poems about the hill people of his section of Kentucky while still a college student. He met Donald Davidson, a poet who was one of his professors, during a year of graduate study at Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 1931-32. Davidson was instrumental in encouraging Stuart to continue writing.

Following the private publication of Stuart’s Harvest of Youth (poems) in 1930, Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow, poems that celebrate his people and the natural world, appeared in 1934 and was widely praised.

His autobiography, Beyond Dark Hills, was published in 1938 and his first novel, Trees of Heaven, in 1940. His first short story collection was Head O’ W-Hollow (1936), followed by Men of the Mountains (1941) and by more than a dozen other collections in Stuart’s lifetime. His published stories-in magazines and in book form-number more than a dozen novels and autobiographical works.

Taps For Private Tussie (1943) is an award-winning satirical look at New Deal relief and its effect on man’s self-reliance, and God’s Oddling (1960) is a biography of Stuart’s father. Stuart’s books of poetry also include Album of Destiny (1944) and Kentucky Is My Land (1952). He was designated as a poet laureate of Kentucky in 1954.

Stuart also lectured widely for many years, particularly on the subject of education and its value, and wrote a number of highly regarded books for children and youth.

Prominent among the latter are The Beatinest Boy (1953) and A Penny’s Worth of Character (1954). Hie to the Hunters, a novel published in 1950, is a celebration of rural life that has been popular with high school readers.

Stuart suffered a major heart attack in 1954. During his convalescence, he produced daily journals that were the basis for The Year of My Rebirth (I956), a book recording his rediscovery of the joy of life.

He returned to the school environment as a high school principal in 1956-57, taught at the University of Nevada in Reno in the 1958 summer term, and served on the faculty of the American University of Cairo in 1960-61.

The Academy of American Poets made Stuart a fellow in 1961.

Stuart established the Jesse Stuart Foundation in 1979, whose mission is to preserve his literary legacy while fostering appreciation of the Appalachian way of life through book publishing and ‘other activities.’ Jesse Stuart died on February 17, 1984, and was buried in Plum Grove Cemetery in Greenup County.

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A home where we would have to pay rent no more

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 5, 2016

Since my last annual report the Children’s Mission Home has moved its location; we are now located at No. 120 West Cumberland St. [in Knoxville, TN].For seventeen long years we were located at 918 State St. in the house which is now known as the Old Mission Home. Twenty-five dollars per month I paid for many years out of the scanty income the Mission Home ever had.

In the year 1903 I took the Home and the church grounds on a lease for ten years and from then I paid only twenty dollars rent per month for the Home, and some more money on the grounds on which we had built the church. It was hard work for me to find money enough for provisions, clothes and shoes for twenßty-five to thirty-five inmates, and then to find also twenty dollars per month to pay rent.

But we did succeed in doing this for nineteen years in all without faltering and the Mission Home had no debts at no time and to nobody than to live and to do good to our neighbors. But the load we had to carry was keenly felt as the years passed on and on.

One day in February 1909 the unexpected news came to us that the owner of the house had suddenly died. This meant for us that the lease might become void and that the Old Mission Home might be sold at any time, and that we had to move. As soon as we heard the news, I said, “Praise the Lord I am now done paying rent. If this work is worth anything, it will be worth a free house.”

Friends came to sympathize, enemies to sneer. They said to me, “You’re in a bad fix now; what are you going to do?”
I told them I was going to do nothing, but to trust in the Lord, and the Lord would provide. They went away sneering. But we people of the Mission went together to the Lord in prayers, and told him to give a home to his orphan children, a home where we would have to pay rent no more.

Children's Mission Home, Knoxville TNNew mission home at 120 W Cumberland Avenue.

I was well acquainted with one philanthropist of Knoxville, Mr. Rush B. Strong, who had been one of our supporters from the very beginning of this work. I knew he had a large and well built brick house in a very good location of the city, which he had designated for charitable purposes. It was just now empty. I earnestly prayed to the Lord while on the way to see Mr. Strong about that very house. As soon as I had told him what I wanted he said with the greatest friendliness, “Why sure, Mr. Lauritzen, why did you not come to ask for it long ago? As far as I am concerned you shall have the use of the house but for the repairs, free of charge.”

And now, we want you to rejoice with us, dear reader, and give praise and thanks to the Lord, who has enabled us to carry on this blessed work for twenty years of the past.

Most sincerely yours,
REV. & Mrs. J.R. Lauritzen, superintendants
20th Annual Report of the Work of the Children’s Mission Home
at Knoxville, TN


One Response

  • Rachel says:

    my great-grandmother was at that home back in 1920, due to her mother having pneumonia and her father who was a Baptist minister had died. She and her siblings were in that home.

    I am excited to read about the history :) Now I need to find where her father was buried and which church he was part of.

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Whenever he could get a little money saved up he would buy an option on a piece of land

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 4, 2016

John C.C. Mayo (1864-1914) was born a poor mountaineer in Paintsville, KY, and by the time of his premature death at 49 of Bright’s Disease, had amassed a fortune in the neighborhood of $20,000,000, making him Kentucky’s wealthiest man.

Mayo became a teacher at age 16, interrupted his classroom activities to enroll in Kentucky Wesleyan College in Millersburg, and later returned to Johnson County to resume teaching at Paintsville, for $40 per month.

At college he heard geology lectures by visiting professor A.C. Sherwood, and learned about east Kentucky’s vast mineral resources. Some day, he felt, somebody would want that coal, and whenever he could get a little money saved up he would buy an option on a piece of land. He read geological surveys made by William Mather, David Owen, Nathaniel Shaler, and John Proctor and filled notebooks with mineral data.

He abstracted titles and paid a few dollars each for options to buy minerals underlying tracts of land. He pledged fifty cents to five dollars per acre if the option was later exercised.

John C.C. MayoIn time Mayo saved $150 and with partners he formed the trading firm of Castle, Turner & Mayo, capitalized at $450. Mayo continued to teach and bought out his partners. At twenty six he engineered changes in the state’s land law. He read law and was admitted to the bar.

By the late 1880’s Mayo spent his days traveling around to purchase land for coal rights. He paid little attention to Alice Jane Alka Meek, who worked as a telegraph operator at the Alger House in Paintsville, other than when he wanted to send a message by telegraph to his sweetheart. But according to Carolyn Turner, co-author of the book John C. C. Mayo: Cumberland Capitalist, Miss Meek never sent those messages. When Mayo became deathly ill with pneumonia not long after they met, Miss Meek nursed him back to health at the hotel. Eventually, the two fell in love and were married in 1897. She was 20; he was 33.

When the constitutional convention met in 1890, Mayo knew many of the delegates, whom he lobbied to drop from the new constitution the ‘Virginia Compact provision’ that shadowed the title to hundreds of thousands of acres of eastern Kentucky land.

Mayo hired Floyd County attorney F.A. Hopkins to draft the broad form deed, and used this form in mineral buying to sever title to mineral rights from the remainer of the land title, making mineral rights dominant and residuary rights subservient ‘forever.’

Until the Mayo children were born, Mrs. Mayo traveled with her husband on business trips, often stashing gold – used to pay for mineral rights – in a specially made riding skirt ordered from Pogue’s, a store in Cincinnati. The gold could be tied to straps hidden underneath the skirt, and as much as $10,000 could be carried at a time.

John C.C. Mayo Mansion, Paintsville KYThe Mayo Mansion in Paintsville, built between 1904 and 1909.

Mayo had been collecting options for almost twenty years when he made his first sale — a big parcel of coal land to the Merrits of Duluth. From them he took $200,000 in notes, and had these discounted. The Merrits failed, and he took it upon himself to make these notes good.

It was not until about 1901 that he began to be a really wealthy man, as the value of his land was still rather problematical. But he got Peter L. Kimberley, president of Chicago’s Sharon Steel Company, Frank Buell of Sharon, PA, and several other capitalists to help him form the Northern Coal and Coke Company in the beginning of 1902, and they started coal operating on a big scale, branched out into the Elkhorn field of Kentucky, and started the town of Jenkins. This concern finally sold out to the Consolidated Coal Company, in which Col. Mayo became a big stockholder.

“While never holding office, Col. Mayo always took a keen interest in politics,” observed his obituary in the NY Times. “He was National Democratic Committeeman for Kentucky, and in the last presidential campaign took an active part and was a liberal contributor. Friends say his most remarkable trait was his personal magnetism. He was essentially a man of peace.

“In a lawsuit, he never settled by fighting it out, but always by compromise, instructing his attorney to see that the other fellow got what was due him, and a little more. To educational and charitable institutions in Kentucky he was a liberal contributor, and his private benefactions were large.” At the time of his death his holdings included 75 companies.

source: NY Times, May 12, 1914 online at
Alka Mayo: Mountain matriarch, by Diane Comer, Ashland Daily Independent, October 29, 1985 – Page 8, Today’s Living online at
The Kentucky Encyclopedia, by John E. Kleber, University Press of Kentucky, 1992

3 Responses

  • Berna Thiede says:

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

  • In your article you state that Northern Coal and Coke started the town of Jenkins. That is incorrect. Jenkins was built by Consolidation Coal Company after they purchased 100,000 acres of coal rich land in 1910 from John CC Mayo who was a land speculator for Northern Coal and Coke. Consolidation Coal Company borrowed 40 million dollars to create a “company” town from the wilderness. The town of Jenkins, which was chartered on January 9, 1912, is celebrating it’s Centennial Year this year.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    Eileen, thanks for weighing in on that.

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Who let the bedbugs bite?

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 3, 2016

“One night during a revival, we had a very heavy rain. Besides myself, only one other person showed up at the church, a young man. I read a scripture lesson, and had prayer before the young man said, ‘Now, Preacher, you have to go home with me tonight. There is nobody else here.’ Well, we walked for a mile up a steep hill in the red mud.

“The boy hung up his lantern and said, ‘Hey, Paw, guess what we have for breakfast? Preacher!’

“‘Put him in your bed. You can sleep on the cot,’ said Paw. Man and wife were in a bed in the front room.

“The son picked up the oil lamp from the table and led the way up a steep stairway to the second floor. It was a story and a half house, with the sloping ceilings common to such. There were four teenage daughters, lying in two double beds in a room without partitions. The boy put down the lamp, took off all his clothes, and lay down on the cot.

“‘You can have my bed there,’ he said, indicating another double bed.

“‘Do you blow out this lamp?’ I asked.

“‘Nope, we leave her burn,’ he replied.

“What was I to do? I had to get into my pajamas in some way, and while the girls all had their eyes closed, I had no way of knowing if they were asleep, or ‘playing possum.’

“Because of the slope of the ceiling, the bed would go no closer than three feet to the wall. I bent over, after having turned the lamp down as low as I dared, crawled back in the space behind the head of the bed, and changed my clothes. I came out, turned up the lamp, put my shirt over the dirty pillow, and crawled into the filthy sheets.

“In a few minutes, I felt something crawling on my back. I caught the insect and crushed it between my finger and thumb, and knew from the odor that I had caught a bedbug. I fought those bugs all night until about 4:30, when the daylight gave me relief. When I threw back the covers, a whole battalion of bedbugs scurried for cover into a hole in the old straw mattress.

“‘Well, I sung the cooks up; now I’ll sing the preacher up.’ the father said. He sang all the way out to feed the pigs.

“I drove the 26 miles back home that night after church. When I told Elizabeth at the door about the bedbugs, she made me take off all my clothes on the front porch. I even had to leave my suitcase outside. Needless to say, I never went back to that house to eat or sleep again!

“Such are the fortunes of those who would serve the Lord in West Virginia in the earlier days. I found that conditions were worse near the Ohio River than in the mountain areas of the state.”

“An Autobiography”
Rev. Troy Robert Brady
Elkins, WV native


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