The First Nations
The Cherokees so dominated the Appalachians from their epicenter in North Carolina into parts of Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, that the early explorers named the mountain chain “The Cherokee Mountains.”
Later, European frontiersmen slipped into the Cherokee domain to hunt buffalo, bear and beaver. They were called “Long Hunters” and they became legendary figures that represented the freedom of American Wilderness.
William Bartram traveled alone deep into the Cherokee country and on May 22, 1775, arrived at Cowee and explored the surrounding mountains. Cowee Town was a Middle Cherokee town located about seven miles north of the modern town of Franklin on the Little Tennessee River. He visited several Cherokee towns in the vicinity and climbed the Cowees to Alarka with a licensed trader who resided near modern West’s Mill.
On May 24, he departed Cowee and crossed the Nantahala Mountains at Burningtown Gap. He recorded the following observation in his journal: “I began to ascend the Jore Mountains, which I at length accomplished, and rested on the most elevated peak; from whence I beheld with rapture and astonishment, a sublimely awful scene of power and magnificence, a world of mountains piled upon mountains. Having contemplated this amazing prospect of grandeur, I descended the pinnacles…”