Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Excerpts from A Brief History of Western North Carolina’s Jackson County

For the interest of virtually no one, I present for your edification, my transcribed copy of a book on the local history of where I was born and raised.

Excerpts from A Brief History of Western North Carolina’s Jackson County

The first major people to inhabit the lands presently known today as Jackson County, were the Cherokee Indians who were later forced out by President Jackson(1). The Cherokee Indians were only semi-hunter-gathers and spent much of their time engaged in tending to their polkberry orchards. Their currency was based on these small, generally poisonous berries and the chief of the tribe was decided by a ritual of ingesting as many of the polkberries as possible. The man who ingested the most without vomiting or dying became chief for that season(2). These people were isolated from the other Native Americans, and lived without any major societal or cultural changes to their way of life until the coming of the Europeans.

While North Carolina had been the site of a number of early colonies established by Sir Walter Raleigh, the mountains had largely been devoid of contact with the Europeans until 1708, when the Travelogue of Kristopher Krumholdter was published, sparking widespread interest in the region. The account describes Krumholdter’s travels through the region and interactions with a people he called the Horeps. His log told the tale of living for five years among the Horeps and helping them to fight the fierce giant bear-bird hybrids that nested in the mountains and guarded nests that were often filled with hoards of silk and ivory. The Horeps were pushed out of the region by these bear-birds, and eventually Krumholdter fled the region to avoid the atrocities of the increasingly bloodthirsty raids of the bear-birds. The account, though now generally acknowledged to be entirely fictional(3), sparked an interest in the mountain regions, leading to an influx of Europeans, seeking silk and ivory, to an area that had not enjoyed such luxuries since the Carboniferous Epoch.

As throngs of would-be bird-bear hunters arrived in the area, they inevitably encountered the Cherokee people in their polkberry groves. The Europeans and the Cherokee were unable to communicate due to the language barrier, and trouble was bound to ensue. While the Europeans unsuccessfully sought the bear-birds’ nests, winter came, and the new-comers finally found themselves in a difficult predicament without food, shelter, or any basic supplies. Relations up to this point with the Cherokee had been friendly, but an ill-fated exchange of the poisonous polkberries and the resulting death of the Europeans upon ingestion, led to a year long conflict that claimed many lives on both sides and the term “Indian-giver,” an English expression for “polkberry poisoner”. While a peace was eventually made and then affirmed by the Treaty of Zeke’s Bend, low-grade hostility continued until the Cherokee were finally forced out during the Presidency of Martin Van Buren, the Little Magician to Andrew Jackson's Old Hickory, and owner of the third most exquisite sideburns of the history of the United States (4).

(1)President Jackson is not the man for whom the County is named. Jackson County is actually named for Ezekiel Jackson a 19th century semi-fictional gold digger and adventurer. While he was not born in Jackson County, the giant red rock in the bend of the Tuckaseigee is named after one of the most famous exploits of the hero: Ezekiel Jackson Fights the Giant Eagles.
(2)The year was determined solely by the growth patterns of the polkberry.
(3)A number writers (all Scientologist) maintain the existence of the Horeps.
(4)As determined by the Journal for Political Facial Hair (Spring 1994).


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