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Full text of "Qualla"





Rebecca Harding Davis 



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QUALLA 
By Rebecca Harding Davis 



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Lippinoott*s 
Nov. 1875 



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OUALLA. 



WHATEVER else you leave un- 
done, see Oualla," urged the 
friend who had persuaded us to an ex- 
ploration of the North Carolinian moun- 
tains as he helped us aboard the train 
in Philadelphia. "Ride over some day 
to Casher's Valley : you'll find gigantic 
bluffs there ; and to Waynesville : it is 
the highest town in the United States. 
And don't forget the gorge of the Unaka 
Range — eighty peaks above six thousand 
feet in sight at once. But, above all, 
see Oualla— see Oualla !" 

Now, this "riding over," so jauntily 
hinted at, had turned out to be not the 
gallop of an hour or two, as we supposed, 
but slow journeys of hundreds of miles 
along mountain-roads, made on mules 
or the sure-footed Canadian ponies in 
use among the mountaineers. Half the 
summer passed before we remembered 
Qualla. It was very easy to forget any 
duty, or even pleasure, among these hills. 
We had corne into the land of forget- 
ting. Railroads, telegraphs, work, hurry 
of every sort, we had left behind us at 
the first pass. Taking the little town of 
Asheville as our head-quarters, and leav- 
ing all baggage and encumbrances there, 
we journeyed leisurely from one great 
mountain-range to another — the Cowee, 
Nantahela, Balsam, Blue Ridge — the 
region where the Appalachian chain 
reaches its loftiest height on the conti- 
nent ; halting sometimes in a gorge where 
a glitteringtrout-stream proved too tempt- 
ing to our fishermen, sometimes in a 
drowsy, dirty little hamlet above the 



clouds ; or camping far in the forests in 
hopes of bringing down some of the 
wary black bears that lurked in their 
thickets. Woods and gorges as well 
as mountain-hamlet were drowsy : the 
whole region wore the same curious air 
of calmness, of content, of utter indiffer- 
ence to any uneasy goings - on in the 
world below. The very sunshine in 
these heights was not energetic — never 
apparently saw any necessity, as in town, 
for a hurry of heat. There was always 
a tranquil gray chill in it, as in early 
November days at the North ; always 
vast masses of mist moving somewhere 
in sight ready to break on you in fine 
summer rain — a rain which at evening 
melted away into a universal sparkle from 
horizon to horizon, and a soft green shiv- 
er of leaves, and rainbows arching over 
peaks that rose like dim gateways in the 
far heaven. The guide was anxious to 
tell you that these peaks were Pisgah or 
Clingman's Dome or the Black Brothers, 
but you were apt to remember how Bun- 
yan or Christian long ago had come into 
a place like this and caught a glimpse 
of the heavenly hills, and were quite sure 
these were no Black Brothers. 

There was a certain monotony of som- 
bre grandeur in the scenery that had its 
tranquillizing influence, and made a great 
gulf of time, as it were, between this and 
our ordinary life. For days together we 
traversed narrow paths with bare cliffs 
on either side, or passed through inter- 
minable chains of lower hills white with 
chestnut blooms, or, rising to the cold 



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I875-] 



QUALLA. 



57- 



high levels, climbed giddy steeps where 
the black balsam was the only tree, and 
no birds were found except the eagle 
and the little snow-bird of the North, 
which summers in this chilly air. 

The mountaineers, with their clear- 
cut Huguenot faces and incredibly dirty 
clothes, nodded like old friends when 
we passed them on the hill-paths, but 
did not trouble themselves to ask any 
questions. We did not need to ask any 
of them. Their lives were open before 
us. There were the unlighted log huts, 
split into halves by an open passage-way, 
and swarming with children, who lived 
on hominy and corn-bread, with a chance 
opossum now and then as a relish. They 
were not cumbered with dishes, knives, 
forks, beds or any other. impedimenta of 
civilization : they slept in hollow logs or 
in a' hole filled with straw under loose 
boards of the floor. But they were con- 
tented and good-natured : they took life, 
leaky roof, opossum and all, as a huge 
joke, and were honest gentlefolk des- 
pite their dirty and bedless condition. 
At long intervals they drove the steer 
which was their sole live-stock, loaded 
with peltry or corn, down to one of the 
litile villages where trade was carried on 
without money. Money, indeed, appear- 
ed throughout this region to be one of 
the unknown luxuries of civilization ; and 
it is startling (if anything could be start- 
ling up yonder) to find how easily and 
comfortably life resolves itself to its prim- 
itive conditions without it. In these vil- 
lages we found thoroughbred men and 
women, clothed in homespun of their 
own making, reading their old shelves of 
standard books: they were cheerful and 
gay, full of shrewd common sense and 
feeling, but utterly ignorant of all the 
comforts which have grown into neces- 
sities to people in cities, and of all cur- 
rent changes in the modern world of 
art, literature or society; in fact, almost 
unconscious that there was such a world. 
Among the mountain - woodsmen we 
found other men and women who had 
never learned the use of a glass window, 
or of a cup and saucer, and manifestly 
never had learned to keep themselves 
clean ; yet they were of honorable, de- 



vout habits of mind, and bore them- 
selves with exceptional tact and delicacy 
of feeling and the dignity and repose of 
manner of Indians. Palpable facts like 
these were calculated to shake the old 
notions of busy, money -making Phil- 
adelphians. After all, were Chestnut 
street and Broadway all wrong in their 
ideas of the essentials of life ? The vil- 
lage lawyer here had education, the 
thousand decencies and tendernesses of 
home, the comfort of soberly courteous 
and kindly habits of thought in those 
about him, and, if he chose it, of religion. 
Nature in her loftiest mood was ready to 
be his companion. If the externals of 
his life did lack certain refinements and 
possibilities, certainly there was utterly 
dropped out of that life all the hurry and 
anxious gnawing care which have made 
the men of the Northern States lean of 
body and morbid of mind, and the 
women neuralgic and ill-tempered. In 
the drowsy content of this atmosphere, 
looking from some stupendous height 
off into infinite repose, doubts would 
creep, in as to the use of work and wor- 
ry, and the actual value of government 
bonds or bric-a-brac or Meissonnier's 
pictures, and whether it really "paid" 
to toil a life long to secure such goods a 
little in advance of our neighbor. The 
eternal calm of the mountains reflected 
itself in the lowest nature in some queer, 
incomplete way. The shrewdest busi- 
ness-man of the party lapsed slowly into 
flannel shirts and lazy good-humor, and 
began to take rain, heat or poor fare with 
the serene complacency of a native. If 
he wished now and then for a lodge in 
some wilderness which we passed, he for- 
got to remark how long the investment 
would be in paying two per cent. He 
had begun the journey with harangues 
at every stopping-place upon the effect 
of a railroad and the influx of Northern 
capital in opening up this region. Now 
he gravely assured us that manufactures 
and money could be found anywhere, 
but that there was something beneath 
this solitude and laziness and happy in- 
difference worth them all. When these 
stately mountain -monarchs should be 
bored and tunneled and cut up by Nov- 



578 



QUALLA. 



[Nov. 



elty mica-mines and iron-furnaces work- 
ed by New York capitalists, he hinted 
that a good beyond their money value 
would be lost to the country. However, 
I am afraid that almost any of the citizens 
of Buncombe county would be willing 
to trade their spiritual, intangible pos- 
sessions for a few greenbacks paid quar- 
terly. 

We all attempted, of course, plenty of 
scientific guesses as to the cause of this 
universal drowse over men and matter — 
why the poorest Buncombe natives, more 
than any other barefooted, snuff-rubbing 
race, should "lie reclined on the hills 
like gods together, careless of mankind." 
We talked of the effect upon the nervous 
centres of the rarity of the atmosphere 
at that elevation, and upon the lungs of 
the air-tonics from vast bodies of balsam 
forests. But whatever the explanation, 
the fact was apparent. The brain and 
nervous system were refreshed and re- 
stored in that atmosphere as by prolong- 
ed physical sleep. There is not one of 
us who will not remember that journey 
as an actual lapse out of the nervous 
strain, the bodily daily sense of wear 
and exhaustion, which belongs to middle 
age, back into some sleepy, sunny, well- 
fed holiday of youth. 

It was toward the last of July, when 
we had returned to our central head- 
quarters in the village of Asheville, that 
we bethought ourselves of Oualla. It 
was difficult to gain any definite infor- 
mation about it. The blessed quality in 
our new friends of indifferent calm be- 
came rather exasperating when we set 
out for information. 

" Oualla was a little Indian village. It 
might be worth our while to ride up thar, 
provided Colonel Thomas, who was their 
chief, could git up a torchlight dance for 
us. The Indians were quite savage, still 
worshiped their old fetiches," our in- 
formant believed. He himself "had 
never been to Oualla. It was about a 
hundred miles off, in a gorge of the 
Oconalufta. Why on earth should he 
go there ?" 

"Oualla," another Confederate ex- 
colonel stated, "was not a village at all. 
It included the counties of Cherokee, 



Jackson and Swayne, and was inhabited 
solely by a body of Cherokee Indians, 
the largest remnant of an original tribe 
east of the Mississippi. They had their 
own government, he thought. Could not 
tell whether they were heathens or Chris- 
tians. Little matter when you came to 
red-skins, anyhow. If we waited long 
enough, we might see some of the dirty 
devils down in town. They came oc- 
casionally to trade. Did not drink. Had 
some vow against liquor, he had heard. 
Had never been up in the nation : what 
could take anybody to Oualla ?" 

Various scraps of information were 
offered on other sides. The Indians 
were half starving ; somebody had gob- 
bled up their appropriation from Con- 
gress years ago : they never had had an 
appropriation ; Colonel Thomas was a 
white man who had governed them au- 
tocratically for twenty years. The na- 
tion was Christian, and in a condition 
of peace and prosperity, with him at its 
head : the nation was heathen, living in 
polygamy and unbridled revolt, and Col- 
onel Thomas was a maniac chained to 
the floor. The road to Qualla was a safe 
and good one : the road was utterly im- 
practicable even for the mountain-mules. 
But nobody had ever seen Qualla itself, 
and nobody had ever wanted to see it. 
On that one point all were agreed. The 
educated western North Carolinian, when 
he leaves his own village, turns his face 
straight toward Richmond or Philadel- 
phia : he can give you the dimensions 
of the Walnut Street Theatre better than 
those of the Dry Falls, and would rather 
look at the pretty girls in the paths about 
the old Confederate capitol than climb 
to the dizzy peak where Mitchell's grave 
was made high above the clouds. Wliy 
any man, much less woman, should turn 
his or her back on metropolitan delights 
to climb slippery precipices or unearth 
a forgotten tribe of Indians could be 
explained only by the natural perverse 
cussedness of the Northern mind. 

We made the journey slowly, with the 
keen enjoyment of discoverers of soli- 
tudes which had never been trodden by 
foot of summer tourist — of ravines where 
no artist with camp-stool and yellow 



I87S-] 



QUALLA. 



579 



umbrella could venture for "eftects," 
and heights to which even " Hollovvay's 
Pills" had not reached. So utterly re- 
moved is the mode of life of the in- 
habitants of these counties from that of 
modern civilization that one or two cen- 
turies seemed to bar us out from the 
world we had left behind. Character, 
too, develops unchecked to its natural 
limits in this solitude, into all kinds of 
eccentric form and expression. Every 
man or woman who drove us or watered 
the mules or cooked a meal's victuals 
for us was a type of some od-d genus of 
human nature, which, like the mountain- 
cedars about us, had knotted and gnarl- 
ed and rooted itself at pleasure. On the 
farms the woman worked and took rank 
with the negroes, but in the little ham- 
lets, as soon as society became an ele- 
ment of daily life, the chivalric Southern 
deference to her had crept in and show- 
ed itself in the oddest and most unex- 
pected ways. Chief among these was 
the content with which men, cleanly 
enough themselves, invariably regarded 
any excess of idleness and squalor in 
their households, never by any chance 
calling the women to account for it. On 
a journey, too, the father and inevitable 
half-grown black nurse took charge of 
the baby and the ten other fractious chil- 
dren (for there were always eleven), \vhile 
the mother lay back dozing or reading a 
novel. The universal feeling appeared 
to be that when she had brought forth 
these helps-'io the state she had wholly 
fulfilled the chief end of woman. I re- 
member the wretched, flea-infested little 
inn of Webster, a village of some twenty 
houses perched on the edge of a cliff, 
where the postmaster, judge and other 
dignitaries boarded. Street -mud and 
other abominations lay inch -deep on 
the dining-room floor, which was hard- 
ly more filthy than the children playing 
in it or than the messes on the table. 
One forlorn negro was housekeeper, cook, 
hostler and nurse-maid, while the land- 
lady, a jaunty black-eyed woman, wa- 
tered her verbenas or lay on the sofa, a 
pink knot of ribbon in her hair, reading 
Waverley. The nausea of the men as 
they gulped down the compounds of fat 



pork and molasses, and the tender gal- 
lantry with which they stopped to pay 
their respects to the hostess as to a dame 
of high degree, were significant sights to 
see, and impossible in a Northern State. 
With us, even the dame of high degree 
is not often allowed to live like the lily 
and the rose, and assuredly human lilies 
and roses meet but small favor as keep- 
ers of boarding-houses. 

On our way to Oualla, however, we 
discovered " Smather's " in Waynesville, 
the cleanest and most picturesque of lit- 
tle mountain-inns, perched nearly three 
thousand feet above tide-level. From 
its shady porches you look down on the 
clouds in the valley below or watch the 
gray mist rising up the sides of the Great 
Balsam range, whose peaks, clad in fu- 
nereal black, encircle the sleepy little vil- 
lage ; or, very likely, you think of noth- 
ing but the savory whiffs from within of 
delicious fried chicken, coffee, and hot 
biscuits light and white as snowflakes, 
for which the keen cold wind teaches 
you how to be grateful. 

The story of a mysterious murder, the 
first in the mountain-region for five years, 
flitted before us in our journey like an 
uneasy ghost, taking new shape in every 
hamlet or lonely farmhouse. The mur- 
derer, a youth of nineteen, was arrest- 
ed and put literally into chains in the 
Asheville jail. Such was the horror and 
consternation which the crime carried to 
these kindly mountain-folks that they 
were anxious to prove that he had been 
guilty of the last murder for years back, 
although he was then but a boy. 

" For it don't stand to reason," said one 
old man, arguing the matter, "that God 
'ud make two such fiends as that thar 
in one generation." 

Indeed, the farther we penetrated to 
the recesses of these mountain-wilder- 
nesses the more we were impressed with 
the honesty, the kindly humanity, the 
sound sterling virtue in their inhabitants 
— a fact which made the discovery that 
awaited us at the end more startling and 
inexplicable. 

We found the road to Qualla little 
traveled and scarcely practicable — a slip- 
pery cartway cut halfway up the preci- 



58o 



QUALLA. 



[Nov. 



pice, and never repaired since it was 
built. Captain E , a shrewd, intel- 
ligent man, who guided us there from 
Webster, had been its engineer and 
builder, as he told us. But " there was 
nobody to look after it, and it had gone to 
ruin." He pointed out a deserted mica- 
mine, which "nobody had cared to go 
on with ;" a saw-mill which he had start- 
ed on the banks of the creek, but which 
" nobody wanted." We passed through 
the day vacant huts, follen to the ground 
and overgrown with moss and rank par- 
asites, which gave an aspect of dreary 
desolation to the tropical luxuriance of 
the landscape. White men apparently 
had failed in gaining here even the little 
which they required to live. "Yet the 
soil is black with richness," said Captain 

E , "and the mountains are full of 

marble and iron and copper, and, they 
do say, gold. But they are too lazy to 
even lay a log toward the mending of 
this road. They'd rather run the risk 
of rolling down into the river, wagon, 
steers and all, as some of them do ev- 
ery winter." Interest in the journey was 
kept at fever-heat by the momentary ex- 
pectation that our own cart would follow 
the usual course over some of the dizzy 
heights where the road had frequently 
been washed away, until, as one wheel 
grated against the cliff, the edge of the 
other hung over a sheer precipice of hun- 
dreds of feet. 

The day was gray, with a strong chilly 
wind blowing, sudden gusts of rain blot- 
ting out the mountains as the clouds were 
driven against the higher peaks. When 
the rain-veil lifted, the unbroken forests 
were left no less sombre in tone and 
meaning. The sides of this range were 
clothed in hemlocks and oaks, with a 
thick undergrowth of laurel and rowan ; 
the scarlet rhododendron flamed in every 
dark recess ; rank vines crept over the 
ground and matted the trees into im- 
penetrable walls of green, and enormous 
bare gray trunks were writhed and twist- 
ed like Dore's trees overlooking hell, so 
that one could not put away the idea 
of a dumb agony of pain. The upper 
peaks were clothed with the balsam, 
whose black trunk and sombre foliage 



made them appear through the mist as 
though wrapped in funereal mantles. This 
loneliest of trees will live only in the soli- 
tude of heights which rise over four thou- 
sand feet. Owing to the cold, no ordi- 
nary singing-birds, nor the moccasin and 
rattlesnakes which infest the villages, are 
ever found where it grows. The bleak 
winds of winter are sometimes more than 
even the tree itself can bear, and great 
masses of dead trunks crowd the sum- 
mits, tossing their bare branches against 
the sky like a procession of ghosts going 
down into Hades. 

In fact, the melancholy sky, the mag- 
nitude and utter solitude of the moun- 
tains, were so oppressive on the day of 
our entrance into Oualla that it seeined as 
though we too might be going down into 
a place of departed spirits. We were 
speedily disabused of any such fantastic 
impression by the gentleman who had 
taken charge of the party. Oualla, ac- 
cording to his brisk little anecdotes, was 
an El Dorado, a Happy Valley, created 
and generously given over by a single 
white man to the Cherokees, where the 
red men under his guidance had reach- 
ed the highest point in civilization ever 
attained by any of their color. Nothing 
could be more cheery or kindlier than 
the talk of this merry little Irishman, who 
" had lived with the nation since his child- 
hood as a brother." They called him 
Tallalla ("red woodpecker"), he lold 
us, "from the color of his hair. He had 
been a deputy ruler over them under 
Colonel Thomas, and had carried out 
the plans of that great and good man for 
their benefit faithfully." He then pro- 
ceeded to give us a sketch of the singular 
career of this unknown reformer, rejoiced, 
as he said, that there was now a chance 
that it should be made known to the 
Northern people. His statement in brief 
was this: 

By the treaties of 1817, 1819 and 1S36 
the United States acquired from the Cher- 
okees a large territory lying west of the 
Pigeon River in North Carolina, and cast 
of the Holston and French Broad in 
Tennessee, also certain lands, known as 
the "New Purchase," of Georgia and 
Alabama, giving them lands west of the 



I875-] 



QUALLA. 



SSi 



Mississippi in lieu, and requiring them to 
remove thereto. But the North Caro- 
lina Indians, under their chief Yonagus- 
ka, claimed that they were not represent- 
ed in the treaties, and were permitted to 
remain. There were about one thousand 
of these people in the mountain-region 
called Qualla. Yonaguska had adopted 
a white lad, who when grown to man- 
hood became the medium of communi- 
cation between the Indians and the world 
without. He carried on all trade for them, 
and assisted the chief in administering 
the government of the tribe. When 
Yonaguska came to die, our enthusiastic 
chronicler proceeded to state, he formal- 
ly constituted this adopted son (Colonel 
Thomas) chief of the tribe, which received 
him with joy, and from that day to the 
present had trusted him as a wise father. 
The new chief was born a hero and re- 
former in the grain. He carried the 
tribe in his heart, as though they were 
indeed his children : his one aim and 
thought in life was to civilize and Chris- 
tianize them. His power over them was 
absolute : he punished, rewarded, mar- 
ried ; controlled the economy of each 
family according to his own individual 
will. The good accomplished was almost 
incredible, continued Tallalla. "The 
Oualla Indians were Christians, and in- 
dustrious farmers : every member of the 
tribe was compelled by Colonel Thomas 
to sign a temperance pledge and to ad- 
here to it strictly. For thirty years this 
philanthropfst had fed and clothed the 
whole tribe at his own expense — carried 
the burden of their souls and bodies, in 
fact, until his mind gave way under the 
weight, and he was now hopelessly in- 
sane." 

This narration touched every hearer but 
one, who inquired, "How did Colonel 
Thomas meet the expenses? I thought 
you stated he was a penniless boy." 

"Speculation — speculation in land," 
said Tallalla airily. " He not only open- 
ed a store, out of which he supplied all 
their needs gratuitously, but purchased 
for them the region of Oualla, some hun- 
dred thousand acres on the Oconalufta 
and Tuckaseege rivers, and on Soco 
Creek." 



"The support of a thousand people for 
thirty years is a load for one of the old 
genii," suggested the doubting Thomas 
in the back of the cart. "This is a story 
for Scheherazade." 

"And when he was no longer able to 
take charge of them, I tried to carry out 
his plans," continued the historian. "And 
even now, in his wildest ravings, it is not 
wife and children that rest upon his mind, 
but the Indians. ' What is to become of 
my people ? — my people ?' he cries in- 
cessantly." 

At this moment we drove down a de- 
file and stopped at the house of the only 
white farmer in Oualla, of which we made 
a sort of head-quarters during our stay. 
House and family were fairly typical of 

Western North Carolina. Colonel P 

(there were apparently no privates in the 
Confederate army) is a leading man in 
these counties — a wealthy man as wealth 
is counted down there. In the North his 
wife would not have lost her bloom at 
forty, and would set the fashion in her 
county in the make of her gros d'Afrique 
and point collar ; his sons would "finish" 
in Heidelberg. Colonel P 's man- 
sion is a huddle of log-built rooms, chunk- 
ed with mud, squatted in the middle of 
cornfields which his wife has helped to 
plough. She weaves on a heavy home- 
made loom the clothes of the household, 
waits on her husband and sons at table, 
and eats herself with the servants, white 
and black. She is a shrewd, clean-mind- 
ed, just woman, bony and gray-haired, 
dressed, like her cook, in brown linsey, 
with a yellow handkerchief knotted about 
her neck Her comfortless house was as 
clean as a Shaker's, and her table boun- 
tifully spread. Her welcome of Tallalla 
was not cordial, we observed, and she 
listened eagerly to his account of the 
Arcadia of the red-skins which we were 
to explore to-morrow. It was not the 
custom here for wives to join in the con- 
versation of their husbands and other 
men. But presently two or three half- 
naked Indians came down the mountain 
with coarse baskets to trade for a bit of 

pork. Mrs. P gave them the bacon. 

"They are almost starving," she said to 
me quietly, "and so is the whole nation. 



582 



QUALLA. 



[Nov. 



Oualla was paid for with their own mon- 
ey, and they do not own an acre of it. I 
have seen over ninety thousand dollars 
in gold paid into their hands in this very 
kitchen, and before they left the house 
there were not thirty dollars to divide 
among them." 

"Who had taken it?" 

She shut her thin lips : " It is not my 
business to make charges. As for their 
civilization, they lived in open polygamy 
before the war. That did not aggrieve 
Colonel Thomas's conscience. When 
the law passed enforcing marriage among 
the slaves, the Indians were brought in 
by scores to be legally married. But it 
is all the same : when a young fellow 
tires now of his wife, he puts her out of 
his hut and takes another, and nobody 
thinks any the worse of either of them." 

About a hundred rods from the house 
there was a small wooden building, the 
porch of which was piled with empty 
boxes and the windows hung with cheap 
calicoes, beads, tin dippers and hoop- 
skirts. It was proudly pointed out by 
Tallalla — who, it now appeared, had 
been a boy employed in the shop — as 
the scene of Colonel Thomas's business 
transactions. 

"Do you mean to say," queried the 
skeptic of the travelers, "that the keep- 
er of that country store ruled over a thou- 
sand people from behind his counter ?" 

"Absolutely," replied Tallalla ; and the 
farmer confirmed him in the assertion. 
• "And that from the profits of that mis- 
erable little shop he clothed and fed them 
for thirty years, and bought the land of 
three counties ?" 

"The profits were larger than in ordi- 
nary trade," stammered Tallalla. "We 
always expected to make one hundred 
or a hundred and fifty per cent, on every 
sale." 

"Who were your customers?" 

"The Indians, necessarily." 

"Oh!" 

The water was growing too muddy for 
further fording. 

But I may as well state here the re- 
sults of our inquiries made into this mat- 
ter on our return to Asheville. It was 
true that the tribe (estimated at from 



thirteen hundred to fourteen hundred in 
1870) had for a whole generation fallen 
under the absolute control of this store- 
keeper, Thomas. Dr. Francia exercised 
no more unlicensed dictatorship over the 
half-breeds of Paraguay than did this 
man over the credulous, trusting savages. 
They were, and are, as a rule, unable to 
speak any tongue but their own ; they 
are barred by the mountains into their 
wilderness ; the surrounding white popu- 
lation is one which scarcely knows that 
they exist — a population which meets 
known facts with exceptional apathy, as 
we have seen. Until within the last two 
years Western North Carolina, with its 
white and red inhabitants, was an almost 
unknown region to the rest of the coun- 
try. Indians in the West are subjected 
to the friction and the observation of 
the encroaching, pushing, trading white 
race : this fragment of a tribe was left in 
their untraveled hills to the sole manip- 
ulation of one man. He had apparent- 
ly kindly instincts, and certain very mod- 
erate ideas of morality, and brought his 
subjects very fairly up to the standard 
which these gave him. They were urged 
to cultivate their land, to deal justly with 
each other: liquor was forbidden. He 
was their judge, business-agent, pastor 
and master : he furnished them with 
clothes, etc., through the store, charged 
them his own price, received in pay- 
ment the appropriations made to them 
by Congress before the war, and pur- 
chased Oualla with them, besides iso- 
lated farms for which individual Indians 
paid him their own earnings. The titles 
to all these purchases were made out in 
his own name ; and a few inonths be- 
fore our arrival every foot of the Qualla 
lands, the ground on which this tribe had 
lived during the memory of men, and for 
which their money had been paid, was 
sold under the hammer to satisfy his 
creditors. The Indians had brought 
suit for its recovery, and our enthusiastic 
guide, who "had been loved as a broth- 
er by them," was one of the parties 
against whom they brought it. 

Now, this story, of which we will not 
hint the miserable details, may seem 
incompatible with the "kindly instincts 



1875.] 



QUALLA. 



5S3 



and morality" for which we gave their 
dictator credit. But the burglar may be 
a most affectionate son and brother ; the 
Greek brigands patter their paternosters 
at night devoutly before they put a bul- 
let through the heads of their captives 
who do not pay their ransom ; and the 
men who have made the name of Indian 
agents and commissioners synonymous 
with "thief" among us have been, no 
doubt, often church members and agree- 
able, genial fellows in their way. Tal- 
lalla perhaps furnished the key to the 
riddle to such conduct when he declared 
that "the negro was a domestic animal, 
and the Indian a savage animal, and 
that the man who dealt with them as 
human beings was a fool, and would 
reap his folly for his pains." The creed 
is an accepted one in this country. 

We penetrated Qualla on mules. It 
was a succession of ravines — well wa- 
tered, the soil rich and black with veg- 
etable mould — and of high wooded hills. 
Ten thousand acres, we were told, were 
under actual cultivation by the Indians, 
but J suspect the amount to be large- 
ly overstated. The old savage instinct 
prompted them to conceal their huts 
back in the densest thickets, avoiding 
sunny wholesome exposures : even the 
little cornfields were hidden in the heart 
of the forest. Without a guide we might 
have ridden for days through Oualla and 
fancied we were the first to penetrate an 
unbroken wilderness. 

We fouTid the men always at work, 
busily hoeing their corn, although they 
knew that the chances were that in a 
few weeks they would be driven from 
the land, left beggared in a world of 
which they knew nothing. The first hut 
we entered was a fair type of the ma- 
jority of them. There was but the one 
little room, without any window : the 
grass actually grew in the heaps of dirt 
on the floor. A stool, a bedstead with 
some straw on it, and an iron pot were 
the only plenishing. The man of the 
house, a young fellow of twenty, lay on 
the floor wrapped in a blanket, sick with 
some lingering fever : his wife sat on the 
stool staring drowsily into the fireplace, 
where a log smouldered on the hearth. 



while two or three dirty, naked children 
scrambled about her. Her hands and 
feet were finely shaped, as are those of 
most Indians: her coarse, glossy black 
hair hung straight down her back. She 
turned shy gentle eyes toward us, follow- 
ed by a frightened glance at the forest, 
as though she would have hid herself 
there if she could. It was not the terror 
of a savage animal, as Tallalla and his 
like rank her: she was a clean-minded, 
womanly woman — without ideas, prob- 
ably, but whose fault was that ? There 
was in her face, and in the face of every 
Indian but one whom we saw in Qualla, 
that heavy, hopeless sadness which be- 
longs to races to whom God has given 
a brain for which the world has as yet 
found no use ; the appeal of which is no 
less forcible because it intends no ap- 
peal. In the corner stood a blow-gun, 
the only weapon belonging to Oo-tlan- 
o'-teh, the sick man. It was a long hol- 
low pipe, out of which an arrow feathered 
with closely- wrapped thistle-down was 
blown with skill and force enough to 
bring down squirrels and birds from the 
highest trees. In the ashes was the wo- 
man's (Llan-zi's) sole household prop- 
erty, the pot in which she had mixed the 
corn and beans early in the morning, 
leaving them to simmer : when they were 
cooked the whole family would squat 
about the pot, eating with wooden ladles. 
As we turned to go Llan-zi conquered 
her terror enough to thrust forward her 
baby for admiration, with a shy proud 
smile. 

The majority of the huts which we 
discovered were as miserable as this, and 
their owners as poor and ignorant as 
Llan-zi and her husband : but the faces 
of these people, I am bound to confess, 
were of a far higher type than those of 
the same class of whites, American, Eng- 
lish or Irish, would have been in a like 
condition. They were neither vicious 
nor vulgar in a single instance. On the 
contrary, they were grave, thoughtful, 
self possessed : the vacancy in the face 
arose from lack of subjects for thought, 
not of the ability to think. We visited, 
however, several huts belonging to In- 
dians who could read and write in Cher- 



5S4 



QUALLA. 



[Nov. 



okee, and even that small degree of edu- 
cation told in 'clean floors and neat flan- 
nel dresses ; the iron pot and wooden 
spoons were still the table furniture, but 
a little shelf on the wall with half a 
dozen cups and saucers of white stone- 
ware, kept for show in beautiful glisten- 
ing condition, hinted at a latent eesthetic 
taste, just as plainly as would Indian cab- 
inets laden with priceless bric-a-brac else- 
where. Packed away in these huts were 
always dress-suits of cloth and bright 
woolen stuffs for state occasions, includ- 
ing always a high hat for the men and 
hoop-skirts for the women. 

We found Sowenosgeh, head-chief of 
the Cherokee nation, as he signed him- 
self, neither drunk nor meditating on the 
past glories of his race, according to our 
usual notions of a chief, but barefooted 
and clad in patched trousers, hard at 
work digging, as were his two sons. He 
was a short, powerfully-built old man, 
with a keen shrewd eye, which instantly 
measured his guests and held them at 
pi'oper distance from himself. The hut 
was very squalid, although Sowenosgeh 
had, we were told, laid by a comfortable 
sum in gold, having no trust in green- 
backs. His wife was the daughter of 
the great Yonaguska, the last of a long 
line of chiefs. She was nearly eighty, 
and very dirty, but her features were fine : 
her long white hair hung over her shoul- 
ders, and she carried herself about her 
work in the field with a majestic air of 
command which any sovereign in courts 
might envy. The consciousness of high 
birth tells, even in a mud hut. She 
brought seats, first for her husband and 
then for his guests, but none for me, 
I being only a woman, like herself. 
Commeneh, the chief's son, had been an 
officer in a company of Indians which 
was raised by a Captain Terrel and taken 
into the Confederate service. The old 
chief drilled the young men in the war- 
dance and the old savage religious rites 
before they left. They " fought with 
great bravery," Captain Terrel informed 
us; "but, although they were all nom- 
inally Christians, and although one hun- 
dred years certainly had passed since 
any of the tribe had engaged in warfare, 



they could not be restrained from scalp- 
ing the men they killed." 

The whole of the Qualla Indians are, 
in fact, nominally Christians. There are 
two little churches on their land built 
long ago by themselves. The preacher, 
Enola, or Black Fox, is, or was in former 
years, a member of the Baptist Associa- 
tion. But the same lethargy has crept 
over their religion as over the whole life 
of this forgotten people. The lichen- 
covered little church is open sometimes, 
and Enola talks to a few drowsy old men 
and women. But when they want divine 
interference in their family affairs, or 
would ensure rain or sunshine for their 
corn, they go not to God, but to the con- 
jurer Oosoweh. We tried in vain to 
find this highest power in the land. His 
hut was empty, and certain Indians who 
were busily at work hoeing his corn told 
us that he had gone to the mountains to 
bring a rain. He usually finds such a 
journey necessary at the busy seasons, 
and leaves his disciples to hoe or plough 
while he lies on his face on some moun- 
tain-height, with all the countries on earth 
marked out on the ground by pegs. As 
he pulls these pegs in and out the winds 
blow and the clouds move. The preach- 
er Enola, an intelligent old man of sixty, 
lives in a cabin which had a look of com- 
fort and home unknown to any other. 
There were a carpet, beds and crockery- 
ware, and a bookcase full of books in 
English and Cherokee : outside, a snug 
surrounding of beehives, piggery, ducks, 
etc. The old man, sharpening his saw 
at a grindstone by the brook, put the 
whole story of Qualla in a few sharp 
words. "My people," he said, "are like 
grown-up children. They have the bod- 
ies of men, but they know nothing : they 
have lived in Qualla since before the 
white men came to the country, and 
they have not made one quarrel. Be- 
cause they are peaceable they are for- 
gotten. All that they want of the white 
men is schools." 

Twice an attempt has been made by 
the State government to establish a school 
for them ; and in both instances the In- 
dians welcomed the teacher "as a hun- 
gry man wouldbread,"crossingthemoun- 



I875-] 



QUALLA. 



5S5 



tains from the most distant settlements in 
the two counties to bring their children 
and go to the school themselves. But 
the lonehness for the white man was 
more than any ordinary teacher could 
endure, and the schools were given up 
after a few months. The hint that there 
was a chance that teachers would be 
sent to them roused even the dullest 
of them to breathless eagerness. They 
crowded about my mule, asking a hun- 
dred questions, and explaining how little 
money it would take, and how hard they 
would study to " please the North." One 
old woman, over ninety years old, push- 
ed the others aside, and holding her 
grandchild before her by the shoulders 
spoke with such energy that the inter- 
preter could hardly follow her : " Tell 
her it is too late for me. But these chil- 
dren, are they to grow up like dogs ? 
But I don't want any lies. There were 
schools before, and I carried my chil- 
dren seven miles many times in winter, 
and found the door locked, and the teach- 
er gone to Webster for weeks. He went 
away just when we were beginning to 
learn, and never came back. I don't 
want the North to tell us any lies like 
that." 

The interpreter, Wilowisteh, a bright- 
faced lad of nineteen, the only man in 
Qualla who m.et us with a laugh, heard 
this talk of a teacher as though it were 
a matter of life and death to him. He 
is probably the most intelligent man 
in the nation — speaks English with 
tolerable fluency, and serves as a me- 
dium of communication between his peo- 
ple and the whites in all business of the 
■ tribe, trading, taking out licenses to mar- 
ry, etc. " Do you think we must always 
live /lerc," glancing about him at the 
wall of mountains, "and as we are?" 
When he received no answer he suggest- 
ed presently that a white teacher would 
not stay in Qualla, but that if one or two 
Indians could be taken North and trained 
as teachers, they could bring their people 
up "to be like the whites." 

"And you would be one of the two, 
Wilowisteh ?" one of the party said, 
laughingly. 

But the man did not laugh ; only look- 
VoL. XVI.— 37 



ed from one to the other with an eager- 
ness which, when one thinks of it, was a 
tragic thing enough. He ran alongside 
of the mules for miles, listening as we dis- 
cussed the question, his face clouding over 
when he could not follow our meaning. 

We dismissed him on the Soco River. 
He drew a canoe out from its hiding- 
place and stood in it, guiding it with a 
pole as it floated down the narrow stream 
between the high hills. 

" It is a pity the lad could not be taught 
and made a Christian," said Captain 

E . "Some rascally white man has 

brought whisky up to Qualla this sum- 
mer, and Wilowisteh has begun to drink, 
for the lack of something else to do." 

We saw Llan-zi again as we passed her 
hut. She had set out the pot of corn and 
beans, and these had been eaten. Now 
she had put the pot in the corner, and 
seated herself again to stare drowsily at 
the log in the smouldering ashes. What 
else had she to do ? To day, to-morrow, 
through all the )-ears to come ? She is 
a woman, with probably as strong a 
brain as any other, modest, with tender 
feeling and womanly religious impulses ; 
yet she is shut out from the world of 
knowledge and action — left to live like 
an animal. Her people are placable, in- 
dustrious, eager for knowledge — not sav- 
ages, but men living perforce like brutes. 

I honestly acknowledge that my mo- 
tive in writing this paper has been to ask 
the question, What can be done in the 
North for Llan-zi and her people ? I 
have tried to describe Qualla and the 
neighboring white population precisely 
as I saw them last summer, with the 
hope that I could make clear the dif- 
ficulties that hedge these poor Indians, 
and convey to others the pathetic appeal 
which they made to me. Since I began 
to write these pages (May, 1875) ^ have 
received news that the suit which was 
conducted in their behalf against Colonel 
Thomas and others by Major Marcus Er- 
win, an eminent lawyer of North Caro- 
lina and an earnest friend to the Indians, 
has been successful. Their undoubted 
title to the whole Qualla country has 
been established : fifteen thousand dol- 
lars have been appropriated to the sur- 



586 



CAMP-FIRE LYRICS. 



[Nov. 



vey of these lands by Congress, and the 
tribe has been taken under the direction 
of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. 
Major Erwin writes hopefully that it is 
reported schools will be established for 
them by the Commissioner, and prob- 
ably a model farm. 

We, who are more conversant with 
the management of Western Indians by 
government agents, shall not probably be 
so sanguine as to these speedy beneficial 
results as is the generous Carolinian. 
Government surveys of Indian lands are 
usually followed by white squatters and 
whisky much more promptly than by 
schools or model farms. 

Llan-zi in her hut and eager, shrewd 
Wilowisteh are ready for either. 

What can be done for them ? 

Every religious body in the country 
has sent teachers to the Western tribes, 
to the farthest Pacific coast, while this 
remnant of Cherokees has all the while 
been locked up in the hills of one of the 
oldest States, perishing in our very midst 
for lack of knowledge. When I re- 
member the outlay of millions by these 
churches for the spread of the gospel in 
foreign countries, I am sure that the cry 
of these few women next door to us will 
be heard, and that their children will not 
be left "to die like dogs." 

I am quite aware that money for the 



establishment of schools in Qualla could 
easily be raised : the difficulty lies in 
finding teachers with the proper quali- 
fications. No mere hireling worker would 
answer : there is needed zeal, the real 
missionary spirit, as well as knowledge. 
I hear every week of unmarried or child- 
less women, with both culture and mon- 
ey, whose sole complaint is that there is 
no standing-place in the world in which 
they can use their talents. Let me offer 
them, in all sincerity, the hut of Llan-zi, 
where she sits with her dirty children 
waiting beside the smouldering fire. The 
self-immolation of such work would be 
as complete, and the isolation greater 
than if they sacrificed their lives to the 
far-off pagans of Japan or India. No 
church, probably, would send them off 
with plaudits to their martyrdom, nor 
would they find any romance of ancient 
creeds or ancient story to gild the mud huts 
and clay paths by the narrow Soco Creek. 
But Americans (outside of Indian rings 
and government agents) are a very sin- 
cere and humane people, and I have great 
faith that some strong and kindly men 
and women, reading these pages, may 
suddenly perceive that these are their 
own kinsfolk needing their help, who 
have so long lived forgotten among the 
mountains of Qualla. 

Rebecca Harding Davis. ' 



CAMP-FIRE LYRICS. 

VII.— SOLITUDE. 

ALONE, alone ! no tread of man 
Has passed where now my footstep falls ; 
The caribou and bear alone 

Pace undisturbed these forest halls. 



Away from man, remote from trade, 

And all vile ways that win the dollar. 
How sweet is Nature's lonely mood ! 

Ah, what is this ? — a paper collar ! 

Edward Kearsley. 





FOR USE ONLY IN 
THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION