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Have you ever wondered about your property’s history?

Have you ever wondered about your property’s history?  Not just the title search information from when you bought it, but going way, way back, as far as you can go? It has always fascinated me to imagine who was here before us; did anything historically important happen, or was it just a plot of ground occasionally tread over by ancient hunter-gatherers making their way to somewhere else?

My maternal grandfather grew up in Gastonia.  The family lived on Modena Street.  He told me about finding lots of arrowheads and points lying on the ground where he played as a child. I would love to be able to find those, or any artifact for that matter.  So, I’ve done some research and found that most sources agree this immediate area was inhabited by the Catawba tribe.  

Interestingly, the now-busy intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets in downtown Charlotte was originally a crossing of two Native American trading routes.  Until the mid-1700s, our greater area was populated with Cherokee, Cheraw, Waxhaw, some Iroquois, and Lenape tribes. Tribal battles somewhat reduced the population from the numbers Hernando de Soto reported in 1540, but smallpox outbreaks in 1741 and again in 1759 nearly wiped out the entire population. Those few who survived are believed to have either moved into South Carolina or assimilated with other local tribes.  

In the mid-1600s, Virginia’s governor, Sir William Berkeley commissioned several expeditions into our area.  As a tobacco planter by trade, his interests were in searching for suitable locations to create a more diversified economy for the colony (which included Jamestown) rather than one reliant solely on tobacco. His efforts paid off and he was soon exporting flax, fruits, rice, spirits, and silk to the Old World and other colonies through a wide network of fleet merchants.  He also believed he could greatly increase wealth in the colonies by finding a passage through the Allegheny Mountains to the Pacific.  He just needed to find the right person to go into the great unknown and live to tell about it.  A young German-born physician and explorer named John Lederer (1644 – c. 1671) accepted the governor’s appointment.  In 1669 he set out on his first of three explorations of our area.  His treatises are fascinating – detailed descriptions of the landscape densely covered with trees; the team’s slow progress due to heavy undergrowth so thick it must be hacked away to take another step.  Here’s a sample from his account of the first expedition:

“The fourteenth of March, from the top of an eminent hill, I first descried the Apalataean Mountains, bearing due West to the place I stood upon… my Indian fellow travellers prostrating themselves in adoration, howled out after a barbarous manner, Okéepoeze, (i.e., God is nigh).

The fifteenth of March, not far from this hill, passing over the South-branch of Rappahanock-river, I was almost swallowed in a quicksand. Great herds of Red and Fallow Deer I daily saw feeding; and on the hillsides, bears crashing mast like swine. Small leopards I have seen in the woods, but never any lions, though their skins are much worn by Indians. The wolves in these parts are so ravenous, that I often in the night feared my horse would be devoured by them, they would gather up and howl so close round about him, though tether’d to the same tree at whose foot I myself and the Indians lay: but the fires which we made, I suppose, scared them from worrying us all. Beaver and otter I met with at every river that I passed; and the woods are full of Grey Foxes.”

Can you imagine quicksand being a problem when taking a walk?  How about encountering bears every day, or going to sleep at night with a heightened alertness to the presence of wolves?  These incredible people were the toughest of the tough, right?

We are so blessed to be here – beautiful green pastures, the Smoky Mountains, and the wide, sandy beaches. We also get to share our home with native peoples who in turn, happily share their language, culture, and ways with us. But for their ancient ancestors (and I mean ancient – c. 8,000 – 1,000 B.C., likely even older) choosing North Carolina as their place to dwell and thrive, we wouldn’t have such a rich heritage and solid connection to this special place which we can pass along to future generations.

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Stott, Hollowell, Windham & Stancil, PLLC

Stott, Hollowell, Windham & Stancil, PLLC offers legal knowledge and experience spanning over 40 years to provide quality legal services to the greater Gaston and Charlotte regions.

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