I'm a writer and vintage junkie transplant from Baltimore to WV. Interests include Etsy, crafting, melmac dinnerware, and archaeology.
Tracking the Tuscarora in West Virginia
In Berkeley County West Virginia there are many streets, roads, high schools, parks and bodies of water named after the Tuscarora people. I moved here from Baltimore into a small community of under 300 folks, and you will never believe where this journey has led me.
The city of Martinsburg and the land which extends up Route 9 into small towns of Hedgesville and Berkeley Springs is rich in history of Native American culture. To understand the Tuscarora People that once lived here, I had to research their history back to North Carolina.
Tuscaroras Were Here , Once Many Years Ago
The Mighty Tuscarora Nation Circa 1600-1700 Were Eco Friendly People
During the 1600's the Tuscaroras were strong and indeed been a large tribe and early written accounts elude to some 25,000 strong in the regions from North Carolina to West Virginia. In West Virginia, there was a mix of many tribes, but for sake of this article we will be speaking of Tuscarora and Iroquois.
This does not count the thousands of populations from other tribes with whom they may have been allied with, or the numerous populations of others whom they were rivaled. Therefore, Native population was huge.
The land was undeveloped and rich with crops. Spring was plentiful with nuts, berries and vegetables gathered from the forest, usually carried in woven baskets, and in winters the whole village would move to the hunting grounds. Those who did encounter settlers during this time may have traded furs for axes or weapons.
The Tusaroras lived off the land and would be considered in our eyes eco-friendly people. They used everything they killed - take for instance a bison, they would use the hide for blankets, clothing, or to cover their long houses or wigwams, to the bones which would make beads or jewelry or ornamental decoration for their clothing. The bison was killed with great pride and most parts eaten or used in some manner.
They used stone tools to carve or make things and made everything they owned. In their eyes, the land was sacred and they would not destroy it.
They were very largely populated in North Carolina.
Medicine Pouch : Bison Tooth and Hemp Cord, Leather All Natural
Placemat Style Map Found in My Home circa 60's-70's
1700-1722 Tuscarora War , and Struggles in North Carolina
I had to start in North Carolina, and read how Baron Christoph von Graffrenreid (from Switzerland) and John Lawson (settlers / colonizers) who chose a Tuscarora property for building their new settlements. Back then the settlers wanted the land for their own, quick to cut down the forest for homes, look for gold and silver ore and dig up the lands. Suffice to say, the Natives did not understand this. The British colonizers did not always make payment as promised for the land, and in 1711, according to historical accounts, the Baron drove them off without payment. The Tuscarora explain in their own historical documents they would not act out unprovoked - and some accounts state they had the help of allied tribes to defend their own lands.
Lawson and Graffrenreid were captured and only the Baron was let go if an agreement was reached not to steal land without payment. The settled village of "Bath" was burned and over 200 people had been slaughtered including children. Enter the Tuscarora War which raged from September 22, 1711 until February 11, 1715 to keep the lands in North Carolina. According to a book by Douglas L. Rights, Chief Hancock, aka King Cotechney (Hancock's Town) South of the Pamlico River, this area of Neuse and New Bern was Tuscarora's stronghold.
This incident would give the settlers reason to call for help, which came from General Spotswood of Virginia (who presided from 1710-1722 and was from England) . Fast forward to the defeat in 1715 of the Tuscaroras with 950 Tuscaroras being captured and sold to slavery and more killed. (During the war, the Tuscarora were aligned with Iroquois and the settlers had aid of Cherokee and other rival tribes.) It was not uncommon for some Natives to fight along side the settlers, if they were in peaceful treaties with them; and especially gave them a chance to fight rival tribes.
The "Five Nations" of the Iroquois Confederacy accepted the Tuscarora people as the "Sixth Nation" circa 1712-1715 open invitation, (but did not give them voting rights) and they would migrate to New York to live peacefully with their own land and pacts finalized in 1722.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, In 1718, a treaty was presented to "King Tom Blount" granting the Tuscarora 56,000 acres, however the stipulations were they would be ruled by the colonizers. This led to a division of those who stayed, and many left. It was simply against their beliefs and ways and the land treaty would be reduced. I decided now to jump closer to home, to see what was happening in West Virginia.
West Virginia's Tuscaroras Once Were Living in My Backyard and Were Known To George Washington
1715 to Present Day French Indian War, West Virginia and George Washington
So I then decided to research about the West Virginia Tuscaroras, and so it seems after the Tuscarora War, many migrated to New York by way of trails which would take 90 years total for those who fled. Others would stay in the region in present day Berkeley and Morgan counties.
It is a known fact that George Washington had came to the area of West Virginia owned property in this region, especially the small town of Berkeley Springs, which is only a few miles from Hedgesville. To date they still have George Washington's natural spring Bathtub and possibly some branch of family members residing and many tourist attractions.
From 1754 to 1763. the French Indian war took place but many do not know there were Native Americans on both sides. The war took a toll on many indigenous people. What is a little known fact is that George Washington asked for the help of the Tuscarora tribes with an open letter to King Tom Blount of North Carolina, Captain Jack and the rest of the Tuscarora Chiefs.
In the summer of 1763 Shawnee Chief Keigh-tugh-qua, whose American name would be "Chief Cornstalk" led similar attacks on western Virginia settlements, all the way to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia of which the Tuscarora who remained, may have aligned.
During the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), there was much activity and during this time it seems the Tuscarora and allied tribes still kept a large presence in the panhandle area of West Virginia, where it meets Maryland and Pennsylvania. Sooner than later the rest of the tribe would migrate to protection, or inter-marry into the area.
Tracking Tuscarora led me to understand why they camped here, in my neighborhood, hunted, lived and camped possibly in my own backyard. There is even a road named "Chief Cornstalk" in honor and dedication to the people who once lived here.
Tuscarora Return to New Bern 300 Years Later
1722- Present in North Carolina Tuscarora Struggle for The Old Ways
After the French-Indian War many still stayed in North Carolina and did not flee to New York. Quite moving to me were the videos below from Eel Clan Elder, Rahkwees Keh Miller who speaks candidly with Lovell Pierce , who runs the Fire Walker Radio Channel.
The elder explains how he was raised by his grandmother many years ago. She taught him to maintain the old ways and how to harvest food during the seasons. Raised in the "Green Swamps" of North Carolina with no electricity and no running water. School was not a necessity nor was money - what was taught was to learn to embrace the old ways in heart and mind. He goes on to talk about how many indigenous people have gotten away from being one walking with the Creator.
As Lovell Pierce explained to me, facing so much turmoil back then many tribes inter-mingled or inter-married both for survival and for alliances into other tribes, which gets a bit confusing. There could be multiple tribal affiliations now among families and tracing back to the Tuscarora may prove time consuming and challenging...some even now married to Caucasian or African Americans just to survive. The paper trail can be confusing, as people's documents were changed to make them into something else and not always by choice. Many were forced to changed their "native" status to something else on paper, erasing their culture and history.
Furthermore, I read about in 1831 there was a deed extinguishing their rights to land in North Carolina; however many families remained into the area which now forms Robeson County.
Elder Tuscarora talks about Life in Green Swamps of North Carolina
More from the Tuscarora Elder
Ongoing Struggle to Be Recognized by North Carolina
To this date, the Tuscarora are still struggling to be state recognized in North Carolina. I fail to understand this fact due to so much documented history of the Tuscarora being so mighty and huge in the founding cities including New Bern however it seems they were themselves, erased on paper. I do wish the state would recognize them and honor their mighty fight to keep their land and heritage alive on the land in which their ancestors once lived. This, in my opinion, is an important part of North Carolina history.
Tuscarora Trail : Morgan County West Virginia
Spruce Pine Park in West Virgnia
Meanwhile in West Virginia, I was exploring and happened upon Spruce Pine Park. It's part of a Trailways system that leads to the Appalachian trail. One of the trails is named after the Tuscarora Indians.
Indian Burial Mound , Berkeley County West Virginia
Indian Burial Mound Found in My Community
All of this discovery led me to closely examine the map I found, which led to a discovery that there was an Indian Burial Mound in my community within walking distance from my home. Further proof generations upon generations of Indians were here.
Unfortunately the map indicates that the original mound was destroyed by the coal miners in the 40's who chose to make a coal road and partial excavation ensued. Items were removed and put on display at a restaurant that is no longer here. I wonder what happened to the artifacts. When the developer of my property found it, he immediately restored it and ceased building any further. It has even been the subject of geo-caching.
I am happy to report that the mound is now protected by the community, and my homeowners dues help to keep it safe. This mound indeed is in the area where the Tuscarora settled. An archaeologist friend said the mound could be thousands of years old, prior to the Tuscarora tribe dating back to the Adena people.
Discovery of the Indians in My Backyard
Which Led to this Indian Burial Mound
More Links on the Tuscarora
- Video Urges for Help in North Carolina
Interesting Public Video on Facebook put out by the Tuscarora Nation in North Carolina
- Tuscarora Nation of North Carolina
Official Site of the Tuscarora Nation in North Carolina
- The Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth
More information on the Six Nations
Autobiography of a Tuscarora Chief (Indian Defense League_
More Discoveries and Final Thoughts
My search to find local Tuscarora blood and descendants in West Virginia led me to the owner of Bear Spirit Mountain, an ancient archaeological site in West Virginia said to date back 16,000 years . This site pre-dates all tribes in general and would refer to the time of the Clovis Culture.
I often wonder why we are not focused on the ancestral civilizations of Native Americans , before the "tribes" of the past 300 years. Back when many people were "one" and not so rivaled.
I also wonder what would have happened if all indigenous peoples would have joined together as one divine tribe against the settlers. Would I be here to write this to you now?
Possibly not, but If I could turn back time I would hope for a better understanding of this eco-friendly people. We could have learned a lot, because in my opinion, we are leaving such a large footprint and ruining this earth.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer
Thank you for reading please leave a comment.
Zen on February 14, 2020:
Your presentation of American Indian history is well done. However there is a misdeed and spiritual injustice to the true identity of the Tuscarora people. The images shown in the article and the so-called chiefs represented in the videos I respectfully say are impostors, I don't care what stories the say have been pass to them, they are simply not the true people. America's biggest secret is, the african american you speak of is the true American Indian.Most of the images like yours by intention have been white washed. Here is the
1828 American Webster Dictionary definition of American, AMER'ICAN, adjective Pertaining to America.
AMER'ICAN, noun A native of America; originally applied to the aboriginals, or copper-colored races, found here by the Europeans; but now applied to the descendants of Europeans born in America.
You see to steal the land Europeans had to convince and portray in history that the ones he enslaved came from somewhere else. The Indian in fact became the negro, then colored or black, then african american. All titles given by the Europeans to lose the true identity of the Indian. To the writer of the post,you seem to be a person standing for truth in history and a heart for the Indian, so please research deeper to confirm that information which I have presented. GOOGLE/PINTEREST black american Indian, there's enough information, books and photos. The descendants of the Tuscaroras, Cherokee, Seminole,Iroquois and any other american indian tribe is in fact that so-call black child running around people see everyday. I'm just doing whats right. Zen