Indian Mound Trail

by Bruce Whitaker

I always find that the earliest accounts of any history are also the most accurate. When I first became interested in local history, I tried to locate the oldest people I could find. People born in the 1870s knew a lot more than those born in the 1880s, and so on. By the time I reached people born after 1915, they didn’t know a darn thing about nothing. This means I believe the stories the Cherokee told about their history in the 1600s and 1700s.

When they migrated to WNC, they conquered another tribe of Native Americans living in the area. The Cherokee said that mounds already existed in the area. They did not know who built them, and neither did the tribe they displaced.

Going east on Old Fort Road, just past a series of sharp curves, the road straightens out. The first left is Log Gap Road, and the next left is Rocky Fork Road. The tribe conquered by the Cherokee had a village here. The mound is on the south side of the road.

The Pinkerton family has owned this land for a long time. In the 1800s and early 1900s, the family planted potatoes on the mound. Carrie Chatham Jenkins and her sister Carmie Chatham Guffey, as well as Elsie Pinkerton Trantham, told me that many arrowheads and other artifacts were found every time the mound was plowed for planting. John Pinkerton’s great-great-granddaughter built a house on top of the mound around 20 years ago. The field across the road between Log Gap and Rocky Fork still yields some arrowheads when plowed. It’s been plowed every year for more than 200 years, so there are fewer found today.

This area often floods. During the 1916 flood, Rocky Fork Creek grew to 500 feet wide. Cane Creek reached the top step of Alfred Pinkerton’s house, which is still standing on the northside of Old Fort Road across from the fire station. If we have another flood like that, the firefighters will have to run for their lives, as the roof of the station would be the only thing that might be showing. This is why the Pinkerton heir built her house on top of the mound.

Possibly sometime in the 1600s or 1700s, the Cherokees attacked the village near Indian Mound Trail. The Cherokee killed most of the adult men and took the younger women and children and absorbed them into their tribe. Eastern Fairview is on the eastern edge of the Cherokee boundary. The Cherokee were seldom in this area. If they were traveling east, they were likely to go through Swannanoa and down the mountain. If they came through Fairview, they would have likely gone over Hickory Nut Gap.

The handful of people who survived the Cherokee attack moved to what white settlers called Indian Rock or Indian House. If you go up Log Gap Road in the fall or winter and look to the left, you will be able to see a long rock cliff, probably around 500 feet long and 50 feet high. It is just south of Flat Top Mountain Road in an area that locals call the “Big Stand.” It is hard to see and get to—and only by foot. The property owners do not want you going there, either. This is where the survivors lived.

I was only there once, when I was around 12 to 14 years old. There is a thin ledge, maybe three or four inches wide, that runs from the left side of the cliff to a cave, which is about two-thirds of the way up from the bottom of the cliff. To get to the cave, you have to scoot along that thin ledge with your back against the cliff. My father and cousins went out onto the ledge and looked in the cave, but not me—I am scared to death of heights. I was afraid to just watch them.

The survivors had food and water stored in the cave. And they were well protected because of the entrance along that narrow ledge. The Cherokee would have to come slowly one by one. They would be defenseless against thrown rocks, arrows and blows from long sticks. The Cherokee might have been able to take them with a long siege, but it wasn’t worth the trouble because there were so few of them and they lived at the edge of Cherokee land. They apparently survived until European settlers moved close enough to Fairview to have contact with them. What happened after that is anyone’s guess.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents Fairview area genealogy. Contact the Crier at [email protected] or 828-771-6983 (call/text).

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