The first humans in the area, as far as anyone can tell were Native Americans. Around the time that white man came the Americas the Cherokee or the tribe which most people know as the Cherokee, laid claim to the land now known as Greenville County. Cherokee, comes from a Creek word "Chelokee" meaning "people of a different speech." The Cherokee spoke a form of Iroquois which was very different from the one spoken by the actual Iroquois tribe, hence the name. Originally they called themselves Aniyunwiya (or Anniyaya) -"principal people." Usually they accept being called Cherokee, but many prefer Tsalagi which is their current name for the Cherokee Nation. The Greenville County area was considered very beautiful and rich by the Cherokee and was used primarily as a hunting ground. Most of the permanant Cherokee villages were situated in the lowcountry and in the interior mountains (the Appalachian). What follows is a brief timeline summary of the events which lead to the fall of the Cheroke Nation. This is important to the history of Greenville County because until the Cherokee gave up their claim to this area white settlers were supposed to keep out. Many tried to claim some of the land anyway and paid with their lives, more on that later.
Pre-1540 It was known that the Cherokee fought the coastal tribes of the Carolinas on and off. The region was relatively stable though.
1540 - First contact with white men in Tennessee.
1629 - English traders work their way west and meet Cherokee and establish continuous contact at same time as the founding of the Carolina colonies.
1673 - A Virginian tried unsuccessfully to maintain monopoly with Cherokee by traveling to their villages and meeting with the various leaders.
1674 - Rival Carolina traders meet with Cherokee along the upper Savannah River and a treaty followed in 1684 allowing a steady trade of pelts and Indian slaves. At this time the Cherokees power structure begins to shift from priests to hunter/warriors because of the growing power of the trades.
1680 - By this time most tribes have firearms and rivalries between neighboring tribes are aggravated. The the region becomes destabilized because of the competition for hunting, slaves and trading partners.
1689 - 1763 - The Cherokee who are increasingly dependent on British trade goods are drawn into the British wars with the Spanish and French.
1660 - The Cherokee allowed a large group of Shawnee, pushed down by the Iroquois, to settle in the territory as a buffer with the Catawba. The Shawnee settled just North of Greenville County. This move brough the Cherokee nothing but trouble. The Iroquois continued to hunt the Shawnee and included the Cherokee in the raids and attacks, because of the aid the Cherokee gave the Shawnee.
1692 - The Shawnee attacked and devastated a major Cherokee village in search of slaves to trade while the Cherokee hunter/warriors where out on a winter hunt.
1705 - NC was urging SC to curtail the trade in slaves because the Native American situation was becoming very angry, unstable and dangerous.
1706 - The British did not like all the fighting between their allies (Iroquois & Cherokee) so they arranged a treaty.
1708 - The Cherokee joined forces with the Catawba and Alibamu against the Mobile in southern Mississippi who were allied with the French.
1713 - 300 Cherokee also served with the South Carolina army against the Tuscarora.
1715 - Some of the lower Cherokee joined with the Yamasee during an uprising against the Carolinas, but it was a small amount and was not heald against the entire Cherokee Nation. .Peace resumed afterwards and Cherokee were given large quantities of Guns and ammunition for their earlier allegiance when they served with the SC army. .Peace collapsed with the Iroquois when they made demands in the name of the treaty in an attempt to dominate the Cherokee. Cherokee refused the demands and raiding started over.
1715 - Cherokee and Chickasaw joined forces to push out the Shawnee, having never forgotten their treachery in 1692.The Shawnee of the Cumberland Basin were dealt a major defeat. Unfortunately the fighting brought the Cherokee to the attention of the Algonquin and their allies the French who were located north of the Ohio River. Thereafter war parties were sent south to harass the Cherokee.
1721 - A treaty thought to be the first Land cession by the Cherokee regulated trade and established a boundary between the Cherokee and the British settlements. This boundary in present day exists as the northern boundary between Greenville County and Spartanburg County. Settlement of the Carolinas was rapily invading the lands of the Lower Cherokee east of the Appalachians. Cherokee were considering switching allegiance to the French because of these transgressions.
1738 - Cherokee experienced a smallpox epidemic which killed almost half their population.
1745 - A second Chickasaw alliance in 1745 forced the remaining Shawnee north across the Ohio River.
1750 - The continuing Chickasaw alliance succeeded in defeating the French-allied Choctaw.
1752-55 - The Cherokee and Creek were being forced into competition for smaller pieces of land which ended in a war with each other over land in North Georgia which they had previously shared. The battle of Taliwa was final and the Cherokee emerged as the victor.
1753 - Cherokee experienced a smallpox epidemic which again killed almost half their population. These epidemics were devastating to the Cherokee priests who could not cure them and therefore lost much of their influence. Despite these losses the Cherokee held their own in the French/Algonquin fights and the Iroquois raids.
1754 - The Cherokee signed a treaty with the British to re-assure them of the Cherokees loyalty and allowed the British to establish forts on Cherokee land to defend the colonies.
1758 - A new treaty was negotiated to cover up more incidents between the Cherokee and settlers. The British continued to mis-trust the Cherokee.
1759 - Relations between the British and Cherokee collapsed when 100 Cherokee who were accompanying a Virginian expedition against the Ohio Shawnee lost their provisions while crossing a river and were abandoned by their white "allies." The Cherokee took some of the expeditions horses in exchange for the shoody treatment. The Virginians attacked and killed 20 of the Cherokee, mutilating their bodies and scalping them. The Virginians also collected a bounty for the scalps.
While chiefs tried to arrange restitution Cherokee warriors launched a series of retaliatory raids on frontier settlements. South Carolinas Governor claimed the raid were because the Cherokee had switched sides to the French instead not because they were upset over the treatment of their fellows. The Governor raised an army of 1,100 man army and marched on the lower Cherokee settlements. The Cherokee were stunned and quickly surrendered turning over 29 chiefs as hostages, executing two warriors accused of murder. The British left, but the Cherokee were furious.
1760 - 62 - The Cherokee War exploded. Settlers were massacred at Long Canes and a militia unit was attacked and beaten near the Broad River. The Cherokee attacked Fort Prince, where the Cherokee hostages were being held and killed the forts commander. The new commander killed all the hostages and held off the attack. Lesser outposts were not as fortunate though and the war expanded beyond the Governors resources. He appealed to the British commander in North America (who despised Native Americans). The French were defeated so the whole Bristish army was available to bring against the Cherokee. In May they did just that. Under Montgomery 1,200 Highlanders and Royals were sent to the Carolinas. The war did not go well for the British who met with ambush and defeat when he attempted to push into Cherokee territory. Eventually Montgomery was replaced by Colonel James Grant. Grant ignored Cherokee attempts to make peace, enlisted the Catawba scouts and captured 15 middle Cherokee towns. Grant destroyed the Cherokees food supply. Facing starvation the Cherokee negotiated a peace with South Carolina in September which ceded most of their eastern lands in the Carolinas.
Thus the occupation of the Greenville County area by white settlers began in earnest.
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