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Cherokee Placenames in North Georgia
About North Georgia

Amicalola Falls
Introduction

Think of three places in North Georgia that have Cherokee names. It might not be as easy as you imagine. For nearly 400 years the Cherokee had a presence in North Georgia, so only seems natural that a number of the names within the area are of Cherokee origin. However, before the Cherokee most of the land was controlled by the Creek or Mississippian Moundbuilders. As you will find out, some of the names you might think of as being Cherokee actually pre-date the Cherokee.

Famous Cherokee Names

Amicalola Falls is directly from the Cherokee language, and it means "tumbling waters." The meaning was told to William Williamson, the Georgia surveyor who visited the falls in 1832. Another major waterfall, Tallulah Falls, also gets its name from the Cherokee, but it is a historic name whose meaning has been lost to time.

Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi
North of Dahlonega on US 129 is Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi. The area today is known as Neel's Gap, renamed from Frogtown Gap in 1946 to honor the engineer who built US 129. The Cherokee believed that a giant frog ("Walasi") that inhabited the mountains lived in the gap. Yi is the Cherokee word for place. Frogtown was a Cherokee village below Mountain Crossings named in honor of the great frog. Frogtown Gap was named in honor of the Cherokee village. Frogtown Creek, which runs on the west side of US 129 is the creek that runs through Desoto Falls. Dahlonega itself, or one of its derivatives such as Talona or Taloney, is also a Cherokee placename commonly translated as "gold" but more likely meaning "of a golden color."

Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highpoint, is also based on the original Cherokee work for the rise on Wolfpen Ridge. The name "Brasstown" comes from settler's confusion over the Cherokee itse-yi ("Place of fresh green") and untsaiyi ("brass"). The Cherokee called the mountain "Enotah." A nearby lodging facility is known as Enota Mountain Retreat.

Not of Cherokee Origin

Some names are attributed to the Cherokee, but there origin and meaning have been obscured with time. Allatoona, once the name of a city in northwest Georgia, is now a lake on I-75 near Cartersville. Toona or Toonigh was a common Cherokee name, but the meaning of Allatoona has been lost to time and may not be Cherokee at all. Another example is Armuchee, probably a Creek or Choctaw word, but the sound is similar to the Cherokee word for a dried corn mash normally consumed when traveling.

Many people think the Chattahoochee River is a Cherokee name. It is of Creek derivation and means "River of Painted Rock." The Cherokee called Georgia's mother water the Soque, which was the name of a Cherokee town near the headwaters. The Chickamauga were a band of Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw Indians engaged in a series of violent wars with England and later the United States. Two creeks bear the name Chickamauga, but the common translation, River of Death, is probably fiction and the name is almost certainly not Cherokee.

Etowah, as in the Etowah River, is probably Creek in origin. It was their word for city.

Unlikely Cherokee Names

You might night think that Dark Corner or Sope Creek were not Cherokee in origin, but they are. "Chief Sope" or "Old Sope" was a Cherokee who lived alone near the creek that bears his name that flows into the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County. Kids from nearby farms would visit with Old Sope, who taught them the ways of the Cherokee. When the Georgia Guard came to get him during the Cherokee Removal, local settlers, including ferry owner James Powers, defended the Indian and the guard was forced to leave without Old Sope.

Dark Corner is a little more complicated. Before the American Revolution the French controlled the land west of the Proclamation Line of 1763. Many of the Cherokee and French intermarried and there was a heavy French influence on given names, for example, Jolly, a French surname is a common Cherokee surname. The same is true with Dark, an Anglicized version of the French surname D'arc (Jean D'Arc). A mixed blood Cherokee named Dark lived a few miles from present-day Douglasville and gave his name to the town. Note that there are actually 3 places in Georgia named Dark Corner.

Vickory Creek, also known as Big Creek in some places, was the name of a Cherokee woman who owned the land at the headwaters of the creek.

Our Favorite Cherokee Names

Hiawassee, the county seat of Towns County, meant open grassland in Cherokee. Aska, now a road name in Fannin County meant "winter home." This was the lower elevation village that mountain farmers came to for the winter. Ellijay means "green place" and is known to have existed before the state of Georgia. Explorer William Bartram spelled it Allagae.

Euharlee, a city in Bartow County, means "She who runs laughing," although it may be of Creek origin. Fightingtown comes from Unulsti-yi, where the war council would meet. Nachoochee and Sautee are sections along the Chattahoochee River south of Helen. Nachoochee means "evening star" and Sautee was a Cherokee village in the valley.

In Cherokee County is an area known as Sixes. The Cherokee called the area Sutalee, the Cherokee word for six. Suwannee, a city in Gwinnett County, comes from the Cherokee word for echo. Talking Rock, in Pickens County, probably comes from the original Cherokee town name which translated to "talker." Tesnatee Gap, joining Union County and White County, comes from the Cherokee word for wild turkey.


About North Georgia Feature Articles
General articles about North Georgia
American Indians of Georgia
Moundbuilders, Creek and Cherokee all called North Georgia home
Cherokee Indians
Explore the life of the Cherokee Indians in their "Enchanted Land"

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American Revolution
Amicalola Falls
Brasstown Bald
Chattahoochee River
Cherokee County
Cobb County
Dahlonega
Desoto Falls
Enota Mountain Retreat
Fannin County
Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi
Pickens County
Proclamation Line of 1763
Sope Creek
William Bartram

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