THE TREATY OF SYCAMORE SHOALS- A
'DARK AND BLOODY' TREATY
Treaty of Sycamore Shoals: Transylvania Purchase March 17, 1775, Richard Henderson and eight other persons, organized as the Transylvania Company, concluded an illegal treaty with the Cherokees, at Sycamore Shoals, on the Watauga. This land cession isolated the Nation from the Ohio Valley and the rich hunting and agricultural lands of Kentucky.
Like many lawyers today, Henderson and his confederates went ahead with their plans to meet the Cherokees in council for the purpose of completing the transaction already agreed upon with the chiefs, by securing ratification of the agreement by the Great Council of the Cherokees and by delivery of the trade goods in payment. This in spite of the proclamations of Royal Governors Dunmore of Virginia and Martin of North Carolina -- declaring the transaction illegal and contrary to English law in February and March 1775. On the 4th of November, 1778 the Virginia House of Delegates declared the Transylvania Purchase void.
By April 1775 the Transylvania Colony had established Fort Boone on Otter Creek, near present day Lexington Kentucky, just below the Kentucky River and soon Fort Boonesborough was built across a lick from Fort Boone. An interesting note, Daniel Boone died and was buried in Missouri. However, because of Fort Boonesborough's tourism interests, he was disinterred and reinterred at Lexington Kentucky.
For merchandise to the amount of $50,000 they purchased all the lands lying between the Kentucky, Ohio, and Cumberland rivers, and extending eastward along the bank of the Holston to the point where it intersects the Virginia line; thence westwardly along that line to the western boundary of the Lochabar Purchase, and north along that boundary to its intersection with Powell Mountain. The treaty embraced two deeds known as the "Path Deed" and the "Great Grant." The main portion lay in Kentucky, a small portion in Virginia, and a portion in Tennessee. The lands acquired by the Transylvania Company stretched from the Kentucky River south to the Cumberland River, a territory encompassing the greater part of the present State of Kentucky plus a size able strip of the present State of Tennessee reaching as far south as Nashville. This was the Great Grant.
As to the Chickamaugans who were the rightful holders of this land, this was a matter of high treachery and deceit on Henderson and his abettor's part. Over 1200 Chickamaugans, half of them men, had gathered to witness their leaders' participation in a Great Council with the representatives of the Transylvania Company and to decide whether or not they would give their approval to the land transaction. The Transylvania Company conspirators falsely represented themselves as representatives of the British government.
The principal representatives of the Cherokee Nation at this Council were: Atta-Kulla-Kulla, The Little Carpenter, so called because of his skill in putting together agreements and compromises; Oconistoto, Dragging Canoe, and Savanooko-Coronob, The Raven. Atta kulla kulla was a peace chief and Oconostota a red chief. Dragging Canoe (Tsiyugunini) cautioned his father, Atta Kulla Kulla, his uncle, Oconostota, and the other older chiefs present that this land cession, ultimately pave the way for the extinction of their people.
When he found he could not sway the opinion of father or uncle, he told Henderson the area he purchased is a "dark and bloody ground" As to Savanoko-Coronob or the Raven; The Raven was a title, not just a name. It referred to the area War Chief which in this case was Tsal Su Ska or Doublehead. Like his brother Tsiyugunini he vehemently opposed the treaty and also stormed out of the council.
So who signed for Doublehead? Obviously, someone with loyalty to the Transylvania Company. Chickamaugan custom was that any such decision must be done by unanimous consent of all 'chiefs'.With the opposition of Tsal Su Ska and Tsiyugunini the land could not be sold according to Chickamaugan law. Further, such treachery by and Chickamaugan leader would be met by death under the 'blood law'. Therefore, it is unlikely that any of the marks were made by Chickamaugans.
Tsiyugunini began by describing the extent and affluence which the Cherokee Nation had once enjoyed. He spoke of the coming of the white man and of his encroachment on the land of the Indians compelling them to move from the home of their ancestors as a result of the never-ending greed of the white people for more land. He voiced the hope of the Indians that the whites would not expand beyond the mountains, but would be satisfied with the lands to the east. That hope had now vanished, he said. The whites had passed beyond the mountains and had occupied Cherokee land and now wished to have their trespasses legalized by the confirmation of a treaty.
Chief Dragging Canoe continued that, "should the occupation be legalized by a treaty, the same spirit of encroachment would only lead the whites to occupy other lands of the Cherokees, new concessions would be demanded and, finally, all of the country which the Cherokees and their forefathers had owned and lived in so long would be demanded of them, and the small remnant remaining of this once great and formidable nation would be compelled to seek homes in some far distant wilderness." Pressing the situation further, Dragging Canoe said that "even in such a remote retreat they could dwell only a short time before the advance of the white man who, being unable to designate a further retreat for the remnant of the Cherokees, would demand the extinction of the entire race." (How true this prophecy.) Thomas Jefferson
Chief Oconistoto (Dragging Canoe) closed his oration with a strong plea to his people to resist any further encroachment of their territory by the whites, regardless of the consequences. Chief Dragging Canoe, in a burst of anger and frustration, told the representatives of the Transylvania Company that they had made a noble bargain, but their new land would become a "dark and bloody ground." Both Chief Dragging Canoe and Chief Raven (Doublehead), principal representatives of the Cherokee Nation, voiced their opposition strongly, but without success.
The continued display of the trade goods, coupled with the skillful contacts made by the employees of the Transylvania Company, such as Daniel Boone, turned the tide and over 1200 Cherokees present agreed to the signing of the Great Grant. It should be noted that the tradition of the Nation required a unanimous consent of all Chiefs before any treaty could be made. The 1200 Cherokees noted as being in attendance consisted of mostly half breeds and frontiersmen and not the Chiefs who could approve such a deed. So, the Great Grant was not legal by Cherokee law, even if the three Chiefs who are said to have signed it did.
The purchase of the Transylvania Company served to extinguish the claims of the Cherokees, but gave rise to a long series of bitter controversies with the authorities of Virginia and North Carolina, and in Congress and the Federal courts. Finally the matter was compromised and Virginia granted the Transylvania Company 200,000 acres of land as compensation for the release of the company's claims.
March 17-18, 1775 The Path Deed
Their greed for land still not satisfied, the Transylvania Company made yet another request to the Council. Between the lands already owned by Virginia and the lands covered by the transaction just completed, was a strip of land which still belonged to the Cherokees. Colonel Henderson told the Council that, "I do not love to walk on your land, and I still have a quantity of trade goods which they had not yet seen." For these trade goods, he wished to make an additional purchase of all of the lands lying down the Holston River and between the Watauga purchase and the land they had just agreed to sell to the Transylvania Company. This tract he called the Path and the deed he desired was referred to as the Path Deed.
One of the white visitors to the Council was John Carter, to whom the Cherokees owed between 600 and 700 English pounds. He felt the prospect of payment by the Cherokees was remote. Carter offered to buy from the Cherokees the tract of land for which he would pay them by canceling this debt and furnishing additional trade goods. After some consultation, this offer was refused by the Council. Colonel Henderson then came forward and in his persuasive legal manner offered to destroy the Carter account books containing the signatures of the Cherokees, to give them the goods Carter had offered, and to supply additional trade goods in return for a deed to the pathway. This offer was accepted by the Council, and a deed drawn to cover it, which has, since that time, been known as the Path Deed.
The Watauga Purchases
During the conference at Sycamore Shoals, in March, 1775, the Cherokees made a deed to John Carter and Robert Lucas, conveying lands extending from Cloud's Creek to Chimney Top Mountain, and embracing Carter's Valley, in compensation for the robbery of Parker and Carter's Store by Cherokee Indians, and in further consideration of the payment of a sum of money. Two days later, March 19, a deed was. made conveying in fee simple to Charles Robertson, as trustee for the Watauga Association, the lands on Watauga, which had heretofore been leased, in consideration of "the sum of 2,000, lawful money of Great Britain, in hand paid." This deed is recorded in the register's office of Washington County, Tenn., and prescribes the boundaries of the purchase. It was signed by the following Cherokee chiefs on behalf of the Cherokee nation, viz.: Oconostota, Attacullecully, Tennessy-Warrior, Willinawaugh.
March 25, 1775, two deeds were executed by the Cherokees to Jacob Brown in consideration of 10 shillings. One deed conveyed to him the tract which he had previously leased, and the other deed conveyed an additional tract, known as Brown's Second Purchase.