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Jul 26

Pre-History on the Byway

Posted on July 26, 2021 at 4:45 PM by Allison Duncan

The 1975 Comprehensive Development Plan efficiently dispatches a description of pre-history* in Douglas County. The original inhabitants of the area that is now Douglas County were the Cherokee and Creek Indians.  The earliest settlers began to migrate into this region in the 1820s from eastern Georgia or from Virginia and the Carolinas.  These people made a living by growing corn, wheat and barley, and raising cattle, hogs, chickens and sheep for home use or for trading locally.   The two Indian nations were removed by the government in 1840, leaving the white man to rule the region. 

We know that the story of the transition from native to European occupancy is far more nuanced.   But this statement book ends three relevant anecdotes that highlight this narrative of native pre-history and history in our study area.

1974 Paper of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference. Native American settlement along the Chattahoochee River is well documented. Referred to variously as Anawaki, Anawaqa, and Anneewakee, the excavations of a mound associated with the individual or tribe of the Anneewakee were presented at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC) in 1974.  This mound had been previously excavated, and then reevaluated in 1972 after the owner demolished a portion to use for fill dirt.  It was rumored to be a burial site of a native princess, though the suggestion of princesses among native people’s is likely a corruption of western traditions super-imposed on native societies.  The 1972 excavation did not identify any human remains, but did suggest that the site had been used early in the first century, and then fallen out of disuse, and then was re-used at a later date.  Whether the use of the site was ceremonial or for more mundane purposes is unclear.  But this underscores and idea of successive generations of native populations occupying this area.

1994 Prehistoric Archaeological Studies in the Dog River Valley. On the opposite end of the study boundary, we have the opportunity to learn more about the native populations.   As a result of legislation such as the National Historic Preservation Act (1966) and the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), compliance archaeology became routine when public funds were allocated toward infrastructure projects.  As its name implies, archaeological investigations were done to determine compliance with national policy designed to mitigate adverse impacts of major infrastructure projects. Twenty years after the paper was given at SEAC on the Anneewakee Mound, a document that describes the excavations for the Dog River Reservoir provided a more detailed picture of native communities in this area. Without any confusing mythology or incorrect cultural attributions, this document confirmed successive occupations of communities in this area between 2000 BC and 1500 AD. The domestic remains of houses, pottery, projectile points and trash middens were documented in the area that is now the Dog River Reservoir.  

Dog River Excavation 5

Dog River Excavation 4

Dog River Excavation 3

1999 Survey of the Abraham Owl Cabin. A series of treaties in the early 1800s resulted in the forced removed of native populations from this area by 1840.   Western contact with native populations in North America had become routine in the early years of the 1800s.   Some degree of cultural assimilation could be found through instances of inter-marriage, commercial trading, religious instruction and basic education.  Local history tells the story of the Owl brothers, who lived in a cabin on land acquired through the 1828 land lottery by an early settler in Douglas County.  According to the 1999 property record card from the county historic resource survey: The cabin of Abraham Owl, a Cherokee Indian, is said to have been constructed as early as the 1790s (more likely early 1800s).  Owl’s cabin was situated on 202 ½ acres of land acquired by Ephraim Pray following the 1828 Land Lottery. According to local accounts Pray allowed Owl to stay on the land.  Owl and Pray lived together until Owl’s death in 1834.  Owl died 4 years before the forced removal of the Cherokee from Georgia. The 1999 property record card for the Fouts Mill site identify that an earlier mill was operated on the site by the Owl brothers.  

Native American settlement in this area spanned a time prior to recorded history through a time where Native Americans lived among early settlers.  Seen in this light, it emphasizes the stewardship inherent in this planning process, and what it holds for future generations.

*For purposes of this post, “pre-history” refers to the time before written records, and contrasts with “history” which focuses on time periods for which there are written records.