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John Sevier, Tennessee's first governor, in response to a request written to him in 1810 by a researcher into the history of Louisiana, wrote the following.
Knoxville, 9 October, 1810
* Your letter of Aug.30 th. is before me. With respect to the information you have requested, I shall with pleasure give you so far as my own memory will now serve me; and also aided by a memorandum taken on the subject, of a nation of people called the Welsh Indians. In the year 1782 I was on a campaign against some part of the Cherokees; during the route I had discovered trace of very ancient tho' regular fortifications. Some short time after the expedition I had an occasion to enter into a negotiation with the Cherokee Chiefs for the purpose of exchanging prisoners. Mter the exchange had been settled, I took an opportunity of enquiring of a venerable old chief called Oconostota, who then and had been for nearly sixty years the niling chief of the Cherokee Nation, if he could inform me what people it had been which had left such signs of Fortifications in their Country and in PreColumbian Explorer Sites in the Southeast particular the one on the bank of Highwassee River. The old chief immediately informed me: "It was handed down by the Forefathers that the works had been made by the white people who had formerly inhabited the Country, and at the same time the Cherokees resided low down in the country now called South Carolina; that a war had existed between the two nations for several years. At length it was discovered that the whites were making a number of large Boats which induced the Cherokees to suppose they were about to Descend the Tennessee River. They then assembled their whole band of warriors and took the shortest and most convenient route to the Muscle Shoals in order to intercept them on their passage down the river. In a few days the Boats hove in sight. A warm combat ensued with various success for several days. At length the whites proposed to the Indians that they would exchange prisoners and cease hostilities, they would leave the Country and never more return, which was acceded to; and after the exchange parted friendly. That the whites then descended the Tennessee down to the Ohio, thence down to the big river (the Mississippi) then they ascended it up to the Muddy River (the Missouri) and thence up that river for a great distance. That they were then on some of its branches, but, says he, they are no more a white people; they are now all become Indians, and look like the other red people of the Country."
I then asked him if he had ever heard any of his ancestors saying what nation of people these whites belonged to. He answered: "He had heard his Grandfather and Father say they were a people called Welsh; that they had crossed the Great Water and landed first near the mouth of the Alabama River near Mobile and had been drove up to the heads of the waters until they had arrived at Highwassee River by the Mexican Indians who bad been drove out of their own Country by the Spaniards."
Many years ago I happened in company with a French-man, who had lived with the Cherokees and said he had formerly been high up the Missouri. He informed me he had traded with the Welsh tribe; that they certainly spoke much of the Welsh dialect, and tho' their customs was savage and wild yet many of them, particularly the females, were very fair and white, and frequently told him that they had sprung from a white nation of people. He also stated that some small scraps of old books remained among them, but in such tattered and destructive order that nothing intelligent remained in the pieces or scraps left. He observed, their settlement was in an obscure quarter on a branch of the Missouri running through a bed of lofty mountains. His name has escaped my memory.
The chief Oconostota informed me: "An old woman in his nation called Peg had some part of an old book given her by an Indian who had lived high up the Missouri, and thought it was one of the Welsh tribe." Before I had an opportunity of seeing it, her house and all the contents burnt. I have seen persons who had seen parts of a very old and disfigured book with this old Indian woman, but neither of them could make any discovery of what language it was printed in (neither of them understood languages, but a small smattering of English).
I have thus, Sir, communicated and detailed the particulars of your request, so far as I have any information on the subject, and wish it were more comprehensive than you will find it written.
Related link : [ Mandan indian tribe and the Welsh prince Madog Owain ]
Governor John Sevier fought with Reese, William and John Bowen at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
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