Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Europeans in Tennessee Prior to 1796
Tennessee Timeline Before 1796
In the Summer of 1540 the Indian villages in the valley of the Tennessee River were ransacked by a strong mounted company of Spaniards from Florida. Before entering Tennessee, they had followed Hernando De Soto through what is now Georgia and the Carolinas, believing that somewhere in the vast reaches of the wilderness there would be treasure cities to plunder. From the Tennessee valley the Spaniards moved westward for almost a year. Many of them - including grim, iron- willed De Soto - had looted with Cortez in Mexico or Pizarro in Peru and, as a matter of course, they massacred the Indians and burned their villages when they failed to find gold. They followed bison trails and Indian trade-paths, wandering south at times into Alabama and Mississippi. In April 1541 the remnants of the party planted the flag of Spain on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and made camp near the present site of Memphis. After raiding Chickasaw villages nearby for food and mussel pearls, they crossed the river to continue searching for the will-o'-the-wisp gold they were never to find.
More than a century passed before there is record of another white man entering the territory. In 1673 a woods ranger named James Needham was commissioned by Abraham Wood, Virginia trader, to scout the possibility of trade with the Overhill Cherokee whose towns lay along the Little Tennessee and Tellico Rivers. Accompanied by Gabriel Arthur, an indentured servant, and several Indians from the Cherokee Lower Towns, Needham twice crossed the mountains into Tennessee. On the second trip he was killed by the Indians.
© History Chasers
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