Lesson Two: Cherokee Towns

Lesson Two

The Overhill, Valley, Middle, Lower and Out Towns of the Cherokees


 Before there were roads, there were only trails. Native America had developed a network of trails that connected Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico; the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Cherokee Nation was divided into clusters of towns that were separated by mountain ranges. The Overhill towns on the Tennessee River just south of Knoxville were connected by trails with the Valley Towns near Murphy, which connected with the Middle Towns near Franklin and Bryson City.

The Lower Towns lay between Charles Town, South Carolina, and the Middle Towns. Trails radiated out in every direction, connecting all the towns and linking into a vast, continental Indian trail system.

Abandoned segments meander though fields and forests, and loops that followed the natural contours of the land can be found veering off of paved highways. Modern towns grew up on many of the original Cherokee town sites. Cherokee towns were clustered in different regions and they were grouped by the British traders and the Board of Trade that licensed and regulated them. The most remote division of Cherokee settlements was the Overhill Towns which were about 350 miles from the port town of Charles Town.

The Overhill Towns were located on the Little Tennessee River in the modern state of Tennessee. The capital town of Chota was among them. These towns were separated from the Valley Towns by the Unicoi Mountains. William Gerard De Brahm wrote:  “…over the Appalachian Mountains, to build the Fort; afterwards called Loudon, upon Tanessee and near Talequo Rivers…372 miles in straight Line, but by the common Road 450 miles from Charles Town.”[1]

The Valley Towns were located between modern Andrews, Murphy and Hayesville, North Carolina, but included some outlying towns such as the Snowbird communities, Cheoah Town, Tulula Town, Buffalo Town, and Stecoah Town near Robbinsville, North Carolina.

The Middle Towns lay between Clayton, Georgia, and Franklin to Almond, North Carolina along the upper Little Tennessee River. Nikwasi and Echoy, two important Middle Towns, were about 300 miles from Charles Town.

The Out Towns were located on the Tuckasegee and Oconaluftee Rivers and included the sacred Mother Town of Kituhwa or Kituwah.

The Lower Towns were located primarily in upstate South Carolina and northeast Georgia. There were no mountain barriers to protect them from the British and American military and after being destroyed in two wars, were finally abandoned during the Revolutionary War. The surviving Cherokee people of the Lower Towns fled and relocated deeper in the Cherokee Mountains.





[1] John William Gerard de Brahm, letter page 30,