Indian Villages of Harnett County
STORY OF THE QUILT SQUARE, INDIAN VILLAGES OF HARNETT COUNTY,
BY CREATIVE EXTENSION QUILT, 1989
Indian Villages of Harnett County
the beginning was the land. A land of rolling hills and fertile bottoms
covered with forests of long leaf pine for the most part. There were
also mighty oaks, tall poplars, massive elms, beaches and walnut trees.
White boled sycamores were outlined against the green of the other
this great forest ran scores of streams, emptying their waters into a
great river which snaked its tawny way from northwest to southwest
across the county. It was a beautiful land.
the shade of the enveloping treetops herds of deer and occasional
buffalo grazed. This kept down the undergrowth so that a man riding
freely on horseback could see as far as two hundred yards in all
were other animals. Wolf and beaver predominated but there was plenty of
muskrat, raccoon, opossum, bear, rabbit, squirrel and wildcat.
the trees, birds of many kinds sang, twittered or remained silent,
according to their nature. At certain times the sky would be darkened by
migrating clouds of passenger pigeons, ducks and geese.
were also Indians.
had made and marked trails through this country -mostly along the routes
of grazing animals, which they hunted for food and raiment.
were here when the Legion of Restless men and the following hordes of
permanent settlers came along those same paths and up the muddy Cape
mention of them occurs in a patent for 320 acres of land issued to Peter
Parker, Jr., in 1746. The beginning corner was on, the, "southside
of a Great Creek at a place where the Indians lately felled a bear
must have been a wondrous sight! .A frightened bear climbing desperately
to the trunk while the Indians hacked enthusiastically at it with their
Great Creek is now Parker's Creek which empties into the Cape Fear just
below the Chatham-Harnett line.
early land grants in the same area call for corners. "at a pile of
stones supposed to be Indian graves.”
a matter of fact, there were Indians in the vicinity as late as the time
of the War Between -the States. From what pitiful little we know about
them, we suppose they were Members of the Tuscarora Nation.
1774, John Ray patented 100 acres, "joining John McLean on Upper
Little River known by the name of the Indian Graves land." Ray and
McLean later had considerable litigation over this patent.
particular graves were once a mound, roughly circular with diameter of
about forty feet and as high as a man's head. Cultivation over a period
of 180 years has reduced the ground to a mere ridge in the surrounding
terrain. It is located near the mouth of Indian Branch some five miles
from Lillington. From the size of the mound and the prevalence of Indian
artifacts in the area, it was evidently used by the Indians as a town
site over a period of many years.
in Eastern Harnett on the plateau between Juniper Creek and Stewart's
Creek another Indian settlement was located. Highway 15A cuts right
through the center of its burial mound.
are other sites of Indian Villages in Harnett County. The best known is
in Western Harnett, four miles beyond Cameron Hill on the road leading
to Cameron. It is a burial mound, but it doesn't now mark the locations
of an Indian Village. Rather, it designates the spot where over a
hundred Indians from Drowning Creek were slain the Day the Birds Quit
massacre probably occurred a few years prior to the coming of the first
white settlers for they became familiar with the story of what happened
on that day. Down the years has come the interesting tale of the hunting
party of Drowning Creek warriors striding along parallel with a
huckleberry bog which marked the head of one of the prongs of Cypress
Indians who lived along the Cape Fear and its tributaries in Harnett had
warned these Drowning Creekers to stay out of that particular area- it
was THEIR hunting ,ground.
the Indians from Drowning Creek would have heeded the warning. But in
this year a drought had dried up their country. Food was scarce for the
deer and moved away to better grazing grounds. Anyway, the deer meat
from the Sandhills had a better flavor. Besides, the squaws found the
hides of the Sandhills deer chewed better when they went to making them
up for moccasins and wearing apparel. Too, the hunting partly counted
over a hundred braves. .What enemy would dare attack them?
there was one warrior in the party who was definitely uneasy. As he
walked along the edge of the bog he tried to solve the problem of his
fears. Something was wrong, he told the chief, but that worthy merely
patted his tomahawk and grunted at him.
the head of the column neared the tip of the bog, he essayed another
warning to the chief. The next time a hunting party went out, the chief
told him, he wouldn't be with it. . He would be back in the lodges with
the women and the old men and boys.
rebuffed again, the uneasy warrior dropped back into line and renewed
his watch on the dense undergrowth of the bog. Then the answer to the
riddle came to him. The birds in the bog were silent -silent because
they were afraid of something in the swamp.
he shouted. "There are no birds singing! Run!”
his warning came too late. A cloud of arrows hissed from the bog,
felling dozens of the hunting party. Then the Cape Fear Indians sprang
from their perfect concealment in the bog. Their war whoops sounded and
their tomahawks rose and fell as they went about their dreadful
a few of the hunters escaped to carry the tale of the disaster to
Drowning Creek. And there was sorrow in the lodges as the women raised
their drawn faces to the sky and wailed mournfully for their men whose
bodies lay moldering in a circular mound in the Sandhills Country.
about 1940, a party from Chapel Hill made a partial excavation at one
edge of the mound. Their finds indicated the slain warrior had been
dragged from where they fell and dumped in groups. In one section about
three cubic feet in area, thirteen skulls were found. One of these had
the back end bashed in. Inside was the broken blade of the tomahawk that
killed the brave. He was probably running when struck down from behind.
That was the only weapon discovered in the small area they explored, the
victors probably taking the others as loot.
red men moved from Harnett as the white men moved in. There is no
recorded instance of trouble between the two races in this area. As far
as the Indians were concerned the white man brought two powerful allies
with him; a whiskey bottle and smallpox. He didn't need to use gun or
knife when he had these two to work for him.
the Cape }'ear Indians moved or died, save for one small tribe in
Buckhorn. They, too, in time left and today Harnett has no Indians save
a small settlement in the lower end of the county around the Black
are members of that mysterious race called the Croatans in Harnett and
Robeson, Malungions in South Carolina and Redbones in Tennessee. Dozens
of theories have been proposed as their origin, none of them.
satisfactory, save to the author. Back in the early part of this
century, Hannibal L. Godwin, Harnett's only representative to the United
States Congress, was engaged in a hot political race to retain his
congressional seat. He campaigned among the Croatans and promised to
introduce a bill in Congress declaring them members of the Cherokee race
if they would vote for him.
won the election but failed to get his bill through". Much to the
displeasure of the Croatans going around claiming they were Cherokees.
was taken from the Book, "They Passed This Way", a personal
narrative of Harnett County History, by Malcolm Fowler.
1955 when Malcolm Fowler wrote his history of Harnett County entitled They
Passed This Way he stated that the Croatan Indians of Harnett County
maintained only one Indian School, an elementary school called Maple
Grove, located near Erwin. Indian high school age pupils had to ride
school buses more than 60 miles daily to Robeson County where Indians
were more numerous and consequently there were more schools.
the U. S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, outlawed racial segregation in
public schools as a violation of the 14th amendment guaranteeing equal
protection of the law, some parents of Indian Children in Harnett,
already had filed a suit in the courts asking that the Harnett County
Board of Education be required to open the Erwin and Dunn High Schools
to Indian pupils.
the later implementation of integrated schools as one result of the U.
S. Supreme Court decision, Indian pupils were assimilated into the Erwin
and Dunn schools. Maple Grove school was closed. The building was later
used as a sheltered workshop for the retarded.
early as 1887 the North Carolina General Assembly had authorized a
teacher training school for Indians in Robeson County, long known as the
State Normal School for Indians.
1941 it was renamed State College for Indians, later shortened to
Pembroke State College. Until 1945 only Indians from Robeson County were
eligible for admission, but in that year the Legislature opened the
college to all Indians regardless of residence.
Indians could attend a four year college!
the U. S. Supreme Court outlawing segregation in 1954, Pembroke College
was opened to all qualified students without regard to race or national
origin. In 1969 the college gained University status and in 1972 became
a component of the University of North Carolina System.
in 1992 proposed legislation to give Croatan Indians tribal status was
pending in the United States Congress, but had not been approved.
Written by: Lois
Byrd, President Of Friends of the Library, August, 1992
Source: The North
Carolina Manual, 1990
Designed by Paul Soublet
Row 1 Number .3
Applique: Debbie Sox