Eastern Cherokee Place Names

This list of Eastern Cherokee place names is very interesting.  There are no names of people.  Most of these locations were abandoned with the tribes’ forced removal in the 1830s to the western lands, the event we know today as the “Trail of Tears.’


There is so much history buried in place names for those who look, and who have a good translator which this site provides.

Here are a few very interesting examples:


  • “Catawba place,” from Ata’gwa or Ta’gwa, Catawba Indian, and hi, locative. A name occurring in several places in the old Cherokee country. A settlement of this name, known to the whites as Toccoa, was upon Toccoa creek, east of Clarksville, in Habersham County, Ga.; another was upon Toccoa or Ocoee river, about the present Toccoa, in Fannin county, Ga.; a third may have been on Persimmon creek, which is known to the Cherokee as Tagwa’hi, and enters Hiwassee river some distance below Murphy, in Cherokee County, N.C.

The Catawba were well known initially as enemies of the Cherokee, then eventually, many joined the Cherokee.  Regardless of which state they were in, enemy or friend, their lands abutted and overlapped, and they were always a consideration.

The state name Tennessee is thought to have come from this word:


  • A name which cannot be analyzed, commonly spelled Tennessee, occurring in several places in the old Cherokee country, viz.: 1. On Little Tennessee river about half-way between Citico and Toco creeks, in Monroe county, Tenn. 2. “Old Tennessee town,” on Hiwassee river, a short distance above the junction of Ocoee, in Polk county, Tenn. 3. On Tennessee creek, a head-stream of Tuckasegee river, in Jackson County, N.C. Tanasqui, visited by Pardo in 1567, may have been another place of the same name.

Both DeSoto (1540) and Pardo’s (1567) journeys took them through Cherokee country.  They name several places that are not otherwise known in the Cherokee language.  Some may have actually been Creek.  However, there is no question that they encountered the Cherokee people, as well as other tribes.  This makes the next place name quite interesting.  

Skwan’-digu gun’yi (for Askwan’-digu gun’yi)

  • “Where the Spaniard is in the water” (or other liquid). A place on Upper Soco creek, on the reservation in Jackson County, N.C.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Catawba, Cherokee, Creek. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Eastern Cherokee Place Names

  1. Paul David Campbell says:

    Concerning the above Cherokee word, TAGWA’HI, meaning “Catawba Place”. On the original 1835 Cherokee Removal Census for Murphy, Cherokee Co. NC on Persimmon Creek, many Catawba families are listed. In order to compensate the Indians when settled in Indian Territory, the Fed. Gov. inventoried/stated in 27 column’s each families skills and assets. “Jacky” (Evans) my 4GGF and his brother in-law “The Mush” (Robert Marsh) and families are seen living next to each other. Unfortunately I cannot find online the original 1835 Census which shows these details, only facsimile, which don’t. If any readers can find this original census on line please let me know. Thanks again for your informative articles.

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