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Old News Stories
DeSoto Era Sword Found, 1928

From The Atlanta Constitution
May 25, 1928

Sword of DeSoto Party
Found in Indian Mound

Important Discovery Made by Moreland
By Ben Cooper, Special Staff Correspondent

Carter's Quarters, Ga., March 24. (Special). The hilt, guard, and a part of an iron sword blade, thought to have been that of Hernando DeSoto or one of his followers in his excursion through what is now north Georgia, was found near here Saturday.

Dr. Warren K. Moorehead, head of the department of archaeology, Andover academy, Massachusetts, made the discovery, along with that of nearly a score of skeletons and numerous ceremonial relics of what the scientist declares to be of a pre-Columbian age.

The find was considered by this authority on pre-historic work in this part of the country to be the most significant he has yet made.

For four years, Dr. Moorehead has delved assiduously into the history of the mysterious Indian mounds of north Georgia. He was highly elated over the find of Saturday, and planned to leave for the east during the early part of next week with notes on the discovery.

Hernando DeSoto, head of the expedition that fought its way through this part of the American continent in the early sixteenth century, was known to have been beguiled along the way with romantic episodes in what is now Georgia. Whether the sword hilt and portion of the blade found by Dr. Mooreland belonged to the intrepid Spanish conquistador or one of his aides, he would not venture to state. He did say, though, that the sword must have been that of a white man.

The sword, found lying beside a dead warrior in the historic mound of the Georgia aborigines, measured about five or six inches. It was of iron–a strong indication of the DeSoto episode and was stuck straight up in the native soil where the warrior had been place after death.

Only the nobles of the ancient American tribes of this part of the country were buried in the sacred mounds, according to Dr. Moorehead. This previously had been the expression of Miss Margaret Ashley, daughter of Mayor Pro-Tem Claude L. Ashley, of Atlanta, who has assisted the Andover expert in his studies.

Warrior All Alone.

Where the sword was found the warrior was all alone. At his right hand was the tribute of his tribe–many, many "war points," those deadly little tips that once had been shaped for the combat of the tribe of which he may have been the leader.

At his feet lay a delicate little spade of fine green granite–perforated and highly polished: a symbol of the race that once roamed through Georgia before the coming of the first white man. This spade, of spatulate form and too delicate for actual usage, was declared by Dr. Moorehead to be a symbol of the tribe's respect, or its religion.

In other part of the mound, where other skeletons were found, there were discovered pots joined, side by side; and others one in the other–not unlike the present-day double-boiler of the American housewife.

There, too, in the mound, were found beautiful beads–or they once had been; and inscribed shells. Here and there lay a momento of a race once proud and war-like–a stone hatchet, still with its keen-edged blade.

The scientists, in their quest for information of the race that they think may once had had contact, sanguinarily or commercially, with the Mayan lords of what is now Yucatan, came across brilliantly polished seashells–brought from some place far from the shores of the Georgia coast.

In a state of wonderful preservation–considering the centuries that have passed, they found inside the mound stalwart posts of cedar and of pine. It resembled a cabalistic hut; and it was here that the lone warrior lay with the iron sword, badly oxidized and crumbled, stuck in the soil near his sword arm.

Culture of Aborigine.

Saturday's discovery, in the opinion of Dr. Moorehead, was a striking example of the extent of the culture of the American aborigines known to modern history as "the Etowah group."

The few inches of the iron sword were not without significance.

While Dr. Moorehead would not commit himself officially it was evident that the finding of this iron weapon–or the hilt of it that was left–impressed him in a scientific way. The pre-Columbian, or as the present-day historians conclude, the "prehistoric" race of natives on the American soil in this part of the United States were known to have at times experienced the visit of the cruel Spaniard.

It was in Georgia that DeSoto was one time lured away by the wiles of a beautiful cream-skinned Indian princess when he sought to take the pearls and gold from their tribe. The young Indian woman, wife of a mighty warrior who had been slain in battle, enticed the Spanish leader away, leaving him and a small party of personal aides alone in the mountains of north Georgia.

No connection was made between the Indian widow incident and the finding of the decayed Spanish sword by Dr. Moorhead Saturday, but it was declared that the Indians of that era in what is now known as the state of Georgia used only flint and stone, with a mite of copper for ornamental purposes. One thing, however, was decided by the archaeologists: the lone Indian chieftain who was buried in the mound–apparently in a ceremonial hut where they once kept the council fire burning always–was placed there after the DeSoto advent.

Stone Graves Found.

Fourteen miles away the scientists previously had discovered several skeletons in solid stone graves, which they did not disturb. Numerous articles of their culture were examined, but Dr. Moorehead chose to confine the majority of his investigation in the erstwhile mysterious mounds of Murray county.

The articles that he found there were carefully packed away, and it is the intention of their discoverer to make a detailed report to authorities at Andover academy, in Massachusetts.

Dr. Moorehead, who has been inspecting Georgia's spots of prehistoric interest for several years, probably will leave here next Wednesday for the east, he declared to a Constitution correspondent Saturday night. It was understood that the archaeologist considers his work in this part of the county about completed, as does Miss Ashley, who has made extensive explorations throughout the state during the last two years.

Party of DeSoto Arrived in Rome.

The rich and powerful Indian city of Chiahia, now definitely conceded by historians to be the site of Rome, thirty miles from the location where Dr. Warren K. Moorehead discovered relics of DeSoto's travels, was the central point toward which the explorer directed his march from the shores of Florida, the diary of his travels reveal.

Evidently purporting to show that DeSoto passed through the same location as the site on which Dr. Moorehead discovered the relics is contained in both the diary of the trip by Rodrigo Ranjel, private secretary to DeSoto, in an account translated by Edward Gaylord Bourne, and in Richard Hakinyt's translation of an account written by "The Gentleman of Elvas," a Portugese, who accompanied the explorer.

DeSoto, soon after reaching Florida, began to hear of a fabulously rich Indian city situated to the northwest and known as Chiahia and in which he was told by the natives his "beasts might break their backs under loads of pearls and gold."

Lured by these tales of the gold, for which he was searching, DeSoto anxiously pressed his men into the north, but his course held too far to the east and he arrived at an Indian village in what is now Anderson county, South Carolina. When he arrived here, he learned the true location of Chiahia, and he is supposed to have pursued a course toward that town along an old Indian trail which runs through the locality in which Dr. Moorehead discovered the relics.

Arriving at Chiahia, now Rome, on the fifth day of June 1540, his men, ragged and starving, DeSoto found not the extravagant riches of which he had been told, but instead food in plenty, at that time more precious to him and his men than riches.

Many of DeSoto's men died enroute from what is now Anderson county to Chiahia, and were buried along the trail, so that discovery of relics is lent additional authenticity.

Establishment of Chiahia as the present site of Rome is contained in a passage from the Hakinyt translation:

"On the 5 day of June the Gouvenor entered into Chiahia...the town was an island between two arms of a river and was seated high on one of them. The river, divided itself into these two branches, two cross-bow shots above the town, and meeteth again a league below the same. The plain between both the branches is sometimes one cross-bow, sometimes two cross-bow shots over."

Rome is situated in a crook of the Etowah river and historians....concede Rome to be the site of Chiahia.

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