Cheraw Tribe

Cheraw Indians. An important tribe, very probably of Siouan stock, formerly ranging in central Carolina, east of the Blue ridge, from about the present Danville, Va., southward to the neighborhood of Cheraw, S. C., which takes its name from them. In numbers they may have stood next to the Tuscarora among the North Carolina tribes, but are less prominent in history by reason of their almost complete destruction before the white settlements had reached their territory. They are mentioned first in the De Soto narrative for 1540, under the name Xuala, a corruption of Suali, the name by which they are traditionally known to the Cherokee, who remember them as having anciently lived beyond the Blue ridge from Asheville. In the earlier Carolina and Virginia records they are commonly known as Saraw, and at a later period as Cheraw. We first hear of “Xuala province” in 1540, apparently in the mountain country southward from Asheville. In 1672, Lederer, from Indian information, located them in the same general region, or possibly somewhat farther north east, ” where the mountains bend to the west,” and says that this portion of the main ridge was called ” Sualy mountain ” from the tribe. This agrees with Cherokee tradition. Some years later, but previous to 1700, they settled on Dan river near the south line of Virginia, where the marks of their fields were found extending for several miles along the river by Byrd, in 1728, when running the dividing line between the 2 colonies. There seem to have been 2 villages, as on a map of 1760 we find this place designated as “Lower Saura Town,” while about 30 miles above, on the south side of the Dan and between it and Town fork, is another place marked “Upper Saura Town.” They are also alluded to by J. F. D. Smyth 1 , who says the upper town was insignificant. About the year1710, being harassed by the Iroquois, they abandoned their home on the Dan and moving south east joined the Keyauwee. The colonists of North Carolina being dissatisfied at the proximity of these and other tribes, Gov. Eden declared war against the Cheraw, and applied to Virginia for assistance. This Gov. Spotswood refused, as he believed the people of Carolina were the aggressors; nevertheless the war was carried on against them and their allies by the Carolinas until the defeat and expulsion of the Yamasi in 1716. During this period complaint was made against the Cheraw, who were declared to be responsible for most of the mischief done north of Santee river, and of endeavoring to draw into their alliance the smaller coast tribes. It was a asserted by the Carolinians that arms were supplied them from Virginia. At the Close of the Yamasi war the Cheraw were dwelling on the upper Pedee near the line between the Carolinas, where their name is perpetuated in the town of Cheraw, S. C. Their number in 1715, according to Rivers, was 510, but this estimate probably included the Keyauwee. Being still subject to attack by the Iroquois, they finally-between 1726 and 1739 became incorporated with the Catawba, with whom at an earlier date they had been at enmity. They are mentioned as with the Catawba but speaking their own distinct dialect as late as 1743 (Adair). In 1759 a party of 45 “Charraws,” some of whom were under their chief, “King Johnny,” joined the English in the expedition against Ft Du Quesne. The last notice of them is in 1768, when their remnant, reduced by war and disease to 50 or 60, were still living with the Catawba.

Cheraw, Siouan,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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  1. J. F. D. Smyth, Tour in LT. S., 1784[]

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