Moon-eyed people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The moon-eyed people are a race of people from Cherokee tradition who are said to have lived in Appalachia until the Cherokee expelled them. They are mentioned in a 1797 book by Benjamin Smith Barton, who explains they are called "moon-eyed" because they saw poorly during the day. Later variants add additional details, claiming the people had white skin, that they created the area's pre-Columbian ruins, and that they went west after their defeat. Barton cited as his source a conversation with Colonel Leonard Marbury (c. 1749 – 1796), an early settler of Georgia.[2] Marbury, a Revolutionary War officer and a Congressman in the Second Provincial Congress of Georgia (1775), acted as intermediary between Native American Indians in the state of Georgia and the United States government.[3][4]


In his 1902 Myths of the Cherokee, ethnographer James Mooney described a "dim but persistent tradition" of an ancient people who preceded the Cherokee in lower Appalachia and were driven out by them. Accounts often describe them as having white skin and credit them with building the ancient structures in the area.

The earliest recorded mention of them appears to be in Benjamin Smith Barton's 1797 book New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America. Citing the authority of Colonel Leonard Marbury, Barton wrote that "the Cheerake tell us, that when they first arrived in the country which they inhabit, they found it possessed by certain 'moon-eyed-people,' who could not see in the day-time. These wretches they expelled."[5] Barton suggested these "moon-eyed people" were the ancestors of the albinos Lionel Wafer encountered among the Kuna people of Panama, who were called "moon-eyed" because they could see better at night than day.[6][7]

Mooney links Barton's "moon-eyed people" story to several similar accounts. One was by historian John Haywood who wrote in his 1823 The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee of "white people, who were extirpated in part, and in part were driven from Kentucky, and probably also from West Tennessee", attributing this to Indian tradition, although later Haywood mentions that in the 17th century the Cherokee encountered "white people" on the Little Tennessee River, and describes fortifications left by the French that were surrounded by "hoes, axes, guns, and other metallic utensils", adding that the Cherokee found no aboriginals when they arrived.[8] Mooney cites two further independent accounts from Cherokee individuals of his time, of a people who lived north of the Hiwassee River when the Cherokee arrived there, and then went west; one of these describes them as a "very small people, perfectly white".[5]

Two early histories published after Barton's work mention the term "moon-eyed people". Both Ezekial Sanford's History of the United States Before the Revolution and B. R. Carroll's Historical Collections of South Carolina cite James Adair (historian), in attributing the term "moon-eyed people" to Cherokee tradition.[9][10]

Fort Mountain State Park[edit]

Fort Mountain stone fortification ruins

The Moon-eyed people are noted in a 1968[11] historical marker in Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth, Georgia.[1]


The Cherokee tradition may have been influenced by contemporary European-American legends of the "Welsh Indians".[12] These legends attributed ancient ruins to a Welsh pre-Columbian voyage; some versions specifically connect this voyage to a prince named Madoc.[13] In an 1810 letter, former Tennessee governor John Sevier wrote that the Cherokee leader Oconostota told him in 1783 that local mounds had been built by white people who were pushed from the area by the ascendant Cherokee. According to Sevier, Oconostota confirmed that these were Welsh from across the ocean. Historian Gwyn A. Williams notes this is "a beautiful example of the way minds were working in the late eighteenth century – and of the power of suggestion which white minds could exercise over red".[12]

Author Barbara Alice Mann, who identifies herself as Ohio Bear Clan Seneca, suggests that "moon-eyed people" were Adena culture people from Ohio who merged with the Cherokees around 200 BCE.[14]


  1. ^ a b Tibbs, David (2008). "Legends of Fort Mountain: The Moon-Eyed People / Prince Madoc of Wales". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  2. ^ Kemp, Anne. "Research Notes in 'Leonard Marbury'". Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia's Northern Neck Counties. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  3. ^ Marbury, Leonard (April 21, 1792). "To George Washington from Leonard Marbury, 21 April 1792" (ALS). Autographed Letters (Signed), Miscellaneous Letters, Record Group 59, National Archives. Founders Online. Washington, D.C.: The University of Virginia Press, National Historical Publications and Records Commission, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  4. ^ The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. "Annotations on 'To George Washington from Leonard Marbury, 21 April 1792' (letter)". Founders Online. Washington, D.C.: The University of Virginia Press, National Historical Publications and Records Commission, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Mooney, James (1902). Myths of the Cherokee. Extract from the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 22–3. at Internet Archive
  6. ^ Barton, Benjamin Smith, M.D. (1797). New views of the origin of the tribes and nations of America. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: John Bioren for the author. p. xliv. at Internet Archive
  7. ^ Anderson, Charles Loftus Grant (1914). Old Panama and Castilla Del Oro. Page. p. 322.
  8. ^ Haywood, John (1823). The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee. George Wilson. pp. 166, 334.
  9. ^ Sanford, Ezekial. A History of the United States Before the Revolution:.... Philadelphia: 1819, clxi.
  10. ^ Carroll, B. R. (1836), Historical Collections of South Carolina Vol. 1. New York: Harper. p. 189.
  11. ^ McCain, Stacy (August 28, 1994). "Whites built mystery of Fort Mountain, but not stone wall". Rome News Tribune. Rome, Georgia. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  12. ^ a b Williams, Gwyn A. (1979). Madoc: The Making of a Myth. Eyre Methuen. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-413-39450-7. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  13. ^ Putnam, Walter (December 29, 2008). "Mystery surrounds North Georgia ruins". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  14. ^ Bruce E. Johansen; Pritzker, Barry M., eds. (2008). "Ohio Valley Mound Culture". Encyclopedia of American Indian History. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO Ltd. pp. 444–446. ISBN 978-1851098170.

General sources[edit]