But Lawson, as I tell people, did not have teacher conferences to manage and recycling to separate and Sunday school carpool to organize. So I’m going about this piecemeal. My next segment of the main trek will be through the Francis Marion National Forest, though I’m being hugely careful to make sure I avoid the part of deer hunting season where they chase the deer with dogs. I’m all good with hunting and hope an orange vest will keep me safe from responsible hunters, but on the days they let the dogs out, I prefer to be in.
That said, there are plenty of outings to make in the meantime. I got to make a weird bookend to my beginning trip by visiting the town of Grifton, NC, which Nov. 7 and 8 celebrated John Lawson Legacy Days, which commemorate Lawson’s awful death at the hands of the Tuscarora Indians ten years after his famous journey. So inside of a few weeks I’ve retraced Lawson’s first steps and his last.
You can get a little more detail on Lawson's demise here -- his actual death came sometime in the middle of September, 1711. He and Baron von Graffenreid, with whom he was developing the town of New Bern at the mouth of the Neuse River, decided to take a journey up the Neuse in search of a better trade route to Virginia. One member of their party scouting ahead stumbled into Catchna, a Tuscarora settlement, where the Tuscarora were organizing the raids they planned to begin September 22. The Tuscarora had given up on either going along with the English or moving away and figured that it was time to stand and fight. Though Lawson showing up on their doorstep made him the Tuscarora War's first casualty, as an agent of the changes that were destroying their lives, Lawson likely had a target on his back either way.
The area that archaeologists think was Catechna has everything you'd want in a settlement: clear access to the river, high spots that stay dry, a small creek useful for gathering water. Yet what was most powerful about the spot came later, when the entire festival hiked out to the spot and placed a magnolia wreath there. "In Memory & Honor of All Those Who Came Before," it said. "May they rest in Peace." Standing on one side, dressed much as Lawson would have been dressed, was Wayne Hardee, who manages the Grifton Museum and has helped organize the festival for all of its four years. Standing on the other side was Vince Schiffert -- a descendant of the Tuscarora people, down from New York state, where much that remained of the tribe relocated after their inevitable devastation in the war that began with Lawson's death. The moment of silence all observed was a sweet end to the day. Vince hopes to walk with me on part of the trek, and I very much hope he -- and any compatriots he cares to bring -- do join me. The descendants of the settlers and the descendants of the Tuscarora very much seem to consider themselves part of the same community, which was, after all, what Lawson himself had originally hoped for, advocating marriage between settlers and natives as a way of combining the two cultures to the advantage of each:
The thing I enjoyed most from Lawson Legacy Days was the boat trip up the Contentnea Creek to what archaeologists are beginning to agree is the site of Catechna. Tim Bright, a resident of Grifton, ran a small boat up the Contentnea, past stands of ancient bald cypress old enough that Lawson likely saw them. Bald cypress doesn't grow terribly high, but you can estimate age by girth (kind of like people, huh). As we putted along, Tim constantly said: "TELL me that tree's not 300 years old." I never did.
This seems to be a more reasonable Method of converting the Indians, than to set up our Christian Banner in a Field of Blood, as the Spaniards have done in New Spain, and baptize one hundred with the Sword for one at the Font. Whilst we make way for a Christian Colony through a Field of Blood, and defraud, and make away with those that one day may be wanted in this World, and in the next appear against us, we make way for a more potent Christian Enemy to invade us hereafter, of which we may repent, when too late.
Again -- Lawson wanted to turn the Indians into Europeans, so it’s not like he was a saint, and he hoped intermarriage would help settlers learn the local terrain and customs, too, so he was mostly merely pragmatic. But instead of slaughtering the Native Americans Lawson thought settlers ought to marry them; it’s rather a significant difference. One can wonder how that would have worked had it been tried.
Lawson Legacy Days had otherwise been dedicated to the cultures of both Lawson and the Tuscarora. A small longhouse in the Tuscarora style stands on the shore of the creek where one might have stood 300 years ago, and among other qualities it shows how the tribe used bark, peeled in full diameters from trees, to roof their huts. Among the drawings of such huts that we still have is that by Von Graffenreid himself, and the one at Grifton looks exactly right; it helped me finally understand something I'd had a hard time imagining.
Most satisfactorily, he demonstrated how to make fire with only sticks, bending a stick into a bow, adding a piece of string, and winding the string around another piece, which he then spun in a depression in a third piece. Friction caused smoke within a few strokes of the bow, he caught the spark in some tinder, and he had flames inside of half a minute. It was remarkable to see it work, reminding me that though the matches and lighters and firestarters modern campers take for granted make fire simple, people have been starting fires for a long time. Lawson and those like him could start fires with relative ease, even without Piggy’s glasses from Lord of the Flies. I hope to try it myself one trip (though as a backup I do in fact wear very strong glasses).
Anyhow. Lawson’s been dead a long time, and the Tuscarora have been around for longer. Lawson Legacy Days started in 2011, the 300th anniversary of Lawson’s death. I expect I'll be there next year too. Maybe I'll walk.
Joe Herbert demonstrated traditional pottery methods, making and firing pots using native clay and a fire; Schiffert told the story of how the Tuscarora originally separated from their Iroquois family when a grapevine that was helping them across the Mississippi River broke. Tom Magnuson of the Trading Path Association described ancient pathways and roads.
Hardee and others kept a fire burning in a dugout canoe they were working on, and next to it sat another one, all but finished. At one point the fire went out, and I rebuilt it, blowing it to life; I also used an oyster shell to dig out some of the char. An expert in historic technology, Scott Jones of Media Prehistoria, demonstrated how to chip out a projectile point, then explained the progress from the spear to the atlatl to the bow and arrow, with a small side trip to the blow gun (hollow river cane, sharp thorn or piece of bone or antler, fuzzy cattail for its feathery back -- shockingly simple).