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CATAWBA ATA-210 - History

CATAWBA ATA-210 - History

Catawba

A river in North Carolina.

Catawba, a screw steamer, was launched 13 April 1864 by Alexander Swift and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio. The vessel was accepted by the Navy in June 1865 and placed in ordinary until early in 1868 when she was sold.

II

The second Catawba (YT~32), ex-Howard Greene (renamed 20 July 1920), served as a district tug at Washington from 1918 to 1922, nt Norfolk from 1922 to 1933, and at Charleston from 1933 through 1946. On 26 December 1946, Catawba was transferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal.

Catawba (AT-68) was renamed Arapaho (q,v.) of August 1941, prior to her launching.

III
(ATA-210: dp. 835 (f.); 1. 143'; b. 34'; dr. 15'; s. 13 k.;
cpl. 45; a. 1 3")

The third Catawba (ATA-210) was laid down as ATR-137, reclassified ATA 210 on 15 May 1944, and launched 15 February 1946 by Gulfport Boiler and Welding Works, Port Arthur, Tex., under a Maritime Commission contract; acquired by the Navy 18 April 1945; and commissioned the same day, Lieutenant (junior grade) R. W. Standart, USNR, in command.

Catawba cleared Galveston, Tex., 16 May 1945 on towing duty bound for San Diego, where she arrived 19 June. She sailed on to San Francisco to pick up another tow, which she brought into Pearl Harbor 10 July. Proceeding to the Marshalls, Catawba was at sea between Kwajalein and Guam with two tows when the war ended. A brief voyage to the Philippines preceded her return to the east coast.

From 1946 through 1962, Catawba has been based at Norfolk, VA., Jacksonville Fla., and Charleston, S.C., for the miscellany of towing duties which makes her and her sister tugs an essential although little-heralded part of the U.S. Navy. Disabled ships are brought to safety, or taken from one port to another for repairs; targets are towed in gunnery exercises; large fleet units are aides in docking and undocking. Although operating primarily off the southern coast, Catawba has frequently cruised to more northern ports to deliver ships to overhauling yards. In the summer of 1959' she joined the task force conducting Operation "Inland Sea," the first penetration of the Great Lakes by American naval forces passing through the Saint Lawrence Seaway. For the larger ships of the force, it was often a close fit, and the services of Catawba and other tugs were essential.


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CATAWBA ATA-210 - History

THE CATAWBA INDIANS:
"PEOPLE OF THE RIVER"
(updated 06/07/21)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

This magnificent unsigned, undated 13-inch-tall "Rebecca Pitcher" (right) from Hilton Pond Center's collection was made by a gifted Catawba Indian potter (name not known, but believed to be Sara Ayers). It shows distinctive mottling--in this case, tan and black--typical of the tribe's clay artwork. Catawba pottery is NEVER glazed or painted.

Catawba Indian pottery-making is still practiced today by accomplished master potters who are training a new generation to form these beautiful creations from Piedmont river clay.

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History near York, South Carolina, lies just 15 straight-line miles from the Catawba River, so it seems likely our property was traversed in times past by Catawba Indians exploring its tributaries. Although this is pure speculation, there can be no doubt about the tribe's connection with the actual waterway, for the Catawbas call themselves yeh is-WAH h'reh, or "People of the River." Since overflow from Hilton Pond makes its way into Fishing Creek and eventually the Catawba River, we feel a natural affinity for the Catawba Indian Nation past and present.

The Catawbas settled on the banks of the Catawba River--primarily in what is now York County, South Carolina--and built permanent, bark-covered roundhouses in which to live, plus huge Council Houses for tribal meetings. They hunted Piedmont woodlands and prairies and fished in the river and its feeder streams. They also farmed and planted corn extensively in rich river bottomlands. Once a large and powerful group numbering tens of thousands, they waged ongoing war with the Cherokees and tribes of the Ohio River Valley (see South Carolina map at left) , being successful in battles with the former but not faring well against the Six Nations. Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer, made first contact with the Catawbas in 1540. When Europeans began settling in the Carolina Piedmont, the Catawbas remained friendly, but many succumbed over the years to "white man" diseases such as smallpox by 1826 there were only about 110 true Catawbas left, some of whom moved elsewhere

King Hagler, or Nopkehee (c. 1700&ndash1763), was Catawba chief from 1754 to 1763. Known as the "patron saint of Camden, South Carolina" he was an important ally for colonists in that area. He negotiated the treaty of Pine Tree Hill in July 1760, providing a 15-square-mile Catawba reservation on the Carolinas border. On 30 August 1763, Hagler was ambushed and killed by seven Shawnees. His bust is a popular adornment for Catawba pottery (see examples below) and he was the first Native American to be inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame (stylized portrait at right).

Catawba Indians at the Corn Expostion (Columbia SC, 1913)

In years since, the Catawba population has stabilized and grown with a resurgence of interest in Catawba heritage. Although there are no longer any full-blooded Catawbas, the tribe's cultural history has been retained by 2,000 or so descendants now living on or near the current reservation at Rock Hill SC. (Sallie Brown Gordon, the last native speaker of the Catawba language--a dialect of Eastern Siouxan--died in 1952.) The tribe is also interested in preserving and conserving natural aspects of the reservation, especially habitats along the Catawba River bottomland.

(Unfortunately, disagreements among various factions of modern-day Catawbas have resulted in lack of unity within the tribe the public often hears of this turmoil rather than the good work of many tribal members. The 2007 election of Donald Wayne Rodgers (below left) as chief--the tribe's first new leader in more than three decades--appeared to bode well for reconciliation according to Rodgers, in late September 2010 a general vote was taken to remove him from office, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing and finished his term in July 2011. Under his stewardship the tribe was relieved of more than $13 million in debt owed the federal government. Rodgers reports he withdrew from further election in 2011 and was replaced by a new chief, Bill Harris, who is serving his third term and has announced his intention to retire in 2023.)

(Harris and the current executive committee continue to petition the state of South Carolina for permission to begin gaming operations on the reservation, or to establish a casino in neighboring Kings Mountain NC as a means of generating revenue for tribal needs. Ground was broken in 2020 at the site along I-85 just north of the SC/NC state line. Use an Internet search engine to get the latest info about the Catawba Nation, including its quest for the casino.)

Historically, a male Catawba's typical ceremonial garb consisted of a long-sleeved leather coat with fringe long trousers and a distinctive headdress consisting of a head band with large, erect eagle feathers. Women wore a decorated coat, leggings, and a long skirt. (See photos of Benjamin P. Harris, above right and, above that, a group of Catawbas at the S.C. Corn Exposition in 1913. Mr. Harris is holding a bow and arrows and, in his right hand, what appears to be a Great Blue Heron with an arrow through its body.) In modern times, some Catawba males have elected to wear Plains Indians war bonnets and turquoise jewelry during appearances, unfortunately ignoring their heritage and propagating to students and the public the stereotype that all Indian tribes and nations dressed alike.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

CATAWBA INDIAN POTTERS & POTTERY

Perhaps the Catawba Indian Nation's greatest lasting legacy is its pottery, made in simple, elegant style that is instantly recognizable. Production and sale of pottery is not a "new" phenomenon, as indicated by a circa 1910 postcard (above) from the Indian Nation near Rock Hill SC depicting Catawba potter Sarah Jane Ayers Harris and seven grandchildren. (Note that everyone pictured is wearing "white man" clothing quite unlike traditional Catawba garb.) Catawbas sometimes sold their pottery from roadside stands for the "tourist trade" and in mid-20th century set up booths at the gates to Winthrop College in Rock Hill there, coeds at the then-all-girls school could purchase items both functional and decorative. These pottery pieces went for as little as 25 cents each some are now worth hundreds--even thousands--of dollars.

Large Chief's Head Pot
(11" x 9" signed by Sara Ayers, undated head detail below right)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

In his book on The Catawbas (1989), James H. Merrell states: "The Catawba women who continue to make pottery using the traditional techniques are an on-going link with the tribe's past. They ensure that Catawba pottery will remain the oldest art form still produced in South Carolina." Merrell has a nice description of how Catawba pots are made it is paraphrased below.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Traditionally--and even today--Catawba men and children dig clay from isolated pits along the Catawba River these prime sites are often kept secret from outsiders. After cleaning and drying their clay, Catawba women grind it into very fine powder to eliminate gritiness from the final product. Water is added, and the mixture is worked to the proper consistency.

Unlike many modern potters who "throw" pots on a wheel or mold pots free-hand, Catawbas still use lumps or snake-like coils of clay to form their pots (see 1913 photos just above and above left of Catawba potter Rachel Brown). After flattening a clay lump to make a pot's bottom, the potter joins the ends of her first clay coil and adds it to the base. All joints are smoothed, a second coil is added atop the first, then a third, and so on until the desired height is reached. This so-called "green" pot is allowed to dry for a few days, after which the potter thins the walls and smooths inner and outer surfaces using tools that may have been passed down from her/his mother or grandma or great granny. These smoothing implements--made of bone, shell, wood, or metal--are among the potter's most cherished possessions.

A final dampening of the pot allows the potter to polish it to a glass-like finish. Ornamentation may be added in the form of handles, spouts, or the head of ancient Chief Hagler, AKA Nopkehe (see two photos of a chief's head pot above) .

Two Small Pitchers and a Small Vase
(Left: 6.5" x 3.5" Rebecca pitcher signed by Viola Robbins, 1995)
(Center: 3.5" x 1.75" vase unsigned & undated)
(Right: 4.25" x 4" pitcher signed by Sara Ayers, undated)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Catawba Indian pottery is NEVER painted, nor is it glazed--even though it often has a soothing sheen (above) that comes from the firing process well-smoothed pieces by the most talented and meticulous potters have an even shinier apperance. Artistic incising sometimes is applied on the outer surface of the pot (see leaf inscription on small pot below left) . Note that Catawba INDIAN pottery should not be confused with Catawba VALLEY pottery from North Carolina the latter is NOT Native American artwork. Furthermore, what is represented as Catawba Indian pottery by sellers on eBay or other outlets sometimes isn't--an indication an unscrupulous seller may be trying to mislead potential buyers or, at best, simply hasn't done the proper research and makes unfounded or incorrect statements. Caveat emptor! (NOTE: Cherokee potters frequently use the same techniques employed by the Catawbas. For unsigned pieces it is sometimes impossible to tell the difference, although Cherokee pots are often darker, even black, with less mottling.)

Three Small Containers
(Left: 2.75" x 2.5" vase incised and signed by
Warren B. Sanders, 5/13/1996)
(Center: 4" x 2.5" vase signed by Viola Robbins, 1995)
(Right: 2.75" x 3" three-legged pot with handles
unsigned & undated)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Most Catawba potters sun-dry their pots before firing them outdoors in a pit or open fireplace. (The photo below is reputed to be an outdoor furnace used by Catawbas to fire pottery.) Depending on the clay source and how and where wood is placed on or in a piece during the process, this yields a unique mottled pattern (see photo just above) of black, tan, orange, and/or brown that makes the smooth but unglazed final product so distinctive. (See photo above left of Catawba potter Sarah Harris, c. 1908.) This technique is believed to have been used by the Catawbas for up to 4,600 years and apparently pre-dates the work of more familiar pottery-making tribes in the Southwestern United States. Assuming this is true, Catawba pottery is likely the oldest North American art form in continuous use to the present day.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Perhaps the best-known Catawba potter in recent decades was Sara Ayers (1919-2002 above, with one of her signature pieces--a Chief Haigler pot), whose exemplary signed art is some of the most avidly sought by collectors. She was taught--as were many of the potters of her generation and the two that followed--by Arzada Sanders (1896-1989). Even earlier among the master artisans was Martha Jane Harris (1860-1936), grandmother of master potter Georgia Harris (1905-1997).

Among the more creative and accomplished of recent-era Catawba potters were the following: Evelyn Brown George (1914-2007, at left) Mildred Blue (1922-1997, first Catawba to graduate from Rock Hill High School) Emma Harris Canty Brown (1889-1961)--wife of Van Wyck SC ferryman Early Morgan Brown (1891-1963), who assisted Emma in scraping pottery pieces Florence Harris Garcia Wade (1922-2017) Nola Campbell (1918-2009) Catherine Sanders Canty (1917-1999) Doris Blue (1905-1985) and Reola Harris (1921-1991)--twin sister to Viola Harris Robbins (1922-2010), in photo below right with husband Earl Robbins (1922-2010).

Earl Robbins, son of Frank Robbins and Effie Harris Robbins, was undoubtedly the most famous and productive of all the male Catawba potters he was especially known for his creative "oversized" pieces, including figurals. He also specialized in making pipe molds sought after by other Catawbas wishing to make pipes. See his very unusual "horse bowl" design (below). Earl died of Alzheimer's disease in March 2010, just two months after his wife Viola. They were married 68 years.

Large Horse Bowl
(12" x 6" signed by Earl Robbins, 1990. The horse's neck
is not broken the line represents reins.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Virtually all the tribe's mid-20th century master potters have passed on, with Margaret Robbins Tucker (photo below left b. 1957, daughter of Earl and Viola) perhaps the last notable one still making pottery. Fortunately, the clay-working tradition of the Catawba Indian Nation is being continued by a new generation of artisans, many of whom are children or grandchildren of the folks listed above. Some are on their way to becoming Native American master potters in their own right.

This "new generation" of indigenous potters includes, among others, such Catawbas as Monty Hawk Branham, Keith Brown, Edwin Campbell, Donald Harris, Billie Anne McKellar, Della Oxendine, Elizabeth Plyler, Brian Sanders, Caroleen Sanders, Cheryl Harris Sanders, Freddie Sanders, Marcus Sanders, and Margaret Tucker. Several of these younger people produce traditional pottery, while others are exercising creativity in making original designs unknown to their ancestors--yet another indication the long-lasting legacy of Catawba Indian pottery-making is alive and well.

For more information about these talented artisans and their work, visit the Web site for the Catawba Culture Preservation Project. There's also a site created by Friends of the Catawbas.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

The photo above is of Catawba Indian family members who--an inscription on the back states--were summer residents at a place called "Schoenbrunn State Memorial Park" near New Philadelphia OH. An AZO symbol on the back of the card is dated 1927-40. (Today there is actually a historical site at New Philadelphia called "Schoenbrunn Village.") The mother and children are making clay-pottery--apparently those familiar Rebecca pitchers (see several examples below)--while the father looks on. He's also depicted in the portrait below right wearing what may not be traditional Catawba Indian headgear. Catawbas known to have demonstrated their skills at Schoenbrunn include Emma & Early Brown, Catherine Sanders Canty, and Evelyn Brown George .

NOTE: All Catawba Indian pottery pieces shown on this page are from the collection of Susan B. Hilton and are on permanent loan to Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History we thank her for her willingness to share this historically significant resource and to allow display of pottery images on these pages. Her pottery ranges in age from very recent to a few items that are nearly a century old many are unsigned, but all are apparently authentic Catawba Indian pieces.

Please contact us at FUNDING if you are interested in donating Catawba Indian pottery or providing funds to help expand the Center's collection. Such gifts are tax-deductible at your designated market value of the pot.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

NOTE: The greenish tint on many pieces depicted on these pages is an artifact--the result of taking our photos outdoors under a canopy of green trees. Most Catawba pottery is semi-shiny gray-black, plus other highlight colors that are brought out when the clay is in close contact with embers during the firing process.

Wedding Vase, Incised, with Short Loop Handle
(6.5" x 3.5" unsigned & undated)

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One of the most common themes for Catawba pottery was the "Wedding Jug" (see example above). An oral tradition within the tribe is that following the wedding ceremony the bride drinks from one spout of the jug and the groom from the other, after which they throw the pot behind their backs. The number of pieces into which it breaks tells how many children the couple will have.

Two Small Rebecca Pitchers
(Left: 6" x 4.75" pitcher signed by Florence Wade, 1993)
(Right: 4.5" x 3.75" pitcher, embossed
signed "Catawba Indian" & undated)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Another theme frequently used by the Catawbas is the "Rebecca Pitcher," the general shape of a "ewer" with a single, tall, looping handle and a single flared spout (see examples above). This form dates back at least 2,000 years in the Middle Eastern tradition and, as such, is one of the older pottery styles still in use. This form is a favorite of Southern potters it is believed Catawba Indian artisans adopted it from early settlers. Rebecca Pitchers are quite artistic but not very functional for water-dipping because of the tall handle. (NOTE: The name "Rebecca Pitcher" has been used for at least 200 years and supposedly honors the Old Testament woman described in Genesis as coming to a well with a water jar on her shoulder.)

Please scroll down for photos of other items in the Center's collection. (Check back later as we add descriptions and images for new pieces.)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Three Small Rebecca Pitchers
(Left: 5.5" x 3.25" pitcher unsigned & undated)
(Center: 4" x 2.5" pitcher unsigned & undated)
(Right: 4.75" x 2.75" pitcher signed but illegible, undated)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Two-necked Round Wedding Vase with Ring Handle
(5.75" x 5" signed by Viola Robbins 1997)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Three Small Pieces
(Left: 2.5" x 2.75" bowl inscribed with leaves signed by
Kimberly Ann Page, 1996)
(Center: 2.25" x 4.5" bowl with scalloped lip unsigned & undated,
but from the 1950s or earlier)
(Right: 3.75" x 2.75" symmetrical two-handled vase with unusual
hollow base signed "Catawba Indian" & undated)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Four-hole Bowl Pipe
(5" x 4" reeds were placed in each of the four side holes and the smoke mixture was placed in the center of the bowl unsigned & undated, but from the 1950s or earlier)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Basket Stand
(6.75" x 3.5" signed by Catawba potter Reola Harris 1921-1991,
who was twin sister of Viola Robbins and well-known for animal
effigies Reola began signing pottery in about 1979, so this piece
likely dates to the late 1970s or 1980s)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Two Small Bowls
(Left: 6" x 3" heavily embossed bowl with handles unsigned & undated)
(Right: 3.5" x 2.75" unsigned & undated, but a well-worn piece
probably from about 1920)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Round Wedding Vase with Loop Handle and Flanged Spouts
(6.5" x 5" a nice bicolored piece with well-formed flanges signed
by Sara Ayers 1987)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Large Arrowhead Pipe
(5" x 2.5" signed by Earl Robbins 1991)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Two Small Three-legged Pots with Handles
(Left: 2.5" x 3" a rather primitive small pot with rough incising signed by F.H. Wade, which would be Florence Wade 1993)
(Right: 3.5" x 5" another primitive three-legged pot unsigned & undated)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Symmetrical Two-handled Vase
(4" x 3.75" rare piece made and signed by Foxx Ayers,
AKA Hazel Ayers, husband of Sara Ayers 1989)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Turtle Effigy Bowl
(2.5" x 4.5" unusual design of a small bowl formed atop a
turtle effigy signed by Beulah Harris 2006)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Medium Incised "Apple" Bowl
(5.25" x 7" acquired through Monty Hawk Branham medium
hand-formed bowl with rim etchings and very thin walls
characteristic of signed work of Cheryl Harris Sanders 2000)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Two-necked Round Wedding Vase with T-Hanger
(5" x 5" signed by Cora Harris Hedgepath 2009)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Small Ash Tray and Wedding Vase
(Left: 1.75" x 3.5" simple but nicely crafted piece likely made for
roadside trade unsigned & undated likely from the 1950s or earlier)
(Right: 3.5" x 3.25" small wedding vase with loop handle
unsigned & undated likely from the 1950s or earlier)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Small "Apple" Bowl
(2.5" x 3.5" small utilitarian bowl with orange speckles
signed by Margaret Robbins 1997)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Large Two-necked Round Wedding Vase with Loop Handle
(10.25" x 5.25" signed by Lillie Bryson, b. 1876-d. 1951 undated, likely from the 1930s or 1940s)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Two-necked Round Wedding Vase with Loop Handle
(4" x 3.5" signed by Edna Brown, b. 1911-d. 1985 dated 1970.
Edna learned pottery art from her mother Rosie Harris Wheelock,
b. 1880-d. 1935)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Photos of other pieces will follow please check back.

Blumer, T. J. 1987. Bibliography of the Catawba. Scarecrow Press, Metuchen NJ, 547 pp.

Blumer, T. J. 2003. Catawba Indian Pottery: The Survival of a Folk Tradition. Univ. Alabama Press, 240 pp.

Blumer, T. J. 2004. The Catawba Indian Nation of the Carolinas. Arcadia Publ., South Carolina, 128 pp.

Blumer, T.J. 2007. Catawba Indian Nation: Treasures in History. History Press, 125 pp.

Bradford, W. R. 1946. The Catawba Indians of South Carolina. South Carolina Dept. Educ., Columbia, 31 pp.

Brown, D. S. 1966. The Catawba Indians: People of the River. Univ. South Carolina Press, Columbia, 400 pp.

Hudson, C. M. 1970. The Catawba Nation. Univ. Georgia Monographs #18, Athens, 142 pp.

Merrell, J. H. 1989. The Catawbas. Chelsea House Publishers, Philadelphia, 112 pp.

Merrell, J. H. 1989. The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact Through the Era of Removal. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 400 pp.

Moore, D.G. 2002. Catawba Valley Mississippian: Ceramics, Chronology, and Catawba Indians. Univ. Alabama Press, 352 pp.

Pettus, L. 2005. Leasing Away a Nation: The Legacy of Catawba Indian Land Leases. Palmetto Conservation Foundation, 99 pp.

Scaife, H. L. 1896. History and Condition of the Catawba Indians of South Carolina. Office if Indian Rights Assn., Philadelphia.

Speck, FG. 1969. Catawba Texts. Reprinted by AMS Press, New York, 91 pp.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

Catawba Indian pottery is sometimes available through the tribe's headquarters east of Rock Hill SC, where there are also exhibits about Catawba history and culture (see map below) .

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center do not use or duplicate in any way

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center . All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.


Catawba

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Catawba, North American Indian tribe of Siouan language stock who inhabited the territory around the Catawba River in what are now the U.S. states of North and South Carolina. Their principal village was on the west side of the river in north-central South Carolina. They were known among English colonial traders as Flatheads because, like a number of other tribes of the Southeast, they practiced ritual head flattening on male infants.

Traditional Catawba villages consisted of bark-covered cabins and a temple for public gatherings and religious ceremonies. Each village was governed by a council presided over by a chief. They subsisted principally by farming, harvesting two or more crops of corn (maize) each year and growing several varieties of beans, squash, and gourds. In most Southeast Indian cultures the farming was done by the women, but among the Catawba it was the men who farmed. A plentiful supply of passenger pigeons served as winter food. The Catawba made bowls, baskets, and mats, which they traded to other tribes and Europeans for meat and skins. Fish was also a staple of their diet they caught sturgeon and herring using weirs, snares, and long poles.

In the 17th century the Catawba numbered about 5,000. As the Spanish, English, and French competed to colonize the Carolinas, the Catawba became virtual satellites of the various colonial factions. Their numbers fell off rapidly in 1738 approximately half the tribe was wiped out in a smallpox epidemic, and by 1780 there were only an estimated 500 Catawba left. They were allies of the English in the Tuscarora War (1711–13) and in the French and Indian War (1754–63), but they aided the colonists in the American Revolution.

Late 21st-century population estimates indicated more than 2,500 Catawba descendants.


Catawba Indian Nation

The Catawba Indian Nation is one of the indigenous Indian tribes that settled the Carolina Piedmont over 10,000 years ago. They hunted and farmed their ancestral lands in the Piedmont area of North Carolina and South Carolina. The Catawba were once one of the most powerful tribes in the Carolinas. At th e time of European contact in the mid-1500s, their population was estimated at over 8,000. Today the Catawba are a federally recognized tribe with approximately 2800 people living on a reservation in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Smaller groups live in parts of Oklahoma and Colorado.

The Catawba are one of several Siouan language Native American tribes to occupy the Carolinas. Settling in areas surrounding the Catawba River Valley, they called themselves yeh is-WAH h’reh, meaning “people of the river.” Along with the Cherokee and Iroquois, the Catawba controlled important trading paths throughout North Carolina. Control of the trade routes was advantageous and put the tribes in a powerful position. However, it was not long before European settlers took over those trade routes and the Catawba power was slowly taken.

Though the Catawba stayed neutral during trading wars, colonial conflicts, along with European disease, had very dramatic effects on the Catawba people. The Tuscarora War (1711-1713) and the Yamasee War (1715), both fought over control of trade routes, proved that European fur traders and Indian slave traders were a constant threat to the Catawba people. Wars combined with disease were too much for the Catawba to survive. By 1728, their population was down to around 1400. Small pox epidemics in 1738 and in 1759 brought that number down to approximately 500. By the time of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) the Catawba people wanted no involvement with colonial affairs.

During the American Revolution the Catawba fought with the colonies and helped fight against the British and their Cherokee neighbors. At the Battle of Clapp’s Mill (March 2, 1781) the Catawba were instrumental in supporting the American militia. Clapp’s Mill was the beginning of a stretch of battles that were devastating for Lord Charles Cornwallis and his troops. At the end of the Revolution the Catawba people returned to their reservation in South Carolina and found it destroyed. There were now only around 30 families living on the reservation.

Much of the nineteenth century was difficult for the Catawba. With little help from the newly formed American government or the state of South Carolina, the Catawba struggled to find a permanent settlement. At a meeting at Nation Ford in 1840 the Catawba agreed to relinquish their land to South Carolina if the government agreed to spend $5,000 on new land for a reservation. They finally settled on a 630-acre tract of land along the bank of the Catawba River. Through the Civil War some of the Catawba fought with Confederate troops but most tried to stay outside of American affairs.

The Catawba survived colonial expansion, war and disease and continued to fight for their cultural identity in the twentieth century. After a long history of struggling with the American government, the Catawba received recognition from South Carolina in 1973. It took another 20 years of court battles to receive official federal recognition, money to support education programs and to purchase land. Today, the Catawba are known for their pottery, social service programs and continuing the fight to preserve their culture.

Sources:
“Augusta Conference” Catawba Indians” “Clapp’s Mill, Battle of.’ William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolin a (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).


Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Catawba Sanatorium Collection Box 1 Folder 1: Booklet by Ernest Drewry Stephenson on the Catawba Sanatorium, 1909-1929. Folder 2: Annual report of the Catawba Sanatorium of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1913-1914. Folder 3: Miscellaneous Items:

Railroad schedule change, Jan. 31, 1921

Page regarding rules and regulations

Copy: Rules and Information for Patients.

Folder 4: Seven post cards of the Sanatorium buildings. One dated 4/3/35.


Marriage and Family

Marriage. Catawba marriage rules in aboriginal and early-contact times probably forbade first-cousin marriages. Polygamy was neither unknown nor condemned, but most Marriages were monogamous. In courtship, a man or his relations approached the woman's parents to ask permission, though the woman's consent was also required. Marriages were Matrilocal, and divorce was easily effected by either party.

Domestic Unit. Extended families have been and continue to be the norm.

Inheritance. Matrilineal inheritance was the rule in earlier times bilateral inheritance obtains today.

Socialization. Catawba child-rearing practices were permissive, with ostracism, ridicule, and example the rule. Folktales were (and to some degree still are) an important educational tool, setting out proper modes of behavior and warning of punishment by native enemies or supernatural beings for those who disobey. Today, formal education is highly valued: there was a primary school on the reservation from 1898 to 1966, and beginning in the 1930s Catawba were attending the local high school. Today many go on to college.


Legends of America

The Catawba, also known as Issa, Essa, or Iswa, have lived along the Catawba River for thousands of years, with their ancestral lands in the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina and into southern Virginia. Their name is probably derived from the Choctaw word meaning divided or separated, but the tribe calls themselves, yeh is-WAH h’reh, meaning “people of the river.”

One of the most important of the eastern Siouan tribes, they first came into contact with Europeans in 1540 when Hernando de Soto came through South Carolina. During this time, they were noted to be both farmers and good hunters, and the women were proficient at making baskets and pottery, arts which they still preserve. Traditionally, the Catawba were matriarchal societies, with women having dominance. They also practiced the custom of head-flattening to a limited extent, as did several neighboring tribes.

Spanish Explorers meet Native Americans.

Early Spanish explorers estimated that their population was between 15,000-25,000. But as more Europeans arrived, the tribe was decimated with diseases. When the English first settled South Carolina about 1682, they estimated the Catawba at about 1,500 warriors or about 4,600 people in total. Trade with the Europeans became important in the late 17th century with Virginia and Carolina settlers. However, these many immigrants also brought diseases, which killed many of the people.

The Catawba were long in a state of conflict with several northern tribes, particularly the Iroquois, Seneca, and the Algonquian-speaking Lenape. The Catawba chased Lenape raiding parties back to the north in the 1720s and 1730s. In 1759, smallpox swept through the Catawba villages reducing the tribe’s population to less than 1,000 by 1760. By the 1760s, a reservation had been established for them within the present-day York and Lancaster Counties of South Carolina. During the American Revolution, many of the Catawba joined in the fight for the Americans.

By 1826, their numbers had been reduced to only about 110 people, and nearly the whole of their reservation was leased to white settlers. In 1841, another treaty with the South Carolina government stipulated that the tribe sell their remaining 144,000 acres of land in return for promised payments to buy land elsewhere, as well as additional annual payments. However, the plan was unsuccessful as other tribes who had moved west did not want the Catawba because they would have had to share the land, government money, and services. In the end, the Catawba had no home, and by 1847, the South Carolina Governor declared: “They are, in effect, dissolved.”

In 1959, they were also terminated as a recognized tribe by the federal government. The tribe then began another battle to regain federal recognition in 1973. Though it would take two decades, they finally succeeded, receiving federal recognition in November 1993. Along with recognition, the tribe also received a $50 million settlement by the federal government and state of South Carolina for their long-standing land claims.

Today, the Catawba Indian Nation is the only federally recognized Indian tribe in South Carolina. The tribe’s reservation is located in York County, with its headquarters at Rock Hill, South Carolina. Today they have 3,000 enrolled tribal citizens and continue to grow.


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You need to do more research. The Catawba who joined the Mormon Church did not settle with the Choctaw they went to Colorado and Utah, then to Oklahoma and outward. I happen to be a descendant of these people anon971939 September 30, 2014

The Catawba were always religious even before the Europeans came. Azuza, the last fluent speaker of the Catawba language, died in 1959. Today there is a project to restore it but it's hard since many today have never heard it. Plus all the grandkids like me are so mixed with blacks and whites it seems like no use. Just keep what we have, as far as culture. anon347206 September 4, 2013

What form of government did the Catawba Indians have? Monika February 20, 2012

I'm not surprised some of the members of the Catawba tribe were motivated to leave their reservation because of the presence of outsiders. European-Americans haven't exactly treated tribes like the Catawba with the most respect over the years.

However, I have to say I'm a little surprised so many of the Catawba and the Choctaw converted to Mormonism. From what I've heard, most Native American tribes have resisted converting to Christianity, especially since so many were forced to give up their culture early on in US history. Maybe they had a religious awakening or something, but it's still surprising to me. Azuza 4 hours ago

@ceilingcat - Small pox is definitely a large figure in Native American history. Some tribes got it from the settlers by accident, while other tribes were infected with it on purpose. Either way, a lot of Native Americans were killed by this disease.

Anyway, I think it's awesome the Catawba Indians have been able to preserve their culture, at least to some extent. They still do traditional crafts and have some cultural artifacts on display.

From what I've read, they seem to be pretty lucky compared to other tribes in the United States. Some tribes have even completely lost their traditional language! ceilingcat 13 hours ago

I'm always simultaneously fascinated and horrified by the fact that Native Americans like the Catawba tribe were so susceptible to small pox. It's very interesting how diseases develop in one place, but not another.

By the time the Europeans came to this country, small pox was common in Europe and some people even had an immunity to it. But nothing like small pox had ever been seen here in the (future) United States. So there's no way that the Native Americans could have developed any kind of immunity or resistance to it!


Tuberculosis Sanatoriums in Virginia: Catawba, Piedmont, and Blue Ridge

Catawba Sanatorium near Roanoke, ca. 1915

When the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis (NASPT) formed in 1904, there were approximately one hundred Trudeau-style sanatoriums in the United States by 1910, there were nearly four hundred. One of the many sanatoriums built during this period was the Catawba Sanatorium near Roanoke, the first sanatorium in the state of Virginia.

William Washington Baker (1844-1927)

In 1908, Captain William Washington Baker (1844-1927), a member of the Virginia General Assembly, introduced a bill to reorganize the State Board of Health. The “Baker Bill” appropriated $20,000 “for the establishment and maintenance of a suitable sanatorium for consumptives.” Baker had lost four of his six children to tuberculosis. For his pioneering efforts, he is justly called “the father of Catawba Sanatorium.” Baker was also instrumental in the formation of the Virginia Anti-Tuberculosis Association (which became the American Lung Association of Virginia) in October 1909.[1]

Piedmont Sanatorium, ca. 1918

In 1918, the State Board of Health and the Negro Organization Society founded Piedmont Sanatorium as a rest home for African-Americans. Before its establishment, the only treatment facilities for African-Americans were the Central State Hospital for Mental Diseases and the State Penitentiary. Miss Agnes D. Randolph, Director of the Educational Department of the State Board of Health, requested in 1916 an appropriation from the General Assembly to build the sanatorium and purchase three hundred acres of land near Burkeville. The first building at the site was named in her honor.[2]

Blue Ridge Sanatorium, ca. 1920′s

Blue Ridge Sanatorium opened in April of 1920. The close proximity of the University of Virginia Medical School was a major factor in the government’s selection of the Charlottesville area as the site for the new facility. The State Board of Health and the University agreed that a special course in tuberculosis would be developed for third and fourth year medical students, to be taught by the Medical Director of Blue Ridge Sanatorium and his staff. The city of Charlottesville donated $15,000 for the building project and promised free water from the city supply for five years.[3]

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